Tired after a hectic day at work, I headed to Bosman station in Tshwane, jumped into a night bus and zoomed off to Durban. As I journeyed through the lands, I mused over the unbelievable things we men do for our women.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be travelling to Durban on my own. If I was going to catch fun in Tshwane, I could just take a taxi from Mamelodi where I live and move over to Pretoria East or even Hatfield. I would loaf around, eat and drink, and then return home a happy man.
When my pocket looked bulkier, I would consider going to the cinemas to enjoy the big screens. And normally, a lady would be by my side to catch fun with.
But here I was trying to make Lerato happy. I even had to go to Durban in advance, just to make sure our end-of-year trip would be enjoyable. Oh, Lerato! I hail thee.
The events that took place on the bus got me surprised all through the journey. And the lady who sat next to me kept wondering if true love still exists. But, let me not bore you with it for now. Perhaps, it would be one I would narrate another day.
After we left Montrose, our first stoppage point, I closed my eyes for a nap. But the nap became a slumber. Not even the snores from other passengers or the occasional bumps on the highway woke me up. I must have been too tired.
Hours later, I found myself right in Durban station on Saturday morning. We all alighted from the bus and shook off the strains. Some stretched their legs and hands while they yawned. As for me, I stomped my feet on the ground to shake off the muscle strains.
Not the type to ask around for help, no thanks to many years of living in a crime-ridden area in Gauteng, I grabbed my small bag and sashayed to the metered taxi rank nearby the station.
“Take me to the most popular part of the city. It’s my first time here,” I told the driver who reclined in the front seat of his Toyota Corolla car. He was dark in complexion, short and rotund, but his pointed nose could rival that of Donald Trump. And his curvy moustache reminded me of the wrestler called Iron Sheik in WWF of those days.
“You new? Sixty rands,” he said in an Indian accent.
“What?” I exclaimed, unsure if my reaction had to do with the price or the uncommon blackness of an Indian man. He was so dark that I, as a black person, felt like a Caucasian. But his ‘indianness’ wasn’t in doubt. His silky hair and moustache, and the rolling eyes attested to that.
“Yes, its sixty rands,” he said swinging his head here and there.
“No problem, I said.” Sixty rands shouldn’t eat much into the 1000 rands shoe-string budget set aside for this experimental visit.
I should be watchful of my spending, though, lest it ate into the budget of the year-end holiday proper. My girlfriend should not have to follow me all the way from Tshwane to Durban, after waiting for a whole year, and begin to eat Magwinya and drinking Roiboos tea on an annual vacation!
The Indian man didn’t waste time before driving me through the streets. I would later find out that Durban had lots of Indian fellows all over. Then I recalled that the Durban in KwaZulu-Natal shared the same name with the other Durban in India.
It was eye-opening seeing the wonderful broad streets of the city. For the first time in my life, I saw streets with eight lanes. Driving through them felt like one was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. The driver didn’t have to check left and right to overtake a ruffian coming nearby. The only thing he had to check was his own speed limits, as the wideness of the roads could make one think it was an aeroplane runway.
Soon, the winds picked up as if trying to introduce to me that I’d just arrived a coastal city. And the coolness of the area agreed with that notion. I thought I would have a swell time hanging around here.
“Where can one relax and catch fun here in Durban?” I asked the driver.
“I’m taking you to South Beach. It’s one of the more popular places. But you can go to North Beach too where you have lots of hotels and guesthouses. In those places, you can have a good time. And if you wish, you can link other areas like Morningside or go to the townships. Transport is available anytime, anywhere.”
“All right. Thanks.” I guessed the explanation was part of the charges.
He eventually drove to South Beach, dropping me off at a place called Point. I stood by the pavement in a four-way junction, trying to reconcile the new environment I found myself.
The first thing that came to my notice was the maze of skyscrapers. Hotel buildings of all kinds dotted the area, and people moved around in droves.
The taxi-buses drivers had music blaring from their vehicles. One would think only deaf and dumb people were allowed as passengers. But the operators managed to shout their destinations, and passengers trooped in without complaints.
Then I observed more of the wide roads again. Compared to the narrow roads of Tshwane and Jo’burg, I thought Durban was a newer city. It then came to mind that this was a tourist city, considering the attractive infrastructure.
Soon whirlwinds blew papers and used plastics up in the middle of the road. It got so high and even had people scampering around for safety. That announced to me that the sea was actually nearby.
