I’ve heard that native New Yorkers generally never visit the Statue of Liberty. It’s just one of those excessively touristy activities that no one can really justify spending a day coordinating. The same applies for Durbanites and the Vodacom Durban July (or simply The July) – if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.
A mixture of dread and excitement fills the city the week of the event. Come Thursday, when the impatient GP number plates start to trickle into the city, the more organised among us flee to the berg or the south coast for the weekend. The rest of us brace ourselves for uncharacteristically congested roads and for our favourite bars to hike up their entry fee to accommodate a local celebrity’s appearance.
In the bigger scheme of affairs, this is not catastrophic. It is, of course, possible to ignore it and go about your business in the less busy parts of the city without being weighed down by the weekend’s burden. However, complaining loudly on my Instagram story about visitors and traffic is just more fun and my preferred degree of drama.
The general pace of Durban is glacial so this injection of activity in the middle the year is jarring. I live around the corner from the racecourse and seeing people in peacock hats and leopard-print suits at my local Woolies never fails to make me smile.
Although the annual event can cause slight irritation, it’s also so ridiculously lavish that it’s difficult not to be tickled. The Durban landscape is full of steep roads and trees growing out of the pavement, which makes it tricky to walk in heels – this never deters the race-going crowds. I find the determination admirable – we can all learn a thing or two from this legion of women stoically walking down the side of a hill in sky-high heels.
For the most part, it’s best to note that, like a winter virus, The July passes. People just want to dress up and let loose in a warm, slow city for two days before returning to the rat race, and Durban offers this reprieve. All that’s required from the rest of us is to be hospitable and allow our fancily clad visitors to have their fun before heading back home.