We are driving into Esikhaleni, a township near Richards Bay, when we spot a colourful patch of land filled with lots of activity.
Here stands a buzzing Saturday market that gets the whole town walking among its small vendor stalls, stocking up on fruit and vegetables, fish or adding some clothes to the wardrobe. We get out of the our taxi to explore this gem.
Known as the Complex, the market is a huge drawcard for travellers who want to get a slice of Africa when visiting northern KwaZulu-Natal. The fruit and vegetable stalls display a choice of healthy items ranging from sweet potatoes to bananas and oranges.
Nearby is a Zulu art vendor selling some beaded artwork and clothing. A man by the name of Oja Dav showcases his linguistic skills by speaking Hindi and Nepali. He travels as far as India and Nepal to buy traditional wear for his stall. He uses his linguistic skills to attract customers to his stall.
The fish market is only a few metres away, with woman placing their selection of fish – brim, catfish and grunter – on small tables covered with newspapers. The women go to Cwebeni to catch fresh fish.
There are some stall-holders who cook the fish for peckish market-goers. The market bustles with activity as women have their nails done in little gazebos while the men sample fresh corn cooked on an outside fire. Esikhaleni is a township worth visiting.
And if you’re worried about safety, the police have your back. According to Hlengiwe Ntanzi, tour organisers partner with police to ensure the safety of tourists. Ntanzi, who owns a tavern, said Esikhaleni was a unique offering that all people should experience. “There are great stories about our township waiting to be told. Tours take an hour, followed by a shisa nyama at a local spot.
“On the journey, travellers get to see and hear about our heroes, the monuments and stories that make this place special,” she said. Formerly a rice plantation, the township came into existence in the early 1970s, with the first house being built in 1975. Ntanzi talks about Cubhu Lake.
There are stories about Shembe church followers who stopped a crocodile from eating someone at the lake. She said their faith was so strong that they demanded that the crocodile should not harm the person, and it obeyed.
Esikhaleni Beach is a fun-day outing and shisa nyama joints are popular among the visitors. Dumile’s Busy Corner, one of the newer ones, opened in April. Owner Dumile Chonco quit as a nurse and started by selling fries and wors.
Her signature dishes include Zulu chicken, jeqe, spinach and ox head. A visit can be done in a day, but a sleepover at one of the B&Bs is recommended.