Monday, July 5, 2010

Durban at Last!

We finally made it to Durban this afternoon following five days on the road and about 1,800 kilometers. The weather here is warm and breezy, and we are staying in a funky boutique hotel behind a popular restaurant and night spot called Bean Bag Bohemia. (The hotel is called La Bordella and was once, reportedly, a house of ill repute.)

Reaching the hotel was a bit harrowing, as we pulled off the freeway and found ourselves in the midst of a crowded market where hordes of people just walked on the street in front of cars, lots of honking, shouting, etc. We felt like we had been transported to a street in Delhi.

For the past five days, since leaving Cape Town, we have had a chance to see many small towns and large cities, rural areas, coastal beaches and steep mountain passes. We followed the N2, a national highway, the entire route. The highway went from six lanes down to four, down to two, and back again along our route. We contended with people walking across and alongside the road, along with sheep, cows, goats, slow-moving trucks, careening mini-buses, and sudden turnoffs with minimal signage.

In many cases, the road passed right through towns along the route, and we got a glimpse of the lives of Africans outside the big cities. Some of the town names were Grahamstown, Mount Frere and East London. The towns looked rag-tag, with unpainted storefronts, cracked pavement and trash strewn in the gutters and on the street. But they also looked prosperous, with people flocking to supermarkets, small shops and streetside stalls, carrying their purchases any way they could, from bundles on their heads to carts they pushed in the street.

The views along the route were often incredible; looking off into the distance, we could see farmland, pristine river valleys and forests.

Along the way, we stopped at Addo Elephant National Park, where we drove our small rented car along the park's paved and dirt roads. The park's 500-plus elephants were on display all around us; drinking at a watering hole just a few feet off the road, and feeding on the abundant greenery. Many of the females nursed babies as young as a year old. Also on view were many warthog families, and different species of antelope, such as kudu.

During a night drive on an open bus with the park's rangers, we saw porcupines, different varieties of fox, jackals and an owl. Unfortunately, we didn't spot any of the park's 10 lions, or its buffalo, but we are hopeful to see more wildlife when we visit Kruger National Park next week.

Yesterday afternoon, following a drive of about 150 miles, we arrived in the medium-sized city of Mthatha, which doesn't have much in the way of tourist interest, but was a convenient stopping point along the road to Durban. Unfortunately, our road atlas isn't much help when we arrive in a city, and we are roughing it without GPS. No one answered when we tried to call our guest house, which was a few kilometers outside the city center in a residential neighborhood.

We stopped at a gas station to ask directions, and several people came over and conferred with me as I tried to figure out which way to go. One of the people, a man in his late 20s or early 30s, said he was heading in the general direction an we could follow him. He ended up leading us around the neighborhood for 20 minutes or more, stopping to ask directions several times, and finally led us right to the door of the guest house. We were touched and gratified by his willingness to help.

We are looking forward to our third and final match on Wednesday night, the semi-final between Spain and Germany. After all of the surprises in the quarter finals (Brazil and Argentina getting knocked out, Uruguay's outrageous hand-ball to block Ghana's sure winner), we are ready for anything!

People here are quite upset about Uruguay's blatant foul, and the players' celebration afterward. One newspaper headline called it "Hand of the Devil."

Anyway, Salome and Ava are rooting for Germany, but I'm sort of on the fence right now. I will root for Holland over Uruguay in Tuesday's semi-final, however. And I'm pretty sure the winner of our match on Wednesday will prevail in the final. But of course, we shall see.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading about your adventures during drive to Durban. Looking forward to your posting more pictures. Thank you for update on your trip.