The Angry Baboon: Monkeying Around in South Africa

Our South African adventures continued in Durban, a gritty port city of 8 million on the country’s eastern Indian Ocean coast. Durban is the largest port on the entire continent and sports the largest Indian population outside of India, so it has that going for it…which is nice. Actually, it was better than nice because it gave us a chance to gorge ourselves on delicious curries, most especially a Durban cuisine called Bunny Chow which is spicy curry and your choice of meat or veggies jammed into a bread bowl. It was fantastic!

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In addition to delicious food and a fascinating amalgam of races and religions, Durban also has a huge beachy coastline perfect for long strolls and the most beautiful stadium I have ever seen.

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Moses Madhiba Stadium, equipped with a rope swing from the top which has a 60 meter free-fall

At a point or two along the coastline there are small monkeys living in the trees, some of which came out to say hi to the people as they rummaged through garbage cans for leftovers.

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These monkeys were cute. Others that we saw on our next stop, however, were not.

Drakensburg Mountains

After enjoying Durban’s coastline for a few days we wanted to get some hiking in so we headed inland toward the Drakensburg Mountains in the Kwazulu-Natal province of South Africa (northeast). One of the highlights of the range is a rock formation known as the Amphitheater, so named because it looks like an amphitheater. Not too complicated. The Amphitheater is the home of the second-highest waterfall in the world, which makes it sound incredibly more breathtaking than it actually is.

The first hike we attempted was in the Royal Natal National Park and was headed to the base of the Amphitheater. We do not have the fondest memories of this hike.

Our day began hiking through sections of forest that contained hundreds of tiny worm-like critters hanging from the roof of the forest on single strands of what looked like webs. Being the first time we had ever seen such things, we thought they were sort of interesting. Now, 4 days later and still sporting an annoying rash all over my neck where I grazed these guys, I find them much less interesting.

The bigger story came about 2 hours into our hike. We had already spotted about 10-15 baboons wandering through the forest earlier on our hike and were becoming increasingly unnerved by the facts that a) they outnumbered us substantially; and b) we have heard enough anecdotes by now to know that baboons are jerks and not to be trifled with. Then we rounded a corner and got our own anecdote. A baboon clearly didn’t want us on his path and, I kid you not, roared at us like a freaking lion. Rather than assume I would actually hit the baboon with the tiny rock I was armed with and planning to throw we decided that the baboon was right. It was his path and who were we to argue? So after about 2.2 seconds of deliberation we decided that we had walked enough for the day and got the hell out of there.

Are we proud of our bravery? No, not really. Do we think fighting the baboon would have ended with one of us getting some awful disease/shots? Abso-freaking-lutely. I’ll take my rash as the one souvenir of that hike any day. Well, that and some good photos:

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Not pictured: roaring baboon.

Amphitheater Hike

Determined to see this Amphitheater, we booked a tour through our hostel the following day where we would have strength in numbers in case our baboon reappeared. The day did not get off to an auspicious start.

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Not ideal for allegedly beautiful views.

Lucky for us the fog cleared up right when we started our hike to the top of the Amphitheater. The hike itself was much less eventful (yay!) and incredibly rewarding as we got some spectacular photos of the surrounding scenery.

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At the top (3100+ meters/about 9300 feet) the cloud cover formed a pillowy blanket we could look down on.

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The view from the top was the unquestioned highlight of the trip as the second-highest waterfall turned out to be nearly dry. Although the photos don’t do it justice, it was more similar to a low-flow shower the a waterfall.

Even the way down had its interesting moments, especially the metal ladders we used to climb back down the mountain.

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Having had our fill of the Drakensburg mountains (and having the guides for another hike we wanted to do unavailable for the week), we returned to Durban for one more night before heading south along the coastline to Chintsa, our next stop.

But not before having more Bunny Chow…

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3 thoughts on “The Angry Baboon: Monkeying Around in South Africa

  1. el loco grande

    I’ve never had a fear of heights but some of those photos definitely inspired a little taste of it. Will you make us some bunny chow when you’re back home?

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