Monday, May 17, 2010

Durban, South Africa

Durban, South Africa
May 3, 2010

I took a taxi with Bas and Monique. The driver was Indian, who was born and raised in Durban. The taxi company was owned by his family and he had been driving for the past 14 years. He agreed to take us out for the day for 800 Rand (about $115). As we began our drive through Durban, I noticed how hilly the country is, and how green. The downtown area is along the coast, and flat, with wide streets. Durban has the feel of a clean, neat city, well organized and easy to follow. One feels comfortable in Durban. Then one begins to notice how Durban flows in and around and atop many hills -- some quite tall. The larger streets and freeways seem to flow between the hills, and neighborhoods climb the hills right to the top, often capped by tall apartment buildings with views that stretch for miles. Durban is a very beautiful city, a welcoming city.

We drove first to the Valley of 1000 Hills, and I expected to spend some hours taking landscape photos. However, I learned that this valley was the home of the Phezulu Zulu Village, a center for traditional Zulu tribal culture and dancing. It is a beautiful area, and we were going to attend a cultural show. We arrived at 9:30, and the show began at 10:00, so we walked among a large zoo-like area containing crocodiles of all sizes from babies to some very large ones. Crocodiles live to more than 100 years of age, and one of the males was more then 100 years old. We then sat in the small cafĂ© and had cappuccino while waiting for the show to begin. A group of dancers performed a very lively show about marriage -- the payment of cows as a dowry to the girl’s family and the acceptance by the girl and her family. It was a very pretty show, and then we took photos of the dancers and walked among traditional Zulu grass huts on display in a museum-like setting.

After leaving the show, we drove among the hills to view the scenery and then the driver took us to Castor Crest, a shanty town. We drove through the shanty town on a narrow road and took photographs of the makeshift houses constructed of scraps of wood, tin, plastic, and whatever other building materials the people could find. We noticed a water tap where people went to get water, and we noticed out-houses -- the common toilets. A few of the huts had an electric line stretching from the single electric line running through the shanty town, and the taxi driver said that the hook-ups were illegal. We noticed children playing and tried to take a few photos of them. After a time, the driver turned the taxi around and drove back the way he had come, and we took more photos as we left.

Next the driver took us to the new soccer stadium being constructed for the World Cup. This new stadium is built in the shape of a giant flower basket, and a funicular car runs up one side of the “handle” of the basket to a viewing platform at the top of the stadium. We rode up and took photos, and the view was beautiful, with the coast line stretching along one side of the landscape with white waves breaking along the beaches. The skyline of the city grew from the coast, leading to green hills dotted with tall apartment buildings. The scene was beautiful.

We had lunch at the stadium at an outdoor restaurant, and watched numerous school groups coming to visit the stadium. We took photos of one group of girls, about 7-8 years old, all dressed in blue uniforms, as they watched a water fountain display with its pattern of sprays. Durban has a right to feel very proud of this new stadium, constructed for the World Cup. Actually, many streets were also being widened and repaved in preparation for the World Cup.

After leaving the stadium, the driver took us on a drive through the city, to give us a feel of the city, and I enjoyed that very much. We then returned to the ship about 2:30 p.m., ahead of our 3:00 deadline prior to sailing to East London.

The weather was cool and dry and sunny and beautiful, and soon after we returned to the ship, the sky became overcast, and soon loud claps of thunder and flashes of lightening shook us as a heavy rainstorm flooded down.

No comments: