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Durban

SOUTH AFRICA | Saturday, 16 March 2013 | Views [559] | Comments [1]

Durban

Durban

Sunny Durban, the main city in Kwazulu-Natal is home to around 4 million people and a multitude of nationalities and for us, a compulsory one night stop. All today’s drop offs were scheduled for South Beach and ours was the first hostel. Driving into Durban I was very disappointed to note how dirty and run down it was. Standing on the sea front and looking north to the large stadium proudly built for the 2010 World Cup, it seemed, at least from this distance that there must be a smarter uptown area. The stadium cost around R3.1m and is still in use today, with a viewing area called the Skywalk. You can even do a bungee jump or perhaps just enjoy the nearby restaurants and shops. Perhaps there is a lot more to this city than our fleeting visit has allowed us to see but as the bus is due to leave any time from 06.45 tomorrow morning, this is something I can only hope to be the case. I remember Durban from early school days and to me back then it was a glamorous sea side city that even had an hotel with a lift/elevator that travelled on the outside of the building so that its occupants could enjoy the view.

We arrived at Happy Hippos which did nothing to increase my optimism. It seemed to be a doorway painted onto the side of a large building lacking any of the character we had read about. Inside we saw collages of a warehouse style building being gutted to create a number of dorms situated around large central communal areas. On the top floor is a bar and outside area which was quite nice. The 3 bed dorm was amply spacious and the bathroom facilities are large and clean enough. The décor carries an African theme and particularly at night, looks quite authentic in the soft lighting.

The biggest bonus for this hostel is that it is situated literally just around the corner from Ushaka Marine World, the largest aquarium in Africa. This complex is definitely worth a visit, aside from several restaurants, there are shops which sell everything from Indian Spices to beachwear and beaded Zulu handicrafts. It was, however, the ice cream shop which first caught our attention as we wandered around. To the front of the complex is a large expanse of clean sandy beach where some water sporting activities were taking place. The one thing that has not changed about Durban is the wind. It reminded me of a time all those years ago whereupon opening the window in our hotel room, it literally blew off its hinges.

We had heard about a restaurant where you can enjoy your food sitting by a glass wall behind which sharks and other unidentified largish fish swim. The restaurant is in an old ship which forms part of the marine park. Unfortunately it was closed so we took the opportunity to peer through the glass doors and watch the sharks swim past. From the deck above you can look into the water which is covered by thick rope, although it was a less fortunate photo opportunity than our stealthy endeavours downstairs. Even had it been open, we were not appropriately dressed and window side tables are booked up 2-3 weeks in advance. We settled for pizza elsewhere and the biltong and avocado one I chose at least gave somesemblance of being African!

Strangely, none of the room doors are lockable here. I would like to think they are 100% sure of their safety procedures but being fairly pragmatic about these things, I fear this is not the case especially as we noticed the front door was wide open when we came back earlier. One of the gadgets I brought with me is a small plastic device which fits into the door frame and locks an inward opening door from the inside. It is only a small device which would probably not withstand determined force, but does afford some extra security. Well worth finding a space in your backpack for this one.

Leaving Durban, our Baz Bus driver expanded our knowledge of the city. Apart from being the cheapest city in SA, Durban enjoys a tropical climate and is officially the warmest city with average winter temperatures of 22-29 degrees Celsius. Lowest daytime temperatures could be around 14 degrees and due to an occasional cold front from Cape Town. Summer time (Dec-Feb) can be very hot and the sun extremely strong. Ocean temperatures are currently between 19-22 degrees, but rise to 26-28 degrees in summer.

You can’t help come across Bunny Chow on the menu. It is the most popular fast food here – a choice of curry served in hollowed bread, usually ¼ loaf per person and eaten with your fingers.

Our little group of 6 (the 2 Dutch girls, a German and a Swede in addition to us 2 Brits) are heading to Umzumbe, a stop on the coast not far south of Durban. Apparently we have chosen well and are all anticipating arrival at the Mantis and Moon hostel, with the promise of sun, sand and sea……

Tags: backpacking, baz bus, bunny chow, durban, happy hippo, hostels, natal, sharks, ushaka marine, world cup stadium

Comments

1

Yes, I remember the window blowing off. And I remember battling with the wind as we walked along the sea-front - you insisting on walking behind Marie and me, pretending you weren't with us!!! Can't recall why?? :-)

  Lynne Mar 19, 2013 9:09 AM

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