Day 9: Leaving the ‘Berg

The sunrise from Twins Cave was impressive—pink-hued light lit up the escarpment wall to begin the day. I packed up quickly and began to descend, slightly concerned about making an 11am shuttle that would take me back to Durban. (Actually, I was concerned with making the shuttle after a shower, which I desperately needed.) The descent was much easier than the ascent—they should think about installing a chair lift.

I was reluctant to leave the ‘Berg for Durban, where I knew I’d return to hot and humid weather, brown smog, and thoughtless sprawl—the standards of city life, especially in South Africa it seems. However, there was an incentive for getting back: I had tickets to the Cheetahs-Sharks provincial rugby game, which in South Africa is essentially like having tickets for church. Even at Cathedral Peak, 3 hours away, I sensed excitement among the hotel staff about the game.

 If not for the time constraints, I would have walked out of the Umlambonja Valley, meeting and photographing locals along the way. I did stop the driver once in order to get a photo of a teenage girl carrying a 6-gallon bucket of water down the road on her head. She smiled for the photo and then in accent-less English said to me, “Okay, now give me money.”

For the unacquainted, rugby is like a combination of football and soccer: players use their hands and run with the ball, and they make backward and lateral passes; the goal is the width of the field and there are post-goal point opportunities if a player can kick it between the uprights; the play never stops until there is a score or the enlarged football goes out-of-bounds; plays often involve the whole team, not just the quarterback and a receiver/running back; and the players don’t wear helmets, padding, or maybe even cups—these guys are tough!

Watching a rugby game is highly recommended if you have the opportunity. The atmosphere is awesome and the game is very exciting—it’s non-stop action and there are some big hits. After long plays the field looked like a yard sale, with at least two or three injured players sprawled out across it. They would lay there for a minute, gather their composure, stand up and rattle their head, and run back towards the action.

Posted in on May 10, 2008

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