In the last week, the restaurants that were allowed to start function semi-normal had to change their business approach again due to new COVID government rules. The lockdown is hitting harder and closer to home as the impact of COVID is peaking in South Africa. For any business, it has become very challenging to operate close to any normality. What is the new normal? The new normal is adapting to creative ways daily to keep the pot boiling. At the North Star Hotel, the pot is boiling. The coffee machine is steaming, ovens are baking, and the griller is producing delicacies under the care of Chef Kaylin and the staff.
I will focus on five inexpensive and incredible things to do in Umhlanga rocks during COVID this week. Usual routines are out. It’s time to get creative and have some fun.
The first thing I recommend anyone visiting Umhlanga to do is to wake up for sunrise.
The lifestyle in Durban encourages you to be an early riser. If you are close to the ocean or have a window allowing in the morning light, the sun will let you know that it is time to rise. It is beautiful at sunrise. The orange sunlight runs across the water as the sun peeks up over the horizon. The warm light glows magnificently following the ocean flow. It’s a moment to meditate, do yoga, run, cycle, walk, or to prepare for the day and invite in the morning warmth. I love the busyness of the promenade and the beachfront roads with people out and about. I walk onto the beach with a GoPro in my hand. The waves touch my bare feet, it’s lukewarm. The winter in Umhlanga is kind. The ocean water is warmer than the morning air. I dip the Gopro into the beach break, hoping to capture a little supertube in my frame. The waves splash all over me, an unplanned morning swim.
If you ever tried your hand at fishing, it is an exact science with no guarantee.
The fishermen line up on the beach early, hoping to hook the day’s catch. I walk past and say hello. Any luck this morning? The man replies through his buff with what looks like a smile. I caught a shad on a spinner, quite a big one, I got lucky today. It reminds me of the sunrise mornings in Mozambique. I woke up early, slid down the down with my light tackle, and a few spinner casting into the shallow beach break. As I reel in the line tightens. I hooked a fish, it’s a fight and then lost. The Kingfish in Mozambique are fierce morning hunters. The catch is exhilarating. In Umhlanga, fishing from the beach requires more patience. Fishing to me is like meditation, a moment to take in standing on the beach with the fresh ocean breeze blowing into my face. At the North Star Hotel, there is another option, drone fishing. They prepare the bait and the reel, hook the bait, and set up the drone. Out we go 400 meters into the ocean. We drop the bait as close to a reef as the Swellpro shows on the screen. The wait but then the sound of the reel running. We hooked something big it’s a fight. An hour later, the Zambezi shark appears in the shallow waves. We release the shark back into the ocean, the fin, disappears into the break. Luck can be on your side, and you could catch a Tuna or a Dorado drone fishing at the North Star Hotel.
Morning coffee is essential.
Making your coffee half asleep trying to wake up without knocking over the milk or something on the kitchen table needs some careful negotiating. Stepping out early to have a Barista prepare a fashionable coffee for you, excitement. The noise of ground coffee beans, the coffee machines thrust into full gear, producing a thick gold black liquid. I sip into the foam and let the caffeine rush kick me into the day. Morning coffee at the North Star Hotel is busy but calm. The view is beautiful looking over the pool and the palm tree into the perfect rolling waves. The coffee is a medium-strength, rich in taste, and smooth.
At the North Star Hotel, there is a collection of e-bikes to rent.
I am a novice to the e-bike fad. I must admit it is a lot of fun getting out for some exercise without having to push myself to the extreme. My medical aid might consider this cheating, but my heart rate runs up, and I work up a sweat even as the e-bike helps me up the Umhlange hills. The cycle pro’s look on in dismay, is it cheating or is it just having fun without trying to look like a pro. Whatever gets you moving is my motto. These bikes are pricey, but the world of cycling is very pricey. The option to rent an e-bike for a morning spin cruising along the promenade to the edge of the Durban harbor pier offers an easy 45-minute exercise with a little bit of a push and a little bit of extra help from the electric motor.
The Belvedere Bar, as all bars in the country, is closed for alcoholic drinks.
The lockdown has given us all cabin fever. Just as we were excited to get back to work the COVID infections spiked. If you find yourself growing tired of zoom calls and webinars, WhatsApp calls, and all the other techno ways of communicating in isolation, The Belvedere Bar at The North Star Hotel, offers colorful non-alcoholic drinks prepared by Menzie. Menzie has a hearty laugh and a larger than life personality. His designer drinks are refreshing and bright. The staff will serve you a light late lunch by the pool, where there is enough space to relax more than 5 meters away from each patron. A colorful fresh drink next to the pool sounds like the perfect afternoon out.
A big splash of color with a dash of lime, staring into my glass lounging next to the North Star Hotel pool wishing the COVID days over and away.