|June 14, 2010
Today is our second anniversary and whilst it would be great spending a quiet, relaxing day together, with a nice meal and a bottle of wine, that isn’t going to happen. We were up just before 6am and at the airport not long afterwards for our flight to Durban, where we will be spending the next 6 nights. Added to the early start, we were both feeling a little fragile still with a combination of delayed hangovers, colds and dodgy stomachs so it might not be the most fun of anniversaries!
The flight was around 90 minutes and was pretty non-eventful apart from the jack-in-the-box sat in the seat in front – how can one person not sit still for just over an hour? How difficult is it? Anyway, we were soon at Durban airport and it was there we found out that our hostel was quite a way from the city centre, not to mention a new airport had opened since I booked it! Rather than being south of the city, where we are staying, the new airport is 30km north of the city. When we asked the information counter staff about getting to our hostel in The Bluff they said it would be 350 Rand in a taxi into the city and then another couple of hundred after that – in dollars that would’ve been over $70 which is just crazy. We eventually managed to work out we could get the airport bus into town for 50 Rand each and then a taxi from there – it eventually cost us 350 Rand in total so we saved a little bit. However, we found out at the hostel that our taxi from town should’ve only cost about 120 Rand and not the 250 Rand we “negotiated”! Oh well, we still feel like we “saved” some money, I guess.
The journey was not a complete waste though as we met a chap on the bus who is from Durban originally but has lived overseas for a while. When we mentioned about diving he told us that he runs a dive company and arranges trips and would be able to help us. He gave us his number and we told him we’d call tomorrow once we decided what day we wanted to go.
Our hostel room for the next two nights is a bit strange. It is a 4-bed dorm room but contains one set of bunk beds and a double bed. We have the double bed but if I was the other people in there I would think it was a bit weird. Thankfully, tonight there is no-one else in there so we can recover from our colds and tiredness by lazing in bed and watching a film and be really anti-social!
After sorting our room out we headed to the closest supermarket to the hostel. This was about a 15 minute walk away and there was little else around as we walked there. Around the supermarket were a couple of restaurants and we decided to just stop at one of them for an early dinner. We had a really good spicy pizza at a little pizza place which didn’t look great but looked a whole lot better than some of the other takeaway options around! At the supermarket we picked up some breakfast stuff as well as some snacks and drinks, too.
In the evening, we watched The Pursuit of Happyness whilst chomping on a bag of crisps and eating big fat Chelsea buns and drinking a $5 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Happy Anniversary!
June 15, 2010
Our plans of what to do today were taken totally out of our hands. We’d planned to walk around the area of our hostel to look for signs of life. However, around 4am this morning the heavens opened and we were hammered with not just rain but also hail stones. We’d already lost power due to high winds around 10pm last night and it is safe to say this isn’t the weather we’d expected of Durban, especially considering we arrived yesterday in sweltering heat and humidity!
As we woke up around 10am, the rain was still going so we headed downstairs for breakfast, watched some episodes of The Office and just lazed about until we were hungry enough for lunch. We were short of options for that, too, and so headed to a “shack” on the beach called Green Dolphin. There we both had a decent enough sandwich (you can’t mess up a sandwich too much!) with a feeble amount of chips. It was better than nothing but barely. We might have to go back there later in the week but it would only be through lack of choice!
Back at the hostel, we tried to arrange some diving for Thursday and Friday and after getting a price from a local firm we found out we’d have to provide our own transport to the boat. The diving would cost 770 Rand ($100) each but transport would likely cost at least 300 Rand each way! It was going to cost us $40 each way to get to the diving which didn’t seem worth it for us. However, with so little to do around here we might have no choice but to suck it up and pay it just to keep us amused. We paid for some internet time at the hostel and rang the guy we met yesterday and he said he would call back later with some options for us. At least having the hostel call a different company for us we now have an idea what diving should cost us and even if it’s a little more expensive but includes transport it might be worth the extra.
The rain died off a little in the afternoon but not enough for us to really want to go out very far. I sat in the common room at the hostel and watched the football, watching the Kiwis score an equalizer in the 5th minute of injury time against Slovakia and then the Ivory Coast draw with Portugal and the cheating, diving scumbag Ronaldo. Elizabeth of course wasn’t interested in football – I think her interest had waned pretty quickly and on the back of some quite dull matches (the one we sat through being probably the worst!) she decided to skip the TV watching for other things!
