11 day hotel quarantine in London – Review

On Tuesday 7th September I arrived at London’s Heathrow airport at 07.00 am after departing Cape Town the previous day at 07.00 am and it was a slog. To begin with I had to fly to Johannesburg to be be able to catch the 13.00 flight to London via Doha with Qatar airways. Because of Covid, I was informed that I have to be at the airport 4 hours before so I had a lot of time before the flight. Luckily I had forgotten to complete a passenger locator form so there was still time for panic as I called my wife and asked her to complete it for me and mail it. This form confirms that you are departing a red list country as planned and confirms your arrival in the UK. I had had my Covid test and had booked the Quarantine hotel (you do this by phone if you don’t have the 1750 GBP on the hip to pay for it) and the Government allowed me to pay in 10 monthly installments.

Form taken care of, I boarded and headed to Doha, the plane was empty and I had 3 seats to myself. Changing planes at Doha onto a packed flight to London I had the crappy middle seat and was sandwiched between a 6 foot Nigerian and a 6 foot Indian, however.. I really enjoyed that flight. We all became BFF’s and swapped details and chatted a fair bit. The flight was smooth and before you know it, I was back in the motherland

Then it starts. I won’t bore you with the details but it took me 5 hours to get from the plane to my hotel opposite the airport. It makes no difference that I am British, every person coming from a Red List country is treated like a social leper, super spreading, contaminated bastard and it’s brutal, oh and a baggage handler told me my fucking bag was still in South Africa. Surprisingly I was fairly calm about that because there wasn’t a lot I could do about it although I was keen to get to the hotel to call Qatar and see what they could do. I very nice young man who was responsible for getting the lepers of the bus and and into their respective quarantine hotels allowed me to use his phone and Qatar informed me that they had the bag and that it had just been sent to the wrong terminal.

Now I am am in room 526 of the Marriot Courtyard hotel, it’s Saturday and I am beginning to find a routine to the day before my release next Friday. It is just like being in a luxury prison. You get 2 20mins exercise breaks a day that you can take anytime. I take mine at around 15.00 and 21.30 and the food is good. I have made a video explaining more so give it a watch if you are travelling from red list country soon. I had no choice as I am due to start university on October 4th but as I say in the video, it you can avoid it, I would.

Peace

Your Pal

Rob

It’s good to be back!

In March 2020, tourism came to a grinding halt. We all know what happened so no need to dwell on that but tour guides the world over have taken a huge knock. I have been unable to run any tours and spend my time doing an access course online with a company called Learn Direct so I can re-train and go to University in October of this year. I had all my eggs in the tourism basket and have been taught a painful lesson. My income disappeared totally and I have been kept afloat by my wife who thankfully, has a decent job. However, tough times, like good times are fleeting and I am beginning to receive e-mails enquiring about tours and a few days ago I took 4 people from Washington in the United States on a Winelands trip to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek and it was brilliant

Exemplary Wineland Service: Waterford, Delaire Graff, Leeu |

Waterford Wine Estate https://www.waterfordestate.co.za/

It’s hard to describe how good it felt to be a guide again, meet new people and get back on the road, I had not realized how much I had missed it. It was more of a half day tour really because we left the One & Only (great hotel) fairly late but we managed to get a few quality Vineyards in.

Our first stop was Waterford’s for chocolate and Wine Tasting. The Vineyard is on a citrus farm and the building is in a Tuscany style. Each Wine and chocolate is individually paired to bring out the best in each other and the clients love it! In South Africa (unlike France I am told) cold cuts and cheeses are not often offered with tastings, there are of course some places that do offer that but it is not standard so the chocolate is very cool. While the clients drink I eat my weight in tangerines outside, and then come in for a chat.

Delaire Graff Estate | Wine, Dine, Stay, Spa & Art in Stellenbosch

Delaire Graff Wine Estate https://www.delaire.co.za/

Once we left Waterford’s we headed towards Franschhoek and stopped at Graff Wines, this place is outstanding, very beautiful and the wine is first class. Clayton, Tommy and the rest of the group loved it and we all got on really well. As you may have noticed, everything is about politics nowadays so although we flirted with that a bit, we just concentrated on relaxing, having fun and enjoying the moment. We were laughing so loudly that I am sure the other guests thought we were a bunch of peasants but who cares? We were having a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and that is what we all need right now, more than anything.

