Kimberley: When the pilot announced we were descending on Kimberley, I looked out of the window for some proof. But there were no buildings looking like miniatures and no roads looking like lines of thread. All that was visible below was a combination of green and brown with no hint of concrete. I thought it was a premature announcement.
I was wrong. The plane was landing in the international capital of diamonds and this city presented a paradigm shift after two weeks in Durban where high-rises crowded the skyline.
There was a surprise in store when the plane was touching down. A group of meerkats — creatures I had seen on Animal Planet only — were up on two legs to see us land and ran away on all four when the aircraft was speeding down the runway.
A halt at the airport restaurant revealed that cricket is last on the priority list of the locals. The girl at the counter said she had heard of the IPL although cricket wasn’t her “kind of sport”. She said she had to switch to the channel beaming IPL for the sake of her clients. A chat with a few other people around convinced me she was not in the minority.
Rugby is very much the “in sport” in this town and cricket is a distant third after soccer. But people here are excited with the arrival of IPL because it gives them a rare chance to witness a big sporting event. “Most of the major events take place in Bloemfontein (about 150 km away),” said the taxi driver on way to my hotel.
As we drove through the city, I found Kimberley a study in contrasts to the others I have visited here — no skyscrapers, no queue for taxis outside the airport, no traffic snarls.
Most of the buildings are single or double-storey and the driver said there are just two multi-storey buildings in the entire city. One is the post office and the other is the diamond traders’ office.