So here I am moving to Durban to study homoeopathy at this late stage of my life. they only accept one “mature” student per year, and I am she.
Durban is a strange city and almost feels like a foreign country. The climate is so different. Hot and tropical with warm rains and warm seas..lovely lovely. I have been sweating so much it literally comes out of my eyes and drips down my face. The effect is also that I drink a lot of water out of pure thirst. I am a person who never drinks extra water..other than in tea and coffee. Here, I am just loving being thirsty and being able to drink clean water.
Well I packed everything into my car that I own..dropping a few things at my sweet sister, Claire on the way..mostly photo albums and memorabilia. Things I find difficult to throw away because they are irreplaceable. Things that my dear son, Byron thinks I should have thrown away long ago. I drove with a full car with some essential items like a bathroom mat and a couple of vases.
I knew it would be a HOT drive without an air conditioner and so I manufactured a makeshift thing I got off the internet that uses a coolbox a fan and ice. It kept me cool enough..I was surprised.
I decided to go slowly this time and took 4 days, stopping for lunch and sleepovers. I first stopped in Barrydale after tea with Claire. It really is a friendly town, and the backpackers found me some wonderful accommodation, which was surprisingly empty..as every other place was full. ..I think because the front of the place is so non-committal. The décor was artistic
and surprising there was a small plunge pool –cum-Jacuzzi downstairs.
The breakfast was good and it was reasonably priced.
Barrydale is full of surprising little businesses with lots of originality.
A faux banksy on a hotel wall.
After driving a HOT day, I found some chalets in Middelburg with shady trees, that were very reasonable and HAD A POOL! They had bought up almost an entire block of houses and converted them to chalets. The décor was typically small town SA, but with some real boere rusks in the morning, I just plunged in the pool in my clothes when I left in the morning..and that kept me cool for a good deal. Middelburg is a lost little town with a mix of colonial and Afrikaner influences..see the names of these streets that intersect.
But many shops are closed or sell loans and funeral services.
Aberdeen was lunch where I could actually get wifi..but had a real retro outside loo.
From here, there is really no place to stay until Kokstad 200 kms away. Here the prices skyrocketed suddenly for shitty little places..but I had no choice, and stayed in a funny place..not really clean with a hundred policemen and women. Noisy with lights blaring..only compensation was the bath that I cooled down in. No outside space to sit. Definitely a non-repeat.
And so I arrived in Durban a day earlier than I intended.Such a confusing place to drive around in. EVERYONE hoots all the time for nothing. Here I also witnessed the worst driving ever. My nerves were on edge by the time I got to the Bluff on new years eve. Luckily the cottage I had found online and was renting was being vacated and I could blow up the air mattress my sister had lent me, wash off all the sweat in the shower and sleep..with earplugs as my landlord was having a new years get together. I was rudely woken at midnight by VERY LOUD bangs from next door. Nobody here seems to follow the firecracker rules as crackers were going of everywhere as in England. But I had arrived in one piece..more or less.
THE NEXT DAY
I discovered that the flat was not very clean, as the previous tenant had just left and also and needed a paint job..things you could not see in the photographs sent to me. The ceiling had mould on, the outside walls had paint cracking off, the previous tenant had a dog that pooed all over.(I found the place on gumtree and so hadn’t seen it. ) Also I had no furniture other than the blow up bed. Its redeeming feature was a lovely tropical garden with cycads, and an enormous avocado tree, bananas, paw paws, and my bedroom window looked out onto it.
My landlord and lady have two small children and three dogs, a couple of cockatiels and a fish tank. They, however, were very sweet and nice and so were their kids and dogs, (despite pooing on my doorstep.)
The garden was obviously planted lovingly by someone else and was neglected..but still beautiful..luckily nature thrives on neglect …but the dogs had denuded areas.
So my next task was to make the place liveable.
My landlord said he would fix the ceiling and paint the walls. He brought in the ladder etc, but didn’t get very far. He works and so has to fit it into his day. I decided then that I would do the painting etc. I got rid of an enormous amount of junk left around the place and went around picking up doggie poo..just to make it safe to walk around without stepping into it. So I painted my bedroom and one wall of the kitchen..it looks rather nice. My landlord said he would get more paint for the lounge but that hasn’t happened yet, so I thought I would in the meantime just clean the walls and ceiling with bleach. It already looks so much better. I also bleached stains out of the outside piping.
I now have a small desk, a table and 4 chairs and a three quarter bed..a lot more comfortable than the air mattress. I trawled Durban for second hand shops, finding my way around at the same time. There are very few..I think because of gumtree and olx. Luckily we had some rainy days, and it was not too hot to travel around. I made sure I visited a different beach every day too. Its so great to swim in warm sea..but it was really rough too..no calm Fishoek beaches here..but good exercise and knocks you thighs into place.
The beaches are quite different to cape beaches, having yellow sand, but just as beautiful even though it was high season. People tended to congregate at the swimming beaches..and congregate is the word. Here is wall to wall gazebos. people really go to town when spending time on the beach. For the rest, the beaches were empty and lovely to walk on.
Durban has a lot of rubbish lying around, but the landscape is so forgiving and covers everything with green bush so that you don’t notice. Someone needs to start taking care of the place.
You certainly feel the difference with the ANC running the municipality. I am not anti ANC, and in fact vote for them every time, but I can see the complaints of lack of service delivery. One wonders where all their energy goes and whether they even notice the problems. Rubbish collection is still in black bags, torn open by dogs. Library, thin on books and librarians. Roads needing repair..although with all the rain, I think it is a bigger job than CT. however there are enormous engineering projects north of Durban. Looks like they focus on the big and forget about the small things.
The city centre is very run down but in contrast there are HUGE elaborate shopping centres. Racially, Durban is very mixed. Relics of apartheid delineate areas into poor black, poor Indian and affluent, which could be Indian, Black or White. Its good to see the ratios change a bit on the beaches. Durban is a busy city with a lot of Industrial spaces. This makes travelling around difficult as you have to contend with railways, Industrial areas, the Harbour, rivers and peninsulas, with low cost housing thrown in here and there and occasional informal settlements. The heat adds to the constant hooting from taxis particularly , who announce their presence ALL THE TIME, enormous trucks and others who hoot at you every second you take to move from a robot. The roads are also not well marked, the streets have unfamiliar new names sometimes together with the old names, as Durban tries to Africanise the very colonial streets of Durban. I can understand that, as Durban was like mini England even with a Victoria Embankment, George V road etc..
I have found the people here to be very friendly and chatty. I suppose that I have got used to Cape Towns ways and now see now how reticent it is. Also my year in England was even worse on that score. Polite but cold. Durban is warm in lots of ways and has colour and vibrancy. Also people of all races and walks of life chat at the drop of a hat. The Zulu and Tswana people approach you quite readily. You really stop noticing race..and I must say I am confused as to peoples races here. It is also good to see some Zulu newspapers readily on sale.