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Durban, my last need-to-see place in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA | Tuesday, 11 December 2007 | Views [1132]

Durban is a beautiful and fantastic place, yet as a Capetonian dare I say as picturesque? Born-and-bread in Cape Town, it’s huge complement for me to acknowledge Durban as the next-best alternative to the Mother City... with Pretoria as 2nd princess, beaten only because of the beaches. :D

I spent a week in Durban, and for all my travels, this time with my family – my parents to be exact. That in itself brought upon its own challenges, but also introduced a dynamic that normally I’d exclude: a need to commute about the city. By nature I’m a sight-seeker traveler; my parents, because they were competitors in a dance competition, needed to commute into the CBD often. I too am a ballroom dancer, a hobby. I actually competed the year before in Port Elizabeth/Utenhague, but this year I was just attending to support my parents, be their chauffer, and because Durban was the last place in my must-see list of South Africa.

The Bluff

So I rented a garden cottage on The Bluff, a road separating me from the Indian Ocean. The Bluff is suburbia, 20 minutes outside Durban’s CBD, but it has the feel more of a seaside village. The only pitfall I found was that its beaches, in contrast to that of the North Shore (Durban), had rock formations all along the beach. This made entering and exiting the surf somewhat treacherous. But the shore itself was fantastic for sun-seekers, of which there were many, even in winter!

Driving around

Durban is South Africa’s biggest port. But it still took me by surprise at how many freight trucks (18-wheelers) were always on the roads. To get from The Bluff into the city, there was a constant feeling of being unsettled primarily because trucks were everywhere. Ironically, within the CBD, they used only one road which flanked the harbor, whereas elsewhere you only had to contend with the fantastic (sarcasm) driving skills of native Durbanites! :D

To a logical person – something I’ve been berated as being – road design in Durban is confounding! Firstly, there seems to be a preoccupation with renaming roads – so often that maps aren’t updated fast enough… nor the road names themselves (at places). And second, with roads as wide as 5 lanes in the CBD, Durban city planners still demarcated them as one-ways. I also found the city planners predilection for merging and forking roads quite amusing. So, in summary, you had to keep a good sense of humour when driving in Durban.

In contrast, the highways around the city were fantastic. Lush green foliage flanked each side, only giving way to sea vistas or a rondavel (rural village house) or two.

Out and about

We visited Durban during it’s rainy season, so admittedly, I didn’t get to seeing much. But I really liked what I saw of the beaches on the North Coast. But if you’ve got family to consider, then uShaka Marine World is the place to visit.

Personally, I preferred my road trips. My first was to experience The Valley of a Thousand Hills, and to continue through to see The Drakensburg Mountains. Breathtaking is all I can say!

My second was actually with my dad riding shotgun (passenger seat). We made for the Wild Coast, 200km south of Durban, so actually in the Eastern Cape (province). But we didn’t make it that far because sightseeing on “the scenic route” (instead of using the highway) took too long, and because bad weather (Durban’s rain is like a curtain of water) meant that driving in darkness (on the way back) would be risky. But both experiences are something I’d do again. Should I return to Durban, I’d probably also include a road trip up north to the Elephant Coast.

Tags: durban, out and about, the bluff


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