The Gang in Namibia before they reached Cape Town and Convoy Tours http://www.convoytours.com

We offer fantastic tours of the Garden Route, Cape Peninsula and Cape Winelands, for more information check here https://www.convoytours.com/garden.html

Why do we like to visit Oudtshoorn on the Garden Route?

Oudtshoorn is a nice town in the Klein Karoo region of South Africa and a great place to visit on the Garden Route. At Convoy Tours we like to spend a day here visiting the sights such as the Cango Caves and the Cango Ostrich farm. A lot of people think of the Garden Route as the coastal drive between Cape Town and Tsitsikamma and that’s true, it is but to reach Oudtshoorn you have to travel inland, heading north east for 5 hours. Fair enough, South Africa is a big country and some time in the bus is too be expected but why bother when if you head due east you can reach Mossel Bay faster? also not everyone is that that bothered about Caves and Ostrich, well I get that, although I think Ostrich are great it doesn’t mean you have to, but as someone who has run hundreds of Garden Route tours, I think missing Oudtshoorn would be a mistake, here are a few reasons why

1, Route 62

Route 62 is a magnificent drive through the Klein Karoo where you get to travel through some spectacular mountain passes and enjoy the stunning Swartberg Mountains. On the way there are hidden waterfalls, spectacular views and great places to stop for lunch such as the Country Pumpkin in Barrydale. There is a lot of history as well, if you like that sort of thing and the big open spaces and big sky make you feel you are really in Africa. There is also the world famous Ronnie’s if you fancy an Ice cold beer and the semi arid country is a great contrast to the rest of the trip.

South Africa's Route 62 is world's best road trip | Brand South Africa
Route 62 is great

2. The Cango Caves

The Cango Caves are really interesting and hundreds of millions of years in the making. Discovered in 1780 by a local farmer named Jacobus Van Zyl, the 1 hour fully guiled tour is very interesting and you learn all about the history of the caves, how they were formed and the history of the people who used to live there. It’s not at all claustrophobic as the tour is only an hour long, it’s not a big commitment if you’re one of those people who don’t really give a rats arse about caves, I rate this tour, I think it’s really good and well worth a visit. There is also a adventure tour with narrow tunnel’s you have climb through for the more adventurous although there is a size restriction on this so if you’re ‘big boned’ you may not be able to take part because years ago a lady who was ‘retaining water’ got her ass stuck down there for 4 hours.

Everything You Should Know About The Stunning Cango Caves
Not boring

3. The Ostrich Farm

Ostrich are great, I could list a ton of reasons why but why ruin the surprise. You used to be able to ride them but that was stopped due to ‘people living with obesity’ sitting on them. Now we just learn all about these fascinating creatures from some really great guides. At 45 mins long the tour is the perfect length and once done, you will discover a new found respect for these magnificent animals that you can contemplate while you eat one later for dinner. What’s not to like?

Amazing Ostrich

So there is just a few reason’s why I love Oudtshoorn and why I think it would be a shame to miss it. it is a lovely town full of lovely friendly people and a great experience

For more information on the Garden Route then please check out the link here

https://www.convoytours.co.za/tours.html

Chat soon

Peace

Your Pal

Rob

Why Tsitsikamma is so great

The Garden Route is arguably the most beautiful part of South Africa and that is saying something! If asked to choose the best part of the Garden Route I would be hard pressed to make a decision. Every day and every part is unique and different and has it’s own charm and beauty. I have always really enjoyed visiting Tsitsikamma though, set in the mountains it is such a nice contrast to the rest of the route and it is incredibly peaceful out there and I always sleep like a baby (meaning I cry all night and wet the bed!) It is also by the coast on the warmer Indian ocean and there is a surprising amount of very cool things to do out there, so here is few options for you to consider for your visit.

1.The Tsitsikamma National Park

The beach is fantastic and you can swim in the warmer waters of the Indian ocean. There are several tour operators here offering boat trips and kloofing excursions and Southern Right Whales can be spotted during Whale season.

