Feeling the pinch? Try a holiday in KZN

2012-06-12 00:00

AS schools close next week for the July holidays, classrooms, playgrounds and boarding establishments will be echoing with the question children ask at the end of each term: “So what are you doing this holiday?”

Depending on economic circumstances, the answers will vary from “We’re going overseas” to that old joke: “I’m going to Rumania [remain here]” for those not fortunate enough to go away. However, staying at home for the holidays doesn’t have to be a drag, and children who regularly give that answer don’t have to feel hard done by, especially in this province.

Economic realities constrain many families’ holiday plans, but that doesn’t have to mean that they cannot enjoy a variety of experiences and some, perhaps the best, cost just the price of the petrol to drive somewhere. With mountains and beaches a few hours’ drive away, plus nature reserves and parks, we are spoilt for choice.

One of the attractions coming up this holiday is the sardine run. Last year, rough seas and huge waves meant that the famous silvery shoals seldom came close to shore, but fishing boats still hauled in huge catches. We caught the tail end, or maybe the tail fin of the run, which had me standing ankle deep in waves on the Durban beach front watching fishermen crouching inside a huge net literally raking up mounds of shiny slipperyness. People of all ages and stations were caught by the excitement of the experience: children trying to snag stray fish in the nets got in the way of gnarly fishermen, two dogs scrapped and snarled over a fish head, families bargained for crate loads of fish and hauled them off, hawkers called shrilly: “R10 for a dozen”, and even a carload of police officers observing the scene forgot to be stern, jostling and joking on the sand.

Having tasted the thrill of this fascinating annual appearance, I am determined to try again this year. I have heard the almost mystical stories of people scooping up fish in anything from laundry baskets to the folds of their saris, and I want to see it for myself.

I asked my children what the highlights of the last holidays were and in addition to the predictable time spent in front of a screen of some kind, they mentioned walking in Umgeni Valley and going to the beach. Umgeni Valley nature reserve has to be one of the Midlands’ best-kept secrets. Not even five minutes outside Howick is this pristine valley, where the Umgeni River flows, zebra and giraffe graze and children can run, paddle, search for “nature treasures”, and explore in safety. For a nominal entry fee, locals can enjoy the kind of natural beauty that people all over the world would covet.

The same goes for beaches. In the few days we spent on the South Coast, we were able to paddle in the waves, pick up shells, poke in rock pools and walk for kilometres on beautiful beaches unmarked by any other footprints. There was no entrance fee, no crowds of holiday-makers fighting for their spot in the sun, no pestering salespeople with ice creams, hats or umbrellas. These gorgeous expanses of sand are just “there” for us to appreciate and enjoy, which left me vowing to make the most of spending holidays at home.

• Sardine hotline: watch media for 2012 hotline number.

• Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve: 033 330 3931.


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