Monday, June 3, 2013

South Africa Travel Diary 4 - Jeffrey's Bay Part Two and Durban

(I know spam-like internet contests are annoying, but dying from preventable diseases is more annoying. If you would watch this video to help me go to India to work with people there to get better healthcare, that would be wonderful. Thanks so much!)

May 22nd: Leaving the farm was tough, sure. But, in a rare occurrence when travelling, I was also returning. While I don't like to visit the same place twice, a scheduling screw-up sent me back to Jeffrey's Bay for a few days, and to be honest, I couldn't complain.

I assure you, there's nothing like a few familiar faces when travelling. Not all the time, but it was nice to know, when I was leaving the farm, that I knew some people where I was headed.

Sure enough, walking into the backpacker's was like walking home. Well, if my home were filled with hippies and surfers, but hey, close enough. I didn't have R40 to spend on that night's dinner, but I had some pasta and feta, and so I just cooked for myself, and sat down at a full table. It's nice to eat with people, even if they're just random people.

My only problem now is that I've marked these few days back in Jeffrey's Bay as "work days," so I'm hitting the siSwati books, and trying to stay away from the beach (spoiler alert, I failed at that).

May 24th: Today was (oops) a beach day. I checked out of the backpacker's around eleven, and then just went to the beach. I'm not a huge beach-y person, but I've really enjoyed it this month.

My bus didn't leave until 5:30, but I was kind of itching to get on the road again, and it's a couple of miles walk to the gas station where the bus was going to get me, and I have a tendency to get lost, so I figured I'd start walking at 3:30 and leave myself some time.

Typical me, I did indeed get a bit turned around. I'm really, really bad at directions. I wasn't really lost though, as I was on the right street, but realized I was going the wrong way. So, I turned around, hoping that nobody saw my about face, as that makes it really obvious that you were lost.

About two seconds later, I get stopped by two cops. Darn, I think. Apparently I've got the "tourist-so-badly-confused-they-need-police-help" look. Ugh.

Instead, they asked me if I had noticed where some other guy had turned off the main road. I apologized and said that I hadn't really been paying attention, but I was looking for St. Francis Road, and wanted to check that I was (finally) going in the right direction. So, while they didn't stop because I was confused, the one cop gave me this really long, weird list of directions. The other cop just pauses and goes, "Get in."

Apparently the guy they were chasing wasn't very urgent.

We then had a very bizarre conversation - it went like this:
Me: Thanks for the ride.
Cop: So, where are you from?
Me: I live in Swaziland, but I'm from the States.
Cop: Oh! I've always wanted to go to England! Where are you from?
Me: Um, Chicago.
Cop: Now, does it actually rain all the time in London?
Me: Sure. Every day. Twice a day, actually.
Cop: Really? Wow.

May 25th: The last twenty-four hours since the cop's ride have been pretty crazy. When I got onto the bus, I sat next to this adorable old Chinese lady. Women are so much nicer to sit next to on long bus rides, as at least we're aware of how much space we're taking up, while guys just kind of sprawl out.

But, to my complete aggravation, at our first stop, Port Elizabeth, the nice lady got off, and was replaced by this big, loud, annoying guy, who kept on making politically incorrect comments on purpose and then laughing at his awful jokes. I normally enjoy meeting people on buses, but this guy? No. I mean, when you introduce yourself with, "You study in Swaziland? We send all our retards to Swaziland. Oh, and weed. We get our weed there. Swaziland is the Mexico of South Africa. Ha. Ha. Ha." Well, I'm not exactly inclined to like you.

And that sort of commentary went on for the next ten hours. At one point I fell asleep, and when I woke up, he was still talking. When the bus pulled into the station, I can't deny that I was happy to get off.

But, instead of relief, I was pretty frustrated rather quickly. The advantages of bus ranks is that they're usually in the city center, and it's easy to walk to things, but for some reason, I just couldn't figure Durban out. It was empty, weird, no signs, no nothing.

I originally didn't want to go the beach, as I was sick of looking at sand and rocks and waves, but when you're vaguely lost in a new city, the beach is usually a good starting point, so you can at least figure out which way is up.

It was easy enough to find, and when I got there, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were things going on, so it wasn't just sand a water. It turned out to be a really nice place to spend the day, with jetski competitions, surfing relays, skateboarding contests, sand soccer, BMX riders, and sand castle artists.

And I found a place that sells ice cream for one rand. I haven't eaten anything else all day. My justification is that the lady will refill my water bottle, so it's one rand water and ice cream, so yeah. Good life!
In Durban, there's this sidewalk thing along the beach, and it's actually the best people watching ever. There are these guys in big headdresses pulling carts for rides. There are the wanna-be thugs, which are in two groups - the kids and the thirty-year-old men. There are skateboarders and surfers and old women in saris and young women in burqas, balding men holding babies, trophy wives with husbands carrying their shopping bags, homeless guys carrying their own shopping bags, vendors ringing bells, kids chasing pigeons, and everything in between.
After all this time on the beach this month, I'm really going to miss it. There's the breeze, the smell, and the openness of it. It makes the rest of the world just seem claustrophobic. I'll be back in Durban in July for a school trip though, so no worries.
(A few hours later, at the bus rank): A man just walked up with a coconut, pulled out a massive knife, declared it too small to be useful, and started asking everyone if they had an axe. I quote, "What kind of Zulu are you if you don't have an axe?"
At this point, let me quote exactly what I wrote in my journal. "I was about to wrap up this whole adventure diary, but then I realized that the adventures won't end until I'm back at school. And even then."
I had about twenty-four hours left travelling. I think I expected it to be boring. I couldn't have been more wrong.
And, off on another bus to Johannesburg!

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