Tropical Sand Beach Behind Trees. Shot On The Otter Trail In.. Stock Photo,  Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 38901912.
The Beach
Tsitsikamma National Park Day Tour | Knysna, South Africa Activities -  Lonely Planet

You can also take a hike to the suspension bridge and for me, this is a highlight. It is around about 90 min round trip and is breathtaking. We get to the national park nice and early so we can avoid the crowds. It gets busy but not when you’re with me. We avoid all that and have the place to ourselves

2. Bloukrans Bridge

Bloukrans Bridge Bungy: The Dream Of Every Adventure Seeker
The worlds highest bungee bridge

Not only is Bloukrans Bridge a masterpiece of engineering, it is also the home of the worlds highest bungee at 216 meters and you can jump it if you want! Even if that is not your cup of tea, the bridge is a great place to visit and a lovely spot to stop for a drink and something to eat

3. The Big Tree

Tsitsikamma Big Tree
Big enough for ya?

It’s a tree, it’s big and it’s a 1000 years old mate! I am sure you have bigger and older trees in your neck of the woods but the walk through the forest to find this one is well worth it

3. Zip Lining & Storms River Village

Garden Route National Park: Tsitsikamma Zipline Canopy Tour
Slide Away

Zip lining is a gentler activity if bungee jumping does not grab you, it’s a lot of fun for all ages and storms river village has lots of cute shops and places to eat tucked away in the forest. With Convoy Tours you can do as much or as little as you like. If you are planning on booking a Garden Route Tour then booking with us is the sensible thing to do, we are really good at it! check the website http://www.convoytours.co.za for more info.

Until next time

Peace

Your Pal

Rob

Garden Route Glory – The glory of the ride!

Good times and bad times are like the weather, ultimately they are fleeting and they pass. The Impermanence of all things can be sad, I mean everything has to come to an end, children grow up, holidays that we look forward to come and go, so do relationships. But am grateful for that because it works both ways. Crappy times also pass, I broke my wrist years ago and it stung like a bastard but I don’t remember the pain now. Life, for many of us in 2020 has not been great, some people have really suffered. Those who have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses. Those who are lonely, it’s tough, life is tough. As David Brent says, life is a struggle with beautiful surprises

But it passes, I have written on this blog before that Cape Convoy is just myself and a website now, so what? that is what is was 13 years ago when I started running tours. life is swings and roundabouts. I read that the vaccine is on it’s way. If that is the case then sooner rather than later South Africa will reopen and when it does, I will be ready. I am offering huge discounts on private Garden Route tours for folks that book early, 40 % discounts, until September 2021

Cape Convoy Tours, why you should book! Come join me

I am massively excited to start running the tours again, I love being a guide, I love South Africa and I love the Garden Route. So I am sending this out to the universe, if you’re looking for a Garden Route tour and looking for a guide to take you then hire me. It will be the best tour you will ever take. That’s my commitment to you!

Here are some links for the tours, when you book the Garden Route I include a free, private Cape Peninsula tour to the Cape of Good Hope via the Penguins. It doesn’t get any better than that chum!

4 Day 3 Night Garden Route tour with a FREE Cape Peninsula tour https://www.convoytours.co.za/garden.html

The Full Day Cape Peninsula Tour

https://www.convoytours.co.za/capepoint.html

We gotta go!

Whales, dogs and enjoying life

I am starting to get enquires for the Garden Route tour next year 2021, so that is a good thing, a positive thing. It is very hard, no, impossible to predict where things are heading at the moment. The global economy is in a tailspin and it seems we are all in limbo until a vaccine manifests itself and even then, not everyone is going to take it. The ‘new normal’ is a phase that is being thrown around a lot but I am not sure what that means, children in masks? hypochondria and fear? We have to be careful we don’t replace the joy of living with the fear of death. There is a old Russian saying ‘If you’re destined to drown, you’ll never hang’ I take Covid seriously and do my part but you die if you worry, you die if you don’t.

Julia my German Shepherd. Not stressed at all

The weather is fantastic here in the Cape. It is sunny but not too hot. The sea is dark blue and the wind is blowing. I love the wind but the majority of Capetonians don’t dig it. My wife can’t stand it (hair reasons I’m told) and my daughter is scared of it. I love it, I find it cleasning and exciting. I also enjoy the cold water in Cape Town, it feels brilliant to get into the sea. It is healing.

This past Sunday my family and I took a drive to Hermanus for the day to see the Whales. I have not seen many so far in False Bay so I wanted to see them before they leave in November. Hermanus was busy with locals, the sun was shining and there were loads of Southern Right Whales in the bay with their calves. It was brilliant. Seeing Whales makes people happy, seeing them makes me happy. They were breeching and that was the first time my children have seen that so they where loving it.

