Today’s stop: Durban. Before hitting South Africa, everyone has gotten the same disclaimer on a letter delivered to our cabins, in the daily announcements, and in the printed program for each day: South Africa is dangerous, don’t carry a lot of money or valuables with you, don’t advertise the fact that you’re a tourist.
That’s fine, except that we’re coming into port in what is essentially a floating city, coming into town via enormous tour buses, and most of us are white people who speak only English. There’s no way we don’t look like tourists.
They dropped us off at a place that’s very familiar to me: the local equivalent of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s an arcade of tiny tourist shops and restaurants between the street and the beach. We walked around, we bought a few things, it was fine.
Then we decided to leave the area in search of a pharmacy for a few things we needed. There was supposed to be a pharmacy about 3 blocks away, but we got there and the building was vacant. At that point, we’d gotten enough attention from people in the street that I figured we’d be safer back at the boardwalk. To me, there is no feeling of vulnerability like being lost in a place where I don’t speak the language.
To be fair, every single person we spoke to was friendly and helpful, which has been our experience wherever we’ve gone. Even people who aren’t service workers or taxi drivers or anyone else in the tourist trade, they smile if I smile, and they say hello on the street. There’s never been anyone I could point to and say “That person looks really sketchy – avoid them.”