50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 95

C HA P T E R E I G H T The River Mkomazi “I do not know much about gods; but I think the river is a strong brown god...” TS Eliot (1888 - 1965) T Brief Natural History he Mkomazi rises in some of the highest eastward-facing slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains, near the mighty Thabana Ntlenyana, highest point in Southern Africa. The river flows south-eastwards towards the Indian Ocean, which it enters through an estuary at the seaside village of Umkomaas, about 40km southwest of Durban. Its main tributaries are the Loteni, Nzinga, Mkomazane, Elands and the Xobho Rivers. Towns on the Mkomazi basin include Bulwer, Impendle, Ixopo, Craigieburn and Boston. (Interestingly, the village of Richmond does not drain into the Umko valley, but away from it to the northeast). Presently the only dam in the Umko catchment area is the Ixopo Dam, but other dams are planned. The Mkomazi is part of the Mvoti to Umzimkulu Water Management Area. The Mkhomazi State Forest and the Mkhomazi Wilderness Area are protected areas located in the upper course of the Mkomazi (or Umkomaas) River. mountain lights up in the morning glow, and with the addition of swirling mist, does look like a crescent of fire with the accompanying smoke. A letter we received from Dr Ian Player (of Natal Parks Board, White Rhino and pioneering Umko trip fame) states: “As a purely personal point, I thought that you may be interested to know my grandfather had a store on the Hella Hella before the Boer War. My father was born there and I believe it was my grandmother who gave the place its name because of the terrific heat!” One final possibility: The earliest recorded history of this district is hardly 150 years old. It has however been recorded that in those times a San Bushman by the name of Hele hunted elephants in the upper reaches of the Mzimkulu and Mkomazi River. Did he perhaps leave his name to this area? Names The Mkhomazi (or Umkomaas) River Hella Hella - by Barry Porter, farmer at Hella Hella Hella Hella is the unusual name for the magnificent dolerite mountain overlooking the valley. Unfortunately the meaning of the name is lost to the local inhabitants. The late Mr Owen Camp who farmed in the district and spent many days of his youth roaming around the Hella Hella spoke isiZulu and claimed that Hella Hella is the corrupted version of an old Zulu expression “ihelehele” signifying an advancing crescent of flame in a grass fire driven by a strong wind. The leading edge of flame bulges forward and advances rapidly across the veld. Looking from Hella Hella bridge in the early morning as the sun rises the orange dolerite buttress of the Hella Hella 95 ©Jon Ivins This name is derived from the isiZulu umkhomo, meaning whale. A traditional tale informs us that Shaka’s army crossed this river during a raid on the southern tribes in the eighteen twenties. They crossed close to the present day town of Umkomaas, and were fascinated to see whales lying with their calves in shallow water just beyond (some say within) the mouth of the estuary. UMKO 50 Years