Spanish Eyes

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Where I stayed
Durban Skin Lodge

Flag of South Africa  , KwaZulu-Natal,
Thursday, June 17, 2010

It was a smooth and pleasant flight from Jo'burg to Durban with South African Airways arriving at the King Shaka International airport, a brand spanking new airport only just opened in May. It’s always reassuring to walk out of the baggage area and see a board with your name. The driver for the Durban Skin Lodge (DSL) was a really nice guy and even stopped off at the FIFA ticket office en route to the DSL for us to check ticket availability for the England game in Cape Town in a few days time. We had moved up our next flight on to Cape Town in order to get to the game in time should we be able to get tickets … but alas, as with our numerous previous attempts, there were no tickets available :-(

The DSL is a rather interesting place to stay; it’s a series of rooms and bungalows on the same grounds as the Durban Skin Institute and despite assurances to the contrary we wonder if the primary purpose is for patients undergoing a series of skin treatments and/or their families? On a visit to the clinic side of the facility Derek did see a few "blemished" patients waiting for their treatment. Still, for a very reasonable $100/night we had a very large room/appartment with one queen bed, five single beds and a basic kitchenette; having spent six months on the road eating out, the opportunity to be able to make our own food was most welcome! The room didn’t have either phone or internet access and so we felt rather cut-off, until that is, that Derek managed to talk the staff into allowing us to use their office to make phonecalls, and sneak a little internet time under cover of said phonecalls (there was an unused and operational LAN cable lying around).

One of the reasons that the DSL is cheaper than most places we looked at is its distance from the city centre and the stadium, however, the neighbourhood seemed to be pretty safe and we’ve become quite accustomed to walking while we’ve been on this trip. So, on Wednesday morning we set off for the stadium with lots of time to spare for the 16:00 encounter between Spain and Switzerland. The kids decided that Spain were more likely to win the match and so had Spanish flags painted on their cheeks for the occasion. Having stopped enroute for a beer and nachos, we were a little later arriving at the stadium than planned and the mass of people trying to get through security didn’t help. So with kick-off just a few minutes away we headed down toward our seats only to find that row 5 was actually front row and level with the edge of the penalty box – score

It was a great game with lots of good chances at both ends, good fair play and great fans for both teams. The shock of course was that Switzerland won 1-0; the majority of the Swiss fans were just a few sections along from us and we enjoyed watching them celebrate their moment of glory long after the final whistle had blown. In contrast the Spanish fans were understandably stunned, with more than one or two uncontrollably teary Spanish eyes on display. Leaving with the crowds, we felt quite safe despite the darkness, but had already decided that a taxi was the order of the day and were soon back at DSL. Making use of the covert internet connection in the little office, Derek Googled our walk to the stadium and discovered that we’d walked about 7km en route!

Unlike Jo’burg, we felt a little safer in Durban and decided with a day to spare that we would walk into the city and get a “feel for Durban”. An unexpected bonus arrived while walking down a small street and happening across a second hand bookstore …. lo-and-behold, sitting on a sidewalk table there was the much coveted, and thus elusive, seventh Harry Potter book. When asked for directions to the city centre, the bookstore owners seemed quite shocked that we were planning to walk there. They assured us it was quite safe but a long way and, despite getting a little off track and having to inch along the edge of a highway for a short distance, we made it to the harbor area by midday. Sitting on a small beach area we had a picnic lunch before setting off in the direction of the main beaches. It was quite some time before we found our way to the South beaches and were quite delighted to discover that the official FIFA Fan Fest location on the beach just in time for the 13:30 kick-off between Argentina and South Korea. A very pleasant afternoon was had by all chilling out on the beach in the warm sunshine as three of us watched the soccer on the big screens and Lauren buried her head in Harry’s latest adventure.

Again we returned to the DSL via taxi and discovered that we’d walked even further than the day before…no wonder the kids have been eating so well! An early night for all was on the cards as changing our flight to Cape Town meant that we now had to take the 6:25am flight….and we still don’t have tickets for the England game…..

Durban seems to be a great city; relatively safe, beautiful beaches, friendly people and wonderful climate. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our few days here. Anywhere you can sit on the beach in the warm sunshine in the middle of winter has to be good! Next on the cards is Cape Town….
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