Sunday, May 27, 2012

Traveling South Africa -- Durban

In the month of April, I took two trips to South Africa. The first was to the city of Durban over our Easter break. This city is on the southeastern border of the country on the Indian Ocean. The second was to Cape Town, which is on the southwestern border on the Table Bay, a natural bay of the Atlantic Ocean. As is always the case with my travel crew and I, we had some rough beginnings, lack of planning and amazing experiences together.
            Our trip to Durban began on the Wednesday during Holy Week. Since we were technically still in school, some of us still had things to take care of before we could leave Gaborone. We scheduled a bus out of Johannesburg, SA that would leave at 10pm for Durban. We caught the last Combi out of Gaborone that left around 4pm. The problem with these Combis is that they do not run on a set schedule, rather they simply wait until they are filled and then set off for their destination. Because of this, we were cutting our   time to make the bus very short, since it takes about 6 hours to get to Johannesburg. Around 8pm, we were stopped at a filling station, and we told the driver that we were trying to make a 10pm bus out of Johannesburg. He anxiously looked at his watch, then told us that we would make it, and proceeded to rush everyone into the Combi. We entered the city around 9:15pm and thought that we would make it in plenty of time. Unfortunately, Johannesburg is a tremendously spread out city and we were still no where near the bus station when we entered the city. Soon we realized that the driver was driving excessively fast, and practically ignoring stoplights. It didn’t take us long to realize that he was doing all this in order to try to get us to our bus on time. After turning the bright lights of Johannesburg into a blur, and yelling at several passengers to hurry out of the Combi at their respective stops, we ended up at our bus at exactly 10pm. We thanked the driver for his efforts, tipped him and hurried off to our bus. After arguing with the new driver about our tardiness, we were finally let on the bus, and on our way to Durban.
Looking down on our hostel

            We arrived at our hostel at 6am the next day. Our hostel was about a 10 minute walk from the beachfront and located on the second floor of a multiple purpose building. The lobby of the hostel has no roof and is surrounded by walls that stretch about 4 stories high. Having had very minimal sleep on the bus, we decided to take a nap before beginning our day. After several hours we woke up and walked down to the beach front to see what we were in for. The first thing we noticed about Durban is that the area of the city on the beach is a rather run down section of the city. Trash is littered on the streets and sidewalks and the buildings are all very unkempt. The beachfront, however, is beautiful. The boardwalk was packed with people and tourists enjoying the warm sun and surfers and swimmers were scattered throughout the water. After eating breakfast at a restaurant on the beach, we walked along it for a while and sat down on one of the cement slabs that line the city-side of the beach. After taking in the view, we were ready to leave, when my friend realized that her wallet was missing. We searched high and low for the wallet, but finally had to accept that it had been stolen right from under our nose. Again, it wouldn’t be our vacation without beginning with some hurdles.
            Our experience in Durban was one of enjoying the company of our friends in a beach town that seemed to have seen its better days. Since most of us at this point were conserving cash, we opted away from some of the more touristy options such as shark cage diving or snorkeling. Instead we spent most of our time on the beach, and exploring the various shops and vendors along the area. We also visited the aquarium, which is apparently the largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere.
 After several days on the beach and exploring the nightlife of Durban, it was time to return home again. Our bus out of Durban was leaving at 10pm and was supposed to arrive in Johannesburg. Soon after our departure, however, the bus began having mechanical problems and we found ourselves broken down on the side of the road, only about an hour outside of Durban. After several attempts to fix the bus moved us maybe 30km farther in our journey, they decided to send another bus (from Johannesburg) to pick us up. We waited for hours longer in the parking lot of a gas station. The timing of everything has become rather blurry, but after we finally arrived in Johannesburg, it was about 3 in the afternoon. After that we had to catch a combie back to Gabs, which is another 6 hour drive. All in all, our journey turned into an unnecessary 24-hour endeavor. But, alas, we had arrived back at school and returned to life in Botswana. 

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