07-Dec-2003 -- After the successful visit (with greater accuracy than the previous visit) to 30S 30E on 6 December, I set out bright and early, determined to bag 29S 31E, which was at incomplete status. I knew that the area was tricky, being very mountainous, with few good roads. This was probably the reason for this one remaining uncompleted.
I approached the Confluence from the SE, travelling via the Coastal Road to Stanger, and then heading northwest through Mapumulo towards Kranskop. When the GPS indicated that I was about 10 km from the Confluence, I looked for a right turn and soon found myself in the thick of a wattle plantation, owned by a national paper manufacturer. Unable to find anyone to give me permission to enter the plantation, I hauled out my DCP letter, ready for presentation if I was stopped and pressed on.
The countryside in this area is at an altitude of 1000 m and consists of spurs, all reaching northwards towards the Tugela River, and ending in very steep drops to the river which is at about 300 m altitude. I unsuccessfully tried 5 spurs, working from SE to NW, and eventually got to within about 2.5 km of the Confluence, better than the 5 km of the previous attempt. But it became increasingly obvious that the Confluence was located on the slopes of the valley below and that an approach from the south was not possible without a great deal of sweat and hiking. The previous attempt had stated that the best approach was from the north, and although that visit was unsuccessful it appeared that the approach direction was in fact the correct one.
Almost ready to give up, I left the plantation and headed for Kranskop for a lunch break. There I downloaded and overlaid the GPS track onto the local map and confirmed that the Confluence may indeed be possible from the north. After lunch I headed north from Kranskop into the Tugela Valley, and then turned eastwards along the river road. About 5 km from the Confluence I spotted a track, seemingly used by mini-bus taxis, which appeared to be heading in the right direction. Engaging 4WD, I followed the track southwards, branching off and continually making my way closer to the Confluence. The roads (?), or more accurately goat tracks, were extremely rough, rutted and almost the worst I had ever travelled.
Subsistence farmers populate this area. Many cattle and goats were to be seen, and small patches of maize (corn), which is the staple crop in the area. When I was about 1 km from the Confluence, I was forced to backtrack as the track disappeared into a wash away gully (donga) and further progress by vehicle was impossible. Taking the next likely road, I became excited, as the road seemed to aim directly for the Confluence. The GPS distance-to-go counted down steadily and when it reached 0.5 km I knew the Confluence was in the bag! The track eventually petered out just 50 m from the Confluence, with the Confluence being dead ahead slap bang in front of an acacia tree at an altitude of 410 m, 600 m below where I had stood an hour or two earlier. The area was characterised by scrub, as the cardinal point photos show.
Close by was the home of one of the local farmers and the entire family soon arrived to wonder what this strange man was doing, almost in their backyard. I tried my best to explain, but didn't manage to really get anything across. They didn't even want their picture taken at the Confluence!
After documenting the Confluence and taking the necessary photographs of the area and the GPS (4 m EPE), I waved goodbye to my still mystified farmer friends, and backtracked. About 1.4 km from the Confluence I photographed a panorama south and north of the general area to show how rugged this area is.
I arrived back at the Tugela river road, back out of the valley towards Kranskop, Greytown, Pietermaritzburg and then to my home in Durban. A long day, but rewarded in the end with my second successful confluence visit, and my first previously unvisited Confluence.