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Eccentrics and Characters in Waterfall

Do You Know This Man?

Do You Know This  ‘Waterfall Character’?

If something strikes me about Waterfall, it’s the characters. Every community has its fair share of oddballs but characters are more than that, they have substance and value. Characters give a community colour and flavour. I’m referring to individuals usually beyond the years of youth who have developed a certain style or manner expressed more for themselves than out of mere vanity.

In more outlying areas there seems to be a tolerance for characters, or eccentrics if you will, as part of the community not dissimilar to a more urban tolerance for youthful self-expression and experimentation. In more remote communities there is usually a smorgasbord of middle aged and beyond, self-expressive, self-styled characters who would ordinarily be shunned in an urban environment. In smaller communities such people are considered features of a whole. Eccentrics and eccentric behaviour thrives in societies that are detached from the greater boundaries of the big city.

Waterfall used to be very isolated from Durban going far enough back. But as roads and communications improved and the Outer West population grew, Waterfall became more accessible to conventional middle class families. But characters still remain, if you take a moment to spot them.

When my friends arrived in Waterfall from Johannesburg 10 years ago they were amused to see a man dressed like a cowboy, singing Country n’ Western music, that was painful to the ears, from the back of his bakkie in the interest of promoting the weekly boerewors and biltong specials from the  local butchery. Not only were my friends amazed that such appalling attempts at entertainment were being unleashed on the good folk of Waterfall but the said good folk were applauding and cheering with great enthusiasm for a performance that would have been lambasted elsewhere. The attitude seemed to be: “so what if he can’t sing, that’s just who he is, he’s doing his best.” Besides, they all seemed to be well acquainted with the man.

Our friends in their snobbishness used to refer to “Waterfall Types”. “Looks there’s one” they would say in amusement. But in a short while their sniggers changed to endearment as they fell in love with the suburb. They still may say: ”There’s one.” From time to time but their attitude has changed from snide to pleasant observation. In fact they’ve noticed that the amount of characters have dropped and feel quite concerned.

But the atmosphere prevails. In Waterfall if you are over a certain age you are allowed to wear your pants as high as you like and as colourful as you like and with as many outrageous patterns as you like. You may also wear dress shoes, short white socks and jeans shorts and even a skirt up round your solar plexus. You may dye your hair and then change colours as often as you want and there’s no shame in wearing any kind of hat either, decorated with small animals or fruit if you prefer. Your opinion on a wide variety of subjects is tolerated by all the staff at the Waterfall Spar, who tolerantly nod and smile, especially on a Tuesday. If you want to use two parking spaces for your 1977 Peugeot 404 –who cares?  Creativity with facial hair is encouraged as is popping into the shops with bare feet. You’re also never too young or too old to wear live flowers in your hair. Nor should one be of a specified shape to wear sleeveless garments or tight shorts regardless of the sex.

Entertainment takes on special meaning out here. I recall a line of towering blue gums running alongside the old Waterfall shopping centre. One week these were systematically cut down in zealous pursuit of all things indigenous, all done under the watchful eye of senior citizens in folding chairs on the pavement with thermos flasks and sandwiches bussed in from the Waterfall Garden Retirement home. For some it seemed that was all just in week’s entertainment.

Just one last example springs to mind: if you happen to travel down Niagara Drive you will notice a spritely lady going for her morning and afternoon walk, as so many safely do. However you would notice she carries with her a bag of litter that she has collected on her way. As a result Niagara Drive must be the neatest road in the suburb. Not the sort of one finds in cities where litter collection is left in the hands of municipal workers. It takes a special sort of character to commit to such a sense of the pristine.

Waterfall has an abundance of entrepreneurs running light industry factories, all manner of shops and small business with names like Clever Little Fish, Quirky Queens, Sham Pooch dog parlour, Crinkly Bottom- sadly missed as is the Thirsty Duck. All types of people build, labour and serve away in Waterfall, thriving in an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance.

Off I go to the shops then, one glance in the mirror –gasp! It’s one of them!

Durban’s Watercrest Mall Finally Putting Waterfall on the Map


(See my article at Skyscraper City and eProp too

The ‘Outer West’ area of Durban, also known as the Upper Highway, is a swiftly developing residential node, but with some distinct commercial nooks and crannies worth watching.

Durban’s Outer West retail landscape is thrusting into another phase of development with the development of The Watercrest Mall in Waterfall.  A number of years ago the Hillcrest CBD experienced much upheaval of the local arterial R102 Old Main Road as it was converted into an all dual carriageway. This was to accommodate the expansion in the area which included the rebuilding of Christians Shopping Centre and the bigger Hillcrest Corner.

Now a dual carriage way is being built, the first few kilometres already completed, for Inanda Road, the road that runs to the centrally located suburb of Waterfall. What were once sugar cane estates on either side of the 8km road from Hillcrest to Waterfall is now made up of luxury estates like Cotswold Downs Golf Estate, Kirtlington Equestrian Estate, 101 Acutts and Cotswold Fenns.  Construction of the dual carriageway up to the new Watercrest mall is expected to be complete within six months of the mall’s completion which is January 2015.

