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Reports

Monday, 26 November 2001
--> Durban (SA)

I survived a four hours walk through down town Durban, was invited by ladies of pleasure on the street and was introduced with the South African mentality about city centres. You just don't go there.

But I stayed with Brian Cox later the day, in the suburb Kloof, where I found out that I don't eat everything...

This morning I would explore Durbanís city center on my own. The Nomusa, the receptionist of Tekweni Backpackers borrowed me a city map and marked certain places as a no go area, it would be too dodgy.

So I set off for this one hour walk from the backpackers lodge to the beach promenade, filled with Wimpyís and other South African fast food chains. I walked along the beach and pretty soon I noticed that I was the only white person walking around here.

The weather wasnít that good, it was dreary, like it could rain any moment. From the beach I walked into the commercial center and I was amazed. This is not how I had expected the city center of Durban.

The well-known black taxis pollute the streets and the small commercial activities here existed out of phone-shops, adult shops, take-aways, escort agencies and little grocery stores.

Looking at my map (not in public of course) I noticed I had just walked into one of the dodgy areas of town. Not that it looked dodgy, there just wasnít anything of my interests here.

I kept on walking and at a certain point the architecture changed in Colonial times as I approached the administrative center of Durban, where the city hall was located. But still, I was the only white person walking on these streets and I was almost becoming a urban attraction for the locals.

I took some shots around with my digital camera, but further up the road, I decided to keep my camera safely in my shoulder bag. The situation clearly did not look that safe to just stand still and shoot away on the streets.

When I crossed the railroad through the herb market (built in a concrete hallway over the tracks) I ended up at the fruit market. And strangely enough, between all the herbs and the fruits stands, all kinds of things were happening. I saw somebody being tattooed between the bananas, while two stands further a shoe repairman was polishing his gun collection. Wooha! But it didnít scare me. Who would be interested in me?

Yes. Ladies, who wanted to offer me all kinds of pleasures for the night, or right now somewhere else, approached me there, but my price was always higher than what they were able to pay for me, ha.

From the fruit market on the other side of the tracks, leaving the center, I ended up at the local taxi station, where hundreds of taxis where filling up, dropping passengers off or where the drivers carefully cleaned their minibuses.

And right on the sidewalk I saw this group of men playing pool on an original pool table (you know, those really heavy ones). Right on the street, like it has always been a street game. The balls had holes in it, the sticks were not the original ones to play pool with and the green carpet was half razed. And a lot of men were enjoying an exiting game, nobody seem to notice me in the crowd. Why should they anyway?

I was now in the hardcore spot of the dodgy areas on my map, but it did not feel any bit immoral to me. People were doing their trading, selling crops, having a ball and just living their lives.

Of course you wonít see me here after sunset, what would be here at that time of the day. But now it just was another part of lively Durban.

I arrived back at Tekweni Backpackers some four hours after my departure to town and lurked with a coke on one of the over-used and dismantled couches in the living room. I had survived Durban and it was nothing.

I asked the receptionist, who kept calling me Romeo, so I called her Julia, why I was the only white person in downtown Durban. ďI never go there,Ē the told me. ďI havenít been in town for years.Ē But why not? ďThere is nothing I need there. If I go shopping, Iíll drive to one of the many malls in the suburbs. There is absolutely nothing to find in the center

She was partially right with that. But if everybody has a mentality like this, it wonít get any better with city centers in South Africa. Ever. Great publicity folks!

I come from a continent where the city centers are often the places to go, where it all happens, where you at least want to go once a week. So for me, this was pretty unusual here.

My next host Brian Cox picked me up from Tekweni Backpackers after 5pm and drove me to his home in Kloof, one of the suburbs of Durban.

Brian discovered this website a long, long time ago, and when I was traveling through Belgium, he was already supporting me on the messageboard. The steady visitors all know the Brian from South Africa there.

So who is Brian?

Brian Cox is single and in his thirties. He is a technical engineer and at his office he currently works on all the appliances that come together for prepaid-electricity boxes. Itís basically a smart idea. Instead of cutting off electricity when somebody doesnít pay the bill, the customer itself has to recharge his electricity account with a simple card. Just like a pre-paid cell phone. I had never heard of this before.

Brian lives in a modest apartment with a small garden, but with a view on a nature reserve just a few steps from his house.

He decided to invite me over and stay for a day, as he just loved the idea of traveling around like this. And of course, his pride of South Africa came in there.

Again it was strange to meet somebody who has been tracking me for such a long time and knows me much more than my usual hosts.

After I had a small nap in my guestroom, I found Brian enthusiastically cooking dinner in the kitchen. ďI am very honest to you when I say I am a very bad cook,Ē he told me. Relax, I donít complain that easy and I am used to a lot of cooking varieties.

During the dinner I realized I donít really eat everything. And it was for the first time I was confronted by something I really canít swallow: sweet potatoes. Maybe because my mouth thinks that potatoes should not be sweet. Brian had mixed them with pumpkin and hot pumpkin tastes strange. Soft.

I donít want to embarrass Brianís cooking all the way, I am just telling you how I experienced just another dinner at just another host. I liked the chicken he had prepared, but left out the pieces of dried apricot in it.

While I was sorting out the food on my plate, Brian kept apologizing for his cooking. His cooking was fine, it was just my taste this time. I am just not that used to what I was getting today.

Brian is a very amusing guy, after dinner we had some very interesting talks. Of course about my life style, but also about South Africa and his life in Durban.

He originates from Cape Town and found a job in Johannesburg. He wasnít very happy with that employment and suddenly he was invited over to work in Durban. It were some big steps for him, but he made the decision to move to Durban and settle here for a while.

While moving his belongings from city to city, his stereo set was stolen and he already had no television. ďThere is nothing but crap on TV, but I miss my stereo. I can now only listen to a small portable, but I donít really get myself to buy a new stereo. Itís okay for now.Ē

Of course he expected the letmestayforaday-gift that I had taken with me from Ulrika Cook at Margate Backpackers. And it was something Brian didn't have yet: a Swedish beer bottle opener with an Swedish island painted on it. "Ramon, do you want a beer?"

Good night Kloof!

Ramon.





Links:

* Tekweni Backpackers
* Durban Experience
* Welcome to Durban
* Durban Diaries
* Durban Resources Page
* Beach Cams
* Durban Art Gallery



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