My Hat Stayed Dry

Crystelle Wilson has also been exploring the uMngeni River and shares this account of her  trip to the area which Penny visited last week.

There is a spot in the uMngeni Valley that shall forever be known as Crystelle’s Cascades. That is where I fell into the river. It was during another day of hiking along the uMngeni River as part of eThekwini Municipality’s plans to develop a green corridor between the sea and the Drakensberg.

We had stunning views driving into the Valley of a Thousand Hills at Hillcrest near Durban and were dropped at a bridge on the upper reaches of Inanda Dam. Bart Fokkens of the Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust who is charged with clearing alien invasive vegetation along the river took a brief detour to release more weevils on the water lettuce strangling the river. He asked trail expert Jerome Mouny from Reunion to whisper exhortations in French to the little critters to go forth and multiply so they can munch up the plants at speed.

The 10 kilometre hike from the bridge to a place called Mfula’s Store was an eye-opener to me. It is familiar terrain to people participating in the annual Duzi Canoe Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, but like many Durban residents I’ve never been to these parts before. And this is what the Green Corridor project aims to change by making it more accessible for adventure sports and tourists.

As a birder I was intrigued how the habitat changes along the river from mangrove swamps at the estuary to what can almost be described as bushveld terrain, as was loudly proclaimed by a Rattling Cisticola calling from a conspicuous perch and Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills floating from tree to tree. With the change in habitat comes a change in the type of birds you can expect to find and I was very pleased with a list of 82 birds during the morning. These included more African Jacanas I’ve ever seen, at regular intervals along the river.

The precious notebook was nearly the biggest casualty of my unintentional plunge into the river. Jerome was very confident in getting us across the cascades, but I can testify that the soles of hiking boots are not the best way to find a grip on slippery rocks. I can also say that my expensive German binoculars lived up to their guarantee of being waterproof and the cellphone survived after immediately being taken apart and wrapped in tissue paper. I had the foresight to put my camera in my backpack and hand it across to someone else. Bruised ego and elbows were the only real damage. Otherwise the water was very refreshing on a hot day.

Read more of Crystelle’s writing on her blog:


About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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