Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Durban and Johannesburg

The bus to Durban was surprisingly cheap - 120 Rand (about £10-11) but again I arrived at night just before the weekend making it quite hard to find a backpackers with space. I found a place called The Happy Hippo where I could get a dorm bed for a night and met two German girls who had been in Knysna at the same time as me. We went out to find some food and then all had an early night as we had to find another place for the Saturday.

The next morning I checked out the beach and Ushaka marine world before moving across town to Banana Backpackers. I was put in a dorm with some guys (Noel and Johnny) researching to develop their project to provide bicycles to people in rural areas. The idea seemed to be along the lines of encouraging people to plant trees in their area and as they did so points would be accumulated towards a bike that would be freely given to them. They were progressing the project to the point of trying to get bikes of a hardier design than those seen in the west as they had observed that brakes and gears are not a good idea - they tend to break and are then never repaired/replaced anyway.

Another guy in the dorm was from Nairobi, Kenya and went by the name of Kalpesh. He was full of advice for my trip north and insisted I check out the Couchsurfing website as a way to get free accomodation in some cities. At this point I realised I had a cold so decided to hunker down in Durban until it was over. A couple of days of sniffles went by and it was now time to head to Jo'burg on my way to Zim.

Jhb felt more intimidating at first than the other two cities although some of that may just be down to the constant horror stories that were trickling down to me about people getting conned or mugged etc combined with the vulnerability you feel when loaded down by 25kg of fully loaded backpack. The Brown Sugar Backpackers provided a free pickup from the station and soon I was in the lap of luxury - This place was not cheap but I figured I could do with a nice stopover for now.

I met quite a few interesting people at this stop. First were two Americans from New Orleans who were about to head to Namibia for a hunting trip, Matt was an Australian who had just finished a six month stint in the Congo looking for copper deposits, and Erin was a student from Edinburgh (woohoo!) who had been diving in Mozambique and is close to finishing her marine biology course at University. Between us we cleared out the bar two nights in a row and spent hours discussing everything under the sun.

I went to the Apartheid museum on Tuesday and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who spends any time at all in the area. The tour was heavy going but seemed to give a very well balanced account of the history of the country through to the present day. There were many things that I was surprised not to have heard about before and I definitely came out of there with a much deeper respect for Nelson Mandela. It seems so sad that after all the sacrifices made by this man that those who followed him seem unable to live up to the standards that he set.

Following such a serious morning we wanted something fun for the afternoon and found ourselves at the SAB World of Beer. It was great fun learning about the amber nectar and the Homer Simpson quotes were flying freely by the time we got to the end! We checked out a local market selling some meat, sweets and cigarettes as well as one stall which had cooked caterpillars. Myself and Ryan the American chap had to buy some (mostly so we could gross out the girls) and we munched on them when back at the backpackers. They were dry and I suppose I could only say they tasted a bit like bran! One of the employees at the backpacker from Zimbabwe was quite keen on them and advised that they were a lot better when fried with chilli so I can add one more recipe to my tiny cooking repertoire - Take that Delia Smith!

Tomorrow I hope to catch an overnight bus to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe where I should be able to catch a train up to Victoria Falls for my first volunteer stint. I cant wait as it will be a nice change from being in cities the last week or so. South Africa has been absolutely awesome and any fears I had have been unfounded. Granted, in the cities you simply avoid the truly dodgy areas, but other than that nearly every person I met has been very welcoming and kind. Minibus taxis are by far the most fun form of transport with most people happy to chat with complete strangers and the rates are among the cheapest going. People walk around everywhere with the same serious face as westerners do, but all it takes is a smile and 'howzit' to get most people to open up and chat about just about anything. I know I will be back to this beautiful country one day, I simply have too many things I didn't have time to do and a few places that merit a second visit.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bryan,
    Blog is shaping out really well...not to say cool ..too old. You should start thinking of writing a book. Probably get published before mine!!