Watercrest Mall

Watercrest Mall

Demacon and Fernridge market research companies have supported the development of a 43 410sqm Regional shopping centre in Waterfall. The primary catchment area of the centre is Hillcrest, Kloof, Forest Hills, Assegai, Gillitts Botha’s Hill, Molweni, Crest view, Crestholm and Waterfall.

The centre is configured on two levels. There are to be two supermarket anchors, Checkers and Spar as opposed to the current single anchor, Superspar. There is a Pick n’ Pay across the road at the smaller Link Hills shopping centre which has taken up many of the old tenants that have vacated the old Waterfall shopping centre. Link Hills was completed just a few years ago with much controversy over permissions and occupancy with eThekwini Metro.

Watercrest Mall Inside

Watercrest Mall Inside

Other representations in the new centre include electronics stores, mass discounters, fashion and homeware. A big plus for the area is the announcement of the arrival of Ster-Kinekor Theatre which includes six cinemas to replace the old Waterfall cinemas that serviced the greater area for many years. An important ingredient to keep the centre alive at night and in creating a community feel – a stated aim of the developers.

Just over 65 per cent of the total lettable area is under lease and some of the 120 tenants include Dion Wired, Game, Edgars, Truworths, clicks, Dischem, Ackermans, Jet, Pep, Cape Union Mart and a full Woolworths. The mall will have both lifts and escalators as well as 2600 parking bays of which two levels are to be covered parking. All the variety and components of a regional shopping mall are promised. The mall’s GLA is estimated at 43 410sqm with the view for a pre-planned further expansion at a later date of 20 000sqm.

Watercrest Mall Inside

Watercrest Mall Inside

The centre was the brainchild of current owners of both the old centre and the Link Hills centre across Inanda road, local family business The Rowles Group, who incidentally live next door to the proposed centre. In the seventies George Rowles developed his dairy farm into a residential area in what was ostensibley a farming community. From there he developed a small centre with a Saveway Spar and couple of shops. This centre went through several expansions over the years adding more shops and more floor area for the Spar, all this hnd in hand with the growth of the Waterfall community. Now the last morphing of that centre is to be replaced by the new Watercrest Mall.

The Rowles Group now shares 50% of the old centre with Acucap. Acucap properties is a JSE listed property company with a retail asset base that exceeds R 5 billion. The acquisition was based on the intention of the co-owners to invest R700m in the re-development of the existing property.

Researchers found that upmarket shoppers in the area are travelling to the Pavillion and Gateway centres due to “lack of critical shopping size and fashion mix” in the area. The Watercrest Mall should meet that need as a one stop retail experience. Its variety of shops alone, should help plug the leak of shoppers from the area.

Watercrest Mall Plan

Watercrest Mall Plan

The developers have secured planning rights and overcome many challenges including environmental applications as well as formal access to a suitable bulk sewerage treatment plant. This initial phase of 7000sqm is currently opening, the Spar, Tops and adjacent parking are being made ready for customers as this area is self-contained. This is so the old Spar can close and the remaining lower level demolished, this way work can commence on the rest of the mall.

My article also appaears  on the Skyscraper city and eProp websites too

Weeding in Waterfall

Having lived in Johannesburg for 30 years, moving to the thriving metropolis of Waterfall was quite a change of scenery. I loved the fact that I lived in an area named after physical features that actually existed in the area, (Apparently there are 7 waterfalls in Waterfall.) as opposed to Parkhurst where there are no parks and certainly no hurst.

Our garden borders a little gorge created by the Nkutu River. There are three waterfalls at the bottom of our garden. My two small daughters and decided we wanted to find the source of that beautiful sound of rushing water. Thus began the required process of clearing the vegetation between us and river. At my previous residence in Johannesburg I had been used to extracting weeds with a small polished fork (with a quaintly mounded orange handle for comfort) and depositing the said weeds with gentle rhythm and small sighs into a black bag which was inoffensively sent out with the garbage each week. Imagine my horror when I opened my back door on a fateful Saturday morning to the roar of half an acre of Waterfall’s six foot high Lantana, Triffid and Mexican Sunflowers. My small fork fell from my hand with a whimper, prongs disfigured like lukewarm spaghetti as I examined my bleeding hands, this after my first failed attempt at removing a spikey Lantana stem.

I have learnt many things about weeding in Waterfall since those virginal days, I became equipped with a most formidable device which became a faithful companion as I cleared my way to the Waterfalls over those many adventurous months: a mighty Cane Cutter. So I tell you all this oh gentle reader for one reason. Alas my cane cutter has expired after years of good service. But do you think I can find a single cane cutter in a hardware store in the Upper Highway area. No, only those bendy long blades for veld or tiny little pangas. If anyone can tell me where to find a decent size cane cutter I’ll gladly send you my old weeding fork with the quaintly moulded handle.