My Private Playground

The Ngele Mountain Range is probably the least known about of all the major mountain ranges in Natal and possibly the country. I can’t say I’ve explored them all , but I can’t think of any that are as high, can boast such incredible beauty and that have no access to the public. I have had the privilege of having this as my playground for the last 3 or 4 years.

One of the streams which I fish in the area is the Mtamvuna River. One of the sections where I fish is at 800m above sea level. It cascades out of deep, inaccessible and forested kloofs. From where I fish it’s a 1500 m vertical climb to get to the top of the mountain! That’s almost as high as the Drakenbsberg from bottom to top!

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It was a place that I always threatened to go and explore, but I never got around to doing it. The Northern part of the mountain range is well known and there is a network of mountain bike trails through the large area of natural forest and plantations. Many people will know the Ngele Forest Lodge on the road from Kokstad to port Shepstone. This is the area that is accessible to the public, but its what lies 20km to the south that’s the exciting part. A large area of the mountain range was privately owned until the 70s or 80s when the government bought the area out and made it a forestry reserve of sorts, and the rest of it was planted to Gum and Pine plantations. I wouldn’t be encouraging others to frequent the place if I didn’t think it had a purpose. I believe this is one of the most pristine mountain regions in the country and that real conservation is needed to protect the area. The forests are still relatively pristine, but the encroaching population will threaten the area in the near future. There used to be an Ngele hiking trail, but that was discontinued in the 80s, and its now become a forgotten corner of our country.

The wilderness area in the south and east is quite extensive and quite difficult to access if you don’t know where you are going. I follow my nose and I know most of the tracks to follow to where you can safely leave your car for the day. The easiest access for me is to drive into the Transkei (now Eastern Cape) and leave my car in the huts or along a few tracks that I know. I suppose this puts people off going there and means that I have the whole area to myself. The only people I ever see there is the occasional herd boy from the village below who is checking his cattle which roam around in the hills. I know of nobody else who hikes and explores the hills and extensive network of forested streams, let alone someone who fishes them. The fish are small and very challenging to catch, but after hours of scrambling up the most spectacular forested gorges, any fish will do.

I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

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7 Comments

    1. Thanks Debbie. Jenny always chirps me when I say I am going fishing… she calls it hiking and photography. Fishing apparently entails actually catching fish๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

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  1. Rex
    Great photography and an absorbing account of why this bit of country is so special. Thanks.

    I spent a few weeks prospecting for bauxite on those ridges in 1976. We camped in an abandoned homestead and ascended every morning to dig and sample pits then fill them in again. It has not changed since then and I hope it stays like that for ever. I expect it would be safer under private ownership than as public land, if that could happen.

    There are places like the Ingele dotted all over Natal and Zululand (e.g. Ngome, Ceza, Nkandhla, Mount Gilboa) but few if any match its seclusion. It is hallowed ground – a place of spiritual fulfillment. Those of us who have been there can count ourselves lucky.

    Why does one experience that intense well-being up there? I think it is because being alone on those lonely hill slopes awakens an important driver of human happiness, which is existence as an individual without reference to any group. The feeling of freedom is exquisite.

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    1. Thanks Martin. I am going to keep that paragraph you wrote in your comment. The last half of your comment. It’s really beautiful and so true. Will be a “quote” in one of my next blog posts on the area if u don’t mind

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