The WILDSERIES 3 Cranes Challenge Trail base camp is at Bushwillow Caravan Park in the heart of the Karkloof in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands region. This 3-day ultra-trail stage event is a unique fundraising event which takes runners through indigenous forests and endless elevated views, Shawswood, the majestic Grey Mares Tail waterfall, Willies Magical Garden, Mbona Nature Reserve, Benvie Gardens, Karkloof Canopy Tour ziplines and Ancient Yellow Wood trees on UCL property. There is no better way to test your endurance while running for the conservation of the Cranes (Blue, Wattled and Crowned Cranes).
The day starts early at Bushwillow Park, taking you out into the Karkloof Conservancy. The first section takes you through farmland to the Yarrow falls, one of the most beautiful places to experience, where the route joins the Yarrow walk, this section is flat and takes you through an area where regenerative farming has been practised for decades.
As a result of the no-till farming methods practised here, birdlife is abundant and you stand the chance of seeing all three crane species in the pastures – so keep a look out for them. The summer flowers will also be beautiful at that time of the year so while you are running through the grasslands keep a lookout for them. The route carries on past the two world-class bird hides and the Conservation centre, where you will cross the tar road and run towards Loskop mountain. Turning right, you will then go onto a farm where the owner has just been announced as the best organic dairy farmer of the year. You will then cross onto Spitzkop farm where the climb begins. You will be running through land that was previously a wattle plantation on the slopes of the mountain and is currently being rehabilitated. The path will then take you into the second biggest indigenous forest in South Africa and on to Karkloof Canopy tours for the time-out zone. Here you will experience a few of the ziplines through the treetops, thanks to Karkloof Canopy tours and then make your way back to Bushwillow Park for a much-deserved rest and drink. Lots of water points along the way and a magical time-out zone.
From Bushwillow Park the trail leads you across Shawswood, through plantations, to Braco farm, with the majestic Grey Mares Tail Waterfall as a backdrop. Here you will zig-zag your way through Willies Magical Garden, run through farmlands, cross the main road and head into the plantations for a formidable climb upwards. Water Table 1 at the loading zone will definitely be a welcome sight. From here you work your way up through the bush. Near the top of the mountain look around for the ancient Yellowwood trees, they are big and beautiful and make you feel very small
The path then takes you across the top of the mountain and through Mbona Nature Reserve, where you will observe unbelievably stunning views and wildlife. The trail goes through more forest and grassland, along the edges of dams, where you can take a swim and cool off and head off to the Mbona exit gate.
You will cross the road and traverse more farmland, cross a swing bridge, run through a young Avocado pear farm and up through the infamous Avenue at Benvie. Here you will experience an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ type tea in the beautiful gardens. You can take time to enjoy this as it is a Time Out Zone.
From Benvie the trail leads you up, up, up, along farm roads and across to Twinfalls, where you begin to descend back down into the valley. You will cross the river and run parallel to it, pass a small village and Willies Magical Garden, head along the driveway to the plantations, through Shawswood and back to Base Camp.
You will start the run in the dark with the road taking you through Shawswood to Twinfalls along farm roads and then up into the hills through grasslands. The trail then twists through plantations upwards towards the top of Mt Gilboa, where you will be greeted with the smell of bacon and egg rolls and a beautiful view of the sun rising, you will honestly feel like you’re on top of the world! Here you can take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking views at the last water point. The track then leads you across grassland plateaus and back down through the forest to Shawswood and Bushwillow towards base camp – for a hearty breakfast.
The descent is challenging but worth every moment.
For all the details, click here.