Final spring break post! Ali and I had finished up safari drives at Tembe, and had one more night to stay there before heading back to Durban. That night, we were woken up by crashing sounds in the brush outside our tent. When we looked outside, there were two elephants right outside our tent – at most 5 metres away. Though the park is fenced in, elephants have figured out how to get in (they’re so smart!)
The next morning, we got up for breakfast, and were told that the elephants in the park last night were Isilo (the largest tusker in the southern hemisphere) and the young bull he travels with, Kwaze. They were still in the camp, so we went looking to see them. We managed to see Isilo in the brush, and then as we were driving out, we got to see how exactly the elephants get through the electric fence.
The elephants have learned that their tusks don’t conduct electricity, and that the fence posts won’t shock them. So they use their tusks to push the fence post down, and then, slowly walk – with all their feet – on the fence post to get in and out of the camp. It means the people at Tembe are essentially always fixing the fence, but it was really cool to see a wild animal problem solve like that!
On the drive out of the park, we stumbled upon a group of giraffes! It was a group of males, with a couple juvenile males and some older ones. A little bachelor pack!
We also saw some nyala and wildebeest on our way out. I still am not a fan of wildebeest for the role they played in Mufasa’s death.
We decided to drive through Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park on our way back to Durban. It’s another Big 5 park, and was recommended to us by one of our profs, Bob and Darcy (our birding couple, who we actually ended up running into when we arrived at Hluhluwe – small world!), and a random American ex-pat who correctly identified Ali and I as Canadians, based on our accent (he said I sounded like an east coaster). Hluhluwe is obviously pronounced Shleshluewee. Or, as Ali and I did with most words we couldn’t pronounce, “shsh…”
For a quick drive through the park, we managed to see quite a bit of animals, and a lot of rhinos, which is nice to see given the poaching problems. The scenery there was also beautiful – there were a lot of rolling hills.
We also tried our hand at some birding to see what all the fuss was about. Though we did manage to properly identify these birds, I don’t think it’s going to become a lifelong hobby of ours (just wait, in five years we’re going to be begging our firms for time off to watch chickadees).
We got out of the park at still had a couple hours drive to go. The scenery along the way was actually really cool, and sunsets in South Africa are always beautiful.
We arrived at our backpackers in Durban for a chill night, since we were exhausted after getting up at 5:30 and driving all day.
The next morning, we went down to the beach – Durban has what is called the Golden Mile, which is a 6km stretch of beach along the Indian Ocean.
The beach was actually fairly empty, but I guess it is only spring – though the water here is so warm, you wouldn’t even need a wetsuit to surf. There were sand sculptors and rickshaw carts all along the beachfront.
We also figured out why the beach seemed so empty where we were – they have designated swimming spots that are at most ten metres wide that people gather in to swim under lifeguard supervision. Such a waste of so much space!
We then went up to the Victoria Street Market, which is a large Indian market. There were a lot of spices and Zulu craft work – I bought a bit of both!
Durban is also home to the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere (and the largest Hare Krishna temple, but it’s a bit outside the city, so we didn’t get to visit). The mosque is quite an impressive building though.
We also stopped by Durban’s city hall, which is modeled after the Belfast city hall in Ireland. Again, the architecture was impressive.
Then, because law, we stopped by the old courthouse! It originally opened in 1866, but is now a museum and a national monument.
That night was also pretty chill, because we wanted to get up early the next morning to head to the Valley of 1000 Hills, which is a Zulu area north of Durban. There are traditional Zulu villages, but you have to book several days in advance to go into them, so we just went through the craft markets, and being good Canadians, found a craft brewery!
We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the beer there – and were informed that there is a service that will deliver a case of different craft beers to your door every month in South Africa. This country knows what it’s doing. We also spent quite a bit of time shopping at the various craft markets, one of which was the AIDS Centre, which raises money to help AIDS orphans in the Valley. Outside the centre was a tree covered in quilt patches, in memory of a young girl who had died.
We returned to our hostel, and had to finish all the beer we brought from the brewery since we couldn’t bring it on the plane, so we went out on the town in Durban. I managed to acquire the cd of the DJ that was playing at the bar we were at, so you know Highfield House is where the party be from now on (is that how kids talk these days?).
Driving in Durban was a nightmare though – for some reason the city renamed all its streets, so our maps were incorrect, and many of the signs were riddled with spelling errors. We got so turned around so many times, and then half the time couldn’t pronounce the street names so our cab drivers never knew where to take us. If you ever visit Durban, make sure you get up to date street names!
On our last day we spent some time looking around local art galleries before our flight back to Cape Town. I had a bit of work to do since I had to give a presentation on Tuesday, but I managed to get it done and reward myself with another mini holiday today! But I’ll save that for my next update!