12 August 2014 by Christine Marot

Take a ride on Durban's rickshaws

When I recently relived a childhood memory by taking a rickshaw ride along the Durban promenade, I had no idea that rickshaws have formed part of the fabric of Durban for well over a century.

Colourfully decorated headdresses are unique to each rickshaw puller. Image Christine Marot

In 1902 there were around 2 000 registered rickshaw pullers who provided Durban’s primary mode of transport around the city centre and harbour.

Sadly, there are only about 20 rickshaws (two-wheeled passenger carts pulled by one person) operating along the Durban beachfront today, but what they lack in numbers, the brightly attired pullers make up for in enthusiasm for their trade and pride in their traditional outfits.

Each rickshaw is decked out in a unique mix-and-match patchwork of primary colours, while the owner wears an impressive headdress of his own creation, adorned with mirrors, feathers, coloured wool and beads.

The ride is usually fairly short, from 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ll pay anything from R30 to R100, depending on the number of passengers and the distance travelled.

Sit back and relax as your rickshaw puller trots along, seemingly effortlessly pulling his load behind him. Every now and then he’ll yodel and tip you backwards, with the rickshaw landing safely on a rear wheel set back from the two large main wheels.

The first time is a little hair-raising, but it becomes a lot more enjoyable as your trip progresses.

Once you reach your destination, usually back at the starting point, request permission to pose with your transporter for photographs. The nominal fee to do so is R10.

Along the rickshaw route you’ll see pockets of local women selling hand-made crafts, beadwork, wooden sculptures, beach towels, sandals and mementos. Buying something from them is a way of giving back to the Zulu community.

Durban is the only place in South Africa you’ll find rickshaws, so don’t pass up an opportunity to take a ride. It’s a great way to see the famous Golden Mile and to participate in an honourable tradition.

The Durban promenade runs between high-rise hotels and the beach. Image South African Tourism The Durban promenade runs between high-rise hotels and the beach. Image South African Tourism

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