Drakensberg Nov. ’18 pt.2

In Trip Reports On Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ever since my first visit to the Mnweni Valley I’ve been planning to return for an extended trip. Finally in the early Drakensberg summer of 2018 I planned a trip and invited a couple of South Africans along, Janik Alheit and Ruan Bekker. My goal was to capture some of the tropical nature of the lower Berg and particular this area, something I ultimately felt like I achieved!

A cabbage tree near the start of the Icidi Valley in the Mnweni area of the Drakensberg.
The Mnweni is a real treasure of South Africa and hosts a variety of plants and trees unlike any I have seen before. These ferns were a beautiful subject to photograph with the Mnweni Needles emerging in the haze behind.
This scene reminds me of the alps as much as anyhere else. The layering of the hills has obscurred the ramp up to the cliffs and as a result created a landscape which is quite different to most scenes of the Drakensberg.
A fiercely hot day in the Mbundini Abbey. For me as an Englishmen, 30 degree heat and a blazing african sun are pretty problematic, but I found the opportunity to shoot blue and green images irresistable. The central tree is a Cabbage Tree, to me they lend the landscape a tropical, almost magical feel.
Early morning sunlight catches Protea trees beneath the Amphitheatre. It’s easy to understand why this area is amongst the best known in the Drakensberg. The rock walls here are steeper and higher than almost any other area. 
A Praying Mantis in the early morning in Icidi Valley
Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon 
A perfect Arum Lilly in a sea of green in the Fangs Valley
Looking up at one of my favourite sections of the Drakensberg with The Madonna on the far right and the Mbundini Abbey, the Mnweni Pinnacles are on the left and the Cutback far left. The collection of Proteas in the foreground and symptomatic of the unexpected beauty that is found everywhere in the Berg. The trees and open grassland look like a landscape garden but this is a natural wide landscape.
Sunrise looking towards Icidi Pass. This was the final morning of a hike into the Mnweni and I must confess I found it rather hard getting up, tired as I was, but this view was the motivation I needed. I’m sure I will return here.
We passed this spot on route to a planned campspot next to the river but decided it was too good to pass up. We spent the afternoon swimming down at the river and then carried all our water back up with us, the only drawback of this spectacular location.
This is an image to capture the sheer joy of swimming in the Drakensberg. The pools here are often deep and large with water that is cool, but not cold. We swam a lot!
Fireflies joined us in the early hours of the night when we were camped in the Fangs Valley. I must admit this image is more by luck than good measure – I had set my camera up to shoot a time-lapse of the stars and this firefly just happened to find its way into the frame. There are 3 other frames with fireflies, but this is the best.
Our tents in the early morning camped in the Fangs Valley or Mbundini Abbey. Although the surroundings are spectacular good camping spots are hard to find here.

Finally although this makes the narrative particularly non-linear, here are a couple of images from the lightning storm that started our trip ‘with a bang’. Certainly one of the most impressive displays of nature I have seen.

A large thunderstorm passed overhead whilst we stayed at the Mnweni Cultural Centre. Looking towards the Eastern Butress light made its way under the cloud.
Looking towards Cathedral Peak and Tonyelana

If you’re looking for an adventure photography workshop in the Drakensberg I run tours annually. In October I’ll be taking a group back to the Mnweni. You can read more here: Drakensberg – Wonders of the Mnweni

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