Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another Great Tour Completed

Its been a long time since I put my fingers to the key-board. But I have been doing "Stuff" like taking a wonderful group of Candians on tour. This was my first full National Tour of this particular Itinerary. What a great tour, I had a wonderful group that was not shy of having fun and they were accompanied by an execelant Tour Director.

We started in Cape Town at the end of January. On day 1 it was Table Mountain, what a day then off to do the Peninnsula  and ended the day with Dinner at Restaurant 221 in the V&A Waterfront. The good stuff of Cape Town followed with the Winelands tour, wine tasting at 10AM followd by more at 11:30, followed by more at 13:00, the last was after witnessing how to remove the top of a "Champaign" bottle with a Saber!!
This goes back to the days of Napoleon, when the Cavalry officers would "slice off the top of a good bottle of chamaign to slate their thirst after a long day in the battle-field"

After all this we continued up the Garden route and Little Karoo as far as Knysna over the next few days, doing all the 'touristy bits' like Cango Caves, Safari Ostrich farm, Featherbed bay, Monkeyland and the Birds of Eden. An early morning start (05:30) for a flight to Durban from Port Elizabeth, then on to St Lucia in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal for two nights. The Cultural Experience was follwed by a sunset and Sparkling Wine cruise on the St.Lucia estuary. Then it was into Swaziland for one night, with a visit to the Swazi Candle factory and the Nwenya Glass works. From ther we went into the Kruger National Park as an introduction to the next part, 3 nights at Lion Sands Private Game Reserve where we stayed at the River Lodge. On the way through the Kruger we were fortunate enough to see a loepard right next to the road, together with the normal Rhino, Elephant, Kudu, Impala, Zebra, etc. etc. etc............

Over the next 3 days we were pampered by 7 "meals" per day, game drives of about 3 hours each, most drinks free, very friendly staff and above all absolute proffesionalism from all. On the game drives we were almost in touching distance of the 'Big 5'. After this wonderful experience we had to come back down to earth and actually complete the journey to Johannesburg by first doing the Panoramic Route, Pillgims Rest, Mashishing (the old Lydenburg), Dullstroom and the boreing N4 highway. The next morning the group left for the rest of their African Experience, of Chobe in Botswana, The Victoria Falls from the Zambian side, Livingstone in Zambia and their final "Farewell Dinner" before flying back to Canada via Johannesburg. I bid the group farewell at the airport as I flew back to Cape Town, one days rest and off on the road again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Christmas Group

The group of ten had a wonderful time by all accounts. The weather in Cape Town did not do as it was supposed to and the rain came and the wind blew, we did see some sun shine now and again, usually at a distance. Christmas lunch was at the wine Estate of Blauuklippen, did they put on a feast, we eventually left at about 15:45, with all in good spirits and full of food.

For the extension up the Garden Route we changed to a smaller coach and used a 15 seater Sprinter with a trailer, this was much better as there were only 7 guests, the driver and myself.

Day 1. We went up the Route 62 to Outdshoorn. A pleasant trip with a wine tasting at Calizdorp at De Kranz and checked ion to the 4* Op Stal Country Lodge, that night we had a wonderful meal at the Lodge.

Day 2. Start off with the Cango Caves, the group was lucky to have the Head Guide, Eric, as their guide. He gives a wonderful tour. Next stop was the Safari Ostrich Farm, with a tour of the working farm followed by the famous farm lunch of.......Ostrich Steak! From here we went into the town and did the CP Nel Museum and the Le Roux Town House. Dinner at the Lodge again, this time it was 'a la cart' (sorry my key board does not spell in French).

Day 3. Down the Outeniqua pass, through George, drop the trailer in Knysna, stop at the Knysna Elephant Park. A great time was had, I got some reasonable photos. Then it was off to the Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma National Park, a quick snack lunch, (saving space for the dinner tonight!!) a good long walk in the forest to the swing bridges, then all the way back to Knysna for our 'New Years Dinner' at Dry Dock Restaurant in the Knysna Waterfront. Some of us went up to 'Olde's' looking for a party. By this time the party had moved on to the Zambeze Club in the main road, we stayed at Olde's and had our own party!

Day 4. Late start! We only had to be at the Featherbad Ferry Dock at 12:30. Here we went on the Featherbed Experience. Starting with a short cruise across the 'Lagoon', then lunch (a gorgeous spread of food) afterwards we get onto trailers to travel to the top of the Western Headland (+/- 2 km drive) then the fun starts, we walk back down via the forest and the beach. At the end we have a short cruise back to where we started from.