“How far is the sea from here?” I asked from a lady walking by the pavements.
“Just across the road,” she said, pointing in the direction. One would think it was a mere two minutes walk. Actually, it was. I strolled towards the place.
“North Beach! Sun Coast!” One of the taxi bus conductors yelled. His music was so loud that I thought he was announcing a road-show. Only on the sixth listening did I hear that he called North Beach.
Thinking it was better to start from the Northern part of the beachside before coming down to the South, I jumped into the taxi and off to North Beach we headed.
While house music deafened me, and the conductor called different bus stop names, I appreciated the variety of tall blocks of flats that lined up the routes. I liked the feel of the area.
Eventually, I dropped off at Sun Coast, a big mall with entertainment spots of all kinds. Moses Mabhida stadium, one of the stadiums used for the 2010 FIFA world cup, sat in the background.
People of all races thronged the place. The look and feel were amazing, and I had a good time walking around to see the different options available to me and Lerato.
“I must bring my woman here,” I said to myself, “Nothing can stop us from coming. This is wonderful.”
The pavement outside the mall overlooked the sea, making the ambience comforting and cool. Fresh winds of high quality wheezed through me, exposing my undershirt.
The surrounding of the mall was of a different kind from the ones I knew in Tshwane. It made me think about the journey of my life. Just a minute walk from there laid the sea. I took a walk there.
The amazing view of endless water and waves unsettled me, but the experience of being by the sea was humbling. I couldn’t draw close to the ocean; something rang in my head not to go near. I knew I had fear of such big water bodies.
I dashed back inside the mall, got myself a cup of ice cream and took a walk back to the seaside. I guess the first-time experience wouldn’t let me stay away from such wonderful views.
The varieties of things in sight kept me walking along the coast of the sea. People of all kinds throng the coastline savouring the beauty of nature. Some cycled, others jogged, and a lot trekked. Some even walked around bare feet.
I took time out to write a poem for my woman, even if I would not send it to her by phone. I would wait ‘til December to surprise her with it by reading it out loud.
Before I knew what was happening it was noon. I returned to Sun Coast for a proper meal. I’d earlier spotted their food court which had varieties of foods on display.
“Do you want Bunny Chow?” a young Indian chap asked me.
“B-u-n-n-y C-h-o-w.” He pointed at a picture on the electronic board. I then understood it to be bread and curry stew.
Experimenting with food wasn’t my thing. Just in case I took a meal that would upset my tummy. Going to the hospital wasn’t part of my plan. I couldn’t imagine asking for the toilets while on the bus the next day. I quickly waved the Bunny part of it off, moving to the next stand
“Give me Streetwise Five,” I said to the KFC attendant. After fifteen minutes or so, my order was ready. I grabbed it and returned to the lawn outside for a seaside meal.
A few of the Zulu ladies around were surprised to see me eating alone. They shook their hips as if sending me Bluetooth messages that they were ready to join me.
But I took on the look of a philosopher, chewing the meals gradually and looking far into the sea. At least that would make them think I’m an oceanographer.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t like their company, my budget for the trip wasn’t a lot. Hardly would I have much left after paying for accommodation later in the evening. I was just going to spend a night, and I didn’t mind staying alone. By Sunday, I would be back to Tshwane and my sweet Lerato would be there, waiting.
As if she knew my mind, my phone buzzed just then. Lerato was on the line. “Where are you? It’s a bit noisy there.”
I quickly recalled that I’d decided not to tell her about my experimental Durban trip. So, I had to be creative with my speech. “I’m enjoying a nice programme on National Geographic. You can’t imagine how nice being by the ocean side can be. We must come here…sorry, we must be by the ocean side, unfailingly. Sweet Lerato…Sweet Potato… hope you’re all right and cool. The day is great and the evening will be too.”
“I can see you’re catching fun watching TV. Talk to you later.”
She dropped the line and I was happy she did.
Before long it began to rain. It rained cats, dogs and goats. For three hours, the sky opened, and I was forced to take cover in a secluded area. I ordered hot coffee to warm up. Then I bought newspapers to read.
After the rain had stopped, people left Sun Coast in their numbers. I began to think of a place to spend the night. With these wonderful sky-scraping hotels, I knew a place to lay my head shouldn’t be a problem. But then, I had to ask to give me an idea how much it would cost. Transport to Durban alone ate 300 rands, and my return ticket would be the same amount. So, 400 rands is left for accommodation.
