With a passion for the sights and sounds of Durban and a desire to bring people together to explore all the city has to offer, four young men of BESETdurban are taking urban exploration to a whole new level. Alison Johnston hits the pavement with the intrepid four.
Friends, Jonas Barausse a social innovator, architect Cameron Finnie, photographer and videographer Dane Forman and Mark Bellingan, also an architect, are determined to wipe out the misconception that the port city of Durban is a sleepy, unappealing backwater. Instead, they are out to prove that Durban is a treasure trove of exciting sights worth exploring.
Their motivation is simple. The four believe that the many glamorous cities of the world give themselves away too easily; they reveal their secrets at first glance. What you see is generally what you get. But for the foursome, Durban is not that kind of city.
Durban will make you work to discover her.
“She does not show off. Durban is a deep city, a city full of grit, stories, awesome people and unbelievable history. Feeding off of this belief, we formed BESETdurban. Our purpose is to re-introduce Durbanites to their city and proudly introduce the world to our incredible home,” they say.
Getting people off their couches and onto their feet to pound the streets of Durban was not an easy task, but what started off one rainy weekend with 40 people has grown to 400 urban explorers joining the foursome and a variety of experts in many fields, on a single walk. Regular and curated walks are arranged for specific areas of interest with knowledgeable guests who shared their amazing insights and stories with the group.
The walks have attracted not only local attention but international visitors as well and on occasion, the concerns of local police who mistook a rather large group on a walkabout for an illegal protest! They have also attracted local and international media attention and have been able to collaborate with industry powerhouses the likes of The New York Times, Air BnB and National Geographic Traveler.
The success of the venture has led to the launch of BESETrun which, they explained, is less about the stories and more a way to kick off the week with a 5km run/jog/walk along the promenade every Monday morning at 5.30am. The bonus is you get to watch a spectacular Durban sunrise every week.
“We work on three simple principles. We believe it is only on foot that you truly plug into a city. Walking allows you to stop, reflect, listen and observe in a way that no other form of transport allows. All our public walks and runs are free. People are great a making excuses about getting off their couches and out their cars without adding costs to it. Lastly, we source a specialist-in-the-know to join us and share their knowledge. These specialists have varied from renowned architects, respected scientists, world champion surfers, prize winning authors and outright Durban nerds.”
So, if you’re looking to explore the city and make some new friends, sign up with BESETdurban at http://besetdurban.com or check them out on http://besetdurban.com/purpose/