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Nagle Dam Run Trail

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29km from Pietermaritzburg

-29.5891, 30.6258

10 - 25km, 1 - 4hours, Intermediate - Hard

+27 82 603 4098 www.kzntrailrunning.co.za

Configuration: There are two circular route options

General Information: Gravel roads and undulating single-track. It is lovely to run here in winter.

Use the ablutions and picnic/braai facilities at the start/finish area. There is 80% cell phone coverage along the trails.

About

The Umngeni River has four dams built along its course to supply water to areas between Durban and Pietermaritzburg (PMB). Least known of these is Nagle Dam, which nestles near the base of PMB’s Table Mountain, a half-hour drive from the city. A game reserve (managed by Msinsi) surrounds the dam, with cracker views of the Valley of A Thousand Hills.

The area is very hilly, with some climb sections kicking in at a gradient of 40%. The contour tracks and a good gravel road provide respite to runners between the ascents and descents. Some of the best contouring paths meander along the dam’s edge. Beyond the waterline, footing can be to be tricky, especially on river crossings. However, the vast majority of trails are possible for most runners.

Both long and short courses start at the shady picnic site near the dam wall. Runners follow gravel roads or sections of tar for the first 3km to separate the field. The courses split at the weir, with short course runners entering the tunnel through the weir to go below the dam. The short course circumnavigates the bottom half of the dam, with a steady climb shortly after the halfway mark as the first real test. Although the footing may be tricky in places, the course is rated as mild.

The long course continues on open roads for 2km after the split before veering into the bush and up a steep hill. Runners cross a fence line into the reserve. Zebra and other game can be spotted. The trail follows meandering jeep tracks for a fairly easy run to the river crossing. The approach here is tricky and running pace takes a dive. Take care while crossing if you want to avoid being washed away - an experienced safety crew will assist you.

The steepest climb is directly after the river crossing and is just on 1km long. It ends at a water tank on a contour road that provides both welcome relief and wonderful views of the dam. Here you hit the contour road to join up with the short course route for the final 7km into the finish.

Follow the N3 north from Durban and take the Ohrtmann Road off-ramp in PMB, keeping right. Cross the highway and turn right into Manning Avenue. Cross Baynespruit stream before turning left at the Shell garage. Travel up the hill for 2km and turn right onto Table Mountain Road. Continue along this road for 20km until it becomes gravel and descends into the Umngeni Valley. Continue through the first Msinsi gate to the Nagle Dam entrance on your left.

Midlands & Kamberg

KwaZulu Natal

About

The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is undeniably one of the most beautiful parts of our spectacular country. It’s blessed with a little bit of everything.

Rolling hills, burbling brooks and surging rivers… history, game reserves and haunting battlefields. Not bad for only a section of one of our nine provinces. 

It’s pressed up against the Drakensberg-Ukahlamba mountains in the west, stretched along the coastal belt in the east and hemmed in by the mighty Tugela River in the north. The Midlands is a fertile area that is dominated by agriculture and wide open spaces.

For many, the Midlands has become synonymous with a small area around Nottingham Road. While this is indeed a cornerstone of the region, the Midlands encompasses a far greater and more diverse area than it is often credited with.

It begins in the south-east where the Umgeni River runs through the Valley of a Thousand Hills, with its crags and cliffs, aloes and thorn trees. Further west is the province’s capital city, Pietermaritzburg. 

This is a small part of Victorian England painstakingly recreated in Africa - complete with an ornate cricket pavilion and the largest red-brick building in the southern hemisphere as its city hall. 

It was after being thrown from a train here that Mahatma Ghandi was inspired to take the first steps of his peaceful protests against discrimination. A statue of the great man still stands in the city centre.

Another great man, South Africa’s iconic Nelson Mandela, also has a firm link to the region and its railways. Just outside Howick one can visit the spot where Madiba was finally arrested, while travelling by train. A plaque marks the otherwise nondescript spot.

The history continues to the north, where the English, Zulu and Afrikaner fought each other at various times in history. While the more famous battlefields are to be found further north and east in Zululand, there are fascinating places to visit in the Midlands, too. These are most notably around the towns of Colenso and Weenen.

In the more westerly parts of the Midlands, where it comes up against the buttresses of the Drakensberg, the Midlands offers some exceptional fly-fishing for trout in rivers and dams. 

Midmar Dam outside Howick is a popular venue for carp and bass fishing, as is Albert Falls Dam further east. There also are a number of excellent courses vying for golfers’ attentions.

Of course, no visit to the Midlands is complete without exploring the Midlands Meander for at least a day or two. The best way to do this is to head north from Howick on the R103, a good tar road that ambles and winds through forests and farmlands. This road is regularly dotted with interesting attractions. 

But don’t stick resolutely to this one road. Pick up a Meander map and explore. Head out to the Dargle, the Karkloof or Curry’s Post. It’ll be quieter, but is just as interesting and picturesque.

Look out for

The Midlands Meander – is what the majority of visitors think of when they hear ‘Midlands’. It deserves its reputation, too. It has become a successful, sustainable tourist attraction that focuses on quality, handmade products and local produce. A few of the highlights are Ardmore Ceramics, the Woodturner, Shuttleworth Weaving and the Zulu Quilt Centre.

Sports – are a major attraction in the Midlands. Every year the Duzi Canoe Marathon starts in Pietermaritzburg and, three days later, ends in Durban. The Midmar Mile is an open-water swim that takes place annually in Midmar Dam. The Comrades Marathon is the largest ultramarathon in the world, running from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, or vice versa in alternate years.

Howick Falls - are a big drawcard in the region, but don’t think that all one can do is gaze at them.  Take a walk into the gorge, through thick indigenous bush filled with bird calls. You’ll be rewarded with the best possible view of the falls, and with a refreshing swim. Adventurers can also abseil over the 107-metre drop, past precariously perching aloes, caressed by the waterfall’s drifting spray.

Hartford House - is a destination worth visiting just for the food. It is also worth spending a night in this historic, luxurious boutique hotel. Situated just outside Mooi River, this romantic getaway on a working horse stud farm is home to an award-winning restaurant. It offers splendid set-course dinners coupled with excellent wines.

Fly-fishing - the first trout to be imported into South Africa were brought to Balgowan in the Midlands. It’s hard to find better fly-fishing than in this region. The dams around Nottingham Road, in the Rosetta/Kamberg District and in the Dargle, are renowned for the trophy rainbow trout. The rivers that flow from the Drakensberg are similarly famed. Indigenous yellowfish are becoming increasingly targeted on fly. They can be fished for in the Tugela, Msunduzi and Umgeni Rivers, amongst others.

Mountain biking - A number of high-profile mountain biking events are held in the Midlands every year. Pietermaritzburg has even hosted the Mountain Bike World Cup. This should give some indication of the quality of the cycling available in the region.

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