Day 5. Near the end. This is the long day, an early start, 08:00, stop off at Mossel Bay to visit the Dias Museum, then on to Swellendame for lunch. The long road home to Cape Town ends at the Air Port at 16:00 where the guests catch their night flight home leaving at 19:05. We all say our good-buys and wishes for safe travel and come back as there is lots more to see and do.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Tour, New People into New Year

I never finished the last tour (blog) for you. Sorry.

Now I have a new tour with new people. BUT the weather in UK and Europe is playing havoc here in Cape Town. Itinerary states that the tour will start with 32 people on 22nd December.

Forget it!

The flight arrives, late - 25 minutes (a big margin in aviation time), an hour after landing I have 10 wonderful (but slightly disgrunteled) guests plus one (very) worried Tour Manager - Where is the rest of the group?

Answer: They never left the UK to catch the flight out of Europe!

So, what do I do?

Nothing! Do the itinerary as printed until I am officially advised that the rest are not going to be with us.

Now the fun startS. I have tickets for 32 people(for various tourist attractions - NO, NOT THE EYE OF EXCELLANCE-) and only 10 arrive. Can I fill the rest. NO!!  So I decide to play with the guests.Seat wise.
Here we have a (fully payed for) 44 seater coach, 10 (paying) passengers - so they get 3.6 seats per person per day!!!!(My maths is right, you fogot about the Tour Leader and the Guide{me}) How do I rotate seats?  Lets make the men move 2 (two) seats Anti-clockwise and the ladies 1 (one) seat clockwise! The men may never sit next to their wife again!! (on this trip). The best fun is going to happen when we go overland to the Garden route, there I will only have 7 guests - that will give them 6.29 seat each per day!!!!!!
I'll have to be very vigelant on my head counts!!

What this realy means is that each guest will have much better personal attention than a larger group. I love it! Smaller groups, more personal attention, more enjoyment for the guests and ultimatly greater satisfaction to me for having been able to make their(the guests) experience of South Africa that much more fullfilling and enjoyable

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's now x-number of days down the line!!!

The group arrived safe and sound on Friday 29th, although their flight left Heathrow 1 and 1/2 hours late, as they were travelling "down-hill" they were only 24 minutes late into Cape Town. My first question was "Who is interested in going up Table Mountain?" Eight hands went up and almost in unison the reply was "Yes Please". After the mountain it was a quick stop at the Cullinan Hotel for check-in then off to the V and A to catch the ferry to Robben Island. The "new, fast" ferry was out of service (again!!) so they had to travel on "the slow boat to China" - aka DIAS, the slowest ferry in the fleet. Eventually they got back to the V and A at 19:45 as opposed to 18:00.

The next morning, right on time, they were on the coach ready for the Peninsula tour. This started off with a trip to see the seals on Duiker Island on board Nauticat, then over Chapmans Peak drive and all the way down to Cape Point via Cape of Good Hope and lunching at Two Oceans Restaurant. The afternoon was filled with a visit to the Penguines at Boulders Beach and a walk through Kersenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Sunday morning saw the collection of our vehicles from Maui and then off to our first stopover - Mountain Breeze outside Stellenbosch. Monday morning it was off to Hermanus via Clarens Drive with a stop at the Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary (which we failed to find the parking area for!!!) and Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. Saw some whales in the bay at Hermanus on our way out to Swellendam and the Bontebok National Park the next morning.

At 07:00 on Wednesday morning we did a short "Game Dive" in the park before heading off to Montagu and the Tractor drive up the Lageberg followed by a 'potjie' then we were off to Oudtshoorn. - Watch this space for the next installment!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Camper-vans next

Having just finished back-to-back tours and rested for 4 days it is now time to start preparing for the next big one. Totally new to me, leading a group of Camper-vans. The nice thing about this tour is that I was told Caretha has to accompany me. When I was hired for the job I was informed that I am not allowed to travel alone in the Camper-van. My question was, who travels with? The reply was your wife of course. Luck will have it that she was able to take leave.
We pick up the vans (Maui) this week-end and head out on Sunday. This is a great tour with only one stressful day, just short of 600 kms, all the rest are between 100 and 300, nice and easy.
Tha basic itinerary is leave Cape Town and head for Stellenbosch on Sunday, then we drive down to Hermanus the next day. From there we head up to Swellendam, overnighting at the Bontebok National Park. The next daywe travel to Montague to do the 'Tractor Ride', then after lunch we continue on to Oudtshoorn for a 3 night stop. Here we explore the Swartberg, Cango Caves, Safri Ostrich farm and possible the Cango Wildlife Ranch. The next drive is on to Tsitsikamma via Knysna and Plettenberg bay. From Tsitsikamma is a short hop ot the Addo National Park for 2 nights. After the Elephants we go inland by driving to the Gareip Dam, from the dam its the long haul to Drakensville, about 600 km, with a 2 night stop. From Drakensville we explore the Royal Natal National Park. From the mountains its back to the coast with a drive to Balito, we then swing back in land the next day and go through Zululand and the Battlefields to Dundee. The next day we are driven around with a guided tour of the battlefields with an expert local guide. The last day of the tour is the drive from Dundee to Johannesberg.
After dropping off the group Caretha and I start the long drive back home. We have decided to come back via Upington.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Months flying by......

Her we are in the middle of September!! The World Cup has been and gone, tours have been done. I was fortunate to have had a contract for the full duration of the Soccer World Cup. It was not a guiding job, just being a Coach Host and Customer Services Operative (CSO), no realy hard work just odd hours like going to work at 2 in the morning and then waiting around for a few hours, acompany the overseas guest from the hotel to the airport, return to the depot and go home by 7:30 or 8:00.

When that was over I had another Grand Tour, this time with 7 passengers. A Indonesian family, parents and son, now living in Holland, an American couple, a New Zealander and a Columbian now living in the USA. Boy with a mixed bag it was fairly trying some days and got a bit unballanced. We made it to Cape Town without any one commiting murder as had been threatened a time or two!!

I only have 4 more tours this year, unless I can pick up some more. The nice one will be in October into November, more about that later.

The next one starts tomorrow. Pick up at the airport late in the evening then off to Cape Point on Sunday, winelands on Monday, Garden route from Tuesday to Friday - end of tour. Stories of this one will be posted next week.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Another tour ends

Left here (Cape Town) on 8th May at 06:30 to drive up to Jo'burg. I had a 6 speed 2.5 Kombi (diesel) as the tour vehicle. The trip up was uneventful and I made it to Bloemfontein by just before 18:00, no rush just a casual drive. The next morning I carried on to Jo'burg, leaving the hotel at about 09:30 and arriving at my Guest-house at around 13:15. I could not book-in as they were only expecting me at 17:00,(being Mothers Day, the family was having a braai (barbecue)) so I left the vehicle in the parking area and Andrew (my son) came to pick me up for some lunch in Rosebank.

Sunday night is the official start of the tour with a welcome dinner at a set venue. Here we meet the guests and generally try to get a feeling of the group. This time I had a group of 5, a British couple from London/Gillford and 3 Irish (a couple and their friend) form County Curlow.

The laughter and quips at dinner set the tone for the tour, it was a whole lot of fun with jokes, funny stories and ribbing the whole time, from early morning to late at night.

Monday morning we set off in perfect weather, clear blue sky's and just a few clouds to make the photographs interesting. On the way to Mpumalanga there was a change in the weather and the "good old Transvaal" thunderstorms could be seen brewing to the east. Most of the time we only saw the storms off in the distance or came across wet areas in the road where they had passed but near Belfast we went through one. The temperature dropped the sky went dark grey with thunder and lightning all around us, then the rain started, big drops hit the windscreen and splattered, it got more intense until I could only see about 2 meters in front. This lasted for about 5 minutes and the rain got lighter, all of a sudden we were out of the storm which continued on its path away to the south east.

After the storm the sky cleared a bit but we could see more clouds brewing to the west. As we got to the top of Long Tom Pass the sunset was unbelievable, turquoise blue sky on the horizon, fluffy clouds turning yellow in the dying rays of the sun and the foreboding dark grey of the storm clouds. If I had been on my own I would have stopped for a photograph, but none of the guests were interested in sunsets, pity!

A day later the group was on a game drive in the Kruger and the first sighting of any interest was a leopard walking up the road at about 06:30 in the morning. That set the tone and they saw all of the BIG 5 by lunch time.

Our next "fun" part was on arrival in Durban at uShaka Marine World. There was the threat of rain all the way   down from Mkuzi, as we get to within 2 blocks of the parking area the heavens opens up with a deluge of gigantic proportions, nothing to do but sit and wait it out. A break in the rain comes so we hop out og the vehicle and area making out way to the entrance when the heavens opened up again and we all got soaking wet.

These are the moments that make the fun parts of the tour, when the guests laugh at themselves and each other.

Another wonderful time was at Storms River Mouth, Tsitsikamma. I was walking with the Irish, as John & Hazel had decided they would do their own thing for an hour, on the board walk to to swing bridge when a Knysna Turaco flew past and landed on a vine about 2 meters away from us where all were able to take some amazing photos.

All the way along we had incidents of fun and laughter with everybody enjoying themselves and appreciating a great tour.

My next tour is only after the Soccer World Cup, but I am working during the tournament.............