3 week Travelogue
While Touring In South Africa With Percy Tours In September 2006. Page 1.
With the ease normally reserved for royalty my passport was checked and a visa granted allowing me to continue on to find my bag tapping it's castor impatiently, having gone round the carousel a few too many times already. Through customs with a hop, skip and a jump I was greeted on my arrival in Cape Town by a very jolly Percy from Percy Tours.
Percy is a Brit who came to South Africa in 2004, but he turns out to be no sad ex-pat who has lost his way but an experienced traveller who, with much of the world under his belt, has found his Shangri-la in South Africa.
No sooner had I been settled in the Percy Tours luxury tour-bus, with us threading our way through vehicles that didn't seem to know if they were coming or going and we were soon on the open road heading towards the centre of Cape Town and my first view of the imposing Table Mountain.
Percy hands me a small file of all relevant information for my tour, including my tour schedule, weather forecasts for the coming week ahead and useful phone numbers etc and even a mobile phone so that we can always be in touch during my 3 weeks adventure with Percy Tours.
Percy is quick to establish the rules. Rule 1 is that I must not forget that this is my holiday, there is a prepared tour schedule but that schedule is a guide and if I wish to make any changes, for example, if I wish to lie in one morning it is entirely up to me, in that respect he will be guided by me. There are some activities that will need to be booked in advance, he will let me know what they are and when I need to decide if I wish to do them or not.
I took onboard Rule 2 too when Percy clarified that I have come on holiday on my own and to avoid any misunderstanding, between the hours of 9am and 5pm, he will be my chauffeur and my tour guide; anything I need I just need to tell him. Outside those hours he is not expecting to work but if I want him to accompany me in the evenings to bars, restaurants and clubs he will but it would be chargeable and despite the activities social nature I must not forget that he will still be working. If the evening turns into a late night session, he suggests that we arrange a slightly later starting time for the following day, so that we are both totally refreshed to enjoy that new days activities.
Although this brutally honest pre-nuptial agreement appears a little unnecessary so early on in our relationship it proves to be prophetic, as it is not long before I start to forget that Percy is my tour guide and think of him as my new “best friend” where I might even start to feel rejected if he were not to want to come out and party the night away.
Onwards and upwards –
With the formalities out of the way Percy's enthusiasm and love for South Africa is apparent from the very beginning, as he talks in terms of "we" and "our" and is brimming with knowledge about every aspect of South Africa, its politics, people, environment and wildlife. Our first port of call is to be the "Ashanti Lodge" to check into our relevant rooms and store our bags.
With a full day ahead, but a long journey behind me, Percy explains that he has scheduled some light activities that can be juggled around and he gives me the option to take a few hours sleep or to freshen up and start doing some sight seeing; despite my exhausting journey it is with “new town” adrenalin that I choose the latter.
Coming from my job in Saudi Arabia I put in a request for the first stop to be somewhere where I could get a cold beer, Percy said that he liked my style and thought it likely that we would get on like a house on fire. Swinging the minibus around he heads for the hills and en-route provides an interesting and informative orientation commentary to help me establish my bearings.
Sitting outside my first Cape Town bar I am pleasantly bathed in the warmth of the sun and then cooled by the Atlantic zephyr. My first beer soon leads to another and another (Percy sensibly only drinking Coke Cola, as he will be driving for the remainder of the day) and while we chatted about South Africa and life in general we end up sampling a local snack as lunchtime sneaks up on us.
Signal Hill –
I am now refreshed by my first beers that were long overdue as I work in the “dry state” of Saudi Arabia, my appetite satisfied and with orientation being the order of the day, we climbed back into the tour bus, where Percy explains Cape Town's classic grid system; with the City Bowl being built on the slope up to Table Mountain you were always able to get your bearings depending on whether you rolled down (you are heading North) or tried to climb up the hill (you're heading South).
Our next stop is Signal Hill, so called because a cannon is fired at midday each day, originally to allow the ships in the harbour to calibrate their clocks to noon and also on other occasions to signal to the local farmers that ships were in the harbour and for them to bring their wares to sell to the arriving ships.
From the top of Signal Hill, as the sun shone and with only whispers of cloud in the blue sky I was rewarded with a commanding view of Cape Town, Table Bay and of course the ever dominant Table Mountain.
Ashanti Lodge –
We rolled back down from Signal Hill and headed back to Ashanti Lodge where we sat on their deck that sits beneath the mighty Table Mountain and we soaked up the falling early evening sun with a few cold beers. (By the way, I apologise if I seem to be mentioning Table Mountain a lot, it is only because it is very much in your face, not in a bad way I might add but in the same way a great work of art demands your attention.)
The Ashanti Lodge is a delightful Afro-Victorian rambling mansion, with high ceilings, picture windows and wooden floors, the rooms are light airy and clean, some with their own showers, others with just a sink but there are very clean individual communal showers.
Delightful as it is during the day, be warned that this is a place for the young, or at least the young at heart, place to stay. The wooden floors and rooms surrounding the swimming pool means that in the evening it is going to be noisy, at least until the bar shuts at midnight and often later if people are coming in after a hard night of clubbing.
You can almost guarantee that once a week someone is going to jump in the swimming pool at 4.00am and scream their head off because at that time of the morning, yes the water is going to be freezing! There are quieter rooms in the two fabulous Lodge Houses that are situated 100 metres around the corner.
That having been said, Ashanti Lodge is a great place to stay, secure and friendly, even if Anna in the Kumasi Bar seems to give you a (jovial) hard time for not bringing your used plates back to the bar as you leave.
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