Durban - There’s something beguiling about standing on the balcony of a room overlooking the Indian Ocean. The sun’s been down for hours, and spread before you the incessant hiss and roar of the ocean – the sound, not unpleasant, but rather primal and even feral at times, that accompanies your days on a seaside holiday.
The sea is a vast blackness before you and the air is thick with salt, and it’s sultry there on the 14th floor of your room. The air so thick, you can taste it, and, in fact, you can feel it as you walk on the tiled floors, a sticky salty coating that never quite goes away, no matter how often the floors are cleaned.
It doesn’t bother you though – a sense of stillness and languor invades your senses when you’ve left the rat race of ordinary life behind. Clothes that don’t dry in the salty air and the gritty floors are all part of it. As is idle talk of moving to the coast – actually this is just about obligatory when you’re away and imagining a life somewhere else, as you do when you step out of your comfort zone and shuck off the cares of the working world.
In the morning you’re greeted by the great blinding orb of the sun rising fat and yellow over the ocean – so vast it feels as if an alien planet is coming closer, about to invade Earth. Open the windows of the bedroom, and there it is, that satisfying uproarious ebb and flow of the water, pulling, pushing, as constant and ceaseless as a heartbeat.
As you wake with the day, the ships and tankers start streaming out of Durban harbour… they too, like the pounding of the sea, become another kind of soundtrack to your days. You watch, lose yourself, daydreaming, wondering what cargo they are bringing to Africa, wonder what they are taking back to other countries as they move across the waters. What men, and women, are on those vessels, where do they come from as they wait out their working days? No luxury cruise liners these, but working vessels.
As the day goes on, you move down to the beach, to the lunch spots. The air is still, thick, languid. Time moves more slowly here, at the coast, and sometimes you struggle to leave your Jozi self behind. Service isn’t instant, and people have all the time in the world, as indeed, do you, when you relax, breathe, loosen your shoulders, realise sometimes there’s a beauty in staring out the ocean, so endless that it is hard to comprehend at times, a loop of infinity. You talk to your dining companion, sound trails into the sultry air, and you dip chips into the shocking almost fake red of the tomato sauce as you plot the rest of your day.
In the afternoon, you sit on your balcony again and watch the panorama of ocean, green manicured lawns. The Cabana resort is themed Spanish style, aimed at reflecting the Mediterranean with its curving, white facade. The palms wave in the breeze. Women dressed in scarves and hijab cross the lawns on their way to their lives.
In the rooms surrounding yours you take surreptitious looks at the other guests. A paunchy, elderly man reads his paper in his shorts; on one balcony three middle-aged people play good old-fashioned cards; on another you see the ubiquitous flicker of a blue TV screen. Again your mind wanders, reflecting on other lives, other peoples’ dreams and disillusions – for you have time, now, when away, to engage in such activities, letting your mind drift on the tides of fantasy.
Before nightfall, it’s time for a walk along the promenade that edges the beachfront at uMhlanga. The walkway is thronged – residents of this magical seaside place are walking their dogs, and so you assume they live here because few people go away with their animals. Lovers walk by, hands entwined, friends go past chatting about work and romantic affairs. You stare at the hotels and resorts flanking the walkway, overlooking that hypnotic sea. You make your way to the pier as the lights grows grey and misty; the sea churns beneath the pier, with its distinctive Zulu-style spears soaring into the sky.
You eat supper with your companion, sharing curry-hot pies bought at a bakery in Durban. Time’s slowed.
Later in the week you meet a friend for breakfast. You’re staying at another place now and talk longingly of the days at the Cabana, and she smiles with a far-away look in her eyes, and remarks that she spent her honeymoon there, over 20 years ago, and the sweet memories remain.
Before you leave, you spend a day at the beach. For the first time in forever you twirl in the ocean, letting it spin you around and around. There’s nothing now, but this moment, captured in the blurry pixels of a cellphone camera, a time when nothing exists, but the present.
And somehow, you’ve finally arrived.
If You Go...
Rates at Cabana Beach Resort range from R1 200 per room per night to R1 800 per room per night, dependent on season or time of year.
The resort has two tennis courts, fully equipped gymnasium with an aerobics and a weights section and male and female steam rooms, two squash courts, laundrette, shops, beauty salon, two swimming pools (family and adults only), lounge with coffee/light meals and three restaurants. An entertainment programme runs 365 days of the year for adults and children, from poolside board games to organised beach activities.
There are acres of tropical gardens and a braai area adjacent to indigenous forest.
Two of us stayed in a six-sleeper room – master bedroom, two twin beds in another room and a couch that folds out – with bathroom, shower and another toilet. The kitchenette was more than adequate for our needs. The lounge is spacious with a six-seater dining room table and flat screen TV.
Recently re-furbished, the flat felt light, airy and was simplicity itself in its neutral fittings and decor. They are serviced daily and also have airconditioning.
Restaurants at the resort include:
The Lighthouse Café,
Dulcé Continental Café. The restaurants also deliver to the units. Of course, there are also numerous other restaurants along the beachfront and in uMhlanga itself.
Tel: 031 561 2371. Website: www.tsogosunhotels.com/resorts/cabana-beach.
uMhlanga Tourism: www.umhlangatourism.co.za/
lArja Salafranca was a guest of Cabana Beach Resort, part of Tsogo Sun group - Sunday Independent