2021 is going to be a great year because I am going to make it a great year. How am I going to do that? I am going to continue to do what I am doing now. Meditation, gratitude for what I have, eating well, enjoying my family, my dogs and exercising. The Whales didn’t seem to be worried about much, my dogs don’t give a shit about politics and you and I will have a better chance of dealing with whatever life throws at us if we remember how great life is and how lucky we are to be here. This earth is 4 billion years old mate, even if we are lucky enough to manage 80 years here on the blue planet, so what? are you going to spend that fleeting time going crazy about politics and bullshit that you can’t control or influence?

Not me, not my dogs and I am sure the Whales agree. Life is awesome

Lets enjoy it while we can

This too shall pass. The future of tourism

On October 1st South Africa reopened for international tourists, with the exception of countries deemed to be high risk. On September 30th the list was released by the government and almost every country in the world was on it, so it was the illusion of progress more than anything else but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Tourism globally have been hit hard, if major airlines like Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia are in trouble then small tour companies and businesses like Cape Convoy are doomed, like the last Polar bear, on the last ice cap, waiting for it to melt

Or are they?

There are 2 sides to this. On one hand it’s very sad to see everything you have worked hard for and worked towards get stripped away to nothing. I don’t have any buses or tour guides anymore, the money has run out and after 6 months of lockdown, my lights have been turned off by a situation bigger than me and beyond my control. Strangely, it is because of those reasons that I feel reasonably calm. Perhaps the feeling of being in control was always an illusion and all Covid 19 has done has brought home the hard, uncomfortable truth that anything can be taken from you at anytime, without any warning. People who are sick understand this, becoming unwell is never part of any plans we may have, nor is losing a loved one or a million other things that life can throw at you

So Cape Convoy is now just me and a website. I have gone full circle, back to where I started. Just like Ace in the movie Casino! And you know, it’s not that bad! The thing about life is that it goes on, Cape Convoy goes on. I am personally in the position where there is nothing more than can be taken from me (professionally speaking) and I am OK, it’s really not that bad. It could be called rock bottom but as JK Rowling said, rock bottom is a solid foundation to build from, I think of Kipling, in his magnificent poem ‘If’

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

I still love being a guide, I still love Cape Town and I am going to hit the ground running again in 2021, if Cape Convoy makes it or not, I don’t know (although I suspect it will) but I know I will always be able to give great tours!

What does the future of Tourism globally hold? no idea mate although I do feel I am on the right continent. Africa’s star is rising and there is so so much here. I can’t think of any reason why people would ever want to stop visiting

This global change that is happening and that we maybe lucky, or unlucky enough to be living through will pass eventually. It is bigger than us. We must surrender to it, accept it and become one with it because we have no choice. At least that’s the way I see it

Stiff upper lip

Me and my Octopus

On the 7th of March of this year, just before the world went into a Covid induced tailspin, I got married. It was a great day, great weather and I was marrying the woman I love. It does not get any better than that chum!

Although it can and did get better, because we had a unexpected guest. An Octopus!

We were married in Kalk Bay in the Western Cape at stunning old house that I used to live in and now live in again (in a flat attached to the house) I am not sure how old the house is but I do know that in 1910 a British Lord build a tidal pool so he could take his disabled daughter swimming. The house is on the rock, right on the water on the False Bay coastline. For my money it’s the best place to live, or just be, in Cape Town.

octopus

Roberto and me. In my fantasy, this is us. In reality I saw her twice for a few seconds then she got eaten

The tidal pool attracts lots of different types of marine life as you would expect, but sadly none last to long in there as the locals soon spot them and take then out. I have seen fish, large and small Starfish (even a pink one like Patrick from Spongebob) and we have even had a Cape Fur Seal in there and on my wedding day, we had an Octopus.

I heard excitement and walked to the steps that lead down to the pool, and then the Octopus, a big brown one, started climbing up the steps to see me! I mean this guy came up 3 or 4 steps and we had a moment. He was waving his tentacles around and I was smitten. Then he went back into the water

WHOOPTIDALPOOL2

Kalk Bay Tidal Pool in False Bay

I called him Roberto and it was the best thing ever. Getting married was awesome and so was this. Evelyn who has lived and worked at the house forever and who is very well known told me that he had been there for a while, she also told me she had eaten some of her babies.

Right, kill the motor dude.

I made Evelyn promise me that that she would not eat Roberto. It could be her wedding gift to me and she agreed. She did warn me though that the locals were aware that Roberto was there.

