There is no better way to experience Durban than on foot! Your feet can take you to those places where cars and buses and taxis don’t reach, so that you can explore every nook and corner with its character and beauty, and ultimately its story.
At the age of 58, trailblazer, wanderlust warrior and street stomper, Alison Chadwick, followed her heart and passion to become a tour guide in our walkable city. Her mission, through Durban Walking Tours, is to educate and fascinate locals and out-of-towners with the hidden treasures of our vibrant city.
“I have always been interested in travel. I love hiking and trail running and enjoy reading mostly non-fiction books. And I love photography.” Alison started Durban Walking Tours after working in the Point area for 12 years. “I would often drive or walk around after work, taking photos of some of the old remaining buildings or houses, and then either go to the Don Africana Library in town or delve into my big collection of books and research the area.”
This soon became an obsession for Alison, who then started exploring in other areas. When a friend of hers joined Alison on a walk one day she was blown away by her knowledge and passion. She encouraged her to take her journey further. So, Alison invited a group of 20 friends to join her on a walk. The rest, as they say, is history!
“From that day onwards the interest and demand continued to grow. I qualified as a registered tour guide in October last year. My walking tours appeal to locals and overseas visitors and I have taken school groups, camera clubs, birthday parties, a really delightful group of farmer’s wives from the Ladysmith area and, more recently, a Matric student who is studying design and making a film on regeneration in the city.”
While Alison is able to tailor her walking tours to suit almost anyone, she doesn’t like to give away too much upfront. She says she loves the element of surprise, especially when she takes a group into an extraordinary place she has also newly discovered.
“I think the part I love the most about this journey is how people have embraced my groups along the way. On one of my Florida Road walks, attorneys John Hudson & Co invited my group into their beautiful offices and had the boardroom set up with tea and coffee and the most delightful eats for us to enjoy; then further down the road, the owner of Next Chapter Restaurant was looking out for my group and proceeded to hand everyone a voucher for R100. On my Point Walk, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr Ndabo Langa on a few occasions, who has kindly opened up The Chairman – an exclusive jazz club – which is so tastefully decorated with gorgeous old artefacts and interesting pieces of art. I always say you see so much more on foot! It’s the little things that sometimes leave the best impressions!”
Taking larger groups out has posed a problem for Alison during lockdown, but she continues to rally up smaller groups keen to get out and explore, and she’s created a few different walking tours which don’t involve going into too many establishments, also favouring bigger, more open spaces.
Here are some of Alison’s most popular walks…
“This is by far my most popular walk and probably the longest as it takes roughly three hours. In 1860 the Point area was the heartbeat of Durban and it’s steeped in history. The very first steam train in South Africa serviced the Point in 1860. The Point also has a lot of new and interesting developments.”
Florida Road Walk
“We follow the path the elephants took 170 years ago when they made their way down what we know as Florida Road today to drink from the marsh in Greyville. Along the route, I point out many significant old buildings and the history behind them, plus the new vibey developments like Florida Fields. We walk past the oldest house on the Berea – built in 1850 and aptly called The Elephant House, because when the house was being built, the elephants would rub themselves against the veranda poles.”
The Berea – the good, the bad and the ugly
“The Berea, at one time, was considered a country suburb where our early settlers chose to set up big homes with lush gardens with sweeping views over the harbour. There are many interesting homes in this area, which were built in the late1890’s and early 1900’s. We pass the former homes of the two biggest retail rivals Sir Benjamin Greenacre and George Payne.”
“We get to admire the former home of Sir Liege Hulett, we then pass John L Dube House (unfortunately I haven’t received an invitation from President Cyril Ramaphosa to visit for tea), we then visit at the beautiful Audacia Manor and St James Anglican Church before ending off for tea and treats at the glorious Holland House.”
Maritime Moments and Art Deco Buildings
“The Victoria Embankment, which was established in the early 1900’s, houses the oldest yacht club in Africa. We stop at the Maritime Museum and then it is over the road to admire the remaining art deco buildings from the 1930s. We also take a peek inside the Durban Club. I am proud to say my Great Grandfather Henry Anthony Chadwick made the green cast iron railings on the Victoria Embankment which still stand today.”
“The city walk incorporates some of the exciting rejuvenation in the city – the Nedbank Building with a wonderful roof top restaurant, which now houses the legal fraternity and the former Stuttafords Building which is now trendy lifestyle living space. We step inside a mosque which was previously a church and a visit to the magical roof top garden is always a highlight.”
Alison’s walks are an average of two to three hours long and the distance varies from 5km to 8km. Costs are between R100 and R200.
“I have also introduced destination walks, which involve a bit of exercise and some learning. I have a list of more than 30 places to visit in and around Durban like the 1860 Heritage Centre, Warrior’s Gate, the Holocaust Museum, Amazulu African Palace, Saint Giles – the list is endless and grows every day as I think of something else. I want people in Durban to discover and learn more about their city. I love it when people tell me that they’ve lived in Durban for decades and never knew about something I have introduced them to. I have received so much positive feedback and encouragement, and this makes it all worthwhile. I’m living my dream, sharing it with others and loving every minute of it.”
www.durbanwalkingtours.co.za, FB & IG: Durban Walking Tours, 082 777 7073
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