In the evening, we headed back to our little lively town centre and decided to try the little Indian place. It was either that or Chinese and we plumped for Indian, helped by the fact it had a queue and the Chinese place was completely dead. A couple of people did look inside the Chinese but soon came out and joined the queue with us. While we waited, we popped over to the supermarket and picked up a couple of drinks. It is about a 15 minute walk back to the hostel so when our curry arrived we hurried quickly back to eat it before it got cold. Unfortunately, the breads went cold and didn’t taste too good but the curry itself was really good and nice and spicy. It seems of late a majority of our food has some kind of spicy element to it – even when we buy crisps we seem to go for the spicier versions!
We were joined in our room tonight by a couple of English guys and it did seem a bit awkward at first but they seemed to make a joke of the weird bed situation and it wasn’t a problem!
June 16, 2010
Today was the first game we had tickets for in Durban. We weren’t originally planning on going to this game but our friend, Sue, who was supposed to be going, had to cancel. This turned into a stroke of luck really as we’d not actually found much in Durban we wanted to do and were having trouble trying to arrange a diving trip. The guy we met on the airport bus still hadn’t contacted us and we weren’t going to pay a stupid amount to get to a dive site way down the coast.
We headed into the city this morning and didn’t realise it was a public holiday so when we reached the museum we wanted to visit we found it was shut until 11am. We tried another art museum but that was completely closed so we headed to a shopping centre called Workshop where we grabbed a Rooibos tea while we waited for the time to tick around. We also tried calling the diving guy and he told us that someone would call us later in the day with some details of the diving. We shall see.
We walked back to the KwaMuhle Museum which was supposed to deal with segregation and apartheid in the area and the country as whole. The first room just jumped straight into certain aspects of life in the mid-20th Century without any background or introduction which meant that a lot of the displays didn’t make sense. The second room was an exhibit about segregation in America and the court cases which tried to integrate much of the schooling system. There were links into how this was similar to events in South Africa but many of them were tenuous. It was however interesting to draw the comparisons in what happened during the 50’s and 60’s in American with what happened 20-30 years later here. The last room we went into told the story of one of the ANC members who planted a bomb which killed 5 innocent citizens and was subsequently executed. He gave his background and some quotes from him, ranging from his life growing up, as he fought for freedom and then after he had committed his crime and realised what he had done. It was quite a sad story and showed how young people were dragged into situations they didn’t fully appreciate and understand (this man dropped out of school to train in the army) and how they suffered the consequences. Whilst the story demonstrated the struggles of such people, it was interesting seeing how a number of public buildings, including a school, are now named after this man. Regardless of the political reasons for his actions, the man is still a killer and his attack was focused on innocent civilians, not the police or armed forces who were killing his compatriots. It was no surprise that the exhibition also contained newspaper clippings with people, of all races, stating their disgust at things named after him.
This situation is really prevalent here in Durban as the local government started a program of re-naming streets in 2008 and this is still ongoing. Many residents have complained that the new names are either irrelevant, people they’ve never heard of, or even people who have committed terrible crimes. So not only is it confusing many streets here having two names at the moment, it is more confusing that many locals refuse to acknowledge the new names.
From the museum, we walked towards the stadium, which looked amazing, and then headed towards an area called Morningside, keen to grab some lunch before the match started. It was quite a walk, mostly uphill, from the city centre to the restaurant we wanted to find but it was most definitely worth it. We wanted to try a local speciaility called Bunny Chow. Before anyone gets worried there were no bunnies harmed in the making of this product. In fact, it is a loaf of bread with the middle scooped out and filled with curry, Elizabeth going for the veggie option and me picking chicken. No rabbits. They had options of quarter or half and given we were hungry we both ordered a half. Thankfully, the waiter told us that was a bad idea and explained how big a half actually was. We ordered the quarters and when they turned up they were huge. They were also absolutely lovely. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the curry – we’d picked this place just to try the Bunny Chow, really – but it was great and really spicy, just how we like it. It was probably one of the best meals we’ve had in South Africa and probably one of the cheapest, too! We might even come back before the next game we’re going to on Saturday for a bit more Bunny!
From there we headed back down the hill, stopping briefly at the Booty Bar for a couple of drinks. We stopped there because it was the busiest bar we’d seen and didn’t realise the funny name until later. And whilst the barmaids outfits might’ve fit the bar’s name, their faces and personalities certainly didn’t make it any more interesting than that!
