Magic Trees, a Giant Rock and 363 Steps

Spirits were high as 50 eco-conscious learners from Mpophomeni and Bruntville lugged their bags down the hill to Indulo Camp in Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve. Connecting with friends made last year in Hlatikulu was high on the agenda, but first there was some exploring to do. One group headed off to splash in uMhlangeni stream, looking for creatures in the cascades and do a miniSASS test, while another headed up the hill to photograph the many gorgeous summer flowers in the grassland. “The method used to measure how clean the water is was very interesting. We were actually looking at the biodiversity of the stream. I’m looking forward to school re-opening to share this new activity with my buddies.” enthused Lungisani Mthalane. The Midlands Meander Mpophomeni Enviro Club each chose a plant which represented them best, stuffed their nostrils with Artemesia leaves and headed for the Magic Fig Tree to make wishes – many hoped they had passed their exams but a couple wished to see the giraffe that lives there. After lunch they hiked far into the valley past Cycad Camp to learn about Chief Ngwenya who had lived there many, many years ago. To their absolute delight, amongst the thorn trees, they spotted George the Giraffe! Nomfundo Kunene enjoyed learning about the African Rock Python found in the area, although she hoped she wouldn’t actually see it! “It was pretty cool exploring and learning things that we have never heard of before” she said. After an evening around the campfire (cooking sausages sponsored by Fry’s Foods), the older boys decided to sleep on top of Sunrise Rock – a big flat rock tall as the tree tops accessed by a long ladder – a very special place to spend quiet time. After breakfast the entire group set off enthusiastically on a Quest – searching for clues to find their way to a picnic at The Pines. First they had to camouflage themselves using mud and leaves, then make up a bundle of sticks to protect them on their journey – particularly climbing the 363 steps through the forest. Lungisani Maphanga counted each step! After lying under the trees with eyes closed listening to the sounds of nature, the water in the nearby stream was too much to resist and everyone splashed gleefully before heading home with renewed enthusiasm to do all they could to protect our precious natural environment. “Can we come and camp for four nights next year?” asked Asanda Ngubane as we left. Obviously, the cold showers didn’t put him off!

This weekend was a joint project of the Midlands Meander Association Education Project and Midlands Conservancies Forum, funded by the N3 Toll Concession, with volunteers from KZN Crane Foundation, DUCT and Southern Secrets. See all the pictures at

N3TC Umgeni Valley exploring the forest

Exploring the forest with Ann Burke, Photo by Christeen Grant