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

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - CHATROOM -

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.

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