As the snow falls and chilly temperatures invade Johannesburg, Cape Town and several other cities and towns in South Africa, residents take leave from work, pack their shorts and bikinis and head on to Durban, where the sun almost never sets.
From early morning to late evening, being in the Durban sun becomes more of an attitude than an actual climate pattern and so the infection begins.
Driving into the city, the crisscross of freeways opens up the massive metropolis like a flower. High-rise buildings that are a fashionable medley of old and new play host to more than 3.5 million inhabitants – featuring blacks, whites, Indians, coloureds and the rest of the world.
As you drive further into the city, passing by elaborate and classy condos, or plain ol apartments, the fabulous weather softens everything around you and the ocean horizon lures you to find the nearest beach where you can write the words ‘I was here’.
Durban is the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal Province and it hosts two of the busiest ports in the region. Its rich history spans back to the days of Shaka Zulu and there are many things to talk about, but its iconic beachfront, better known as the Golden Mile is the ‘it’ place to be.
The Mile is a long stretch of beach kissed by warm waters every single day, with locals and tourists mingling in stalls that sell beach-wear, a skateboard ramp with a DJ or musician mostly present in case a party was needed, and surfers hugging their boards while eyeing the waves and the bikini-clad ladies.
From the sixth floor of the hotel room at the Southern Sun, the massive waves are always on the move – hitting the shore of the Golden Mile whether its morning, noon or night. If you stare at them, the well practiced somersaults of the water give you a sense of continuity and uninterrupted peace at the same time.
A road separates the line of hotels and the beach, where it is common to see locals and tourists crossing over barefoot. The long stretch is inviting for those who enjoy a brisk walk but ample bodies might prefer to use the mountain bikes for hire that were lined up outside the hotel.
It’s easy to live on the Mile if you’re there for a few days, but that is only a fraction of what Durban has to offer.
A more relaxing interaction with the city is in the form of a boat cruise. Driving from the Mile to Wilson’s Wharf is only 10 or so minutes and if you plan it well you will be in time to catch the sun as its sets in the horizon and reflects a rainbow of colours on the wavy water.
The Spirit of Elan is one of the popular charters. No high heels are allowed on deck and being barefoot is highly recommended as you enjoy food and drinks that come along with the packaged tours, which can accommodate up to 30 people.
When the night falls and it’s the weekend, you can smell the traffic – be sure to follow it. As in every city in the world, there is always a street with the most pulsating night spots in that locality. And in Durban, it’s Florida Road.
Pimped out cars with louder music than some of the clubs pace up and down the street, slowly enough so you can see and recognize who is in them. The club Havana is almost always packed, but there are good DJs in other clubs too.
It is a relief to see policemen there to make sure there’s no trouble as the fun spills out onto the pavements. Dress to impress, because nearly everybody looks good.