Friday, August 3, 2012

Durban vacation

“….”  “….”  Damn this lack of a voice. 

That was my biggest thought while on my unintended mime adventure in Durban recently.  This was my first Peace Corps vacation, and during the first full night in Durban, I completely lost my voice.  I was so angry.  It came back on the train ride back to Jo’burg.  But anyway, let’s talk (since I couldn’t then) about the awesomeness that is Durban.

 See, look at that.  Awesome

First of all we left from Gabs via bus to Jo’burg.  A bus ride I was very depressed on.  I was promised terrible movies being played and they did not play a single movie!  I love watching bad movies, so this was a bit of a let-down.  Despite this let-down the bus was quite pleasant, and I even finished a book on it.  We had a several hour layover in Jo’burg while we waited for the train to Durban.  John, Carol and I spent it in the most appropriate place.


That is right.  World of Beer.  We got a private 1.5 hour tour, a taste of traditional brew, a half beer draft of Castle Lager (in a souvenir cup we got to keep), and two beers at the end.  And how much did all this cost us?  55 rand.  Which is about 7 dollars.  Yup, 7 dollars.  So far the vacation is off to a success.  Including drinking wine like a homeless man on the train.  When I went to the bottle store to stock for the train they wrapped my bottle of wine (the cheapest in the store) in newspaper.  Naturally I had to keep it in there. 

Here was where we had the first real hiccup.  The train was a few hours late in departing.  Since we were scheduled to arrive at 7am it was not a huge deal.  We just arrived a bit later in the morning, but still with plenty of time for lunch.  The train did have another issue though.  The heat went out at night, so it was pretty cold.  But we convinced them to give us all free blankets in recompense.  And on the ride back the heat stayed on all night, so nothing too catastrophic. 

 But look at that killer view!

And then we arrived at the final destination (no, not that overly drawn out film series), Durban.  The beach area has several taglines, including “Summer all year round.”  And boy are they right.  The weather was amazing.  It was so nice.  We swam in the Indian Ocean and it was the perfect temperature.   And the hotel we stayed at was right on the beach.  I mean look at that view.

 Just look at it!

But now for the real highlights of the trip.  First of all, nightlife!  There were things to do at night.  A few of us went out to this bar that had karaoke our first night there.  We also found a street that had a ton of bars, restaurants and such.  Most impressive there?  Durban’s largest pizza.  1 meter in diameter.  The thing was massive.  3 of us split it…for 2 meals.  Very cost effective.  Also, 32 rand long island iced teas (4 dollars).  All of that was just amazing. 

But there were two big highlights that topped the rest.  The first is shark tank diving.  At the uShaka Marine World you can swim in a tank in the shark exhibit for very cheap (especially with the half off tickets we found).  So I got to spend 10 minutes in a tank while sharks swam around nearby (Karla was in the tank with me).  And you better believe I was singing the Jaws theme in my head the entire team.  I would have done it outloud if I had a voice and wasn’t underwater.  It was cool, and definitely a new experience, but only my second favorite moment in Durban.

 Jaws theme!

And now for the best moment of the vacation.  Many of you already know I did this, but for those that don’t I partook in the world’s largest bungee swing at Moses Mabhibi Stadium (where World Cup games were played in Durban).  It is 220 meters (or 721 feet)!  Scary, exhilarating, “feels like you took a bunch of drugs” were all phrases used to describe what it felt like.  While I did not say the last one myself I can see why someone would say that.  After the long climb up

 Yeah, you have to walk up those stairs on the arch

you then have to go down this tiny ladder to the platform

and then comes the big moment.
This was John's turn

If you aren’t fast enough they push you.  I did manage to jump and did not even hold on to the cord for the way down.  John and I had this as our big goal.  After the swing is done you hang there for a minute, then they slowly winch you back up to the platform.  During the swing itself I felt like I was crazy.  Why in the world did I do this?  But as soon as the cord caught and I wasn’t in freefall those thoughts went away to thoughts like, “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  Most just that.  I could not scream it, because remember, no voice.  As soon as I finished swinging I started tingling all over and could not help but grin like the Cheshire Cat for about an hour.  So I can see why it is compared to doing a bunch of drugs (disclaimer-never actually done a bunch of drugs, but from stories I hear this sounds about right).  In face if you head over to my youtube page you can see Kristen’s film of my jump from her spot in the stadium. 

And of course as soon as this was done (and while we were waiting for the company to finish our films of the jump) we went and had a drink.  Or three. 

The way back was bittersweet.  Great vacation, sad to be leaving, but also rejuvenated for work again.  Well after a quick stop at the McDonalds in Jo’burg for fries and a chocolate shake (there is no McDonalds in Bots).  And the bus ride back did deliver with bad movies, so all in all a fantastic vacation and one of the best I have ever taken!  Although whether that is because it is true, or due to PC lowering expectations…well ga ke itse. 

For more pictures of Durban head on over to the pictures page!  Also, can you believe that in one month and 12 days I will have been out of the USA for an entire year?!?!?!  This experience is just going crazy fast!