Our next stop was the amazing stadium and it was already filling up, even an hour before the kick-off. We had decided to get there an hour before given the problems we had in Cape Town getting through security combined with the mini-riot there was in Durban after the last match between the police and stadium staff who were complaining about not being paid what they’d been promised. Yep, this is Africa. Anyway, this time we got through easily and enjoyed the walk towards the stadium and towards the impressive arch. Our seats were in the top tier and we took our places and enjoyed the lovely view, the see-through sections of the stadium allowing a view right out to the Indian Ocean.
The game itself, Spain v Switzerland, was a massive improvement on the first one we’d seen. I enjoyed the first half, particularly watching Spain passing the ball around and keeping possession without making too many chances. Elizabeth didn’t enjoy it so much as she likes the excitement of the chances and goals more than the technical side of football. She was grateful the second half started just like that with the Swiss taking an unexpected lead and forcing Spain to come out and attack. Both sides hit the woodwork without adding to the score and Spain had numerous opportunities without troubling the goalkeeper too often. As the clock counted down, the Swiss couple next to us got more and more nervous, telling me that Switzerland had NEVER beaten Spain before. At the same time, there was a South African couple in front of us who were wearing shirts bearing Spanish players names. They were really annoying, blowing their vuvuzelas at stupid moments, referring to “we” when talking about Spain and cheering ridiculously every time Torres (who, incidentally, looks like a girl) got near the ball. They were even telling the other Swiss near us to stop ringing their cow-bells. A bit ironic and hypocritical really considering the hellish noise they were creating with their plastic horns. To the relief of the Swiss couple, Switzerland held on for the first major shock of the WC and their first ever win against Spain. Given Spain were one of the favourites for this tournament they didn’t show it today.
We managed to get back to the Bluff really easily, heading away from the stadium and managing to catch a taxi easily. Rather than take us back to the hostel we got him to drop us at our now regular dinner destination! Tonight, we repeated the pizza option before we headed back to the hostel and checked into our new room. Our reservation had been messed up a little so we ended up getting a different room for the rest of our stay. We hadn’t seen the new room but knew it was known as the Loft. Of course, this meant it was at the top of the hill over-looking the rest of the hostel. When we got there though we were pleasantly surprised as we walked in to a self-contained, 2-storey flat with a kitchen, private bathroom (a REAL luxury) and a dining table downstairs with a double bed, sofa, TV and private balcony upstairs. It was certainly an upgrade on the previous two nights and, quite honestly, an upgrade on just about every hotel we’ve stayed in since we stayed near Sydney Airport at the beginning of April. Given this was in essence a free upgrade due to the hostel’s cock-up, we certainly weren’t complaining! I was even able to watch the evening match (South Africa losing 3-0 to Uruguay) from the comfort of my bed!
June 17, 2010
After a lazy morning in our new room, we checked at reception to see if we’d had a call about diving. We had not. It might have thought like a lucky meeting on the bus but it hasn’t turned out to be much use to us at all. We decided that we would try the diving at the aquarium, instead. In the past we have not considered these as they are always really expensive but after finding out some information, we decided that it would be worth it. We didn’t want to do it today so we booked to dive in both the coral and big fish tanks tomorrow. At least here we’re guaranteed to see plenty of fish and lots of sharks!
We headed to the supermarket and bought stuff for lunches and dinners. The kitchen at the hostel is a bit dirty and messy but the one we have in our room is small but neat and tidy and perfect for saving some money and having some home cooked food rather than some of the heavy, fatty foods we’ve had of late. For lunch I cooked up some South African boerwors (sausage) and we had hot dogs with the remaining sausages being saved for bangers and mash tonight!
Some places I feel like we are wasting or losing time when we don’t do anything but here in Durban, particularly without our own car, there seems like there isn’t much we want to do anyway. So, here we spent another afternoon lazing around, Elizabeth reading and doing a cross-stitch thing she bought in New Zealand and me watching Argentina impressively beat South Korea followed by Greece beating Nigeria. Quite honestly, it was a good choice as once again the rain poured down in the afternoon. Durban is proclaiming itself as the warmest place to watch the WC but right now it’s letting us down! I shouldn’t complain – the two early matches today in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein are being played in temperatures barely touching 10°C even in the middle of the afternoon!
