Worldwide Walks

Inspired by our river adventure, friends around the country and around the Planet have decided to join us!  Why don’t you arrange to walk along your favourite river for a couple of hours or even a day or two?  These are the people you will be joining in spirit.

Elands River,Boston Kwa Zulu Natal: David Clulow wrote this account in August.

Leaving one’s vehicle at Elandsvlei, the restaurant and accomodation, known as “Boston T- Party”, a short walk brings one to the Elands river and the start of the excursion.

The river is clean and flowing fast.  It is mid-morning, and a pleasant temperature. The well-prepared pathway through indigenous undergrowth, is close to the river.

The pathway slowly rises above the river, improving the viewthe river is now below on the left, but the attention drifts to the scenery which is grandpassing the original Elandsdrift Homesteadin the distance appears the iNhlosane south, hills and ridgein the distance too, one can see the “Gramarye” Domain, home of the Wilsons, amongst the trees

The pathway ranges down to the pastures of a local farmer, wending its way alongside the edge.  Shortly after this we disturbed two young Reedbuck in the long grass. A bound,  and they were away. African Stonechats accompanied us, dancing ahead from one grass stalk to the nextpassing alongside the Basket Willows which line the banks, “The Willows” homestead appears between the branches, over the rivera flurry of Geese, both Egyptian and Spur-winged, greet our approachNow birding is in earnest, the Cape Wagtails flashing across the water. Mid-morning is not the most lively time for birds and animals. The spoor of Reedbuck and Duiker are thick on the ground. In early morning and towards evening they are out in numbers; so are the birds, and Grey Crowned Cranes are seen every evening here in the Stubble Maize fields. A week ago Blue Cranes were also regular visitors. Certain are both Red-eyed and Cape Turtle-Doves, Hadedah Ibis and the ever-present Long-crested Eagle, with piercing cry. The Black-shouldered Kite is also often at the river. In the more luxuriant grass on the other side of the river, where birders commonly check out the species, multiple varieties are heard or seen daily – Ruff, Flufftail, Bishops, Common Waxbills, Village or Cape Weavers, Black Duck, various Cisticolas, Shelduck, Black-headed Heron, Natal Spurfowl, African Spoonbill, Jackal Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite and many more.

The farmer has fenced off a piece of land – a valuable wetland, left to do its work in storing and filtering the water.In the pastures again, a flock of Egyptian Geese and a few Spur-winged Geese too.The river banks alter and here they are well protected with grass on one bank and tall flag rushes on the other

pools the river is an artist’s canvas

the rushes take over on both banks

and to appreciate the man-made harm that occurs, the Basket and Weeping Willows, which are alien introductions many years ago, are not always to the river’s benefit – they fall and block the flow of the river.However, there are many lovely stretches to compensate.small forests of Leucosidea trees (Ouhout)

and before you know it, the bridge over the river at “Elvesida” and the delightful experience is over – but not to be forgotten. Sincere appreciation is expressed to Paddy and Sue Carr of “Netherby” farm, over whose land the walk takes place, for their permission to route the pathway over “Netherby”.  Guided walks take place on the last Friday of every month.  Call Sue Brighton to book 083 656 0979.  Cost R10 to local conservancy funds.  You can walk along this path at any time on your own from Boston T-Party.

Chapman River in Geraldton, Western Australia: Caroline Conway-Physick writes about her walk  during May.

Across the globe a network of people undertook to connect not only themselves in their support of waterways but river catchments that are the life and lungs of all communities far and wide.  I undertook to join in on the exploration of our local waterways in Western Australia, City of Greater Geraldton.  Connecting my efforts to DUCT, I ventured along the Chapman River, one of two major rivers that meander their way to the north and south of the Town, respectively.

Geraldton, as with much of Western Australia, is a dry and scrub-like environment, typified by Eucalyptus, Acacia and protea species.  The dry climate shows plants adapted to a desiccating environment, however seemingly not too concerned with protecting themselves from excessive grazing with few thorn-like plants present.  The annual rainfall is approximately 480mm per year with evaporation rates annually around 2600mm.

On 6 May 2012, I walked along a short section of the Chapman River with a work colleague, following the river eastwards away from the sea.  The river is a silent, ever waiting, oily green looking river that is closed off from the sea in the west, seldom breaching the small sand bank to the sea except in exceptional rainfall.

We started at Spalding park with hordes of little people scuttling about and screeching as they explored the swings, sandpits and various play areas that adjoins onto the river.  Our first point of contact was at the Chapman River bridge which dates back to 1896 and was in its day considered a significant wooden bridge known as Louisa’s Bridge.  Now a concrete megalith smothered in graffiti, the reddened soil dirt path creeps under its belly to a dirt road with narrow paths that run like veins back down to the river.

Taking one of these paths saw limestone outcrops and sandy quartz strewn earth often bare and dry, tumbled about with scrub and thicket woodland.  The first rains of the winter season the day before held firm deceptive trails of other more elusive passers-by of lizards and snakes, walkers, scrambler motorbikes and domestic dogs.  Other signs of other wildlife included kangaroo droppings, a blue-tongue lizard skeleton and the stealthy slithering of a snake that only gave the briefest glimpse of its russet underbelly, and dark brown tail.

