A Snapshot Of Durban
The beach, tired buildings and a flash new stadium in the distance.
Romance. It didn’t happen to me, but it did happen on my BazBus to Durban between two passengers. It reminded me of the transience of travelling – after a couple of days, they’ll probably never see each other again. It was almost exactly like that Ethan Hawke film Before Sunrise when two backpackers meet on a train in Europe and decide to get off in Vienna where they spend all night walking the streets of the city and falling in love – only for the girl to catch a train back to France in the morning, never to see each other again.
Travelling solo can get lonely – especially during low season – so I’ll admit that there was a part of me wishing it was happening to me.
Boastfulness. It’s not a good look. I’ve learned not to boast about how much travel I have done and all the countries I have been to – OK, sometimes I can’t help but show off every now and then – but generally I’ll only reveal my tally if I am asked.
The older American lady on my BazBus didn’t share my reticence as she reeled off all 68 countries she has
Moses Mabhida Stadium
The flashest structure that Durban has is this impressive stadium built for the 2010 World Cup. It has a “skycar” that can take you to the top of the arch, but it was closed for maintenance.
been to. I usually love talking about travelling but not with her. I quietly kept my counsel.
Age. As an observation, I do find the older travellers – especially older female travellers – are generally
more fussy and make more complaints about things. I guess when you get older you get used to a higher level of comfort and service. Yes, I’m talking about Older American Lady again. It was a long ride to Durban (literally – it took nine hours).
Civilisation. I was returning to it in the form of Durban, one of South Africa’s biggest cities. It would take some getting used to having spent ten days in the remoteness of the Wild Coast. I wasn’t sure I was looking forward to it, having enjoyed my time off the grid.
Names. They just fly past me sometimes. I have this uncanny ability to talk to someone without really concentrating sometimes, especially when they are telling me their name. Literally a minute after they introduced themselves, I have forgotten their name already and then it gets to a stage where it becomes too late to ask. Luckily, the hostel owner Keith mentions his wife’s name in
Durban’s grandest building.
conversation, saving me the ignominy.
Home. I literally don’t have one at the moment and it’s weird but cool at the same time. But whenever someone asks me where I am from and where I live, I basically have to tell them my longwinded story of how I have ended up here in South Africa and where I am going in the next two years. And how I am from New Zealand but lived in London, but then went back to New Zealand and then came here…it gets really tiring after a while and people have so many questions.
Home is also what Smith’s Cottage feels like, my hostel in Durban. Well, it isn’t really a hostel, it is Keith and Pat’s house with guesthouse and pool converted into a backpackers. As one of only five guests staying at the time, it really does feel like you’re staying at their house as a guest. It is a true ma and pa operation and their son Gary lives next door where he also runs a B&B. Pat and Keith are from England – Liverpool and Wigan respectively – so you get to hear northern accents during your stay with a
Fantastic for cycling.
few family quarrels thrown in. It really felt like I was staying at a friend’s grandparents’ house. They were really accommodating though – Keith would drive me around wherever I needed to go in the local area – and they were able to give me a lot of information about Durban and where I was going afterwards.
The only downsides were not having my own transport and being stuck in the suburbs – and being charged extra for a lot of things including an hourly WiFi rate that was on all the time anyway, hence lots of ‘secret surfing’ in my room – the dorm within which I was the only one staying. So there wasn’t much going on in the evenings.
Admin. I had a lot to do, so I spent my first day in Durban doing just that. In the afternoon however, Keith took me down with Gary to have a couple of (huge 750ml) beers with their friend Trevor – just drinking next to their bakkies
on the side of the road, hiding our beers every time a cop came past like we used to do as teenagers.
Food. Durban’s speciality is the bunny chow
I’m not sure exactly what I am thinking before ploughing into Durban’s culinary delicacy.
– a quarter, half or full loaf of bread with the inside cored out and replaced by curry. I just had to have one so Keith took me to have the best one in town.
It was delicious but very spicy – and I paid for it that night. Beer and curry is an ideal combination for many but my stomach just won’t have any of it. So I hardly slept and I felt absolutely terrible the next day.
Cycling. It’s a fantastic way to see the sights of a city in one day. Pat and Keith were able to hire one out to me and the cycle path along the beachside promenade makes Durban very cycle-friendly and it is a lovely ride to boot. It was exhausting though, having not slept much and not eaten anything while I was still feeling the effects of the bunny chow
While cycling along the beach is super-easy, ducking into the city centre to check out a few sights was anything but. With Durban’s crazy drivers, cycling on the road was out of the question, so I was wading my way through all the people on the footpaths, making a right nuisance
The largest mosque in the southern hemisphere apparently.
The locals seemed friendly enough but the surrounds were so poor and run-down that I felt apprehensive about what I was doing. I had been told to have my wits about me in Durban and that muggings are common – this was playing on my mind as I ‘cycled’ through the city centre.
Verdict. I won’t talk about the sights I saw – they are all presented to you as photographs in this entry – but overall I wasn’t impressed at all by Durban. I was expecting a bit more from one of South Africa’s more talked-up cities. Like many South African towns and cities, the city centre is shelled out and run-down while all the nice houses and shopping centres are all out in the suburbs. You are told not to walk around at night at all.
The city centre busy, dirty and polluted and all the buildings look so tired. I’m convinced that there hasn’t been a new building built in the city centre (or on the beachside promenade for that matter) since the 80s. The promenade is nice – but even that looks jaded.
I was glad to leave if I’m being completely honest.
This traditional mode of transport is now merely a tourist gimmick.
Next up, I will be doing some hippo-spotting in St Lucia.
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