Encounters with sharks and lovely people

Durban beach front

Durban beach front

So much has happened in the last days, this is going to be a long entry. The day I left the Umzumbe Surfhouse, I unfortunately couldn’t enjoy a last glance over the lovely green garden with the ocean behind it, as it was still pitch black when we got into the car. Therefore, while driving up to Umkomaas, I got to witness a sunrise and was able to observe the different tribal villages we passed. We reached the dive school by 7am, where I got handed all the gear I needed and after a short briefing, we hopped onto the back of a truck and were transported (including our speed boat) down to the ocean. Making it from the beach past the waves onto the open ocean was an adventure on its own but once that adrenaline rush was over, we could relax a little and try to spot whales (which we did again, far away at the horizon). Right before we rolled backwards into the water, a group of dolphins came to visit us as well. Every time I see dolphins here, it’s at least a group of ten and they are nice to watch. Our dive site was called Raggie’s Cave, since there was a big chance of encountering ragged teeth sharks. Aliwal Shoal is famous because you find the big fish here anyways. So, one of the rules I remembered from the briefing, was: keep at least 5m between you and the sharks and look down before you go down, so that you don’t float right on top of one of them. So, we slowly descended down into the blue. Visibility was great and it was easy to spot fish and the shape of the reef and once we were on the same level as the reef, there it was, our first shark. We kind of wanted to just wait behind a coral and watch him but apparently, he was a curious one and slowly started swimming towards us. I wanted to laugh and scream at the same time because I couldn’t decide between being overly excited and scared but since that wouldn’t have been of much use under water, I just floated there next to my dive buddy with a pounding heart, trying to keep breathing, as to keep breathing is the most important rule of diving, hoping that no sudden current would push us further towards the shark, whose nose was now about one meter from our faces. He then decided that we weren’t that interesting after all and moved away again, while I finally settled on laughing. Then, we could concentrate on the other parts of the beautiful world that surrounded us. We saw some more sharks, a big turtle and lots of colorful fish. Finally, I was in a group of divers who all knew what they were doing and so we could enjoy maximum underwater time. By the end, I was a bit cold and the winter air at the surface didn’t really help to change that. Furthermore, in our small boat, we felt every wave of the choppy water that passed through but in the end, we all managed to keep our breakfast inside and were happy to leave the boat for our second dive, after the necessary surface time. The water actually felt warmer now and so I could fully enjoy the dive again. We saw some more sharks, also a white tipped one, swam through caves, saw a huge grouper and other big fish and some big shrimps and in the end looked for lost shark teeth down in the sand, which were lying around like shells at the beach. So, it was definitely worth it to take a detour and come diving. I even wished that I had planned more days here. Plus, I received lots of good tips for dive sites in Mozambique from the other people in my dive group, so I guess I’ll have to add a dive trip to Africa onto my list.

One of the other couples on my boat had to head back up to Durban as well and offered me a ride but since I had already booked the shuttle and couldn’t cancel it, I spent some more hours close to the beach in Umkomaas and then took the shuttle later in the afternoon. However, Mishan and I stayed in touch and agreed on meeting again later in the evening. Lucky me, because the hostel I had reserved appeared quite sketchy to me, plus they also advised me not to leave the hostel alone after dark and so I would have had to spend the next three nights after 5pm in a place I didn’t like if it wasn’t for Mishan. He came to pick me up later in the evening and yes, then I wasn’t entirely convinced whether this was 100% safe but so far, I’ve always made good experiences with kind strangers and there was nothing odd about him, plus, he already had guests at home (the other girl he was diving with and her boyfriend and so as soon as I saw them again, my last doubt was gone as well). I mean, before couchsurfing and references, people had to go through the world with a little more trust as well and it would probably help if there were more positive stories like that on the news instead of always just he bad ones. But so, the house he lives in is amazing. You don’t really see into the life of a person when you see them in a wetsuit but I certainly did not expect this. I was more than happy to accept when he offered me that I could stay here and therefore could trade the charmless hostel with a hotel like room.

Shark teeth we found on the dive

Shark teeth we found on the dive

During the day, they all had to work and so I went off exploring on my own again. Unfortunately, it rained like in a rainforest all day and so I pretty soon decided to make my way to Gateway Mall. A taxi would have been quite expensive, since they rip the tourists off anyways and so I tried to go there by public transport. Nobody could really tell me how that worked but after asking many people, I finally figured out that I had to get to the taxi stand, from where I could catch a minibus taxi. I didn’t really know how to get to the taxi stand but from what I had seen, you just wait alongside the road and the buses pull over and take you into the direction they are driving. After only a minute, a bus drove up to a traffic light, where he had to stop and since they are driving with open doors, I could easily ask, whether they were going to where I needed to go. The boy at the door nodded and I hopped on and was sitting in a bus full of black people. From there, it was no problem to find the right minibus to get to the mall but again I was the only white person on the bus.

Gateway is huge. I spent the whole day there and still hadn’t seen all the floors. But I did spend two hours at the cinema, when I went to watch Jurassic World in the IMAX theater. That was awesome and brought back some childhood memories and also felt somewhat familiar to my shark encounter :). In the evening, I met up with Mishan again and we went to a big family pre wedding dinner of his brother. Would I ever have dreamed of this two days ago? Nope. But I was so glad it worked all out like this and I got to meet this lovely family.

The next day, the sun was out again and I enjoyed a beautiful morning stroll along the beach promenade. Then, the next amazing thing happened. I was just thinking whether I should sit down and have a coffee somewhere, so I looked at one of the cafés and therefore remarked the only couple that was sitting outside. I thought, hm, that guy looks familiar and when I looked at the woman, a bell rang and at the same moment they recognized me, too. It was the people who were at the Surfhouse the first few days I was there. They were also really nice and I had been a bit sad to see them leave but now we got the chance to catch up again and not neglect exchanging our details this time.

Gateway Mall

Gateway Mall

Later, I made my way back to the mall. Now, finding my way around with the buses already worked flawlessly, so it’s kind of a pity that I am already leaving Durban, just as I get a little feel for the city. I wanted to go to the Virgin Active Gym, as one of the people there yesterday offered me a free trial day. Since it was too windy to swim in the ocean, I thought I’d go and use the pool there and maybe attend a class. They have everything in the gym!!! Even a sauna and curling irons next to the hair driers. But first I ate lunch and connected to wifi and that’s when my day took a turn for the worse. I wanted to check again, when my flight in Victoria Falls would arrive, so that I could tell Michèle what time we could meet. That’s when I noticed an e-mail from my ticket agency, that the airline had changed the time of my flight. At first I thought it was only a few hours, which would have been ok, but then I saw with fear that it was over a whole day. This would be too late for my safari. I tried to get in touch with them, which was a problem without a payphone and the number they wrote me obviously only working from inside Switzerland. Thank God that Michèle was reachable on Whatsapp and then tried to get me out of this mess (since I neither had more than 30min of internet nor enough battery on my phone to keep on searching for options). So, I just had to have faith. I tried to not be too stressed anymore and have a nice last evening in Durban. Then hugged Mishan and his family goodbye the next morning to board my bus to Johannesburg. Of course there was no wifi there either and not always cell reception along the way, so I still didn’t know how it looked like with my flight. Michèle told me that she’d write me a text message when she knew what was going on.

In the end, Michele managed to cancel the flight and hopefully, I’ll get my money back. But, I really felt like in the Amazing Race afterwards, when I went to buy a plane ticket directly at the British Airways counter.

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One thought on “Encounters with sharks and lovely people

  1. Shit happens, but if everything turns out well even about such moments you can laugh afterwards and they are ready for a good story anyways.

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