The first contact with the river was a short walk, passing a few prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) and newly germinating Lupin seeds to the edge of the bank thickly covered in Couch grass with an amazing number of unknown fish idling in the river, in the afternoon sun.

Surprisingly the river narrows dramatically down to a small stream after a few hundred metres, and then into a stagnant puddle within a very short distance.

The odd dragonfly darts in the undergrowth amongst Juncus reeds and River gums, as honeyeaters and flitting wrens elude identification.  Little litter is visible along this short section of the river considering how well used it seems to be with joggers passing us by on the opposite bank and motorbike scramblers jostling about on the dirt road above.  Two walkers with their dogs trundled by going for a walk and chatting merrily  as we turned from the river to make our way back to the main track.

The river supplies water to agricultural areas further upstream whose use of this resource has undoubtedly had a negative influence on its health, according to my walking partner.  Signs adorning the river banks warn people not to go into the river for any reason for fear of amoebic meningitis, or biting mosquitoes.

The Chapman River has little development along its lower reaches and flows into the Indian Ocean periodically, when rains are plentiful and are once again able to flush the system and free it from its sandy bank shackles that inhibit its access.  The puddle will then swell and engorge the relatively narrow, small gorge, for the shortest of times then reverting back to a drying stream.  Fish will then once again collect in agitated huddles awaiting the next freshwater relief to abate the ever growing saline waters of the region.

As with many rivers in the area, Aboriginals have stories to tell of all of them that have influence on cultural traditions and beliefs.  Unfortunately we were not aware of such connections on the day we walked.

We headed back to the park with a setting sun in our faces and looming rain clouds building to the north – ever hopeful of another shower to wet down the dust and lure forth the gardens of vast array of flowers upon the landscape that blossom, in the July to September months, within the region.

We salute the River Champions across the globe and their endeavours to create awareness of these special places, their beauty and intrinsic value in our lives.

Waihopai River Invercargill New Zealand:Pat Hoffman says: I really miss the Great Grey Greasy uMngeni. It used to be my beacon while I worked at Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve. I’m so glad it’s being loved and cared for by DUCT. My new river beacon is the  Waihopai River in Invercargill. It’s intensively farmed and has been dramatically transformed: de-vegetated and drained for agricultural purposes and re-engineered to protect the City from flooding. Some of my work at the Regional Council attempts to promote in the community more interest in the river and the plants and animals that live in it. Maybe I can do something like that in my work on theWaihopai River in Invercargill?

Lourensford River near Somerset West: John Ashwell says: I am in Spain before I head over to SA and there are no rivers with any water in them where our house is!  I will walk the Lourensford river in Somerset West instead – maybe do that with my family.  When I get back to Spain in late May we will be running our labyrinth/connect with the earth course. Have asked all participants to bring some water from their own river to pour into the labyrinth when completed.

Msunduzi in Pietermartizburg

Mpushini in Ashburton

Amazon River in South America: Kim van Heerden will be walking along (a very small part!) of this mighty river in May.

Rupert de Koning says: We’re a bunch of paddlers who did a Kosi Bay to  Richards Bay paddle last year to raise funds for an autism centre in town. This year we are planning to do something similar – organizing “The Nomakanjani Charity Multi Sport Challenge”. We’ll be mountain biking from Sani Top, through Greytown to the Tugela River, down the Tugela with river kayaks and then from the river mouth toRichards Bay in surf ski’s, raising funds for the building of a centre for children with learning disabilities.

Come on, join us!  Email your idea to pennyduct@vodamail.co.za or info@midlandsconservancies.org.za  Do remember to send us some fabulous pictures of your adventure and a short description to post on our blog.

Imagine the Future

Imagine if, every day in May, South Africans walk along the banks of our rivers.  And as we walk we give thanks for water.  Thanks for the tiniest trickle of a berg spring, for wetlands, streams and rivers, lakes and dams…rain and snow, clouds and thick heavy fog.  Thanks for soft rolling mists and wispy vapour.  Imagine if we give thanks for the sea and the surf, for estuaries and oceans.

Imagine if, as we walk, we give thanks for the hidden streams that surge through trees and plants,  and through all living creatures. For those that percolate shelves of rock and ridge to flow in the depths of the earth.  Thanks for water that flows through us, our blood, sweat and tears.

Imagine if we stop somewhere along our favourite river in May – to look at a spiders web, and caught right in the middle, a single dew drop reflects the sun.  And then, as if reaching the centre of a labyrinth, we turn together to restore the health of our rivers, to re-plan our landscapes and our lives.  Imagine if we give thanks for a living legacy. Imagine if we give thanks for life.

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2 Responses to Worldwide Walks

  1. Bridget Ringdahl says:

    other world walker – Gregor Siebeock a friend I met from Austria while I was studying in Sweden (and then we hiked some of the Andes together on my South american bike trip), has walked over 20 000km in support of numerous global and local environmental concerns. If he could, he would be walking with you too … see http://www.globalchange.at for further inspiration that what you are doing is the best thing!!

  2. Pingback: Elands River Walk | uMngeni River Walk

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