From Durham to Durban

From Durham in north-east England (where we live) to Durban, South Africa – it could hardly be more different. So we woke up with pleasant anticipation of our city tour around this very interesting place.

After breakfast we assembled in the Darwin Lounge, waiting to be called to disembark for our half-day tour. The sky was cloudy but here and there we could see patches of blue sky and the temperature was already very warm.

As we left the Voyager and walked to our tour bus, we noticed that we were mainly in an industrial port, with many containers, cranes and official-looking buildings. There didn’t seem to be any bars or restaurants in the immediate vicinity, as as the ship wasn’t due to leave until 11.00pm, it meant we’d have to have a taxi ride into town if we wanted to go out on our own to explore later on.

The bus made its way through the bustling city streets and our guide explained we would be making a stop, for an hour, at the Indian indoor market. Apparently Durban has the greatest population of Indian people outside India; this came about because of the Indian immigrants who had come to South Africa to work on the sugar cane plantations.

We arrived at the market and went inside, which afforded a respite from the heat of the day. The indoor market was very large and was spread across two storeys. The different shops and stalls were fascinating and sold everything you could think of; clothing, jewellery, handicrafts, household items and, of course, herbs, spices and ingredients for tasty hot Indian dishes. The spice stalls were amazing; they had large drums of ground spices with samples placed out in bowls; they were very aromatic. Some of the hot chilli powders had interesting names; there was “Hell’s Fire” and “Mother-in-Law Exterminator”. I was tempted to buy some of the hot chilli because I love Indian food and really enjoy the hot dishes like jalfreizi and vindaloo and even, once or twice, a phal if I’m feeling particularly brave.  🙂 Trevor, however, doesn’t like the hot dishes so I refrained from getting any of the chilli.

Outside one of the shops I spotted some nail polishes and other cosmetics and went inside to have a browse. At first I wasn’t sure of what I was looking at; there were large polythese bags filled with colours and it was only when I looked closer I realised I was in a bead shop! This was great because I make beaded jewellery as a hobby, so I happily spent some time browsing the shop before buying a big bag of coloured glass seed beads, some strings of Chinese crystals and some packs of wooden beads from which I’d be able to make some ethnic-style necklaces.

As we moved around the shop I noticed there were some ready-made necklaces hanging up; one of them contained blue stones and lots of chains and was what you’d call a ‘statement’ necklace. It was 55 rands which is just over three pounds! How cheap was that?! I had to get it.

The whole lot cost 178 rands, less than a tenner! So definitely a bargain, I left the shop very happy with my purchases.

Next we came to a shoe shop selling a huge selection of hand-made soft Indian shoes. They were made of canvas and contained lots of colourful embroidery. I saw a cute little pair of flat Mary Jane style shoes in shades of blue, green and red and they were only 150 rands (less than nine pounds) so I had to try some on. They were very comfortable and so unusual; once again I came away with a bargain.

Back on the bus we had to wait for about 20 minutes as one of our party was missing. There was no sign of them despite the guide going into the market, holding up the bus sign and looking for the person. So it was then decided we’d have to go; either the guide had miscounted or the missing person would have to make their own way back to the port.

Our next stop was to the botanical gardens. We walked along the pleasantly-shaded paths and looked at the trees and plants, with their colourful butterflies and small birds. Occasionally we saw monkeys in the trees. There was also a large pond which had lots of lily pads and distinctive, pink lotus flowers growing. We spent about an hour in the gardens before making our way back to the bus.

Driving through the city streets we came to the well-known football stadium (Moses Mabhida Stadium) which was used for some of the games during the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa. We also passed the Durban Sharks stadium, where the local rugby team plays.

Continuing on our way, the bus drove along the Golden Mile, a stretch of shore with a fantastic sandy beach and great waves for surfing. The shoreline was fronted by the up-market hotels and apartments. Along the sea-shore were many stalls selling the usual holiday ‘tat’, and we also saw the rickshaw drivers who were dressed in very flamboyant, colourful styles. This is a very popular place for holiday-makers, as January is the height of summer in the southern hemisphere.

Afterwards we made our way back to the Voyager in time for lunch, which we ate out on the aft decks. The ship was fairly quiet as most people were ashore, so we just enjoyed sitting out in the sun, wandering about the decks, and enjoying a drink or two.

At 4.45pm we went along to Scott’s Lounge for the quiz, as usual, and we were joined by a couple of ladies with whom we’d formed a team before. We got 17/20, a respectable score but not enough to win; the winners got 18. Our team was good because the ladies knew a lot about literature and the arts, Trevor has his sporting knowledge and I am good with 70s/80s music or any computer questions.

After pottering around the ship for a while, we got ready, went for dinner, then went up to the Sunset Club for another quiz. As the Voyager was still in port there were not many people there. Needless to say, we didn’t win.

Afterwards we repaired to the Darwin Lounge for tonight’s show, which was called “Highly Strung” and featured Ciprian, the talented violinist we’d seen earlier in the cruise, as well as the ship’s dancers. Ciprian played all sorts of music, from Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, to Flight of the Bumble Bee (Rimsky Korsakov) to gypsy melodies to Irish dancing. The dancers accompanied him and the whole show was excellent – by far the best we’d seen all cruise.

We finished off the evening by going up to the Sunset Club where one of the female singers was doing some ballads. It was a bit boring to be honest. What was worse, however, was the fact that once the singer had finished and the disco was due to come on, they carried on in the ‘ballad’ theme and played all the slow songs that no-one could get up and dance to. So the Sunset Club rapidly emptied until there was only about half a dozen of us left, and we were all complaining about the dreary music.

Coming out of the Sunset Club about 11.45pm, we noticed that the Voyager was still tied up alongside; she was supposed to have set sail again at 11.00pm. So we decided to go up on the topmost deck and have a wander about.
Once up there, we noticed that the ship was still bunkering fuel from the refuelling vessel immediately alongside. We could see a few men wandering around the vessel in overalls and hard-hats; one of them spotted us looking down and gave us a wave. We watched the proceedings for a while but nothing much was happening, and Voyager definitely wasn’t ready to leave yet, so we went back to cabin 4130 and settled down for the night.

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