Friday, March 16, 2007

The trip South

I was over 40 when I started this business and had never in my life slept in a backpackers and it had been many years since I had slept in a dormitory and that was at school, so the poor guys who had to sleep with me woke up feeling a lot groggier than me, although I did have a few bruises from boots that had been flying at me all night to no avail.

We had the whole day to cruise Bulawayo and introduce ourselves to all the hostels around town. But first we needed coffee and some peace and quiet, so we headed into town and found an amazing shopping centre with a coffee bar (pictured left) where we sat down and relaxed. Sitting on another table was a very pretty woman enjoying a fag and coffee. Obviously a traveler, so off Grant goes to make the cheese line of the year

Grant: "Have you got a light please"

Traveler: "Yeah sure"

Grant: "Oh your American! where are you going from here?"

Traveler: "Cape Town"

Grant: "Oh really! how are you getting there?"

Me thinking: "lady, your ours"

Traveler: "I'm just off to book with this new company called Route 49, who apparently have these two amazingly good looking guys driving the bus"

Grant: "No need to do that we are those two guys and we will book you on, so don't bother going to an agent (another 15% saved) just tell us where you are staying and we will pick you up in the morning".

It transpired that she spent the whole day worrying her knickers off that we had just conned her but to this day, 10 years later we are still best of mates and are all going to meet up in in the States this August with all our various kids.

So we had our first return passenger and we managed to get another couple from the hostels we visited later that day. Bulawayo became very loyal to us over the years and often filled the bus many times over.

The trip south was always a good one as it was going home and it just seemed to go quicker, we had no problems with passports and all the passengers behaved themselves. Halfway down through Botswana we always stopped at a service station in Mahalapye where the passengers could buy soft drinks and snacks to combat the intense heat. then off we would go to get to the SA border before closing time at 7.30pm I can't remember what we used to do for supper in the early days but eventually through a chance meeting with Grant we found a crocodile ranch just outside Mafeking who were fantastic to us for the whole time we traveled, providing breakfast and dinner twice a week and on the odd occasion even pillows when ours got left behind. In the beginning we would stop at a hotel just on the north side of the Du Toits Kloof pass for breakfast but they were so bad at looking after us that we had to abandon it in preference for Adventure Village in CT it's self, which was a great shame as the view was magnificent.

On a sun filled day we would skip the 3 mile tunnel and go over the pass and stop to admire the view of the sun rising over Table Mountain. Nothing in my mind can beat that sensation on arrival at the Cape.

There are many other stories of the trips that are even more incredible, so will leave that for another day.


Yzerfontein said...

I'm loving reading your entries about your fledgling bus service across southern Africa. Thanks for sharing - you should consider writing a book (I'm sure there's enough material). Have a good flight from South Africa to meet your American traveller friend.

Head of the Family said...

Unfortunately we now live in the UK and miss Africa like mad, which is why I write about it. So we will be flying from Heathrow but we are all on a mission to get back at some point and will keep you blog in mind

ExAfrica said...

Yzerfontein - he'll be visiting me - I'll look after him well. Especially after he called me
"a very pretty woman" I shall remeber that for all of time.

Yes I did "worry my knickers off" it was not about whether or not the two ratherd "aged" backpackers would be picking me up the next day...more like "would I make it to Cape Town alive". Alas I did - and good fun was had by all.

XO ExAfrica

Head of the Family said...

After the compliments I get insults. Gutted not lol.

Iain said...

The photo you asked about, at Old World Wandering, isn't of Shoestring Backpackers! It's the pool at Vic Falls Backpackers. Couldn't see the photo here. Did you use it?

Head of the Family said...

I didn't in the end as I was so sure it was the wrong one. I have looked extensively for an up to date photo of Shoestring to no avail but thanks anyway and love your photo's.

Helen Palmer said...

What a lovely story! I would go over the pass every time, though. As you say, the view is absolutely stunning - at any time of day!

Head of the Family said...

What is sad is that the pass road was always empty.