Mngeni River Walk

A small group of environmentalists passionate about the planet, and particularly water, will begin walking the 265 kms of the uMngeni River on 1 May.  Starting at Drinkkop above Mngeni Vlei – the plateau above Dargle and Fort Nottingham where the river rises – and ending at Blue Lagoon where it rushes into the Indian Ocean. Along the way they will be documenting and recording all impacts on the river and posting daily stories of their adventures and findings on their blog –  All of them are giving their time voluntarily to this project and won’t earn anything while they walk.  What has inspired them to do this?

Rivers have been a thread through Penny Rees’ life – from school beside the Jukskei to stints in the wild alongside the Limpopo, Olifants, Timbavati and the Umkomaas. The mighty uMngeni is her passion now and, with Preven Chetty, she dreamed up the idea of walking the entire length to raise awareness of the plight of all rivers in South Africa.  At the age of seven, Preven gathered some friends to clean up the stream that ran near his home in Phoenix and was astonished at the difference a small group could make. He became fascinated with rivers and their meandering journeys to the sea.  A long time ago, Ian Player’s book “Men, Rivers & Canoes” inspired Mike Farley. This, along with childhoodvisits to Kruger, pointed to a career in conservation (with a couple of interesting detours) and eventually led him to DUCT.  Self-elected guardian of wild places, Penelope Malinga, was introduced to the Umgeni  Gorge below the Howick Falls by a friend, and immediately felt at home. “I am real keen on taking this epic journey with these dynamic people with different personalities, knowledge and wisdom. The River is my home, so it’s my heart.” She quips.  As a young girl, Pandora Long watched helplessly as bulldozers destroyed a wild stream near her home and nowadays works tirelessly in Environmental Education to ensure that our rivers once again become sparkling places where children can explore, boys can fish and little girls can dream.  Besides raising awareness of the plight of our rivers, they will document what the find along the way: recording alien vegetation, conducting water quality tests and looking out for pollution sources to produce a complete picture of the health of the river.

In the KZN Midlands the Midmar purification works alone distributes 220 million litres of water per day. The uMngeni river supplies 1000 million litres per day of potable water to a vast area including Wartburg, Vulindlela, most of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.  To say the uMngeni is our life blood is no exaggeration.  Most of us rely on the uMngeni and it’s tributaries  for our water. We are custodians of this  important water catchment and we need to support their efforts to secure the health of the river.  What can you do to participate?

As the Mayday for Rivers Campaign  is ultimately about all our rivers, you can show your support by undertaking a walk down any river or stream (do you have a favourite?) over a weekend, for a day or even a couple of hours – sometime in May. In this way, you help extend the fellowship of the uMngeni River to other rivers across KZN Midlands, South Africa and the world.  All we request is that you send us the story of your river walk and a couple of photos, to add to our blog. The Fellowship of the River has already grown – to Australia and the UK, as well as other rivers in South Africa.   Why not join in? Let Penny know if you’d like to do this, send a sentence or two about the river and what your plans are.

Can you offer to help?  They need pre-prepared meals for their overnight stops, snacks for picnics on the river bank, good hiking boots (this is no walk in the park), fuel for the backup vehicles, a basic course in First Aid, airtime so they can relay their adventures to the world and a Go-Pro video camera to record the journey. Many people have donated accommodation along the way – thanks to Lake Lyndhurst, Beverley Country Cottages, Tanglewood Country House, Éidín Griffin, Dargle Ducks, Croft Farm, Kathryn Coulson, Umgeni Valley, Hilton College and Dargle Conservancy.  “We are blown away by the encouragement we have received from around the country and the world, but we do need financial support too. Particularly to be able to fulfil our plans of water education at the 119 schools alongside the uMngeni, and to make a documentary of the river’s story” says Penny. Contact her with your offers – or 082 340 7571.

Our river really are in trouble – join their Mayday call!


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