The route description below is a “tourists description” of the preliminary route we have worked out – it may change and it will also depend on the weather conditions closer to the time so we may have to change the route on the day for safety reasons
The Kwa-Ximba Trail Run starts and finishes at isiThumba Adventures one for Durban Green Corridors tourist nodes. The village is named after the towering granite mountain which overlooks the village. isiThumba means “kidnapping” and according to legend, refers to an incident many years ago when some local herdsmen disappeared and were most probably killed in a dispute with a neighbouring village. Wanting to avoid a war the local chief told the residents of the area that the herdsmen had been “kidnapped” by the mountain and that they should avoid it all costs – even today very few locals venture to the very top of the granite domes!
The start is at 262m amsl. From isiThumba Adventures the runners dash down to the Umgeni river and turn upstream for 3km. This is a very beautiful stretch of the Umgeni which is quite wide and with many large boulders. The birdlife is excellent and there are frequent sightings of Malachite Kingfishers, numerous raptors including the iconic African Fisheagle and if you are lucky the illusive African Finfoot.
After 3km the route crosses the D1004 and you start heading up the valley of Mngcweni River. You will notice signs of illegal sand mining along this valley and the remains of old waterworks which were part of the Umgeni Water system. The vegetation is typical riverine bush and you will notice the great work being done by the Duzi-Umgeni-Conservation-Trust (DUCT) in clearing invasive alien species.
After approximately 1km from crossing the D1004 you arrive at the 1st Watertable – manned by a team from the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department at eThekwini Municipality. The 9km Fun Runners turn around at this point and return to the Start/Finish along the same route they came along. The 16 and 22km runners take the path to the right (there will be marshals at this point).
The trail now enters a subtropical thicket – There is no formal “Thicket Biome” recognized in the scientific literature. However, the vegetation which replaces forest – where a degree of fire protection is still evident, but rainfall is too low – does not fit within the “Forest” type as it does not have the required height nor the many strata below the canopy. Nor is it a “Savanna” type, in that it does not have a conspicuous grassy ground layer.
Subtropical thicket is a closed shrubland to low forest dominated by evergreen, sclerophyllous or succulent trees, shrubs and vines, many of which have stem spines. It is often almost impenetrable, is generally not divided into strata, and has little herbaceous cover. Because the vegetation types within the “Thicket Biome” share floristic components with many other geographic areas with a relatively uniform composition of plant species and lie within almost all the formal biomes, Thicket types have been referred to as “transitional thicket”. Source: www.plantzafrica.com/
The trail is in good condition and you will notice the dense thicket bush with many thorn species so don’t stray from the trail! After a short climb you come to some settlements and you will notice the environmental degradation that the Kwa-Ximba Conservancy is trying to address.
At the 7km mark the 16km runners take the trail to the left while the 22km runners take the trail to the right (there will be a marshal at this point).
The 16km runners have a section of approximately 1km through the bush thicket before they re-join the main 22km trail (see below – 13km mark)
The 22km runners now start a steady ascent to the highest point on the course – the watertable near the Denge Plateau. The trail breaks out of the bush thicket and into patches of grassland dotted with aloes. As the runners reach the top the trail exits the bush for a short section and runs onto a gravel road. Here you will find the 2nd Water-table manned by GCS Consultants (long term supporters of Kloof Conservancy). The altitude at this point is 692m amsl. You will need to take a few seconds break (you will need it!) while we fit each runner with a coloured wristband at this point.
After leaving the watertable the trail immediately enters the bush ticket again and you start a beautiful descent through thicket and grasslands. From here you also have a great view of isiThumba Mountain as well as the Duzi Valley and Table Mountain in the distance.
At the 13km mark the 22km and 16 km trails merge again and continue the descent through dense bush thicket to reach the Mngcweni River at the 15km mark (11km for the 16km runners). The trail then continues along the picturesque valley to reach the 1st water-table for the 2nd time at the 16km mark (11km for 16km runners). The elevation at the water-table is 262m amsl
At this point the 16km runners head back to the D1004 and the Umgeni River retracing the route taken on the way out.
At the watertable the 22km runners turn right and start a steep ascent to the top of isiThumba Mountain. The trail climbs through patches of bush thicket and grasslands reaching the top of the mountain after 2km (18km marker) and an elevation of 622m amsl. The 360° view at this point is breathtaking.
At the top of the mountain the 22km runners must collect their second coloured wristband.
The runners now start a very steep and tricky descent along the granite dome. In one section we will have a rope to assist the runners descend safely. Descent is short but very steep and we urge runners to take extra care when running on the granite as any fall will result in severe bruising and skin loss. The trail exits the granite area and moves to lose gravel sections which are also very slippery. The trail crosses the D1004 and then flattens our as it re-joins the trail on the Umgeni River back to the finish at Durban Green Corridor’s isiThumba Adventures.