May Day 9: Paddling is for the Birds

Strange to be home again in Howick. Back to the unreal world for two nights and then we get back to walking.

We started off the day with a visit to the Midmar Dam wall, where Umgeni Water Staff were awesome in explaining all the details around the dam and its management, a fascinating subject. Unfortunately Penelope, our scribe, was not with us as she, Pandora and Preven were running an open day for local schools nearby. So all my notes are on my Dictaphone, awaiting transcription! Watch this space.

I then discovered why I am one of the non- paddling members of DUCT. Mike & I went back to the Petrus Stroom bridge where we ended yesterday, and hopped into a double canoe and proceeded to paddle around Midmar Dam. Walking is much easier!

The shores of Midmar are grassland, but sadly interspersed with some wattles and a few patches of bramble. An air force helicopter seemed to be doing exercises and flew over us a couple of times. Some vervet monkeys chattered from a clump of wattle trees as we passed, but otherwise we saw no sign of any animals or water birds, which we found strange. The second bay was the same, as we paddled furiously with a wind that was now coming across our bows, and kept pushing us off course. The water was clear, with a beautiful green tinge created by the depth.

We decided to give the paddling a rest, climbed out and walked along the shore, Mike in knee deep water guiding the canoe alongside him, while I walked in the shallows.  I found some water bird spoor and feathers, and a well worn cattle path, otherwise no game signs. Water grasses grew into the water, and tiny fish swam in the shallows.

After returning to the canoe, we reached a bay that has a tributary stream running from close to Mpophomeni – and we were shocked at the state of the water in the bay the closer we got to its edge. Water plants abounded, algae covering them, the water was murkey, brownish, full of suspended solids – definitely a problem here.

But the water birds! African Jacanas, Spurwing and Egyptian geese, Darters and Cormorants, Ducks, it was awesome, they were everywhere. No doubt the sewage entering the dam is enriching the water and the algae and other plants that are flourishing as a result have attracted the aquatic birds en mass!

Thereafter we called it a day, and the support vehicle collected us, we returned to the stream and took samples for testing – and there we saw a herd of about 15 Hartebeest.

Now its packing up again, and tomorrow we leave at 06h00 for the area below the dam wall where once again we continue walking down the river.

Written by: Penny Rees

The team would like to thank Tanya from the Red Apple Cafe for the delicious meal and salads!


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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One Response to May Day 9: Paddling is for the Birds

  1. Stefanie Schutte says:

    Hi guys. You are doing amazing work. Are you going to map your findings? All the best.
    Stefanie Schutte

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