Featured, Travel

How to do Durban

August 12, 2014

Every city in the world has a little something-something about it. It’s kind of like dating – you go in search of the right companion.

Durban she stands out like the moon beckoning you to create ‘sweet memories.’
Unlike Johannesburg, New York or London, she isn’t going to trap you in some kind of abusive relationship. You won’t be working hard, slaving for your freedom. With Durban you are almost always as free as you choose to be.

Like a true African princess, she seems to have her own rhythm, unique and oblivious to the world around them. Maybe it’s the climate; maybe it’s the people…you find yourself sipping expensive cocktails on the pier in the ocean at Moyo’s. It’s the start to your localized tourists experience. Get your face painted.

Get away from the city. Take Sunday road trips to the midlands. Tell yourself you will bring a hot date to the chocolate factory off Nottingham Rd someday. It will be your own fairytale romance. You see it long before it happens. Long before you have actually met your future boyfriend/girlfriend.

Go back to the city for a weekend of “I can’t remember what just happened there.” Go Bonkers on the Boulevard. You walk the streets of Florida Rd until you discover the side roads of Davenport and some middle class suburb hotspots. Realize that there is a lot more to this small city than you first imagined. Hang out at Spiga to be seen and be part of the ‘in’ scene. It’s probably the most European you will ever feel in Durban.

Show your new crush someplace magical and go watch the city lights from the Cube while you contemplate fate under a starry sky. Take a few moments to gaze at Moses Mabhida Stadium and secretly admit to yourself it isn’t a white elephant after all. Oh wow, this is Durban…and she is breathtakingly beautiful. Even Suncoast’s wild array of lights adds a delightful offbeat character to the city’s skyline.

Push the boundaries a bit, prove everyone wrong when they tell you how unsafe the city is, allow the adrenalin to fuel your quest for adventure and head to the beach. Go walk on the pier when you are done stargazing at the Cube. Feel the warm, moist and salty breeze kiss your lips as the wind embraces your hair. Something in the air tells you that this is home. And if it isn’t, you start to contemplate maybe it should be… you really could get used to this.

Meet a few local celebrities and then figure out that Durban’s a real small town where people know each other too well to be called a celebrity. Durban can sometimes feel incestuous – but hey at least you are part of the scene now. Ponder how to fit in with this trendy crowd, call yourself a trendsetter – become an event planner or photographer and realize uhm, sometimes you need more than passion to pay the bills.

Develop a love-hate relationship for the city’s career opportunities. If there’s so much opportunity for your talented mind but why are there so few people willing to pay you your worth. It’s a vicious cycle, as you bargain for the cheapest deals with the guys who sell sunglasses at the streetlights. Maybe it’s a sign you will have a bright future. So you buy the shades. Don’t even get started on car guards…after a while, you make peace with this cycle and you give to share your love.

That’s just it about Durbanites. We’re stuck between the fancy uptight drones of millions rand cars from the upmarket residents of Umhlanga to the grungy locations breeding cool hipsters and try-hards of the Umbilo art and cultural scene.

Is this a first world country or third world city? So many tell tales signs of both, it’s hard to tell for sure. Make friends with suburban white kids who go back home to their mummy’s after a weekend of rocking out as wigger hip hop rappers. Know that there are many layers, hybrids and flavours you get to experience on any given night in this vibrant city. Integrate into a different culture. Lose your cultural identity. Find a new one. Eat more bunny chows than your Indian neighbour. Maybe that blog on the internet was right, maybe Durban is Yours.

Reach your mid twenties and find that most of your friends have either gotten married or left this small pond in search of rainbows and greener pastures. Contemplate moving yourself, but then what would you do when you need a quick fix of sea breeze and the surf? Is this the Durban poison you keep hearing about? This laid back city is warm and friendly. Everyone you meet – depending on the mood of the day – will let you in on their life, invite you to a game of ultimate Frisbee, a beer at the local pub or visit their church. This is what community is about, even when you have traveled the world over – something about the people leaves a smidgen of a feeling you have never felt before. This is a place where people actually stop and connect with you. Suddenly you start to feel alive again.

Durban – she’s like a comfortable blanket that you can keep coming back to. She doesn’t care if you stay or go, she’ll always be there and somehow it’s her nonchalance that will keep you coming back for more. So go, but Eish! – you know in your heart that you will be back.

Words by Sarona Reddy
Photography by Kevin Goss-Ross and Tyler Dolan
African Princess dressed by Steve Mandy

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