Over the years on my visits to my Durban Family (eldest daughter Helen & family) I’ve been taken to the nearby Shongweni Farmers’ Market. It was a scant 5 kms down the hill, sited on a rough, grassy hillside, inevitably wet and muddy, packed with people and their excited dogs. For some reason, Durbanites saw the Market as a great Saturday morning venue to exercise their dogs, and the ensuing tangle of dog leads, frantic barking and occasional dog fight were part of the fun. All this amongst families, toddlers, pushchairs, shopping baskets, vendors unloading their products, lost kids and runaway dogs. Happy family mayhem. I loved it.
Then – oh no! the market moved. The land lease expired, and another venue had to be found. Which it was, close to the nearby Shongweni Dam. This, however, is 12 kms from Helen’s house, so I was heaved briskly out of bed at 0530 on Saturday morning and told departure was in 25 minutes. Apparently the parking situation, plus the inevitable traffic tailback on a skinny country road, has to be avoided at all costs. Fair enough.
And so it was I stood at 0630 on a damp, drizzly hillside, peering at rows of corrugated iron roofs, and neat cement walkways. Clearly no more mud at the new, bigger, smarter market. To my relief, plenty of families, toddlers, and dogs in evidence :
I must admit the new market is orderly, clean, vast, and offers a huge variety of merchandise. For example – huge mushrooms, being sold by an elegant vendor. Note the funky guineafowl table covering.
I do love the colourful Zulu beadwork, but it’s a hell of a price nowadays. I cherish my antique strings of beads bought for virtually nothing, twenty years ago. The baskets are not beaded, as you might suppose. They are made from thin wire. Originally weavers used to gather scraps of electric cable left behind by Telkom or Eskom. They would strip off the external plastic covering to get at the 4/5/6 strands of fine wire within, which would be colour coded. Whether the baskets are still made this way I don’t know, but it may partly account for the enormous amount of of telephone cable theft …. Roll on the introduction of fibre optic cable! The downside will be less – or no – beautiful woven baskets.
There’s food of course. What would a country market be without food? Locally made cheeses; locally grown coffee; and the ethnic bakers – Greek, German and of course, Indian, this being Kwa-Zulu Natal which has one of the biggest Indian populations outside of the Indian continent. I had my heart set on samoosas and a few Pakora*but alas! the market was so big I never managed to find my way back to the Indian food stalls.
I couldn’t take pics of the foodstalls due to the crush around them. But I’m including a bad pic of the man selling pesto. Unfortunately his colourful pots of pesto didn’t come out well in the pic, but you can clearly see the smart new roofing. Which was welcome on such a drizzly, misty morning.
Me & my cellphone will never win any prizes for photography. But I did catch one pic of these fun dog biscuits!
I enjoyed my visit, and would love to go back another time. But the old country atmosphere has gone. The new version may well be out in the country, but now its much more organised and businesslike.On the plus side, the public loos are a great deal better. Ah well. Things change. But luckily the vendor’s smiles stay the same. Howzit, Barry!
*deep fried potato cake – beyond delicious finger food and death by cholesterol, but when you eat one you really don’t care. Actually, stopping at one requires superhuman willpower.