Being my first time, I should sleep in a comfy hotel room that would allow me to stretch my legs on a cosy bed.
I lifted my head up and selected one of the tallest hotels in my sight. I walked to the reception and asked the lady there. “How much is a night here?”
“1899 rands, please.” She said in a voice that could make one bring out the cash right away. But the pull of her voice could not sway me to part with almost a quarter of my salary. Just to close eyes and wake up? Puma wena.
“Okay, see you later,” I feigned a smile and took a walk. North Beach hotels weren’t for everyone, I thought.
With two hands in my pocket, I walked down the beachside. I enjoyed my own company looking into people’s faces. Couples stuck with themselves and parents clutched to their children. The heavy wind wasn’t chilly since it was summer, but one required a cardigan, nonetheless.
Before long, I was back to the South Beach again close to where the metered taxi dropped me in the morning. Surprisingly, the weather began to change. Dusk had started spreading through, yet it was only a quarter to five.
If a night in a very tall hotel cost almost 2000 rands then the very short ones should be cheaper. These Zulu people must have priced the buildings according to their heights.
I thought of booking a room in one of the guest-houses, even if I would return to the beachside. I had seen enough to show to Lerato during the day, but I still wanted a taste of the night-time beachside experience. She and I definitely would come out at night.
I realised that the more I walked deeper into South Beach, the cheaper the cost of the rooms. Recalling that the fancy hotels came at a high cost, I didn’t mind the shabby looking ones. Moreover, many of the fancy hotels had been fully booked.
I hopped into one building in the middle of a South Beach street close to a place called Apples. At the top, they wrote “Shelter Hotels”
“Fifty rands for a night,” the operator said. I didn’t think twice before handing over the note, considering myself lucky for finding a place for that cheap amount. “Wooow, the Zulus are wonderful,” I said.
Immediately after booking, I did not bother to check the conditions of the place. I rushed to the adjacent street to take dinner.
The night-time seaside experience was hard to describe. Ships of all kinds lined up in the middle of the oceans. Helicopters flew to meet them for inspections, I guessed.
A new set of crowds trooped to the seaside to catch fun. And soon musical bands played in the restaurants nearby. I shook my head to the rhythm before walking to the pier, where I met people making love just on the bench there!
Nightlife in South Beach was vibrant; the whole place buzzed with young and old groups and I had fun feeding my eyes with all kinds of views. Not until the time to sleep did I return to the shelter to lay my head.
I was taken aback when the manager took me to a big hall instead of a room. When I paid up, I’d only assumed that they were new in business and were looking for customers; hence the cheap price. My eyes were set on being provided with a room, even if it wasn’t going to be a fancy one.
But it was not to be. I found myself in a hall of over sixty people. Each person had a bed to use. Mine was even a bed space at the top of a bunker-bed.
“Take your bed-sheet and duvet.” He handed over two pieces of clothes that looked like rags. The fabric reeked of fumigation chemicals, but I received them while keeping my fears to myself.
As he escorted me to the bed allocated to me, I looked around the hall carefully. Lots of bunker-beds were arranged in rows. There were whites, Indians, blacks, coloured and all sorts. Some smoked cigarettes and weeds and…I couldn’t even recognise the smell.
I spotted the sick and feeble; healthy but poor, drug-addicts and run-girls. All manner of people laid their heads in different corners in the hall. The whole place felt like a refugee camp.
A television sat on a rafter just at the end of the room. And a wall clock hung on the wall that rang every hour. Rags and used tissue papers littered the concrete floor. I had to glide as I moved so as not to bump into any sharp object.
I felt like turning back to look for another place to stay, but a hunch urged me on. Maybe these ones paid 10 rands. Mine should be a lot better. After all, I didn’t look like any of the riffraff I saw around.
And yes, the bed he allocated to me was pleasing, even if it was a bunker bed. And the man on the lower bunk looked decent.
“Hi,” the guy said with a smile. I responded in the same manner and shook hands. He was a white guy who looked troubled. But being an open-minded person, I didn’t mind.
Still, I thought of leaving the place. But being tired, the thought of moving around felt like a daunting task. Moreover, where else would I go that night? Back to the beach or Sun Coast? All the available hotel rooms had been booked and I could even get lost on the streets that night.
Since it was already past nine, I thought of hanging in here for the night. It would soon be morning and I could look for a better place the day after.
The decision to stay there proved to be a mistake. The events of that night made me regret my coming to Durban in the first place.