Category Archives: South Africa

Durban

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It was refreshing to see a modern city as we coasted into this port, the first since Dubai. But, while the infrastructure is superior to the previous cities we visited, it still felt primitive in comparison to western cities of comparable size.

We took the shuttle across the port area and then caught the “People Mover” a bus service for which you can purchase a daily pass and hop on and off wherever/whenever you want. It’s not just for tourists, locals use it also because it is cheap and convenient. The ship was only docked for half a day in this port so, unable to walk the city, this provided us with a bit of an overview in the short time that we had.

Our first stop was the Victoria Indian street Market, recommended by our guide from the previous day (a Durbanite). It was an interesting market but we actually enjoyed the rougher and dirtier market across the street (that wouldn’t have been on the cruise-line tours!) more. There we saw everything from 50s-style dresses to unwrapped rolls of toilet paper for sale. It was, at the same time, sad and homey.

It being a Saturday, the streets were teaming and we enjoyed the various local people, produce and goods along the street back to the bus stop. Then we headed to where I think half of the city of Durban (total 3.5 million) were spending their day off…the beach!

It was such an amazing mass of humanity – it really blew us away! People (probably 99% black) completely obscured a few sections of the beach where they seemed to be playing a game of ‘dare the waves’. The sound as they all raced into the surf was loud and happy and friends and family watched with delight from further up the beach. Some lucky families huddled under tall thin palms for the meagre shade they provided, others stuck colourful umbrellas in the sand. Young children paddled in the large wading pools which offered reprieve from the extremely hot sun. They were all having the time of their life!

Cape Town next…and then to see the big 5!

Richard’s Bay, South Africa

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There’s nothing here to recommend this port city (built up in the 70s) but, once away from the industrial area, the surrounding countryside is quite beautiful.

With a bit of trepidation we joined three other couples to go to Shakaland – a Zulu “cultural village” that was actually built as a set for a TV miniseries. Our previous experiences with cultural villages and shows didn’t bode well but it was highly recommended by others, so we all decided to check it out.

Upon arrival, after a spirited greeting by the local Zulu chief, we were given a lunch of African curries and vegetables which we washed down with the local beer and wine – quite delicious. Following a 15 minute video which explained Zulu history through dramatic scenes from the miniseries, we met our Zulu guide who gave us a cultural tour through the village, aided by various people who enacted the customs and traditions of which she spoke. Finally, we were treated to some amazing Zulu dances, accompanied by great drumming and a fascinating instrument that was quite new to me. It was a drum, open on one end, with a stick poked through the drumskin on the other end. After dipping his hand in water, the musician rubbed a watery hand up and down the stick, making a noise that I would characterize as a rhino in heat! Perhaps I’ll find out on our upcoming safari if I was right 😉 I made a video of it but can’t, unfortunately, attach it to this page until we get home.

In the end it was a positive experience. The people were genuine – sincerely interested in highlighting their historical and cultural traditions, using this “village” as a means to retain some of those traditions. Although they didn’t actually live there, most were from a nearby village that, through their elders, did maintain some of the traditions of old. On our way back to Richards Bay, Debbie, the guide whom we he hired to take us there, told me that Shakaland really is very authentic but that many similar “villages” were of the “tacky touristy” variety and she would gently try to discourage her clients to go.

I was lucky enough to sit beside her as we returned and she gave me a bit about her life – growing up in Kruger National Park (her father was a ranger) and then going to a private school near Durban for high school. It was, at the time, an all white school but she said that in 1992 (2 yrs. before apartheid was lifted) they began integration. She talked about the real concern for the country – 40% unemployment and more and more people pouring over the borders every day from countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique where unemployment is as high as 95%. Reduced job opportunities for South Africans increases racial tensions and many former soldiers from war torn countries bring guns with them, further fuelling the already high crime rate. It is a sad situation and you wonder what the future is for this country. The lecturer on the ship (an economics professor from University of Cape Town) has not managed to increase our optimism.