On the 16th of January 1994 I took one small step for me and one giant leap in my life when I stepped down onto the hot sun-baked tarmac at Durban Virginia International Airport. To mark thirty years, I was back in Durban, doing all the things, and more, I have grown to love over the years of visiting.  The Cattleman Bar on the beach front is long gone but the memories are still vivid. It was in the Cattleman that a friend introduced me to a local lady. Who would have thought that a boy from the middle of England on his first and a one-off trip to South Africa would have his life changed forever. I married Melanie, that local lady, in 1997 and home maybe the middle of England but South Africa, and the province of KwaZulu Natal, is my travel passion destination.

Back in 1994 I spent a few nights at the beautiful and history rich Edward Hotel. What better place to stay on this most recent adventure marking thirty years since that first visit to the seaside city of Durban. My memories may be vivid, but I had forgotten just how beautiful the Edward was and still is. The relatively small hotel opened its doors in 1911 and over the years has lost nothing of its charm and beauty. The art deco style hotel is stylish, beautifully decorated, with fine art ceiling murals, patterned tiled floors, sparkling chandeliers and highly polished dark wood trims. Rooms are a good size, some with balconies and all with ensuite bathrooms. There was a warm welcome at reception, in the foyer, the dining rooms and the bar on every visit. We feasted on a spectacular breakfast to kick start our days and finished them on the terrace bar enjoying an ice-cold beer combating the evening heat. To cool down and relax there is also the roof top hotel pool with views across the city and beyond. Located on the Durban Golden mile, with off road parking, the hotel is ideally positioned for exploring the city.

Just like 1994 I spent some time at Kingsmead Cricket Stadium, walking distance from The Edward Hotel, but things have changed on the field. In January the ground becomes the home of The Durban Super Giants in the relatively new franchised South African T20 cricket tournament. The competition has proved to be a great success and see’s the ground packed with local cricket fans. I am not a big fan of T20 cricket but have really enjoyed everything about my recent evenings spent at Kingsmead. The atmosphere is electric, aided by DJ’s, live bands, flames and fireworks. There are not many better places in the world than here to watch cricket on balmy nights under floodlights.

With South African teams now taking part in the European Challenge Cup, rugby is a near all year-round sport. On a scorching hot Saturday in January, we had a big family trip to Kings Park and a great day out. I am big fan of summer rugby as a spectator, but it is tough for the players. We parked on the grass surrounds to the stadium and set up camp comprising of chairs, tables, parasols, cool boxes and braai (barbecue) for cooking. I would guess this is much like the American tailgate party. We enjoyed a few cold drinks along with snacks and steak rolls before taking the very short walk to our seats. It is a real family day out and I was very impressed to see the players post-match taking the time on the pitch to meet fans and sign autographs. This was probably the highlight of the day for the younger members of our party.

As well as sport fan I am a food fan. I think I look like a big food fan these days. I ate my first bunnychow back in 1994 on the Durban beachfront and on every trip back I make a big effort to try out new places, to me, to eat this humble and delicious street food with it’s origins firmly in the city and it’s Indian population. If you love bread and curry the bunnychow is for you. I love it so much I started World Bunnychow Day to celebrate the dish. Accompanied by mate Paul, out for a holiday from England, we met up with Sagaran “The Bunnyblogger” Govender like we had in the past for a bunnychow experience. Sagaran took us to Gounden’s Restaurant & Take Away. I can honestly say I have never eaten anywhere with such an atmosphere. The place was busy and buzzing. I watched bunnychow after bunnychow being delivered to table after table. It was only a short wait before ours arrived, two mutton and one mutton and cabbage. They were perfectly spiced with, for me, a good chilli heat.

Enthusiastically Paul and I used our lunchtimes wisely in Durban. We headed to the Britania Hotel, a well-known hot spot, famous for its bunnychows. And we were not disappointed, like Goundens it was a wow experience. My mutton was beautifully tender and full of flavour with a perfect amount of thick gravy. Paul went upmarket and was over the moon with his prawn bunychow. I am a bunnychow lover, not an expert, but I did learn a couple of things on this visit about ‘BB’ bread & ‘UTD; potatoes. You are never too old to be educated and enjoy the humble bunnychow.

Along with a passion for food and bunnychows, I am very partial to a beer. And a great new discovery for me was the Durban Brewing Company. We sampled a few of their craft beers on tap and all went down very well. I am hoping on a future visit, and will be back in touch with Kate Lynn, to arrange a brewery tour. The warehouse style home to the brewery also offers food including burgers and pizzas. There is indoor and outdoor seating with views of the harbour entrance. If you are lucky you might get to see one of the giant cruise ships arriving or departing Durban. The brewery, on Point Waterfront, is very handily placed for the new and very impressive looking Nelson Mandela Cruise terminal. We took a stroll to the beach from the brewery and also discovered the small canal system where visitors can hire boats. The area is under regeneration and starting to look very impressive.

Last year we called into the Surf HQ store in Durban where we met store owner Jean-Marc Tostee AKA JM and young surfer Ntando Msibi AKA Biggy and learned of the valuable work that the charity Surfers Not Street Children does. On an early morning beach walk from The Edward Hotel, I noticed a crowd of young surfers. They were from the charity and here again I got to see their work first hand. Maybe next year I should ask for a surfing lesson? I probably said the same thing last year. The Golden Mile and the Beachfront has not changed that much over thirty years. The mini cable car has gone but there are still rickshaw rides to be taken and the street vendors and their stalls are still out in force. I am still a big fan of Durban and if you are into sport and want to spice up your life, plan a visit. As Durban Tourism say, “with summer all round, Durban is the warmest place to be”


About Author

People say that Africa has an effect on your soul and Mark Henson the ‘author’ of this site is no exception. He first travelled to South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1993 and has been coming and going every year since. Twice now most years!

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