The trail is exploratory is nature. Sections of the trail are either cross-country or have intermittent paths. It follows the left upstream banks of Nomdumo Stream to a series of cascades before heading up the eastern slopes of uMdlankomo to pass by Hlathin’elide (Long Forest) and Amahlathin’amathathu (Three Forests) before providing access into Mnweni (AmaNgwane Traditional Authority Area) or the AmaZizi Valley of Busingatha, with which it shares a common boundary. Part of the trail falls within the proposed Community Nature Reserve & Wilderness Area.
Arrangements for a cultural visit can be made through BAWINILE MTOLO (074 724 7826). Bawinile is the facilitator for the AmaZizi Wilderness Group and the Mdlankomo Cultural and Rock art Group.
Arrangements for a guided trip that will enable hikers to familiarise themselves with the general area and routes can be made through AmaZizi local guide ELIJAH MBONANE (073 1374 690).
For overnight hiking trips the mountain register should be filled in at Thandanani Craft Centre, just past the turnoff to Busingatha, on the road to RNNP. Thandanani is a co-operative of 55 local women who produce outstanding crafts and who also supply overseas markets.
Note: The western slopes of uMandlankomo (facing towards Busingatha) have important spiritual significance for the AmaZizi. Hikers are requested not to traverse this section of the mountain.
Some options the trail provides:
1. Morning trip: Cultural visit and/or visit the Nomdumo Stream Cascades
2. Day trip: Visit the Okhombe/Busingatha Saddle via Hlathin'elide (Long Forest) and/or amaHlathin'amathathu (Three Forests)
3. Continue into the heart of Mnweni via the Kuze (Bhudlu) River Valley (2-4 days depending on exploration and destination points).
From Thandanani turn left to follow the main road. Continue for six kilometres to a turnoff on the right to Dukuza (signposted). Shortly after passing two schools turn right onto the gravel 1263 road near Tholithemba School and follow for about three kilometres before turning right as indicated on the map. The road crosses the Okhombe Bridge (2006) then leads to a T-junction near which are two homesteads where a vehicle can be parked by pre-arrangement with Ms. Mtolo.
The start of the trail is on the right, less than 50m up the road.
The path winds along the left upstream slopes of the Nomdumo Stream for about 2km to an attractive series of small cascades then crosses to the opposite bank. Shortly after crossing the stream leave the path and go up a slight slope to a fence - S28 43'17.5" E029 03'28.4", elevation 1404m.
Go through the fence and skirt the indigenous thicket ahead going right. Zig-zag up slopes to the right of the thicket. Shortly after crossing a small stream locate an intermittent path on the opposite bank and zig-zag up a steep slope to another path at 1550m (S28 42'59.5" E029 03'11.9"). Follow path to the end of a grazing fence, on the left above the thicket, then bear right across the slopes to an indistinct path which heads for a small, triangular-shaped indigenous forest on the lower slopes of Mdlankomo. Note: At the point where the fence ends just above the thicket there is a steep, crumbling bank jutting out over the thicket and a sheer drop down. Avoid the edges of the bank.
At the base of the forest cross the Nomdumo Stream at 1583m (S 28 42'56.9" E029 02'51.3"). Locate a narrow, intermittent path on the opposite bank then take long zig zags up a steep hill keeping within 70 to 100m of the forest. Locate a path at 1661mm. Turn left onto the path which runs below Hlathin'elide (Long Forest).
Lovely views of the upper slopes of Okhombe and Mnweni beyond are visible as the elevation rises - with the distinctive sandstone-topped Mpofini visible on the boundary between Okhombe and Mnweni.
From below Hlathin'elide continue on the path, which gradually peters out, up to an elevation of over 1700m at which point one is almost directly below two of the three forests comprising amaHlathin’amathathu. From here one can either go up to walk through the forests or continue traversing along the slopes at about 1700m,heading for the Okhombe/Busingatha saddle, a walk of about half an hour.
The Saddle (marked by 4 low cairns) - S28 43'31.3" E029 021'56.2", elevation: 1734m
Beautiful view of the Amphitheatre from the Saddle
Depending on weather and time there are numerous options from this point, several of which are noted below although (2) and (4) to (6) do not form part of the trail.
1) Return to the vehicle from the saddle. The quickest route back from the saddle is given below after (6), or
2) From the saddle go left to explore the high cliffs overlooking Busingatha (Isikhalisengwe slopes) or
3) Continue up the Okhombe valley to the next set of forests (also called Hlathin'elide (2) and, a little further on, Amahlathin’amathathu (Three Forests). Hlathin'elide (2) contains comfortable shaded areas and numerous small pools.
4) At this point, if on a day hike, one can return to the vehicle or continue up the valley to the eSithabazini Plateau, through the Mvathuza area and thereafter to another Okhombe/Busingatha Saddle where there is a cairn. From the cairn an intermittent path leads for about 200m+ to Mvathuza Shelter which overlooks Mnweni and is suitable for 6-8 people. It is uncertain whether or not a small waterfall close to the shelter is perennial.
5) If on a longer trip one can continue to Mpofini and either head into Mabhulesini or Manzana or -
6) Contour along the slopes below Mpofini and then continue towards Maqoqo or Skiti (Sikidi on the map) from where there are tracks leading back down to the Okhombe road. In this case, and depending on where the vehicle has been parked, it may be necessary to walk several kilometres back to the vehicle.
Quick route (about an hour) back from the Okhombe/Busingatha Saddle:
Bear right and contour down to an elevation of about 1650m (S28 43'42.1" E029 02'01.1"). Head for a point between Maqoqo and Skiti at 1600 elevation then continue to 1537m elevation (S28 43'53.4" E029 02'51.8"). Continue down to join road: elevation 1397m (S28 43'46.9" E029 03'24.7"). Follow road back down the valley to homestead parking.
Click to enlarge the map of the trail below, alternatively download a full-scale version of the map.
Trail development supported by the GEF Small Grants Programme, implemented by UNDP.