Friday, October 31, 2008

Swaziland to Durban

2008-10-30 - Swaziland to St. Lucia

Most of our departures are early morning, but this morning we leave our Swazi hotels at 8am. First stop is a candle factory in the town of Manzini in Swaziland. It takes us until noon to get to the border point at Golela. We wait just a few minutes to obtain our departure stamp from Swaziland, but wait for a half an hour in the hot sun to clear South African immigration. We are on the road most of the day, arriving at the Protea Hotel in St. Lucia at 4pm. This whole area is under water restrictions. The municipality shuts off the water at 9pm and doesn't turn it back on until 5am. They also turn the water off midday from 10am-3pm. Pretty severe!

We take the St. Lucia Estuary Boat Cruise at 5pm, which cruises up the estuary showing us some of the wildlife along the shores: African Fish Eagle, Goliath Heron, and I get some nice close-ups of hippopotamus. This is one of South Africa’s World Heritage sites…we will see another tomorrow (the Drakensberg Mountains).

I went to Alfredo's Italian restaurant for dinner, which is located across the street from the Protea Hotel in St. Lucia. This is a family run restaurant with very reasonable prices. I order the Seafood Misto (prawns, line fish & calamari strips) priced at 112 Rand (about CD$14). I have an Italian salad starter and a glass of red wine, and the whole meal costs about CD$20.00. This same meal in Canada would easily cost double, and perhaps triple the rate. This is the best seafood I've had in a long time. The d├ęcor is drab, but overall I highly recommend this restaurant because of the excellent food and good service.

2008-10-31 - St. Lucia to Durban

I was a bit disappointed with our early morning safari to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, however we did see Black rhinoceros (grass feeders, longer horns) and White rhinoceros (leaf browsers, shorter horns), as well as an elephant, lions, zebras, and giraffes. This game park is quite lush, which is in contrast to the dry conditions we found in Kruger National Park. Both parks are fenced, since they border developed areas of South Africa. [I will post video of the rhinos when I return home and have greater bandwidth to work with.]

We stopped at the Gateway Mall north of Durban. It is one of those supersized destination malls, has 4 levels, and obviously appeals to the very affluent customers in the area. Next stop is Durban's Botanical Garden, where I had some nice tea and a scone at the tea house, and viewed some spectacular orchids. We are staying at the Tropicana Hotel right on the beach downtown. The hotel is nothing special, but it's clean. Craig cautions us to not walk the beach due to a "bad element" in the area, which I confirmed from observing the action from my hotel window later in the evening. Too bad, but Craig promises us some opportunities to go to the beaches along the Indian Ocean from the resorts we will be staying in over the next few days.

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