South Africa. Childhood holiday destination. Went to university there. Home for a short period. Now it’s a holiday destinations to see family and friends.
South Africa is big. You could spend a lifetime without leaving and still not see it all. From city getaways to game parks and the big 5. See whales in the Cape or enjoy the coast of kwaZulu Natal, there is something for everybody.
Travelling to South Africa
Oliver Tambo airport in Johannesburg is a major regional hub. Fly on to other destinations, or drive from there to your choice of holiday destination. There is a growing number of flights which will take you to destinations such as Cape Town or Durban.
What to do in South Africa
The question is what would you like to do? Sit on a beach and just enjoy the surf? Go and see some wildlife in a game park? Investigate the wine lands near Cape Town? And much much more.
One thing that has to be a part of any trip to Durban is a Bunny Chow. But Durban is far away, so I had to make one at home. There is something really delicious and comforting about a serving of good curry in a hollowed out loaf of bread with the gravy soaked into the bread! That’s my latest attempt above. A lamb curry garnished simply with coriander leaves. A bunny chow is, of course, eaten with fingers, using the bread.
History of the Bunny Chow
The bunny chow appears to have originated in Durban in the 1940’s, though there are different stories about how it came to be. One way or another Durban, and for that matter a good part of kwaZulu-Natal, has a large population of Indian descent. Durban is known for its curries.
The bunny chow is basically a curry in bread, with the bread used as a bowl. Originally the curry would have been vegetable, but over the years mutton and chicken have become common. I have also eaten beef curry in a bunny. And, of course, it is unusual to find a mutton curry in the UK, so lamb it is!
Typically it comes, in Durban, as a “full” (i.e. 800g loaf), “half” (half an 800g loaf) or a “quarter” (typically half a small, or 400g loaf). The middle of the bread is carefully removed as a single piece, leaving the crust as the bowl. The crust is filled with curry, and the bread removed from the middle used to top the filling. Sambals can be added as necessary.
Bunny Chow in the UK and Making Your Own
There are a number of places in the UK advertising bunny chow in various forms, though I have only once sampled a local version, from a South African kiosk in Camden Market in London. I have heard that it is popular in some places, with pubs offering it on one day a week, then two, then all week.
If you are making your own bunny chow, there are two parts to remember:
Bread which can form a bowl;
Curry which has plenty of rich gravy. It can be meat or veg.
Personally I prefer to make the curry to fill the bread, but you can buy the curry from your local Indian takeaway. The do look at you sideways if you don’t order rice or naan, though.
Simply remove the centre of the bread, fill the crust with your chosen curry, and enjoy!
A Google search brought up a few UK based bunny chow restaurants. Not surprising as there are a few South Africans around:
The Saffa influence is clearly here in England. The boerewors in the picture was sourced from our local butcher in England. And good ‘wors it was too. I’m told that his first 20kg production of boerewors sold out in 2 hours, based solely on word of mouth and facebook!
In fact, the sun dared to come out on a Sunday afternoon in late January. Winter or not, we lit the fire and cooked up a sample of the sausage. Great way to spend a Sunday.
If you have visited South Africa, or been to a South African braai (barbecue, but no hamburger allowed 🙂 ) you may have eaten boerewors. If not, it was almost certainly offered. It is commonly eaten in the Southern African region, largely in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and also common in Botswana and Namibia. As people have migrated from those regions they have taken their favourite recipes with them, so it is available in many parts of the world where you will find South Africans. In fact the name comes from the afrikaans “boer”(farmer) and “wors”(sausage).
Boerewors is made primarily of beef, often with pork or lamb, sometimes with a mixture of both, with a mixture of spices. Each boerewors maker has his/her own preferred mix, so it can be a challenge to find the ideal taste.
Cook boerewors on the braai for best results, but cook like any other sausage in the oven or on the stove.
When we were kids on holiday in Durban the Durban Beachfront was about sea sand and swimming pools, with a trip to the old aquarium and lunch at the Wimpy.
As students the beachfront was about the “Golden Mile” and Saturday nights out in nearby bars. And, of course, days on the beaches at Bay of Plenty and South Beach.
Today the Durban Beachfront is much changed. Where surfers used to park their VWs on the Lower Marine Parade, and we used to park and watch the sea over a late night coffee, is now a wide pedestrian boulevard.
of course, now we are a bit older it’s a pleasure to sit and enjoy being by the beach and watch the people and ships on the horizon and moving into the harbour.
Durban was only a short trip from our spot at Umdloti, so what better way to start the day, than with breakfast on the beach. Or maybe it was brunch, given the time of day, at Circus Circus Beach Cafe. Bacon, sausages, brinjal and pancakes all washed down with coffee, within sight and sound of the sea.
Come here at a weekend and during the holiday season and it’s likely to be heaving with people. We were there on a Monday morning, so it was quiet, but certainly not deserted. We had our pick of tables at the cafe. A great way to have a leisurely Monday breakfast!
Beach Sand Art
Close to our breakfast spot we noticed this piece of sand art. As always the artist has his collection tin out, so we dropped in a few Rand in exchange for a couple of photos.
This are, the Bay of Plenty is popular amongst surfers, and is known for its pier, where you can often see local anglers enjoying a few hours fishing. It was good to spend some on the pier watching the surfers and looking back at the Durban skyline.
uShaka Marine World
At the southern end of the beach area, near Addington Beach is the UShaka Marine World. This is definitely a big upgrade from the old Durban Aquarium which we grew up up with. Offering a huge aquarium alongside all sorts of water activities.
We visited uShaka to have a look around and buy some souvenirs of our trip. Having seen a number of aquariums, they held little attraction, but this is a must for first time visitors.
All along Durban’s beaches are an assortment of Beach Markets. Great for a few momentos, the offer a range of mass produced and local craft products. Watch your wallet in these areas, but have a good look. We bought a few bits and pieces to take home.
Taking a day away from the beach, we headed up the main road from Durban to Pietermaritzburg then turned right to Botha’s Hill. Eventually we came to the fantastic view of the Valley of a Thousand Hills. What a tremendous view of the hills under a stormy sky.
Comrades Marathon Country
Heading back down the old main road we came across the Comrades Marathon wall of honour commemorating the achievement of those who successfully completed the “Comrades”.
The Comrades Marathon is, of course, the annual run between Pietermaritzburg, provincial capital of kwaZulu-Natal, and Durban. A distance of around 90km Largely following the old main road. The run is “down” one year, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, and “up” the following year.
Lunchtime, Game Parks and the Meander
Heading back towards Durban we stopped off at the Phezulu Safari Park. It has a small wildlife park, but, having seen African wildlife many times in the bush, we were more interested in lunch. Sadly the restaurant was closed, but the view was good.
I’m told that a few of these parks have started up and this area features on the KZN Midlands Meander. That’s a trip worth doing if you are visiting the area. Having lived in kwaZulu-Natal we have seen most of the meander at various times, and it is a great area to visit.
A bit further down the road we found the Pot and Kettle. This somewhat eccentric appearing, family run restaurant gave us a good lunch.