Our dining room at home is for now my temporary office and my desk is where we once sat with family and friends, eating, drinking, and laughing. How the world has changed in such a short time. The global pandemic, Coronavirus, covid-19, has had an effect like no other in our lifetimes. It is hard to believe that just over three months ago that I sat outside King Shaka International Airport, Durban, soaking up some summer sun before flying back to England and the cold of winter.
A friend, Paul, had called me and said he fancied flying to South Africa to watch some cricket. A big birthday on the horizon had prompted his call. The short story is I put a plan together, booked flights, a car and sorted accommodation for a very last-minute trip. The plan was centred around two stays in Durban taking in England playing cricket against South Africa in a One Day and a T20 international. Outside of Durban we would stay with family & friends, squeeze in a couple of educational trips, and have a three-day self-drive safari.
Durban is an overnight flight from London with only an hour or two, depending on the season, time difference. Jet lag is not an issue and for me sleeping on a plane comes easily. The contrast in weather is dramatic. We left a fridge and landed in an oven. Durban, situated on the warm Indian Ocean, is never cold. It has wonderful all year-round sub-tropical temperatures. Summer is hot here and winter is warm. Summer can also be stormy with heavy rain and occasional storms that tend to occur late afternoon and into the evening. Winter is dry.
Our first night we were greeted, just after dark, by torrential warm rain. We had walked and explored on foot the relatively new promenade extension at the southern end of the city beaches. The beachfront promenade is the longest in sub-Sahara Africa, stretching some 8kms from top to bottom. We made our way to the harbour and onto Wilsons Wharf for late afternoon refreshments. The wharf is an ideal place to relax and listen to the ocean. From the moorings there are various boats and yachts offering cruises, sunset sundowners, ocean safaris and fishing excursions. It is also great place to people watch and check out what everyone is eating. Once fully refreshed, as good as all the food looked that we had watched, with rain in the air we decided to head towards our hotel and eat on route. We ate a late dinner at uShaka Moyo where we mixed meats, fresh fish & shellfish. I opted for the excellent beef dombolo as a main. A meaty stew served in a cast iron potjie pot accompanied by traditional dombolo dumplings.
Kingsmead Cricket Ground was our venue today. A place that had created so many memories for me since my first visit back in 1994. However today the weather was to be the winner. The one day international was late starting and shortly into the game became victim to a wash out. Not all was lost. We got to chat with locals and travelling England fans over a cold beer, talking all things cricket and travel. The highlight of the day was being to introduce Paul to a local speciality. We both tucked into a mutton bunnychow, a spicy curry served in a hollowed out half loaf of bread. As always there was a party atmosphere at the ground and even without cricket it went on well into the night.
A week later we were back again to watch England take on South Africa in a T20 International. And there was no sign of rain. Quite the opposite is was hot balmy summer evening. Even if you are not a cricket fan, which many of you are not, this is a great night out. It is an action-packed evening, and all done on the field in around three hours. We met up with Callum, my brother-in-law, and good friend Pete for the evening. Spending the night amongst fans and supporters of the opposition really adds to the overall experience. We found a place amongst the local families on the grass bank and settled in. After being entertained by Zulu dancers and drummers the action commenced in front of a sell out crowd. The atmosphere was electric and so was the cricket. We found ourselves caught up in the excitement. I even found myself caught on ‘dance cam’. Filmed dancing and broadcast to millions of viewers. England went on to win a thrilling encounter. It was not all about the victory, but it did add that bit extra to our night.
Staying at the Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani Hotel made our visit extra special. The hotel located on north beach overlooking the Indian ocean was perfect for us. Not only is it situated within walking distance of the cricket ground, it is ideal for exploring the whole city and surrounding area. Durban holds a wealth of culture, heritage, and history. As a tourism slogan read, “Durban Has more”. Our luxurious, spacious, twin room had amazing views of the beach, grass areas, palm trees, piers, and promenade below. Beyond all of this, the warm Indian Ocean, where swimmers, boarders, paddlers and surfers took advantage of the warm water and breaking surf. All in all Durban is a great choice for holidaymakers and really is the warmest place to be. When we are free to travel again think of Durban as a destination and a gateway to the province of KwaZulu Natal, the Zulu Kingdom. In my opinion the best all round province in South Africa.