If you ask any Swazi about Durban in South Africa, you tend to get the same reply: “It’s beautiful…. except for the Indians”. Having no issue with Indians, and being due for some beach time, I decided to head there the previous weekend for Becky’s last hurrah on African soil, and to catch up with Alice who currently lives there. Fundzi also joined me for the 7-hour drive.
Arriving late afternoon, there was plenty of catching up before heading out for dinner. By default (thanks to a rained out fashion festival), we ended up Piatto’s at Ushaka Marine World. It was one of the tastebud-blowing meals I’ve had in a long while. My grilled chicken was so moist a bread-and-butter knife could have cut it. Then the grilled artichoke and sundried tomato sauce with pesto mash, well, enough said. The nice bottle of white didn’t hurt either. Sated, it was time to make the most of the city life, and what better way than with fancy cocktails at trendy Cubana’s bar on Florida Road. That was, at least, until my inner Gogo set in and the desire for sleep overwhelmed me.
Consumption seemed to be the order of the day as we awoke on Saturday morning. First stop was the markets with a barrage of Indian spices and cheap African handicrafts. A drive along the foreshore then led us to Cafe Jiran for morning tea where my taste buds danced a very merry dance thanks to exquisite coffee and real cheesecake. Next was the Bat Centre, a community arts centre where I fell in love with lino prints all over again.
Finally, lunch beckoned at the Hare Krsna temple on the outskirts of town where we gorged ourselves on Thali plates of delicious food. The patience of the Hare Krsna faithful shone brightly as they turned a deaf ear to Becky’s comments that she couldn’t wait to eat chicken curry (in the temple of a vegetarian religion), and her questions about who the girl is in all the paintings (referring to the male God, Krsna). We even managed to get a personal, in-depth introduction to the Hare Krsna faith as we wandered around the temple – perhaps they felt we needed some divine intervention.
With our bellies bulging, the only thing left to do was to bare them at the beach. As none of us had brought our swimmers, though, we instead splashed our feet in the warm Indian water as the rays of setting sun danced on the waves and white sand.
Having not eaten for at least an hour, it was then time to search for more food. Via a lookout of the Durban skyline, we made our way to the exquisitely decadent, Chateau Gateaux. To give you an idea of their offerings, here is a description of just one cake: “Bavarian cream infused with fresh mint leaves and set between layers of chocolate ganache on a chocolate brownie base, garnished with gold leaf”. Diabetes would just about be worth it.
As night set in, it was finally time for the long-awaited lighting of the Christmas lanterns. You may remember that during my Christmas break I travelled to Kenya with Becky and Alice. My Christmas present to them was Chinese lanterns, but due to luggage dramas and windy weather, I have since been carrying them across the continent in anticipation of an appropriate launch day. Tonight was the night. Much in line with our trip to Kenya, the lighting of the lanterns turned out to be an absolute debarcle. Alice’s burnt out before it could be released, Becky’s floated down the hill instead of up, while mine caught alight but did manage to become airborne….somehow. Art imitating life.
After such busy day of eating, the night was spent relaxing, sipping wine, and sharing stories until our eyes began drooping, most likely from insulin overload.
With the final day in Durban sadly upon us, we got up early to attend Church, then made time to stop by Cafe Jiran (again) for a bite of breakfast. Now I know I previously rated Cafe Jiran’s cheesecake pretty highly, but I need to be honest and say that it is nothing in comparison to their fresh apple and ginger juice. Everything that cafe served filled a gaping hole of gluttony in my stomach and only after about two hours was I ready to leave.
The four of us made our way up to Umhlanga Rocks to check out the lighthouse and make the most our last moment together while digging our toes into the beach sand. After picking up some sushi for the trip home, it was finally time to say goodbye. Goodbye to Becky as she heads home to England after four long years, goodbye to Alice (well, until I see her this weekend), goodbye to the beloved Indian ocean, and most of all, goodbye to the gastronomic delight that is Durban.