Mpofana – We are All Born of Water

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Preven begins the account of Day Two:

He walked through the metal gate past the manmade mounds that are sewage attenuation tanks,

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and down to one of the most resourceful and fabulous gardens I have ever seen. Zenzane Village overlooks this garden and the servitude road for the new pipeline that is to pump water into Mpofana river. The garden has raised mounds, shade-cloth screened veggie gardens to protect against birds, and a wonderful rustic fence made from old tent poles and sticks of wattle that delineates the different sections.

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I greet the man and he greets me back in the warm traditional way that is the heritage of this beautiful land, the only country with Africa in its name. “Yebo amadota” I say.  “Hello, yes” he says totally throwing me off my stride to khuluma in isiZulu

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We find out that he is from Gauteng and he had just started working on this veggie garden, tilling the soil and putting up fences. So we still did not get the history of the place but the love, dedication and knowledge of farming shines plainly though here.

The scar of the new pipeline and its attendant machinery and workers dominate this landscape. The red sand and shallow water are now constant reminders of its imminent arrival.

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We encounter bramble and wattle (which love bulldozed areas) and the river has a murky sheen of bacteria on it. Cows and sheep have open access to the river in the wetland and around the river. The silt and nutrification they cause are clear to see.

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Everyone has a common heritage, we might have different cultures and language but we all are born in water and we will never survive without it. Without the heritage and benevolence of these amazing water factories (as dear Nikki christens them), these magnificent rivers that start to trickle from little beginnings, civilizations and cultures will not even have arisen. I ponder these thoughts as we walk this landscape of a river under siege, a river that has to answer to the whims of humanity, a river essentially that is our collective forgotten heritage.

Penny continues:

As I sit in Yvonne’s beautiful library, replete after a five star curry dinner, I mull over the connections with heritage day, the heritage we have been gifted, and the heritage we will pass on. Parts of this old home built by Italian Prisoners of War during WWII. My African roots lie deep in these soils and in the waters that flow through our land, and yet today I was reminded of a different part of my heritage. That of my great grandparents who hailed from Scotland. I remembered them today as we passed Balgowan Farm (named after a far away place in Scotland) as we lunched under a line of magnificent old oak trees (my ancestral clan symbol).

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The reminders continued as we crossed the river on a massive arched log, reminiscent of the arched bridges that span Scottish rivers,

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and as we laughed at the antics of a flock of Black Faced Sheep – a common and special type of sheep seen often in Scotland. Those same Black Faced Sheep this morning made their way to the river to drink, accompanied by a sizeable herd of cattle, and the river banks and river bed were stirred up and silted as a result.

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Plantations of pine, eucalypt and saw tooth oak encroach into the rivers 32 metre buffer zone, one of many impacts that continued to assail the river today.

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We passed yet another section of the Mooi / Mpofana pipeline that runs across the country side, a bulldozed, clear scar that crosses wetlands, the Mpofana river, farms and roads, all to ensure that there is water for all.

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As always, there is something positive to be found. The laughter and camaraderie of my river walk team,

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which seriously lightens the load when the going gets tough

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Relief when a seemingly impregnable fence is defeated.

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A sight for sore eyes: ring barked wattle,

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treated bramble, felled run away pine, places where efforts are being made to rehabilitate the riverine vegetation – how encouraging to see.

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This small river which we suspect may, percentage wise, have the highest amount of impacts of all the (four) rivers we have walked so far also has the highest percentage of restoration work being carried out. And that, I think, is perhaps symbolic of what we SHOULD be doing on heritage day – ensuring that we each do something to make the world, to make our country, a better place for our fellow citizens and our children; to leave them a heritage to love and enjoy

Moraig Peden talks about her adventure today:

I’m tired! Everything is aching especially these feet. This river doesn’t know how the crow flies.

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Today it has been middle aged, and has meandered, looping back and forth upon itself and we conscientiously followed almost every curve, surely adding up the kilometres. The terrain has been flatter and more open, which is why the river became old and lazy. This made walking easier, and there was a lovely sense of the midlands – hills prettily in the distance, with dark patches of forest and lighter grassland.

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We passed the spot where the huge new pipe will pour in from Spring da Grove dam, and will force away the curves of the old river, creating artificially, a new young powerful current.

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In our walk there was far less fighting undergrowth, scratching and scrambling than yesterday, but we were challenged by fences in our goal to stick to the river. We realised, however –fences are always passable and even the newest and fiercest had little gaps and wriggle holes.

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There is something about a river that demands to run free, and refuses to be constrained. For me, this experience of traversing the land, the rocks and the water as a continuity was one of the most of the exciting aspects of today.

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It connected with old longings for journeying, traversing, exploring, for times when the land was not parcelled and divided. And unlike walking through specially protected areas like the Drakensberg, we passed people and vegetable gardens, domestic stock and antelope, different kinds of houses, and pathways, a journey through a lived-in landscape.

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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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3 Responses to Mpofana – We are All Born of Water

  1. Jean Martens says:

    I read your post today and was moved by the spirit and tenacity of your journey, and the eyes through which you behold both the wonder and the challenges around you. Thank you for your work, and for sharing it with us. from Maine, USA

  2. Hats off to the intrepid team! It’s fascinating to see and hear the tales of the rivers. Thank you

  3. Pingback: Mpofana River – Report & Recommendations | Midlands Conservancies Forum

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