Durban, my first taste of Africa. Although my friend Heidi had tried to educate me previously about the history and culture of SA, I was still surprised by what we saw. The first day we walked along the main city beach and didn’t see another single white person, for someone so naive of the situation here this was a weird experience. Later we decided to head into town to find an net cafe and asked a policeman the way. He looked very surprised and informed us it wasn’t safe to walk in the city, even in daylight and insisted on taking us there himself! On the way he recounted some cool ‘cops and robber’ type stories. The upshot of this was that the police here have so little respect that they don’t want to admit to being police whilst off duty for fear of being attacked! Despite being repeatedly warned by Jason to brush off anyone who came near us, I managed to have to give the first beggar we saw money for his “teacher training” course after he thrust what I had thought was a survey at me!
After 3 days in Durban Heidi and Quin drove us 3 hours North of Durban to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. By some sneaky luck we ended up with a log cabin for the 4 of us with it’s own BBQ within a mini game reserve. Now some of you may want to sit down at this point as the next bit of news could be quite disturbing: I got up at 6am the next day to go on a game drive! It’s true honest…. The park was much more scenic than I had imagined with green hills, rivers and sweeping views. It’s famous for having bred lots of White Rhinos which had nearly become extinct. I have to say again how glad I am that we went with some locals, as firstly I wouldn’t have had a clue what most of the beasts we saw were! Within minutes of entering we had seen a Rhino and a Buffalo. Their size just astounded me more than anything, it something I had never imagined. Rhino can be very dangerous and it was at this point that Heidi decided to tell us her first horror-story-involving-large-scary-anim al. Her friend had been working as a researcher at the park and had been collecting a dung sample. Someone had left a gate open and a Rhino charged her from behind with it’s horn going somewhere it shouldn’t have. The girl broke both her legs and was in a coma. Yikes!
Oddly enough then Heidi was keen we should keep our distance at all times and under no circumstances should we get out of the car. Of course this didn’t stop both Jason and Quin leaping out of the car when we spotted a Croc sunbathing on the banks of a river. The minute they got out the car she shot down the bank as if to say “**** off and leave me be”. There were a few seconds where we weren’t sure exactly where she had shot off to …and this resulted in frantic calls to “get back in the car now or else” from Heidi. This type of occurance became the norm as Quin “Mr Riskerama” took to the thrill of danger! Cue the next horror story from Heidi where another friend of hers girlfriend had been taken by a croc whilst waist deep in water at a nearby estuary. Apparently all he heard was “Ow!” and she was gone and being thrashed around.
We wanted more than anything to see Lions and Cheetahs but luck wasn’t on our side and besides, the sight of Buffalos and Rhinos sunbathing in the mud together in a group was well exciting enough for me for one day! At one point I was sitting staring out the window when all of a sudden Heidi was almost sitting on my knee shouting “It’s huge it’s huge!” . Crikey, I thought, this is it, a 4 ton Elephant is about to charge us ( which they actually have done recently to cars). I looked round to find Heidi pointing at a huge grasshopper in the inside window of the car….. The evenings were spent sitting round the BBQ (or Brai as they say here) and listening to the sounds of the bush. We really felt miles from anywhere and the peace was amazing. That was until an enormous flying beetle or something similar flew into your face and suddenly either Heidi or I was screaming and dancing like a possessed woman! The next day Heidi and Quin took us to the St Lucia estuary where we sat 30m away from some Hippos playing in the water debating how fast we could get to the car if they decided we looked like a yummy dinner. Quin was keen to take a closer look until Heidi informed him they cause more deaths in humans than any other animal in South Africa. Hippos can swim 20km per hour underwater and run 45km per hour on land, so maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to go any closer…. Oh and not forgetting scary story number three involving someone else Heidi knew getting in between a Hippo and it’s calf accidentally and being charged and killed… We took a boat down the estuary and that’s where we saw tons of Hippos close up. Seeing them close up was so surreal, the sheer size and weight of them: they weigh on average 180kg and live for 45 years. My only previous idea of what a Hippo looked like was from playing the “Hungry Hippos” game… (I really did need to get out more). That afternoon we were treated to Hippos popping up and down all over the river, and doing all manner of activities from yawning constantly, rolling over, looking after their babies and even making babies!!!Their days are spent romping in the mud and water and at night they drag themselves on to the banks and stuff as much grass down their necks and they possibly can before daylight. Nice life. After an amazing weekend it was back to Durban to catch our flight down to Port Elizabeth: the start of the “Garden Route” drive to Capetown. The next entry will be shorter I promise, and I’ll write that from Capetown. Hope you are all well and the weather’s not too bad…. write back with news! love Caz and Jason