A WARM WELCOME: DURBAN
DAY 84 - 05 APRIL 2023 (SHIP'S date)
Under way fron Durban to Gqeberha (ex: Port Elizabeth)
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting from Queen Mary 2
In the Port of Durban, South Africa
Durban, known as Durbs, is the third most populous city in South Africa after Johannesburg and Cape Town and the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal. With a population of 3.44million, this makes for one of the largest cities on the Indian Ocean coast of the African continent. Durban was formerly named Port Natal due to its position as the seaport of South Africa.
Durban is a highly ethnically diverse city, with large Zulu, white and Indian/Asian populations. Durban covers nine provinces and eleven languages are spoken. King MisuZulu leads the Zulu nation since the previous ruler, his father, passed away after 58 years as the head of the tribes.
On the quayside, as QM2 tied up for our one-day visit to Durban, local dancers in traditional costume, chanted and beat drums to welcome us. As we boarded coaches for a day of shore excursions, we were treated to a V.I.P. visit from the Mayor. The arrival of a world-famous ocean liner made the local news and the high-energy welcome we received was an important sign that here in South Africa, the return of tourists to the country post-pandemic, is a huge boost to the economy.
One hour’s drive from the port, a recreated Zulu village situated in the Valley of a Thousand Hills offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Lush greenery and imposing trees stretch endlessly towards the mountain ranges beyond.
The South African sky appears higher and bluer than any other place on earth. There is a stillness in the air and the pace of life feels unhurried and timeless. Zulu drums, heard in these valleys for centuries still beat across the wide open spaces. Modern and olden day African tribal cultures co-exist in this traditional homeland of the Zulus.
Our destination, Phezulu village, offers a tantalising insight to one aspect of South Africa. Our guide, Pilar, is proud to introduce us to the dancers and singers of a team of performers who tell the history of their people and preserve the ancient traditions. A circular wooden beamed auditorium has concrete seats for the audience and the canopied roof provides shade from the fierce African sun.
Opposite, a second smaller half-shell of a stage contains the powerful beating drums and provides entry and exit points for the dancers. The dancers wear traditional costume with fur arm bands and leggings and animal skin cover ups with feathered head gear. They carry shields and plumed sticks.
The ladies are dressed in bright pleated skirts though topless is still a feature of traditional ceremonies. Each tribe has a cultural healer and the gift and position are handed down through generations to the next of kin whether man or women. That person must walk with lions to prove their worthiness.
The cultural doctor at Phezulu Village is an imposing female figure, draped in colourful beads wearing shell shoes, a brightly coloured cape and a hat which chases away bad spirits. Accompanied by energetic drumming, her appearance invokes the spirit of the ceremony and she dances frantically whipping up a storm of powerful energy.
The dances tell the story of a love affair – a young man proposes to a girl he fell in love with as he watched her at the riverbank. She wears a colour combination of beads which show she is not married or engaged, is a virgin and is willing to be propositioned. She gives the young man a set of beads, he gives her a Zulu love letter.
Having made his intentions known, he consults the cultural doctor who uses animal bones to read the future. He approaches the girl’s father asking for her hand in marriage. If the answer is “yes” he will have to pay eleven cows for the woman.
The wedding feast lasts three days and family and neighbours far and wide are welcome to attend. Zulu men can have as many wives as they can afford – paying eleven cows for each one.
Every year the Zulu King holds a three-day ceremony at his Palace to which all eligible young girls are invited, they hope to catch the King’s eye and become one of his official wives and live permanently in the Palace.
Phezulu Village is home to a farm full of crocodiles. Amidst acres and acres of countryside, in open compounds dozens of them laze in the sun until the heat forces them to lift their lumbering bodies and slip silently into water-filled lagoons. There are crocodiles of every age here, from babies to a 100-year-old creature called Randy. Crocodiles can live up to 150 years. They lay up to 40-60 eggs in a breeding season but only about 20% will survive. In the wild, the number of survivors is about 2%.
At this farm, the crocodiles are not harvested or sent away to be made into super-expensive designer handbags. They are used for breeding and stocking zoos and aquatic centres. The young ranger who showed us around the compounds confirmed a fascinating piece of information about crocodiles. “They have no sense of humour and do not indulge in any recreational or companionable activities. Breathing and eating is about all their ungainly over- weight bodies can manage. “
On the farm, there is a Reptile House. Nothing cuddly about most of these specimens, though staff claim that the snakes have silky, soft skin and are people-friendly. Seems they only attack if they think you are about to attack, or step on them. I’ll take their word for it. I have no intention of snuggling up to a cobra, viper, bearded dragon, puff adder or a legendary black mamba. I’d rather pet a crocodile.
Back on the coach ready to return to the QM2, Pilar, our guide, addresses the passengers. “Gentlemen and ladies, welcome back from your visit to the animals. You remember I always say, Gentlemen and ladies, because in Zulu society, the man is head of the family.”
We drive back to the port through farmland and fields which flourish in South Africa’s mineral rich soil. Agriculture is an enduring foundation of the economy and for home consumption and export, fruit crops and sugar cane grow profusely. South African produce is bigger, brighter more colourful and enjoys a first class reputation all over the world.
Everything about this beautiful country appears in technicolour. A first visit to South Africa delivers a surreal experience. South Africa is often referred to as “God’s own country”. It is hard to dispute – I look forward to the rest of our SA adventure.
Happy Sailing... Ellen
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Back on board our Mother ship enroute to our next port of call...Gqeberha (ex: Port Elizabeth)
Current position of Queen Mary 2: Under way from Durban to Gqeberha (ex: Port Elizabeth)
Departure was 1 d 19 hrs 13 min ago. (at 19:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 10 hrs 13 min. (at 04:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Durban: 201.73 nm (373.60 km)
Remaining distance to Gqeberha (ex: Port Elizabeth): 185.96 nm (344.40 km)
Traveled distance since Fremantle (Perth): 5,006.50 nm (9,272.04 km)
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.