Then I knew that the game was up

See, Roberto was really big. Times are hard. That Octopus is worth at least R200 to the locals or even just a decent meal. The bottom line was that Roberto was money, a lot of money to a lot of people.

I saw him once or twice after that. Then he disappeared. I like to like she swam out to the open sea, found another boyfriend and had a nice happy family and who knows, maybe she did. People are often in the tidal pool looking for sea food or anything they can sell or eat. I would do the same if my situation demanded it. It’s not a criticism, it’s just life.

Roberto will always be my friend though and I will never forget her. She came to my wedding and that made me very happy. She will live forever

2020 & Beyond

Hello all, I hope that life is being kind and that you are finding a way through the new world we all find ourselves in. The new normal is not exactly great is it? Gloves, masks, no school, no sound of children’s laughter, no sport, pubs or hugs! When times are tough I always think of it as the weather. Good bad or indifferent, it passes. Everything is ultimately fleeting and Covid 19 will be no different. Acceptance is the key and I feel that we should not waste this opportunity to come out the other side of this thing a kinder, nicer, fairer world.

Tourism globally has been smashed and the job losses will be awful. In Cape Town we have had one of the strictest lock downs in the world. No exercise and a smoking and drinking ban although all that seems to have achieved is make the black market thrive. Every smoker I know is still smoking but I digress..

I am re-training in another field but Cape Convoy will go on and I will run the tours. Cape Convoy is now just me and a website. I have no buses or cars anymore. They have all gone. I will rent them as needed. The sector is just too vulnerable to invest long term in and I doubt this will be the last pandemic. I hope this causes  humanity to have a re think about how we treat our animal brothers and sisters. If nothing else this proves we are all connected and live in a connected world. There is also little difference in Asian wet markets and the factory farming in a western city. It’s not sustainable and its cruel. We are destroying the natural world that rely on for out own survival.

On a more cheerful note, I have made the best of it Meditating every day, exercising, learning Spanish, walking my dogs and online training. I have also started to take a few bookings for April 2021 so that is great news. I don’t have any fear in my heart. Everything happens for a reason and as the Buddhists say. Every grain of sand is in it’s perfect place. Anyone who is struggling should do themselves a huge act of kindness and read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. A very important book and I also suggest watching his You Tube videos. He has helped me enormously in my life and can do the same for you

I made a small video to try to drum up a bit of interest in the tours for 2021. Any action is often better than no action. Cape Convoy will survive, it has too much heart and soul. As Shakespeare said in his play As you like it “This poor virgin isn’t much to look at, sir, but she’s mine”

Wishing you and your family good health and good fortune

Your Pal

Rob

 

 

 

 

Price increase to the Cape of Good Hope & the Penguins at Boulders. Is it worth it?

Guy at the hospital is waiting for his test results. The Doctors walks in and says ” I have good news and bad news for you, what do you want first?

‘Give me the good news first please Doc”

“Your going to have a disease named after you”

Ahh the old ones are the best. Well I have some good news for you and some bad news, what would you like first?

The good news? OK fine. The good news is that by booking with Cape Convoy you are going to have the best day you can imagine. You are going to avoid the crowds, avoid the lines. Learn a lot and laugh a lot. So if you have booked with Cape Convoy. congratulations, you’re a genius and you have made the correct descision

If you have decided not to book with Cape Convoy then you are a person of very poor judgement and the type of Zero we will be spending most of the day avoiding

line

                                                                This could be you

Now for the bad news. Table Mountain National Parks have increased the entrance fee’s for the Cape of Good Hope from R145 pp to R303 pp and increased the entrance fee’s to visit the Penguins at Boulders from R75 pp to R152

First things first. What genius decided to make the entrance fee’s R303 and R152? round it up or down! Now every time we turn up we get asked if we have change by the staff at the gate because the card machines never work!

So, the question is, is the increase worth it?

Yes it is

Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are stunning and booking with Cape Convoy means being there nice and early so it is a very pleasant experience in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

The Penguins I think is a but steep but that is me thinking like a South African. However more good news, we know places that you can visit and see the Penguins free of charge, they are in a few hidden spots we know and after that if you’re still keen then you can pay to visit them at the National Park

A cheaper option is to visit them is on our fabulous Garden Route tour, we can swing by Betty’s Bay if you like and it’s only R20

https://capeconvoy.co.za/garden.html

Until next time

Peace

Your Pal

Rob