15 October, 2008 by James Costello
It seems to be a rule of packaged tours, ESPECIALLY Day Trips, that you will either hate the Tour Guides or your travelling companions...or (shudder) both.
Visions of being cooped up in an overstuffed coach, with malfunctioning Air Conditioning in flamethrower heat, listening to Mrs. Diggs from Belfast telling you (for the third time that morning) how her dear sweet daughter, Anne, is "quite healed" from her episiotomy when the twins were born. And demanding you see the photos. In colour.
Now, I don't know about you, but I WAY prefer keeping my space until I have decided whether my travelling companions have watched "Deliverance" as a how-to movie, or the fresh-faced backpackers will suddenly morph into Natural Born Killers.
And the Guides! I have been subjected, in my travelling past, to Tour Guides who could barely grunt in their own language, let alone point out Historical Sites in English, or, even worse, those who thought Toilet Breaks were for "weaklings who do not know discipline!". Come back, Nanny...all is forgiven!
So it was with GREAT trepidation that I boarded the Baz Bus Day Tour on Thursday 16 October 2008 at 08h00. (Side Bar - I work on the Internet until 04h00 daily...I felt upon waking after 2 hour's sleep like I had been given a Roofy Colada on Spring Break and shaken awake by the Motel Owner 2 hours later. We are NOT a Morning Person).
Instantaneously, I was put at ease by Marinda, the AMAZINGLY outgoing, clued-up, friendly and professional guide. She came into the place I am staying and fetched me from Reception. A small detail that confirms the personal connection.
We collected 9 other folk from backpackers dotted around the city. 4 citizens of Los Angeles. 1 citizen from Germany. 1 from London. 2 from rural England. 1 from Holland (why are they ALWAYS so unfriendly?! Hyper-efficiency and peanut sauce on fries is one thing, but would it KILL you to SMILE o Dutch ones?!), and lil ol moi - born in Johannesburg, grew up in 17 different countries, but mainly Switzerland, UK and USA and fluent in 4 languages. And can't say enough in any of them!
We tootled off via Camps Bay under the SUPERB driving skills of Taliep - who later in the day, became the best Whale Spotter I have ever known! We were constantly given interesting side facts - did YOU know Camps Bay was a farm once?! And the BAY HOTEL stands on the site of the old homestead?! Or that the Cape had 2 British occupations?! I just LOVE those factoids...makes me even harder to beat in Pub Trivia!
We approached Hout Bay for the first of the Elected Activities and the ONLY thing not included in the price on the day - a tour by boat to Seal Island. I must mention here that the most impressive thing for me was the choices offered on the Tour. I have a metal plate in my leg, so strenuous activities are out for me - unless I develop a strong craving for hospital food. Throughout the day, we were all offered choices - do you want to cycle or go with the bus, do you want to hike or wait for us back here, do you want to see the penguins or read your book?! It was SUCH a relief not to be badgered into anything - no pressure was ever brought upon any of us, making us all very comfortable and accepted.
I totally enjoyed the Seal Island Trip - on a HUGE 120 seater boat (ship?!) with a Cape Minstrel band singing us off (see attched photo!).
And what fun! The seals were rather relaxed Cape seals - just chillin with my fish-breathed homies, yo. The scenery was stupendous. Towering cliffs, vast marine vistas and rollercoaster waves. Woo HOOO!!!
We then went into Simonstown (did YOU know the now-deceased legendary Navy dog JUST NUISANCE was conferred Officer Status to enable him to travel FREE on trains and help officers get home?! 20 points to me!), where I elected NOT to see the evil-smelling little creatures as I would NOT be having HAPPY FEET if I did. I waited in the bus, quite content to read and look at the street life. We then went off to view a panoramic vista on the road to Cape Point where we stopped and had DELICIOUS biccies and juice. We spotted 3 whales! Taliep gets the medal though - he saw every one first!
After arriving in the HUGE Cape Point Reserve, we all dismounted the bus and were presented with the bikes. I say we, of course, I elected to bus it. Everybody got a compulsory helmet and off they went! Naturally the Dutch dude far outcycled everyone - how DO Dutch mothers actually give birth in the saddle?! After we all met up at Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre, I wandered around the exhibition space run by the National Parks Board. It was clean, informative, not kitsch or "cute", had a little store for mementoes and a book on Snakes. There are 5 (YES FIVE!!!) venomous snakes in the park...we were told NOT to touch the bushes cos they may bite back - 3 minutes to death if not treated apparently! I was FREAKING! Then we were told the snakes will warn you with a hiss when you are too close - probably because they can't send a text with no thumbs!
We had a rather yummy summer lunch - fresh rolls, cold meats and salad. Not to mention juice and quite the nicest cup of tea fom the little store there! Mmmmm...such a great after-meal beverage. I'm totally with the British on this one.
We then went to the base of the mountain access car park. There is a funicular (vertical railway line - bless the Swiss!) up to the top or one can walk. I remained with Taliep while everyone hiked up the steps to the top and nodded off in the sun whilst resding my novel since I had already seen the Point - the most South-Westerly tip of Africa. But NOT where the two oceans - Indian & Atlantic - actually meet. That is 300 odd km's to the East - Cape Agulhas.
Then the group came down to the second hike to Cape of Good Hope - down a steep mountain to the sea level - and the ubiquitous "photo by the sign" opportunity. Yes...even I succumbed. I love being a Tourist in the place I am living - wherever that may be! It gives you a whole new light on your mundane, day-to-day energy. Makes you see things through a visitor's new eyes!
We then took off back to Cape Town and our Lodges, quite exhausted after being together since 8am! One quick stop at a farm stall for curios then off home; arriving back at 5pm in the City.
I was truly extremely impressed with both Marinda and Taliep on the job. They were kind, informative, human (I just LOVE it when people bicker - it's NOT fighting, just venting!), gentle, fun (I laughed for 20 minutes solidly during lunch with Marinda....damn she's hysterical!), THOUROUGHLY professional and very very accommodating.
I would personally highly recommend this Day Trip to anyone who wants a quick introduction to the attractions of the Peninsula in the hands of 2 very genial hosts.
It certainly made me feel more "SUMMER HOLIDAY" than "CARRY ON ABROAD"!