After a very yummy home-cooked feast of sausages, potatoes and veggies, we settled in to watch the final match of the day. France were playing Mexico and after the match we saw with France in we were even more keen for Mexico to win! The French again played poorly and Elizabeth seemed to wind herself up shouting at the TV and the dull French. Thankfully, Mexico won 2-0 and we both went to sleep knowing that the French are likely to be going home early. What a shame!
June 18, 2010
Today we were finally going diving although it wasn’t what we were originally hoping for. We had decided that given the problems we had arranging ocean diving that we would go to the aquarium and try the dives there. We got a taxi into the city, spending another $25 in doing so, and felt like we were spending all our time being transported back and forth. It’s not looking likely we’d come back here in the near future but if we did I’d either rent a car or stay nearer the things we wanted to do!
Once at the aquarium, called uShaka, we found that it was actually a large complex with an aquarium, shopping centre, water-park and lots of other stuff. We checked in with our dive company but ended up having to wait an age for another group to turn up. We had been told to be there at 9.45 for a 10am start but this other group didn’t turn up until 10.30am. When the dive shop staff told them they were late the man just shrugged and said “I’m always late” and laughed. Elizabeth, our dive guide and I all thought this was very rude as the man didn’t think of explaining why he was late let alone apologising for his tardiness. If that was me, I’d have felt bad for holding other people up. It also turned out that the two people diving were beginners and weren’t going with us anyway – so we’d waited around for nothing!
Our first dive in the aquarium was in the lagoon. The depth of the “dive” was only about 4m so it wasn’t very testing but it was quite cool swimming with some of the smaller sharks and being able to see into the main shark tank (I’d been hoping that we’d be diving in that but alas not!). The area was quite small and confined and we swam around in circles a few times checking out the fish. It was also quite funny swimming past the viewing windows into the aquarium where people were pointing and waving at us. It was hard not to stop and pose for them and wave for the cameras. I wonder how many people will have holiday snaps featuring Elizabeth or I?
Given how late we started, we had a longer wait for the second dive than anticipated so we decided to get some lunch at one of the cafes. We both had a Panini, not wanting anything too heavy before diving again, even though it hadn’t been very strenuous so far.
The second dive was in the open ocean tank and we were going to be with some of the larger pelagic fish and the huge rays. This dive was a little deeper but still in quite a confined area but even so it was really cool to be surrounded by so many large rays. We have both seen a couple of really small rays while diving but nothing like these. One of the eagle rays took a liking to us and after nipping at me a little, he started to bite one of our guides. Elizabeth thought this was quite funny but it soon turned to her! They don’t have much in the way of teeth and aren’t dangerous but it certainly tried giving her arm a good bite! I only wish we’d had a camera with us! Once again we were swimming past the people viewing in the aquarium and one Japanese couple looked particularly freaked out and scared when they saw people in the water!
The two dives were good and we got to see some stuff we wouldn’t be guaranteed to see diving usually but I definitely think we’d ask a few more questions in future about the diving if we did go to an aquarium – we were both expecting the tanks to be bigger and deeper for one thing!
We headed back through the shopping arcade and headed for the taxis, stopping for ice cream on the way. At the exit we saw the Greek team bus outside the aquarium. It seems they must’ve stopped in the city for a bit on their way from Blomfontein onto Polokwane. I’m not sure why they came here, or even if it was all of the team, but it was cool to see the bus and, again, I wish I’d had my camera!
Back at the hostel we both got washed up and lazed around in the afternoon. We’d missed the first game of the day but were just in time for the Americans match against Slovenia. Elizabeth didn’t seem too bothered about it at the start but as it got going she really got into it. Despite Slovenia taking a 2 goal lead, America came back well and got back to 2-2 despite some really awful refereeing. They even “scored” again but the referee disallowed it for no apparent reason. No-one could understand why but that is the way with football sometimes but that didn’t help placate Elizabeth!
