The WILDSERIES Golden Gate Challenge which takes place at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park (GGHNP) in the Free State, will once again welcome runners from all parts of the country from the 21st to the 24th of October 2021, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of this unique event. This 3-day staged event explores some of the country’s most beautiful mountain landscape; traversing restricted areas of the park which are rarely open to the public. This year’s event also features a 2-day stage run, the Dino Run (10km) and the 17km Rock run so everyone can experience the majestic trails of the park.
The official volunteer organisation of South African National Parks, the SANParks Honorary Rangers (SHR) have assisted the WILDSERIES Golden Gate Challenge since 2011 with marshalling, water tables and logistics. Working hand-in-hand with the event organiser Wildlands Conservation Trust (WILDTRUST), the SHR have raised more than R 1 000 000 from the proceeds of the annual trail running event, contributing significantly to the maintenance, infrastructure improvements and vulture conservation in the park. The WILDSERIES Golden Gate Challenge is thus a significant source of income for conservation projects in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, and SANParks as a whole.
Celebrating this 10th year of the collaboration between WILDLANDS, a programme of the WILDTRUST, and the SHR will be raising funds for a new opportunity to support the revival of eco-tourism in the former QwaQwa National Park (QNP) as a way of expanding the reach and support needed by the local communities through the collective effort of the trail running community and these conservation entities.
Established as a National Park in 1992, the QwaQwa National Park is the historical home of the Bakoena and the Batlokoa people. The name QwaQwa is San and means “Whiter than White” due to the frequent snow on the Drakensberg mountains. The QwaQwa area of the GGHNP has a unique cultural heritage and history, which includes San rock art, traditional sacred sites and graves, historical war and battle sites. Altogether, GGHNP has 65 recorded cultural heritage sites, and is the only national park that specifically promotes the rich Basotho culture.
Biodiversity in the remote QwaQwa section of the park is rich, and SANParks is providing services to ensure clearance of alien invasive species, rehabilitation of wetlands, erosion control, fire management and law enforcement throughout the park, but the infrastructure for eco-tourism opportunities in the QwaQwa section have fallen into disrepair.
SANParks is developing a cultural heritage management plan to assist with its revival, and SHR have committed to assist. The Welgedacht precinct – an area around the old Welgedacht Farm House in the QwaQwa section – has been rezoned for Low Intensity Leisure purposes, and the plans include a proposed camp site, trails, picnic sites and 4×4 routes. This would allow for self-drive game viewing in the “little Serengeti” area, as well as hiking, cycling and horse trails, star gazing, visiting rock paintings and learning about medicinal plants.
“SANParks Honorary Rangers of KZN Region are committed to help revive the eco-tourism activities in the QwaQwa section of GGHNP. The proceeds from this years’ Golden Gate Challenge will contribute to this revival for the benefit of visitors wanting a unique Wilderness Experience in the stunning but remote part of the Park, and the local residents who call QwaQwa home,” comments Lene Hansen, chairperson of the SHR KZN Region.
The trail running community and nature lovers are called to enter the 10th edition of the WILDSERIES Golden Gate Challenge to contribute towards these plans to conserve and nurture the biodiversity and conservation of the QwaQwa section of the Golden Gate National Park. Entries are open and will remain open until the limit of 250 runners is reached. The event will be catered, and the local Phoka Coffee Shop will be serving hot drinks and cakes inspired by Basotho culture and heritage. All required protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the event are in place, and the public are encouraged to get vaccinated to build the required immunity to allow such events as the Golden Gate Challenge to make the significant contribution to nature conservation that they are built for.
For more information visit https://wildtrust.co.za/wildseries/