Saturday! That word feels funny. What does Saturday mean? The days are beginning to blur into each other and being able to walk this amazing river everyday for the month of May feels like a blessing not work. That said, it is Saturday and there is nothing else I’d rather be doing today than meandering down the uMngeni.
After a wonderful dinner/reception last night at Tanglewood where some of the team mates reunited with family (I actually became a father last night to a family of dassies courtesy of the Dargle Conservancy) we were inspired all over again by the spirit of the Dargle and its gracious hospitality and warmth. We woke up to a misty typical midlands morning.
Today is a very special day as well. It’s join the dots for Climate Change Day and each one of the team members wore black dots while we did our bit for this planet that is being threatened by unchecked human development and greed.
The ever energetic and organised Nikki Brighton made a banner for us with the words “All water is Connected” emblazoned on it. Water is amazing because it does not exist as a single molecule and only makes sense when it moves and flows together (just like humans, and hopefully we will realise this sooner rather than later).
We rejoined the river at the bridge where we left yesterday and said our invocation and did a mini-SASS test till 09h30.
The river was feeling better and we found her in good condition with the presence of water beetles, minnow mayflies, crabs, dragonfly nymphs, water striders and boatmen, limpets and stout crawlers. Every day I look forward to seeing these little guys who are indicators of the rivers health and well being. The river really does look and feel better when we find so many of them. Then it was time to beat a path along the inside of the river and we met our first obstacle of mealies and blackjacks. We walked through a kilometre of mealies and by the time we were done we looked like hedgehogs with blackjacks covering us all.
We left the rivers inside track and decided the going would be better along the outer edge. It was, and we were amazed by the well managed farm plots and landowner sites and the easy accessible roads next to the river. If the previous few days reminded me of “Wind in the Willows” with the presence of otters, porcupines and ant bears, I suddenly felt like I stepped into the American Mid West with 200 year old Plane trees growing along the river bank.
Then pastures and forestry gave way to an indigenous forest topped hill with thicket running down to the river.
We were suddenly surrounded by birds – their sweet music filled the afternoon air. There were sightings of Jackal Buzzards, African Black Duck and Scimiter Billed Wood Hoopoe and many other birds.
It was so sublime, I felt like I was walking along paradise.
It was truly a boy’s dream (I’m not being sexist here) and not for the first time felt dismayed at how urbanised modern human beings have become and saddened that for many many youth in our communities that never take the opportunity to run through rivers, dance in forests or sojourn beside grasslands.
And yet we are blessed with beautiful rivers and landscapes in our country.
It boggles the mind and makes one reassess what priorities on this planet really is about. Okay but enough philosophy from me (I can’t help it, the river does this to you, I promise).
After passing through pastoral scenes we did encounter heavy infestations of bugweed, bramble, wattle and of course, more blackjacks, with some areas better managed than others. We came to journeys end at Haybury’s farm who sponsored the wonderful eggs for our journey. After 10.5km we are again welcomed by that splendid Dargle hospitality as Dean has a braai going for us with his Dargle Ducks and Eidin and Malcolm welcomed us into their lovely warm home for the night.
The walk goes on. As a crow flies we are 25 km from the source but we have walked 68km so far of the uMngeni’s winding path.
Written by: Preven Chetty – who delighted the Dargle with his spontaneous, inspired songwriting and accomplished guitar playing!