England were playing tonight so I wanted to get dinner cooked and out of the way before the match. I cooked up some fishcakes with potatoes and veggies in cheese sauce, accompanied by a pre-match beer! As the match started I soon remembered why I rarely bother watching England matches as the pathetic, overpaid, pathetic, over-rated, pathetic idiots looked like a group of people that had never met before and were playing under duress rather than having the honour and privilege of representing their country at the pinnacle of World football. Given our league is highly populated by foreign players, one has to wonder how their effect makes these worthless pieces of crap look better by making up for our deficiencies. Wayne Rooney, our so-called (and likely self-proclaimed) “star” didn’t look remotely interested compared to the man that runs himself into the ground for his club. I guess the motivation of £100,000+ every week just isn’t there when you play for England rather than Manchester F*cking United. He wasn’t alone though as the multi-millionaire England players all over the pitch looked like they didn’t give a shit. Not to take anything away from Algeria, who looked like a compact and hard-working team, England should’ve beaten them but the fact we were lucky to draw 0-0 shows how bad we are. On top of this, I keep hearing the players saying how much they want to win and how this is a “golden generation” for England. There is a large part of me that hopes we lose the next match and get knocked out so that many of these “golden” players never wear an England shirt again and we can bring in some fresh, hungry youngsters.
(Sorry to all non-football fans for the above rant which probably means little to any of you. Those in England will understand!)
June 19, 2010
Today was our final day in Durban and South Africa before we fly out tomorrow. We were also going to our final match today – Holland v Japan. Elizabeth had decided to cheer for Japan given that we had been there and enjoyed it so much. We headed into town on the hostel organised shuttle bus and got into the city a couple of hours before the match. We soon found ourselves in the middle of a Dutch sing-a-long surrounded by people in all kinds of fancy dress – anything as long as it was orange! One of the guys in our shuttle bus was even wearing a construction vest over his regular clothes. We certainly looked out of place wearing blue! We walked with the Dutch fans to the stadium and the atmosphere was great and really building. The Dutch were singing loads of songs and Elizabeth and I had high hopes for a great game and some singing drowning out the vuvuzelas.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be as inside the ground the vuvuzelas were really loud and everyone seemed to be blowing them. It is such a shame to see a great atmosphere outside the stadium ruined and replaced by a sound which resembles a massive swarm of bees non-stop for not only the whole 90 minutes but the whole of half time, too. This had definitely been the worst game we’d been to for noise pollution and by half time my head was thumping. I couldn’t ever imagine having to leave a match early due to the “atmosphere” but today I was sorely tempted. To compound this, the game was again a disappointment. The first half featured little chances, with Japan having less possession but looking more dangerous breaking forward. The second half picked up as Holland scored early from a goalkeeping error and forced Japan to try and attack more. The Japanese made more chances which they wasted while the gaps they left at the other end almost lead to a Dutch second goal. None of the great chances came to anything though and it finished 1-0, almost assuring the Dutch of a place in the second round.
We headed out of the stadium and got away really quickly. Everything about this stadium was better and more organised than that in Cape Town, except the toilets! The access to the stadium is much easier with wider roads and the security and ticket checkpoints seemed much more efficient. It seemed like many of the roads and paths around the Cape Town stadium hadn’t been completed when we were there, either, and they weren’t lit very well making it difficult to get away from the stadium. The stadium itself is much more impressive looking, the arch over the top looking especially cool when it is lit up in the evenings. But as I said, the toilets here were much smaller than Cape Town and I even had to queue here!
We headed again to Morningside for some bunny chow although mine was not as good this time. I ordered chicken but the mutton one turned up but I thought I would try it anyway. The meat was much fattier and as a result left the bread a bit soggy. I shouldn’t complain given how much I’ve eaten in the last month or so, but the portion was smaller, too! When the bill came, they’d left off one of our cokes so I didn’t want to complain about anything!
After a quick drink and a long walk back into town we got a taxi back to the hostel. I hate harping on about it but I am certainly getting fed up of the journey and we’ve spent as much on taxi fares here as we spent on accommodation which is, frankly, ridiculous. Back at the hostel we both packed and showered, having an early start (again!) tomorrow and lazed around in bed, Elizabeth reading and me watching Denmark beat Ghana. I did cook up our final few food items to have for dinner despite neither of us being very hungry. We had some fishcakes, bread and potatoes left so I chipped the potatoes and were going to deep fry them and the fishcakes to have with the bread. Unfortunately, I managed to burn the fishcakes and filled the entire room with smoke frying the potatoes but the chip butties at the end were worth the smoke-filled room for the next hour or two! After that mini-disaster I watched the remainder and of the football. Part of me wonders if I’ll get football withdrawal symptoms once we leave SA but given there have only been about 3 good games from the 20+ I’ve seen means I’ll probably be glad of the break! Brazil v Ivory Coast tomorrow night though – hopefully our hotel in Dar es Salaam has a TV!