I seem to do a lot of things in four days (see previous posts). The last time was London..well there its kind of a whole country in a few square miles. Well, this time I went across South Africa to Durban by the sea from Cape Town by the other sea. Why was I so foolish? Well I was heading for an interview at Durban University of Technology to study Homoeopathy next year. Only 2 places offer Homoeopathy, the other one is in Johannesburg, so there was really no choice. Also, they only take 35 students per year and ONLY ONE “mature” student..and that had to be me.
Now, I didnt realise that Durban was further away from Cape Town than Johannesburg and even further than Windhoek in Namibia. 1700 km to be more or less exact . Thats more than the whole of England from top to bottom. (England is 1349km from John O’ Groats to Lands end). Okay, we dont have lots of villages where you have to go 30 miles an hour to slow you down. We have long straight and hot roads that go straight there, right? Well not quite. So I estimated that it would take me 2 days to get there quite easily at 100km per hour on average..I didnt intend to drive at the average speed of 140 like other South Africans. Well, it didnt quite work out like that either. Also I have a millenium Toyota (ie over 15 years old)…but it has a reconditioned engine. I did consider flying, but not only would I have spewed huge amounts of pollution into the air (apparently 6 to 47 times as much as by car per person! Especially short flights, as the runway fuel is the most damaging. http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/09/evolving-climate-math-of-flying-vs-driving/). Besides, I am still in travelling mode, and wanted to get an idea of the country I had been neglecting for so many years. What is South Africa like now? The last time I had been to Durban was 10 years ago, when my son and I went for a round trip to see all the skate parks with his BMX on the back.
So off I set, visiting my dear sister along the way. She lives in Riviersonderend, a sweet little village 200km from Cape Town, with many skeletons in the cupboard. But thats another story better told by her.
A quick cup of tea, and I had to get a bit further..like another 400km to George. Looking for a place to camp was not so easy…it was out of season so everything was closed at about 5. I finally found a rondawel (a typical South African round building..last used in Europe at stonehenge 3000BC, for those who dont know) where I spent the night. .serenaded by frogs, as it was on a river. I finally nodded off at 12pm, woke at 5am to continue my drive. (5 hours sleep). I went for a little walk before I left in the morning, and found some wonderful medicinal plants everywhere. Although this place was a typical RESORT, in the most typical south african way.(.including the black and white TV),
it gave me a sense that it was a haunt of some sangoma or other.
There was a beautiful landscape across the river where an irritating sound came from..like a couple of flies, and I realised it was workers riding lawnmowers over a golf estate. Welcome to civilization.
Following wrong directions, and realising my Afrikaans was not as good as I thought, I headed off, got a speeding fine for going 78 in a STUPID 60 km zone (downhill on a pass outside a built up area. Consolation was that the fine was only 400 rands as opposed to 2000 in Britain for going 37 in a 30 zone.) Realising I was on the coastal road which was much longer than any other, I decided to cut inland back to the short cut road I intended to be on, on an old road I hadnt been on for years..thinking that it must have improved. (It used to be a windey dirt road..very beautiful) Prince Alfred Pass..yes, colonial throwbacks everywhere..George..prince Alfred…Baden Powell drive (the coastal road outside capetown), Durban (sit Benjamin D’Urban).
Well, it was very beautiful still..if not more so, as it is now a reserve of tropical forests and ENORMOUS trees..but the road is worse.
Well it took me 3 hours to go 75 km. Not only because I couldnt go more than 30km per hour, but because it was so beautiful, I HAD to stop and photograph. I WILL be back to look properly…but not in the rainy season, as I can see that the roads wash away regularly. I did come across a strange sculpture at one point.
From here to karoo..dry straight hot roads..beautiful in an endless way. I had lost a lot of time and had to get to Port Shepstone (colonial) at least, as my interview at DUT was at 9.30 am the next day.
Well, it doesnt help to calculate when there are road works along the way..you know, STOP wait ten minutes (and go). This Karoo town had ENORMOUS cacti.
It was getting dark as Ii went through the edges of the Transkei. This was when the roads lost all their signs, started winding up and down hectically and no one dimmed their lights..it also started to have waves of thick mist and light rain. The views were likely spectacular, but I could not see them, where I was going, where the next town was and how far away..so I drove blindly. By now, my neck was killing me and my bum was totally numb, and my eyes were glassy. I stopped in a typical one street town for petrol..nothing else was open for trade..not even KFC. Luckily I had some dry biscuits and cold tea in my flask. .
At this point, I knew I would need to drive through the night to get anywhere.
50km from Port Shepstone (more colonial), driving through cloud banks, I decide I was going to crash..as in sleep, if I didnt want to crash..as in accident. So I turned off the road into an inlet…there were no lights, so I assumed I was in the middle of nowhere, folded back my seat and slept uncomfortably.
In the morning I discovered I was in a sugar cane field. At least I knew I was close to Durban. I got going at 5 (another night of 5 hours sleep), coffee at the garage and off to Durbs by the sea via a convenient motorway. I wisely decided to leave the sight seeing till later.
Durban was a revelation of hooting taxis and busyness. I dont think it was the safest place, judging by the security walls.
I hadnt had breakfast, but decided to find my place of Interview. Of course I hadnt banked on the fact that because of the #Feesmustfall protests, the place was closed. Luckily I found an open gate. and found that the interview was still on. I hastily bought a couple of apples from a vendor…they do not have breakfast places in downtown Durban.. only chicken outlets..it was a bit early for that.
I was last to be interviewed, as my case was special..being so “mature”, so I was only released at 12. No tea was offered only water. All the Interviewees were YOUNG..still at school and very nervous..so I had some use in allaying their fears. These were pictures of some of the homoeopathic remedies on the wall.
I was interviewed by a true cross selection of the Durban population: Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Indian..all women. It was a good interview, and I was instantly offered a place..the only “mature” student. After that, I realised that I could eat a horse, raced off to the waterfront and finally sat down to an ENORMOUS breakfast with coffee served in a POT, while looking over the sea front. BLISS.
I will report further on the trip home.