Durban's wave of wonders
When an opportunity popped up to go to my home city, Durban, for a weekend at the end of last month, I couldn't help but feel it was a tad ill-timed.
First, the Champions League T20 semifinal between the Delhi Daredevils and the Highveld Lions at Kingsmead Cricket ground was a day before my arrival.
Second, the dull weather had failed to abate, and lastly, I'd given up on getting tickets to the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province.
So, really, I had no reason to take up the offer to spend my weekend down there. But I did - and I came to understand how I had taken being a Durbanite for granted.
Once I'd unpacked, I realised how much there was to do if I allowed myself to be a tourist.
I marvelled at how the golden mile, which encompasses both north and south beach, stretching from uShaka Marine World and past Sun Coast Casino, was looking better than I remembered.
It was a delight to see the place buzzing with joggers, senior citizens taking their poodles for a stroll, and school-goers taking advantage of the skate park, right next to Mini Town, a miniature town for children. Not too much has been added to this waterfront but it took my moving to Johannesburg for work to truly appreciate the little things about my city.
Suddenly, I felt like an eThekwini ambassador, feeling the need to promote every minute detail of Durban's worth and beauty to some new friends made on the trip. But when I cycled for 5km along the beachfront promenade, which is being given a much-needed facelift (believe me, that blue flag rating being taken away from Durban did more good than bad), I was left with a bittersweet taste in my mouth.
A number of restaurant buildings were vacant - the city and the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa are at loggerheads over occupancy there.
There were beautiful sand sculptures on the shore as well as some surfers, who seemed to to have missed the high tide. Strangely, there were very few fishermen on the pier.
Back at the Southern Sun North Beach Hotel, the excitement for Saturday afternoon's Currie Cup clash was high. A few young women dressed in Western Province rugby apparel milled around the foyer. Their team was also staying there.
At dinner, for the sake of being a tourist, I resolved to try sushi and prawns. I might as well tick these off on my bucket list because I don't intend eating them again.
I thought a trip to popular shisa nyama chill spot Max's in Umlazi would be more enjoyable - it was. Save for a few loyal patrons, the place was quiet. It wasn't freezing, but Durbanites struggle once the mercury drops under 20C.
Once I'd indulged in some pap and vleis, we drove back to get a good seat at the hotel pub ahead of the rugby.
It was packed with curious members of the Namibian golf team, who were there for the World Youth Golf Championship, and I spotted former Cobras cricket coach Shukri Conrad barking at the TV. We all know the result - and I thought the Sharks' loss would have plunged everybody into depression. Nope.
The Suncoast Casino was teeming with people, and I decided to try my hand at gambling (with just R100 in hand). I don't care much for gambling, but to say I wasn't drawn by the adrenaline of flashing lights and eager gamblers clapping every time they won a bit of cash would be a lie. I pressed random buttons on an odd machine, and I swear I chased the guy next to me away, because I kept asking him what every little thing meant.
To cut a long story short, I left with R99.50.
Ndlovu was a guest of Tsogo Sun
SOUTHERN SUN NORTH BEACH
Rates: Non-peak: R675 per person sharing per night, including breakfast
Peak season: R875 per person sharing per night, including breakfast
Contact details: 031-332-7361 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org