The next morning we woke and headed to the airport for our quick flight back to Durban. We got some early morning entertainment with a couple who I don’t think they could’ve disliked each other more who proceeded to keep up a heated argument from the time we got to the gate through the flight and upon landing. What a nightmare! Durban was beautiful weather once again and we were greeted with temps in the 70s and sunny skies. We headed back to the Gateway mall and took the shuttle back down to the Moses Mabhida stadium for our last match, a second round game featuring Holland v. Slovakia. Dave and I grabbed a few beers and sat in the sun people-watching for awhile before the game started. We were up in the nosebleed section again but it made for great viewing of the field and with all the crazy wind, you could actually see the stadium moving (mostly the roof as it is covered in tarp-like plastic). That night, we arrived back at our guesthouse “African Dreamz” and ate dinner at a great Italian restaurant in Umhulanga, close to where we watched our USA v. England match a few weeks ago. I had an awesome butternut squash ravioli dish and Dave had a great fresh pizza.

We had our last breakfast at the guesthouse and said goodbye to Durban and Africa. I can’t believe that the trip has finally come to and end. It seems that it was so long ago that we were in Kruger spotting animals and just starting our jouney. Africa has been an incredible and unforgettable place – great people and culture in a beautifully diverse country. I am so happy that I didn’t listen to all the hype about how unsafe and corrupt the country was; sure it was the World Cup and sure we didn’t go anywhere too remote, but overall there was no point on the trip that I ever felt threatened or scared for my life at all.

Now I am sitting in Durban’s new King Shaka airport reflecting on the life changing experience I’ve just had. I’ve officially been bitten by the international travel bug, so now the only question is…where to next?

The sun sets on our African adventure...

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Durban is a great coastal city with sleepy suburbs and a beautiful stadium. We arrived in Durban on June 13th and checked into our B&B called “African Dreamz” in Umhulanga (pronounced Oom-shlonga), situated in an upscale neighborhood just northeast of Durban on the coast. We promptly headed to the Gateway Mall to pick up our match tickets and found out that it’s the largest shopping center in the Southern Hemisphere. I also didn’t realize that Durban is home to several million Indian residents, so much of the culture and cuisine is Indian-influenced. That night we headed to a pub close to the B&B in a little row of restaurants and shops close to the beach to watch the USA v. England match.

Durban, South Africa

Watching the USA v. England match at a pub in Durban

Of course, we sported all our USA pride and ended up in a bar with a bunch of English dudes. It was great fun though, we drank too many Castle beers and made friends with some Irish and Australian tourists. The next morning, we ventured down to the beach to put our toes in the Indian Ocean – which was surprisingly warm! Didn’t have time to get in but it was beautiful to look at for a bit. We headed down to the FIFA

Indian Ocean, Durban, South Africa

Putting my toes in the Indian Ocean

Fan Park – a fan festival that FIFA sponsors close to each stadium – to watch the other matches before heading to see Germany v. Australia at Durban’s new stadium. The fan fest was great, hung out on the beach and watched the matches on a giant projector screen. To get there, we had to walk a bit through downtown Durban, which isn’t a place you’d find me after dark. It’s similar to run down areas of LA or NYC, as most of the nicer neigborhoods are north or east of the city. We walked down the boardwalk to the stadium, which dominates the city’s skyline. Huge and all lit up, it was like a beacon welcoming us. The match was great, my first professional soccer game! It helped that the Germany and Australian fans were hyped up and singing, chanting and taunting each other.  Germany slaughtered Australia 4-0, so it was pretty much a blowout. Oh well, fun all the same!

HluHluwe – Umfolozi Park

Our next adventure was a trip to HluHluwe – Umfolozi game park about 2 hours outside Durban. Similar to Kruger on a much smaller scale, we stayed in the Hluhluwe side, very overgrown brush with somewhat limited animal viewing. The first day, we managed to spot several rhino, giraffe, zebra and

Giraffe, Hluhluwe Park, South Africa

Pretty Lady!

impala on our own. We signed up for the sunset drive so made our way to Hilltop Camp and checked into our bungalow before doing the drive. Luckily, we spotted a lioness feasting on a water buffalo kill, an incredibly raw sight. She had her head inside the buffalo, ripping the meat from the bones and using her giant paws for leverage. We also came upon an elephant walking in the road as well as hyena – waiting for the lions to leave the kill so they could swoop in and steal some. The next morning, we did another guided drive and came upon the same feeding site, this time with a few lions sharing a nice feast. We encountered a ton of baboons, mothers, babies, fathers, etc. who weren’t camera shy in the least. We captured some great

Babooon, Hluhluwe Park, South Africa

This guy loved the camera

shots of baboons modeling for us. The camp itself was great, we had a tasty buffet dinner each night and buffet breakfast as well. Not too cheap, but reasonable. We bought a bottle of wine for about $5 USD and drank it in the lodge while watching the matches. Not a bad little spot! Upon leaving Hlulhluwe, we got pretty close to a few hyena, also feasting on a kill, vultures nearby just waiting for their turn, and a few more elephants. All in all, a great experience if you don’t have the time to make it to Kruger.

Upon leaving Hluhluwe, we stopped in St. Lucia (no not the island, the town), about 45 mins from Hluhluwe. It lies on the Elephant Coast, north of Durban. We stopped and checked out a crocodile park since our friend Wodey really wanted to see some crocs in action. They had a great  viewing area and several pens with crocs of all sizes, where you could actually reach and touch some (if you really wanted to 🙂 Of course I had to, so I touched the tail of a

Crocodile at park in St. Lucia, South Africa

Baby Croc

“teenager,” just to see what their skin is like. It’s strange, hard and scaly but still very flexible. For about $5 entry, it’s worth it if you’ve got an hour or two. We stopped for lunch at a recommended ski boat club restaurant which was great. We watched a match and checked out the crocs and hippos in the inlet while watching the waves break on the nearby shore.

Back in Durban, we checked into our guesthouse in Morningside, a posh, upscale area of town with gorgeous homes and an incredible view of the city. We stayed in a place called “The Neuk” (I am assuming pronounced “nook”) and were greeted warmly by our host and her daughter in their breaktaking turn of the century home. With shabby chic decor and lovely grounds, we were a bit bummed we were only there for hardly one night. We walked down

Rooting for Bafana Bafana at "Booty," Durban, South Africa

Rooting for Bafana Bafana at "Booty," Durban, South Africa

to the corner and turned on Florida Street, sort of the happening place to be where all the bars and restaurants reside. We found a bar called “Booty” yes, booty, where we posted up to watch the Bafana Bafana v. Uruguay with a ton of locals. It was a great time even though the boys lost, and the scene was great.

Overall, Durban is a pretty neat city, and I could definitely spend more time there. I recommend staying in either of the areas we did, as the downtown is still pretty rough and I wouldn’t be comfortable saying that you’d be as safe as we were (walking down the street at night) in the other areas. Ok, time to plan a trip back! 🙂