Johannesburg has invaded Cape Town. High heels and designer brands attached to a Jo’burg accent are easily distinguishable among the Capetonian trendy flats and plaid. Cape Town and Durban are often the annual holiday destinations of preference among Jo’burg professionals. In the spirit of Jo’burg’s holiday traveling traditions, another Connect-123 intern and I decided to get out of Cape Town and explore other parts of the country and the continent. In eleven days we were able to briefly explore a new South African city and two new countries. Leaving from the Durban port, Rachel and I went on a Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) cruise to Madagascar and Mozambique.
The trip was not funded by Lumos, and while it was a good price for what we were able to do, I still hesitated on spending money on extravagant travels. In the end I obviously still went on the trip, but as my friend Jennifer advised, I decided to approach the trip with the goal to share these parts of the world with others while being mindful of how I spend money and participate in new cultures.
To experience different parts of Durban city center, Rachel and I stayed in two parts of the city. Before we embarked on the cruise, we spent two nights at Gibela Backpackers Lodge located near Florida Street. This was a lucky guess since we ended up in a neighborhood with several shops and restaurants to explore. Also, Durban has the highest population of Indians outside of India, so we made sure to capitalize on the delicious Indian curries found around town.
Apart from the curry, Durban is also famous for the Victoria Street Market, which offers a fusion of African and Indian goods. We found the market to sell more touristy merchandise than authentic good, so that was a slight disappointment. However, the experience was well worth it. In Cape Town, the colonial Dutch and British influences are strong and can sometimes overtake the African culture. Durban is far less westernized and the area surrounding the Victoria Street Market made me feel like I was in a completely different country than Cape Town.
With scrumptious seafood in our bellies, Rachel and I set off on a six day MSC cruise stopping in Anakoa, Madagascar and Portuguese Island, Mozambique. We soon discovered that our cruise companions were a diverse range of nationalities, races, and ages. Also, we did not hear any other American accents the entire time. Since the cruise was over Christmas, there were many families on board, along with endless Christmas music, and ridiculous Christmas outfits worn by the staff while they paraded and hosted a Christmas countdown that was about 10 minutes before midnight.
We were able to engage with two South Africans for the majority of the time through our dining assignments. We were seated at a table with a South African young couple from Pretoria. Fia and Kobus were lovely dining companions and joined us for several events and excursions. We found their company especially entertaining since we don’t usually have the chance to interact with white Afrikaners, so it was interesting to hear their perspectives about domestic and international current affairs.
To manage the 2,000 passengers while at sea, MSC sponsored voluntary organized group activities for a majority of the time. Most of these activities were wildly cheesy, giving Rachel and me ample entertainment to look upon. To highlight the ridiculous events, you must first look to Arrested Development as a reference. If you haven’t watched the show, quickly acquaint yourself with Arrested Development Job, the Alliance certified Magician. MSC hosted a magic show with an Italian magician that not only looked like Job, but actually had similar mannerisms as well. It was magical.
Also, my love for karaoke was fulfilled through the show, “MSC Stars” (aka American Idol). In the theater, Rachel and I looked on with Fia and Kobus as we watched some lovely and terrible musical performances. We heard songs from the musical styles of Celine Dion, Miley Cyrus, and Duffy. Hilarious.
Along with cheesy magicians and horrible karaoke, I would also say that I am drawn to most choreography. However, MSC’s group dance of “Wavin’ Flag” was too horrendous to participate in. Instead, I looked on and took pictures of the dreadful dance numbers. Enjoy:
Our first stop was in a small fishing village of Anakoa, Madagascar.
A couple days later we arrived to Portuguese Island. Mozambique.
Finally, our return to Durban hit a slight rough patch. We had to disembark fairly early, leaving us with about five hours until we could check into our next location, the Happy Hippo Backpackers. We found our location to be lucky again since the lodging was situated in the nicer part of the Golden Mile (Durban’s famous strip of beaches and casinos). Rachel and I walked to Ushaka Marine World to find the closest coffee shop to read in while we waited to check into our room. Our priority was to find air conditioning to evade the humid Durban weather. The early time left us with KFC as our best option. My low point hit when Celine Dion came on the radio as I was reading The Book Thief (which has a terrible beginning and should never be read after J.R. R. Tolkien). Just when Celine ended, a massive parade filled the streets, rendering any attempts of reading fruitless.
However, I was cheered up while watching a life size game of chess that resembled Wizard’s Chess in Harry Potter. After getting some rest, Rachel and I were able to mostly enjoy the beach, more curry and Ushaka Marine World before heading back to Cape Town.