Durban, South Africa – July 1999
It is situated North of Cape Town, and South of Cairo, East of the Drakensberg and well West of
Perth. It also has much better weather than all the above..
It is a real mix of English, Afrikaans, African, and Indian culture, with their unique histories apparent
wherever you turn. Check out this site for maps.
You can get here by whatever means you choose, but once here you will find it necessary to have
transport. If arriving by air you will find that the better hotels have free or very cheap transport for their guests. The airport bus shuttle is much better value than the taxi services.
In and around Durban itself we have a very good, cheap, and clean, bus service. To travel further afield we have mainline trains, long-distance coaches, such as Greyhound, and, of course, plenty of airlines. Car hire depends on whether you want to have a new car from Avis, Imperial, etc, or whether you are prepared to “rent-a-wreck”. Check at home first as it might well be cheaper paying for the car over there.
We drive on the correct side of the road (the left), with an official speed-limit of 120kms out of town. Fuel is no problem, and costs about 45c/litre. Drinking and driving is frowned upon, not because you might spill some, but because you might get arrested, chucked in jail for the night, and fined at least $750.
As far as is known, there are little in the way of passes etc, but the
KZN Tourism Authority should be able to give you more
Bikes may be hired at some establishments in Durban itself, and motorbikes are also available for hire. Give Tony Parsons a buzz, as he also organises trips through KZN on BMW’s. It’s a good idea to carry a cellphone here, as distances are so vast that you might need assistance and find yourselves a long way from the nearest phone. See if your cellphone is compatible with our system, and if not you can always rent one while you are here. They are cheap enough, and excellent insurance in the event of any problems.
The only currency accepted is South African Rands, except in international establishments. You
should also check to see if your credit cards can be used here before you come. The official Rand/US$ exchange rate is about 6 Rand to the Dollar at present, but it fluctuates.
Beware unofficial money-changers. We have some of the world’s best sleight-of-hand performers, many of them imported. But we also have one of the most advanced banking systems in the world, with plenty of automatic tellers in most areas, and the banks are open Mon-Fri, 9-3’ish, and on Saturday mornings as well.
If you wish to budget for the day, you can have a good breakfast for as little as $2, lunch might be in the region of $3, while a good dinner might set you back $10 or so. But you have to have a bunny-chow when you come to Durban. This unique dish consists of a half loaf of bread, the inside scooped out, filled with a curry of your choice, normally mutton or bean or veg curry,
topped with hot sambals and chutney, and the rest of the bread put back on top to soak up the gravy.
Eaten properly (like a burger) it is a real treat, easily enough for most appetites, and can be had for as little as 80 cents in a greasy-spoon, up to $4 at a really top establishment. Of course, if you wish to, you could go overboard, and spend a lot more, but then you would have less money for souvenirs, and we don’t want that, do we?
A 500ml draught beer averages at $1, a large coke at 50cents, Scotch, $1-2/tot. Shops themselves,
especially in popular areas, tend to be open 7 days a week, and we have some of the biggest shopping centres and malls in the Southern hemisphere, if that’s your bag.
And talking of bags, it brings us to big game. Miaow!!
Bagging game was big in the bad old days, and it is still practiced, mainly by visitors, but the majority of our tourists want to shoot their game with cameras, and here in KZN we have some of the finest reserves in Africa.
Major ones, such as Umfolozi, Hluhluwe, Mkuzi, and Ndumo, are all within hours of each other and you could easily spend a couple of days at one camp, drive for an hour or 2 and be at the next one. Prices vary enormously, so I would suggest checking with the KZN Parks Board first, or any of the local tour guides.
And talking of game(s), KZN is the home of the finest rugby (The Sharks) and cricket (The Dolphins) teams in South Africa, and therefore has to have the largest and finest brewery as well. Free trips to this are easily arranged with SA Breweries.
We have a huge array of local, and imported, Western and indigenous musical events, on an ongoing basis, ranging from jazz, to Baroque, Simply Red (this month), our own Philarmonic
Orchestra, and Kwetai. All this, as well as some great white-water rafting on the Tugela river, mountain-hiking in the Drakensberg, and being a beach-bum in Durbs, are part of the attractions. Some of the worlds finest golf courses are within minutes of the city centre, while the Victoria Indian market has be seen for all it’s ethnic colour.
Now that Spring is nigh, the temperature starts creeping up again, from our cold winter days, ooh,
probably 28C during the days, and soon summer will be here. It gets hot and sticky here, especially in Durban itself, and humitures can get well over 100, but the spring months are magic..And the beer is always ice-cold.
Next month, the battlefields of the Zulus, the Royal Kraal at Ulundi, and Diving at Sodwana. And more beer!!
Until then, its cheers from Doug’O’Durban.
Ask an Insider
If you have more questions on Durban or South Africa in general, ask an insider, below.
Doug Hendry – I have a wide knowledge of the KwaZulu-Natal region, as well as being widely-travelled throughout Sth Africa and Zimbabwe. Beer-fan, food-“expert”, and general bon vivant. Would be happy to help anyone
thinking of coming this way.
Durban was named after Sir Benjamin D’Urban, one of the early Colonial governors, and was
once considered to be one of the jewels of the British Empire, much as North America was!!
Surprisingly, Natal has nothing to do with pregnancy!! It was, apparently, so named because the early Portugese discoverer, Vasco da Gama, first found the Rio de Natal, (Christmas River), on Xmas day in 1497.
The new name for the province, KwaZulu-Natal is indicative of linking the ‘native’ KwaZulu name, and the old Natal name. It’s Africa’s biggest and busiest port, with everything associated with the sea…great surfing, fishing, diving,
bodyboarding, yachting, marine sports, watering-holes.
Accommodation ranges from the luxurious, 5 Star establishments from as little as $90/night, to delightful B&B’s in most suburbs and towns, where you might pay $25 or even less.
There are too many to mention, but speaking first hand I would happily recommend
The Edward, 5 stars, right on the beachfront, famous for it’s seafood smorgasbords, ($23) and host to Royalty past and present.
Tina’s hotel in Kloof, 30kms out of Durban, up in the mist-belt, wonderful colonial-type atmosphere, but only 20 mins from town. A great pub, with excellent food, friendly service, and comfortable accommodation.
You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Babanango Hotel, out in Zululand, near the famous battlefields of the Zulu wars, has amazing atmosphere, with a bar full of history, militaria, and visitors underwear.
About the Author
Doug Hendry is a self-confessed middle-aged, hair- disadvantaged, bearded, dipsomaniac, frustrated cook, and member of the SA Chefs Assn.
He also makes Visiboards – bodyboards with a glass viewing panel. Check out his website by clicking on the link.