Indaba: a festival of tourism
I’ve been attending the South African Tourism Indaba – a festival conference highlighting our leisure assets – for more than a decade in search of my annual shot of Mzansi optimism.
And if you’re looking for a refill of that half-full glass, there’s no finer well to drink from than the gathering of people who promote travel throughout southern Africa.
Game lodge owners with brochures printed and digital rub shoulders with tour operators. Hotel marketers and route promoters meet with travel agents and plot out the Next Best Thing in overland journeys. Adventure travel enthusiasts sit down with owners of exotic beachside dive spots and share figures. Mostly, all of the above deal in weapons-grade enthusiasm, a force so mighty it will take the wind out of the Grinchiest Grinch.
So, coming from the Karoo, it’s kinda nice to put on the smart shorts and floral shirt for a change and experience Durban’s beachfront. I don’t know if I’m just being a country hick or if my memories of the USA are fading, but Durban by the sea looks more like a dream version of South Beach, Miami, every year.
I stayed in a friend’s beachfront apartment near the Mini Town complex, drank good coffee at a sidewalk cafe, took long walks almost all the way to Moyo’s on the other side of the bay and spent some time watching the skateboarders twirling in the air while the policemen whirred by on mono-scooters straight from the movie Blade Runner.
Durban might have the Florida look at beachside, but a couple of blocks’ walk to the hinter-city and you’re in deep African trade land where Indians and Zulus offer many wild and wonderful goodies from their stalls near the old Station building.
One day during Indaba I ducked out to visit this precinct and was almost immediately buttonholed by the shop manager who wanted to know where I came from.
“Cradock, in the Eastern Cape,” I replied.
“Oh.” Said he, “I’ve just been reading about your town in the Sunday Tribune travel pages.” And then he whipped out the paper and showed me a big spread on Market Street, Cradock. And I was suddenly that homesick bloke again...
NB: It's always good to have a guide with you when you walk through the inner city precinct in any country. You get more out of the experience and it's safer. Contact Durban Experience for tour info.