December 13, 2015

The Delights of Durban

If I know anything about a destination, it’s that your results will vary. Depending on who you’re with, what the circumstances are and what your mood is, it can be love, hate or something in between.

Durban had everything stacked against it: all we’d heard was it was dangerous and dingy and a brief visit reinforced the idea it was worth skipping. Well, best laid plans and all that… Instead of a 36 hour weather window that would last long enough to get from Richards Bay to Port Elizabeth, ours became a 20 hour weather ‘crack’ which let us leap 80 miles down the coast in a very boisterous 10 hours. Once in, our friends found us snug spot in the marina and we hunkered down for blow after blow.

the apartheid museum
At first it looked like we’d only be in port for a day, or three, and then we’d be back on the Christmas track to Simons Town. So I hurriedly planned some exploring, including a memorable curry lunch at the quirky (and gorgeous) Oyster Box hotel. One of my favourite
curries was a local chicken and shrimp version—something I can’t wait to try and replicate with the curry spices we were given.

Next up was the fabulous Phansi Museum—with its incredible collection of Zulu art and artefacts. The assistant curator, Puhmzile gave us the kind of informative (and very interactive) tour through the collection that ensured we could envision what everything was used for—even when we’d rather not.

The puppet room at the Pahnsi demonstrated different cultural dress
My next morning was taken up with an architectural tour of Durban. The benefit of this turned out to be two-fold (three if you count the nice long walk with our lovely friends on Sage): it was great to see the cool buildings, which ranged from gorgeous old Victorian confections (including one that houses the apartheid museum) to funky art deco towers; but it was also good to get a sense of how safe or dangerous Durban really is. It turned out once you’re in the main shops district, Durban doesn’t feel much different than a big US city. And later that day I took Maia and Rivers in for some much enjoyed non-mall shopping and people watching.

Bushman paintings in the Drakensberg
Ley and Neil on our hiking trail
As fun as Durban is proving to be—we’re eager to get south. But with weather windows (and cracks) proving to be elusive, we’re continuing to explore. One huge highlight was a daytrip out to the Drakenberg. We’d been throwing around the idea of going for a couple of weeks and finally made the move with our friends Neil and Ley. The area was even more stunning than we expected and the wide vistas, great hiking and intriguing cave paintings gave us a much-needed jolt of wilderness peace.

At the risk of this turning into a, ‘we did this, this and then this’ post, next up was a fab night out at an incredible jazz bar called the Chairman. After searching through lockers for very uncruiserly pants, collared shirts and dress shoes (that would be the guys) to meet the dress code, we spent the night on cozy sofas, drinking bubbles and enjoying great music and a very cool scene.

checking out the wall of vinyl covers at the Chairman
So now we’re a week into our unplanned, unwanted stop. Today is a carvery lunch at the yacht club, tomorrow may be the beaches or aquarium. After that we hope it’s a weather window south (we really, really do). But in many ways Durbs has been a gift—it’s the reminder that as much as we try to plan, schedule and stay in control, we can’t. Our best option might be a cliché; take what comes and make the best of it. But honestly embracing uncertainty with a smile, and a night out at a jazz club, isn’t always the easiest response. But it is the most rewarding.

* Durban shots thanks to Tony on Sage and the Chairman shot is from Ley on Crystal Blues

No comments: