The Kwa-Ximba Trail Run consists of three routes: a 9 km fun run, a 16 km moderate run and 22 km tough run. The moderate and tough runs were recently replotted and their distances are closer to 14.5 km and 20.5 km respectively.
This is a “tourist’s description” of the route. The route depends on weather conditions closer to the day and may change for safety reasons.
The Kwa-Ximba Trail Run starts and finishes at iSithumba Adventure Park, a Durban Green Corridors tourist node. 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 at all costs – even today very few locals venture to the very top of the granite domes!
The start is at 262 m above mean sea level. From iSithumba Adventure Park the runners dash down to the Umgeni river and turn upstream for 3 km. 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 3 km 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.
1st water table
After approximately 1km from crossing the D1004 you arrive at the 1st water table. The 9km Fun Runners turn around at this point and return to the start/finish along the same route they came. The 16 km and 22 km 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” recognised in 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: PlantZAfrica)
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.
16 km split
At the 7 km mark the 16 km runners take the trail to the left while the 22 km runners take the trail to the right (there will be a marshal at this point).
The 16 km runners have a section of approximately 1 km through the bush thicket before they re-join the main 22 km trail (see below – 13 km mark).
The 22 km runners now start a steady ascent to the highest point on the course – the water table 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 692 m above mean sea level. 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 water table the trail immediately enters the bush thicket 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 13 km mark the 22 km and 16 km trails merge again and continue the descent through dense bush thicket to reach the Mngcweni River at the 15 km mark (11 km for the 16 km runners). The trail then continues along the picturesque valley to reach the 1st water table for the 2nd time at the 16 km mark (11 km for 16 km runners). The elevation at the water table is 262 m above mean sea level.
At this point the 16 km runners head back to the D1004 and the uMgeni River retracing the route taken on the way out.
At the water table the 22 km 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 2 km (18 km marker) and an elevation of 622 m above mean sea level. The 360° view at this point is breathtaking.
At the top of the mountain the 22 km 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 loose 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 Adventure Park.