The Molweni River Trail is spectacular for landscape, woodland, waterfall, nature and long-exposure photography. Just a stone's throw away from Hillcrest/Kloof in Durban is my go-to hiking spot right now and a potential workshop location
This amazing hiking spot is just a 15-minute drive from my home in Paradise Valley, west of Durban. I had no idea that it existed until recently. At a photography club meeting one Wednesday evening, a member and fellow photographer whose work I am mesmerised by (Kazalette Pike) told me about the trails in the Everton Conservancy. So one fresh Saturday morning, I decided to go exploring.
Let me tell you a little about the Conservancy. The only reason I know this is because on the third weekend in a row that I had gone hiking there, I met one of the founders (Anthony 'Tony' Kee) by complete happenstance. Lo and behold, as fate would have it, Tony's wife Betsy is also a member of the Westville Photography Club. It is crazy how fate works sometimes. I had only been in the spot where I met Tony because I had set off in the opposite direction earlier in the morning, heard something dodgy that sounded like a wild bush pig, and went running for my life. Turns out that the area is, in fact, home to bushpig, bushbuck, various birds and even Caracal, amongst other animals. I have not as yet seen any of the non-feathered friends, but I am to believe that they are there, likely more scared of us than we are of them. Check out https://www.evertonconservancy.co.za/fauna-flora/mammals/ for more information.
The Conservancy is free for anyone to explore. There is, however, a QR code below that will allow for donations to the conservancy. They employ full-time maintenance staff, and I tell you, the trails are better cared for than many expensive private hiking locations that I have been to. I urge you to donate, please, as I have. It is the least we can do to support such a wonderful initiative.
When I met Anthony, he was kind enough to educate me on the history of the Conservancy as we walked in the same direction for a kilometre or so. Luckily he knew where we were going. I had no clue. If it were not for having met him, I would never have found the path to Inungumbane (Porcupine) Falls. Even with his directions, though, I missed a turn and ended up back where we met initially. So I landed up doing almost 8km of hiking with 941m of ELEVATION GAIN, with all my camera gear in my backpack and soaked from having slipped and taken a dive into a chilly stream that I had crossed (the first time). I was much more careful the second time around, not that it mattered. Some of the shots from that day are in the gallery below, as well as a route map for the hike. Click to enlarge the images.
A few weekends later, I took my wife and some friends there for a hike, but I decided to take them on one of the other routes, one that I had been on before I had met Anthony. From the same starting point on Acutts Drive, we went across the road and along Molweni Trail. Personally, the walk alongside the river is my favourite. It is cold, dark, and damp and gives rainforest vibes until late into the morning. The gallery below (click to enlarge) and route map will give you an idea of what to expect. I could spend hours there just on one or two long exposure compositions. There is also the opportunity for great woodland landscape shots and macro too! I mean, check out those shrooms! I bought extension tubes the day after that shot was taken. I absolutely love it and cannot wait to see what Spring and Summer have to offer. The forest is scattered with many types of fungi and flora, which when scoured with an eye for detail, presents the funkiest colours and shapes! A nature photographer's paradise. I really love the shades of green that woodland areas like this produce. You can easily capture picturesque images that look like paintings, rich and textural.
This side of the road is a lot busier than the trek to Porcupine Falls. I think not many people know that route, and it is a little steeper in parts. However, if you're out there early, which I typically like to be, there is silence dappled with faint sounds of the forest to be emersed in. Tranquillity and peace. A great opportunity to sit on a rock in the middle of a river and have breakfast..."or second breakfast...or elevensies" (Credit: The Lord of the Rings). I am talking about fruit and yoghurt here, not full English! Unfortunately I do not know the name of the falls on this trail, or if they have one at all, but since it's at the turnaround point on the trail, let's call it Turnaround Falls. The lower turnaround point on the map is the location of the falls (1st image in gallery below) and the upper turnaround is the small dropoff pictured in the fourth image in the gallery below.
The hikes are 3.5km and 4.4km round trips, respectively, and are quite family-friendly if you don't take wrong turns like I did, or step on slippery rocks like I also did. I am an accident waiting to happen, so for normal people, the whole family can have a great day out at this location. I have seen people walking dogs there as well, but it is actually not permitted, I have recently learned. Leeanne (my wife) and I are eagerly waiting to take Mira (my 4-year-old daughter) there to explore and play when she is a little older. Until then, it will remain a sanctuary of quiet and calm.
Let's hope she does not fall in love with photography, I can't afford another camera setup. Just joking; I think it may be too late for that already. The evidence below refers.
Tony described another route to me, which I am yet to explore. I am to understand that it takes you on a climb up a chain ladder to a point where there is a view over the gorge. That sounds interesting, and I will be sure to report back when I do eventually go.
Until then, look out for coming articles where I critically analyse some of the photos from this article. There are learnings to be had, and I will discuss those, the changes I would make next time and some of the techniques, gear and settings that I used to capture those shots.
Until next time...Your Bipolaroid Photographer.