Say ‘La Mercy’ and the obvious connection will be ‘airport’. Anyone who lives in and around Durban knows that La Mercy Airport, known as King Shaka International Airport, lies just north of Umhlanga close to Tongaat. The airport is confusing for those of us who used to live in Durban and caught flights in and out of Durban International Airport, south of Durban. Now we have to remember that it has been replaced, by La Mercy. And it has a different name.
It makes absolute sense to have Durban’s airport so close to Umhlanga, given that this is the new hub of the city. Comparitively, it is rather like having an airport close to Sandton in Johannesburg – good for business.
Despite the airport and the ease it brings visitors to the seaside city, La Mercy is also a little seaside village with a strong Indian heritage. This is a rather obvious link, given its proximity to the large sugar town of Tongaat, the oldest Indian community in South Africa. During the 1860s indentured Indian labourers arrived on our shores to work in the sugar plantations. And stayed.
As its immediate neighbour, La Mercy has a very similar flavour. It is also close to a number of attractions. Surfers regard the beach. The waves break on sandbars and reefs and provide a pretty big swell and a long wave. It’s thus fairly popular as a surfing spot.
But when not on the beach, head a little further north up the coast to favourite seaside villages like Ballito, Salt Rock and Zinkwazi Beach. En route stop off at the Lithuli Museum in Groutville on the R102, dedicated to a man who fought for human rights in this country. Also include a visit to the market in Verulam for spices, fresh produce and a colourful atmosphere.