Mnweni Pass is calling. CoachNeville had a fun weekend training in the Drakensberg with his runners

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CoachNeville had a fun weekend training in the Drakensberg with some of his trail runners

With the Mnweni trail race fast approaching in May and my amazing memories of running it in the snow last year, I recently took some of my trail runners for a weekend of fun in the Drakensberg to run it.

                                                                                                                                                                Henk Sweers and Cornel van Heerden

This was my third run on the route and the best weather yet. The first time I ran it as a training run with some of my runners before the race last year  it rained most of of the day. I managed to get lost and ended up crossing rivers in the dark and finished at 9pm, cold and tired.  

It is a self-navigation route and I have earned a reputation for getting lost, a reputation I deserve. It is a brave runner that blindly follows their coach on the trail! We booked in for the weekend at the Amphitheatre Backpackers, which is the ideal base for exploring the Berg. The Backpackers has dorms with showers and a communal kitchen. It also has a restaurant, bar and jacuzzi making it a great place to relax after a day in the mountains. Accommodation in the dorms was a bargain at R200 a night. 

                                                                                                                                                             Our dorm at Amphitheatre Backpackers

Our group of 9 runners had a not-to early 6am start and soon split up into groups. I took up the rear with Marilette Visagie. Marilette made the mistake of following me as I had done the route twice before. But somehow after the first river crossing I veered off down to the right instead of up the valley and we found ourselves criss-crossing the strongly flowing river six times. Eventually after 2hrs, Marilette pulled out her Garmin Etrex and we discovered our mistake.

                                                                                                                                                               Marilette stopping for a drink

                                                                                                                                                                     CoachNeville on a crossing

We then headed up the ridge to rejoin the path and were back on track, but by now I was worrying whether we would get over the Mweni Pass and down the Rockeries on the other side in time to get back before dark. A little further up the river we heard the sounds of laughter and found Dave and Kim Westbrook swimming. They had found a super waterfall, a deep pool and fast flowing water. 

                                                                                                                                                                                Dave and Kim

There was no way we could pass up on this opportunity and soon joined them.  The trick was to wade up on the far side where the water was only waist deep, then dive into the middle where it was deep and fast flowing, and then let it carry you down to the rapids where you had to make sure you used a large boulder to stop. Super fun. Did I mention the water was cold?


                                                                                                                                                                                Kim swimming

                                                                                                                                                                    Marilette, CoachNeville and Kim

By now it was around 1pm and we decided to skip the climb up Mnweni Pass and instead head back down the valley with some detours up the ridges to explore. 

The others all safely summited Mnweni Pass and had a great long run, finishing comfortably in around 9hrs. The evening was spent in the pub and restaurant sharing our experiences.

                                                                                                                                                                          Our group at the start

Next up is a 50km high altitude training run for my Comrades runners near Dullstroom on April 21. I also plan more trail run weekends, amongst which will be the Num Num trail before the race end of July, and a trip to the Golden Gate.

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