Adventures in strange lands

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

Took a trip recently to East London. As with all my trips there to date, it left me with rather mixed feelings about the place – it seems to be doing it’s best not to present an overwhelmingly positive picture of itself and the place that we stayed at was consistent with that.


Even the initial signs weren’t good. The lodge was situated near a river bend and off the beaten track and the GPS actually had a hard time finding it – not locating it as a point of interest but actually getting there, losing it’s positioning and then directing us along a completely wrong road. I thought that the GPS was just playing up, but by then end of that evening I was wondering if it wasn’t just trying to be noble. “Oops, not that lodge – let me lead them away!”

When we finally arrived at the lodge, we were a little surprised that the owners tried to get us to pay for the second night immediately upon checking in for the first. “So many people book for two nights and then only stay for one,” they said. On reflection, this should have been more ominous than it seemed at the time. Perhaps there was a Reality Distortion Field in play. Not that I could easily have found somewhere else to stay, as there was just about zero cell reception and hence no Internet access there. Maybe I should have been looking for pitchers of Kool Aid at this point.

Getting to the unit itself was a bit more comforting, because it was spacious and clean. The weekend seemed more promising. Until, that is, we tried the shower. It was a gas water heater affair and I marveled at how quickly and efficiently it turned cold water into a boiling hot stream when we turned on the hot tap. And then we turned on the cold tap. Off went the water heater, immediately, and it became obvious that we could have either scaldingly hot water or very cold water, but not both at the same time. Practically, this meant a small window of 7-8 seconds at a time while the water changed temperature before becoming too uncomfortable to use. Showers were thus a mad mix of darting under the dribbling stream and then rushing out to turn taps on or off and then repeating the procedure. I can think of more pleasant experiences.

Eventually it was time for supper. We had asked about meals being prepared and what the charges were but were told that everything was a la carte and “very reasonable”. Again, in retrospect, the lack of transparency should have triggered more if an alarm than it did. Hmmm. Let’s just say we reduced our low expectations even further after that meal. I’d comment more but still am not sure what we actually ate…

Finally we settled down to watch one of the DVDs that were available for viewing from the reception, but the day’s adventures weren’t quite over. “Look, Mom,” my youngest said about 15 minutes into the movie, “a mouse”: tearing across the unit’s floor was the biggest rat I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it was the size of a small dog. Well, pandemonium ensued and the evening ended in massive excitement for my two sons as owners were summoned and a rat hunting/killing mission was successfully carried out. Exciting, perhaps, but not really the sort of wildlife you want floating about your room. Sleep thereafter was punctuated by regular visits from the youngest, who kept hearing “squeaks” in his room.

In fairness, the trip improved quite a lot after that first day. We reduced our expectations and spent time out at the impressive Hemingways where we ate our main meal and I used readily available Internet to get things done. Back at the lodge, the owners were incredibly sweet to the boys and they enjoyed using the jacuzzi, pool table and table tennis table that were there for guests. We enjoyed watching some of the movies they had available and spent some fun time together as a family; the breakfasts were good and they sweetly brought the toasted sandwiches we had for supper right to our room – feeling a bit bad about the rat incident, I’m sure.

As I said, I left EL with mixed feelings again – hopefully I’ll have a trip one day that’s nothing but successful, but I have a feeling it will have to be after staying at a different establishment.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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