Monday, September 12, 2016

From elaborate to simple

Well! What a fabulous surprise this morning! I knew we must have been close to the beach, from the sound of breaking waves all night, but to push back the shutters and be presented with a sight like this was literally jaw-dropping.
Mind you, the whole of the Oyster Box Hotel, which is a Durban institution, is like that. As I've said before, Red Carnation doesn't do restrained, and there's decoration everywhere, most of it specifically chosen by owner Bea Tollman - pretty amazing, considering all the other 16 RC properties get the same personal attention and she's not a young woman any more. After being thoroughly overwhelmed by the extensive breakfast choice and weakly having only fruit and pastry (I know! What a waste!) - with also, for form's sake, an eponymous oyster - I toured the hotel from top to bottom, and there was no expense or attention spared anywhere. Even Skabenga, the pampered resident (and, frankly, snootily superior) cat, has had a children's book written about him. The whole place is gorgeous.
It was quite a contrast, to drive from there to, since we had a couple of hours to fill and I've already been to Durban's Waterfront, Ghandi's house at Inanda. What, you didn't associate Ghandi with South Africa? Actually, I'd forgotten, too, but he spent 21 formative years here and it's where he did a lot of thinking, and sharing of the Satyagraha philosophy he developed (with, I was diverted to see, some input from good ol' John Ruskin, a familiar name from Eng I back in the 70s). 
I was impressed by what I saw and read there. The house (a reconstruction: the original ironically burnt down during an apartheid riot) is part of a Heritage Trail that we didn't have time for the rest of. It's also right in the middle of the Phoenix Settlement of ramshackle tin houses and girls doing the washing in plastic tubs beside the road, cheerfully wringing out sheets. Hard work.
Then we drove for several hours to start the personal part of this trip: a private visit with my friend Shelley to the iMfolozi Game Reserve, where we stayed in tents at Mpila. Since the Big Five live in this reserve (everyone who comes here gets told the story about the man who was seized by a leopard when he went to check his braai, and scalped) these tents are obviously substantial affairs with proper floors and roofs, and built above the ground. As we arrived, there was a fountain of soil erupting from underneath one tent, followed by four rapidly exiting warthogs who had clearly been planning to spend the night there too. And later we had an excellent grandstand view of the hyaena that came to investigate if there were any left-overs from our own braai that night. Good start!

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