Between a rock and a warm place
With World Cup fever spreading throughout the globe, Scott Podmore connects online with Durban’s Meredith Wright to find out about the city hosting Australia’s first game
Hi Meredith, thanks for joining us in the Escape Chatroom. Tell us a little bit about your background and where you’re from.
I was born in Durban, where I grew up and still live. I’m a medical representative for a company called Pharmaplan.
Tell us what makes your hometown special to you.
Of all the places in South Africa, Durban has the best weather and the warmest seas. The beaches are always full of surfers and bodyboarders. You can travel inland for an hour or two and you get the Drakensberg ( highest mountain range in South Africa). It’s beautiful and there are lots of outdoor things to do.
Tell us a bit about the hype over there with the World Cup kicking off this week. Is the place pumping?
Everyone is being so patriotic. It’s fantastic. The city’s gone to great lengths to upgrade the tourist attractions to be as attractive as possible. The whole beachfront was ripped up and redone. They’ve upgraded highways to prevent traffic problems, which is nice for us in the long term, too. People have arrived from everywhere and it’s so great to have them here. It’s really beautiful here, so it’s nice that the world has an interest and opportunity to visit.
In your opinion and as a local, are there any overrated tourism attractions that travellers from Australia would be better to avoid?
Not really. If people like eating out, they’ll be spoilt for choice. We have such great cultures so the variety of food is vast. Most people from Durban know where the good spots are for activities, so tourists just need to ask.
Cool, so what are the great places we should check out?
Gateway is the longest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere, over 1km long. It has great shops and restaurants. The Midlands Meander is great, too – you can Google that. The beachfronts are beautiful, especially now with their recent makeovers. Ushaka is lovely – it’s a theme park and sea world with great restaurants. The Drakensberg may be a little far off, but definitely worth a visit if you have time. There are lovely golf courses and the whole of the coast is lovely, too. It’s a great day trip.
Tell us about the safety factor over there in South Africa. Is it still as dangerous for tourists, and indeed locals, as it has been in the past?
Safety is an issue but they’ve really done everything to clamp down on crime, which seems to have worked. Hijackings have decreased by 60 per cent. People just need to be aware of their surroundings – don’t venture down dark alleyways etc. Also make sure someone knows where you are, where you’ll be going and when they can expect you back. Don’t flash valuables around, don’t drive with windows down. Don’t talk to strangers. It’s all pretty logical, but will keep you out of harm’s way. I have not had anything happen to me, but the policy is ‘‘ better to be safe than sorry’’.
Great advice. Where in South Africa do you like to travel?
I travel on business mainly. I go to Cape Town and Johannesburg. In my humble opinion, Durban is the best.
What cultural experiences over there do you think a visitor must experience?
Indian food – we’ve got the best curries in Durban. Traditional Zulu food is a little hard to find but there’s a chain of restaurants called Moyo that’s fantastic. Primi is awesome, too. If tourists stick to local food instead of fast food, they won’t be disappointed. The selection is vast.
Have you travelled much yourself and do you plan to travel in the future?
I’ve travelled all over the world. I’ve been to Italy, Rome, Australia ( my father stays there), US and Russia. I’m planning to go to Australia at the end of the year.
Thanks heaps for your time. Enjoy the World Cup and life in Durban.
Thank you, it was nice talking to you.