Friday, 20 July 2012

Winter in Durban

I'm writing this while sitting on a sunny terrace, basking in the 26c sunshine and wearing flip flops and shorts.  This is my kind of winter!  After a couple of days with my aunt and uncle just outside of Durban I'm hanging out in a hostel, waiting to go out with my cousin this evening before heading down the coast on my own tomorrow.

The joy of staying with family instead of backpacking (although I am doing a bit of both this holiday) is that you can get a local’s insight into the interesting places to go.  The ‘Midlands Meander’ – an arts and crafts tourist route up into the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains – garners only one line in the Rough Guide, but we had a wonderful day driving in the warm winter sunshine earlier this week.  My favourite spot was the small town of Howick.

Howick is home to Howick Falls, spectacular even in this dry weather, with the Umgeni River reduced to a mere shadow of itself.  I also found an amazing store in Howick with the loveliest proprietors.  Rollin’ Vintage was full of gorgeous bits and pieces, most crafted from recycled and upcycled materials.  I came away a good few Rand lighter but wishing that I could have carried more in my rucksack.  Hopefully they'll open an online store soon, as I will be first in the queue to buy more goodies.  I'm also fully intending to nick this wonderful idea of using vintage suitcases as shelving units.

A few miles out of town is the Mandela capture site where, in 1962, he was stopped by police as he drove from Durban to Johannesberg and arrested, beginning the incarceration that was to last 27 years.  The site itself is marked by a simple roadside plaque, but just across the road is a fantastic free exhibition and Nelson Mandela's life and work. 

Here in Durban I managed to stumble upon one of the loveliest bookshops it has ever been my pleasure to visit.  Ike's Books and Collectables is stuffed full of fiction and non-fiction, with a strong focus on Africana but what made it special was that amongst the tomes were wonderful vintage bits and pieces, including typewriters that had my fingers itching.  When I visited it was staffed by a woman from Nottingham who's been living here for 12 years: small world!

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