Archive for August, 2011

Spontaneity is Expensive and Rude

Sunday, before last, I was working at one of the three part-time jobs I now have when Jason called me and informed me that we were going to Durban. “Ok.”, said I, not completely convinced that he was serious about making an unplanned 6 hour trip. When he picked me up from work he assured me that we were leaving in a few hours and that I should get a day off work. I didn’t bother to reason because I was pretty sure I had no choice in the matter.

Jason and his brother, Matthew, had just decided that the beach would be a nice escape from the cold winter weather. Jason organised for us to stay with friends in the Midlands on Sunday night and Matthew arranged a free hotel room in Durban for Monday night. We would drive home on Tuesday.

Jason’s “We’re going to Durban” face

Along with Amber, Matthew’s girlfriend, we drove to the Midlands. Malvina had only been given a few hours notice of our visit but had generously made us beds and offered us dinner. She put Jason and me up in their cottage and Matthew and Amber in the under-construction lodge.

In the morning the sun revealed a beautiful farmhouse with surrounding natural forest. The four of us took a walk down to one of the waterfalls and then Jason and I walked through a shallow section of forest. We would have gone in further but we knew that if we got lost Matthew would be furious at us for taking from his beach time.

The house 

Walk with the Danes

Taken from future Bath House building

This building is going to be the backpackers

We left the Midlands early afternoon much to my disappointment; South African beaches don’t really compare well to Caribbean beaches.

I assume that the Kwazulus must think that the rest of South Africa is occupied by psychopathic killers. I really can’t think of any other explanation for the large signs that read “Please don’t kill us!” as you drive through Kwazulu Natal. Either way I realised it must be important to them if they made the effort to put the signs up. I made a mental note not to kill anyone while in Durban.

“Free hotel room” sounded like something that would be pretty dodgy and I prepared myself for something that would be remotely liveable. Turned out that the free hotel room we got was not only more than liveable but also the best room in the building. It was air-conditioned, pretty and most importantly clean; which is not something I can say for cheap Caribbean hotels.  Also the receptionist was a real sport. She had no idea who we were but refrained from throwing us out. She even let us check in before making calls to verify that we weren’t fraudulent vagrants. So if ever you are looking for a nice and affordable hotel to stay in, in Durban, go stay at the Florida Park hotel; not only because they let me stay there for free but also because the receptionist knows how to keep her shit together. If that doesn’t qualify as service I don’t know what does.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on a filthy Durban city beach. I walked along the beach avoiding condoms and broken bottles while the other three braved a dip in the cold winter water. Their swim was soon interrupted by a huffy man on a quad bike who informed them that they were not allowed to swim because all the lifeguards were on strike. This made me wonder if people really get paid to drive around on quad-bikes telling other people to stop swimming. I certainly wouldn’t mind getting paid to do that for a living. Sure you’re the bearer of bad news but you’re the bearer of bad news on a quad bike on the beach!

The next morning we decided to find a nicer beach outside of Durban. We found a spot that sheltered us a bit from the wind and I put down my towel to lie on while the rest took a quick dip. For the first time in weeks I felt completely relaxed. Lying on the beach I pretended just for a few hours that I didn’t have to start my life all over again.  I pretended that I didn’t have three part time jobs, a cell-phone that doesn’t actually work and a learner’s licence that had expired months ago. Sea air therapy worked its magic.


By the time we left Durban we were rested, slightly tanned and Amber was sick. Clearly the sea air wasn’t working as well for her.  The getaway was well worth it, even if we spent a lot of money and even if we only gave Malvina a few hours notice. To our merit though, we didn’t kill any KwaZulus.


The Benefits of Coming Home after Travelling

Although I miss travelling already I’m not unhappy about being back home; after all there are so many advantages for someone who’s recently travelled. Here’s my list:

  • Perspective

To cheer myself up about having to spend money on groceries I compare the prices to that of how much we would have paid overseas. Jason bought a six pack of beer last week that cost the same as one beer in the USA. Score! Well at least it feels that way.

  • Tipping

I came back with heaps of coins from America and Antigua that were shaking around in my wallet for at least a month. I had no idea how handy they would be until I went out to have a hangover breakfast one morning. After Jessica accidently spilt an orange juice all over me I asked a waitress to bring me a wet wipe or a serviette to clean my pants. She rolled her eyes at me and when she returned to clean the table I had to ask her again. Finally another waiter brought me a bowl of dipping water. My friend Astrid pointed out that she definitely wasn’t getting a tip. I did give her a tip though, in US dollars.

  • Some more perspective… for other people

I came back to discover that my youngest sister cleans the bath properly now and my mother occasionally cleans the counter after cooking. Actually this has fairly little to do with me going away but it’s still nice. While I was away my mother had a tenant who was pretty much half blind. She couldn’t see well enough to clean the counters or even the bathtub properly. Jessica, who was annoyed about having to clean the tub before bathing each time, admitted that she now knew how I felt when she had done the same to me. Some of the best words I’ve heard uttered.

  • People actually want to listen to me

Actually this applies more to Jason because he loves to talk much more than I do. The point is that ever since we came home people have been interested in listening to us. They want to hear about the parties and killer rums in Antigua and sometimes about the ‘oh-so dangerous’ sea travel. These people are usually friends but Jason doesn’t allow the label of ‘acquaintance’ to deter him from exhibiting a slideshow of 101 photos.

  • South Africa is awesome!

Just a few of my favourite spots

Kaapsehoop- inhabited by mist, horses and rocks

Hike to Bridal falls, outside Nelspruit

God's Window

On a Serious Note

So I’m just going to put humour aside here; bear with me. Today I want to mention one of the things that made our experience as travellers so wonderful. The people we met were really what made it fantastic; starting with Sophie and Matt who we met in Tortola.

When we arrived in Tortola we had no idea what we were in for. We couldn’t find any work that wouldn’t get us deported and the cheapest accommodation we could find turned out to be very expensive. In no time at all we had spent our airfare money and we were pretty stressed. When we met Sophie and Matt they were just about to go on holiday. They did not need a house sitter but offered us the choice to house sit for them anyway. The best part of all is that they had such a lovely home with a view of all the nearby islands. When I finally did get a little bit of work I didn’t have to spend my earnings on expensive hotel fees, instead I bought us tickets to Antigua. For Sophie and Matt’s kindness I will be eternally grateful. They are the kind of people that make the world so fantastic and not only because of their kindness but also because of their sense of adventure.

Sophie and Matt looking at the view after our hike up.

Thank you, Matt and Sophie.

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