Welcome to Durban

“Are you sure that’s where you want to go? It’s a really rough part of town.” Our new friend Rob had kindly offered us a lift from the bus station, but now seemed concerned at our choice of destination.

“Well, we’re getting into a car with a stranger, so clearly we’re not too clever about safety”. Rob chuckled at my half-joking response, while helping me heave my rucksack into the boot.

Adam and I had only been in South Africa for a couple of days, which we had spent curled up in a hostel in Johannesburg, sleeping off jet lag and planning our next moves, so, after a seven hour bus trip, Durban was our first introduction to South Africa. We’d booked a hostel on Mahatma Ghandi Road, and, according to Rob, we’d picked just about the worst street in the country to start our trip.

“That guy was just trying to sell me coke”, he explained after a brief exchange in Afrikaans while stopped at a red light. “You see what I mean about this place”. He laughed it off, though I did notice he also rolled up his window and locked his door. I did the same, starting to feel like maybe we had made a bad choice after all.

We had heard that this was a dodgy area before we booked the hostel, but naively assumed it was “dodgy” as in “the dodgy end of Wandsworth Road”, where we had lived in London without any problems at all. I was starting to get the impression that”dodgy” had a stronger meaning here on Mahatma Ghandi Road, which I relayed to Rob.

“Well, it’s the only place where I’ve ever been shot at”, was his reply. “Yeah, I was on my bike, they tried to mug me, but couldn’t catch me so they just started shooting”.

Right, dodgier than Wandsworth Road it is then.

Fortunately, our stay in Durban turned out to be pretty uneventful. We strolled along the beachfront, ate some bunny chow (bread filled with curry- amazing), and tried to figure out how the hell we were going to navigate our way through the Sani Pass without our own car. It may not have been the most exciting introduction to South Africa, but, based on what we’d been told on arrival, it could have been a whole lot worse!

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Ever had a rough introduction to a country that you then turned out to love? Share your story in the comments!

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