Tag Archives: Transportation

South Africa re-visited

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South Africa re-visited

 

Well it’s almost a year since we were in South Africa, so I am finally getting around to finishing my blog on our visit, before we head off on my 60th birthday trip. More on that later

After leaving Swellendam we headed for our next stop, Cape Town, with a stop on route in Stellenbosch. A very pretty town not only famous for its wine but also its Ostrich farms. After a stroll around the town and some lunch, it was time to move on to Cape Town.

As we approached Cape Town things got busier as you would expect, the wide open spaces that we were used to in the east became less and less also things got somewhat bizarre. You see some friends of ours who have been to South Africa a few times told us a story about when they stopped at some traffic lights, they saw a woman in the middle of the road trying to sell a wardrobe of all things. Just the sort of thing that you need whilst out for a quite drive. Well it appears that the entrepreneurship of the South Africans doesn’t just stop at furniture. We stopped at some traffic lights (probably the same ones) and saw a guy waving the biggest fish you can imagine, around trying to sell it to passing motorists. Quite how many days he had been waving around in the South African sunshine I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess. Before we checked into our guest house, we decided to stop off and have a look around the V&A waterfront area of Cape Town. The V&A consists of many chain type restaurants and high end shops, all very nice but a bit too commercial and polished for my liking, but worth a visit all the same.

On our first full day in Cape Town we visited Table Mountain. We had pre booked our tickets back in the UK having read about the vast numbers of people visiting, as you can imagine, as Table Mountain along with Robben Island are Cape Town’s biggest tourist draws. On reflection we needn’t have bothered as the queue for the cable cars for people with pre booked tickets was just as long as the queue for people without, Oh well we tried. Our next stop and in my opinion a must see is the District 6 museum. District 6 was an area of Cape Town which was a thriving township community, consisting of blacks, coloureds, “South African’s term for mixed race” and Malay people. The district was demolished because the white South Africans decided they wanted the area for themselves to build nice big fancy buildings and high end houses. The entrance to the museum (which incidentally is housed in an old church, the only building left standing from the district) is free to enter, but once inside I would wholeheartedly recommend taking a tour with one of the guides. The guides are all former residents of District 6. Our guide Ruth who was brought up in the district was so informative, and her story was so moving, she was in tears telling us, even though she must have told it a thousand times, very moving indeed. I cannot get my head around how one person can treat another so badly just because of the colour of their skin. We ended our day with a good few cold beers in a bar/restaurant called “Bombay Bicycle Club”.

Our next day in Cape Town was a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for the best part of his 30 year sentence. Robben Island is definitely one I would recommend booking in advance. If you are staying in Cape Town for a few days I would recommend making your booking to the island early on during your stay, because if the ferries to island are cancelled due to bad weather you can use your pre-booked ticket for another day.

A must visit if you are in Cape Town for a few days is Boulder Beach, which if famous for its population of penguins, it was just amazing to see them in there natural habitat. Could have watched them for hours going about their daily business.

Now the 26th of March is my birthday, so we asked the owner of the accommodation that we were staying at Acorn House which incidentally I would thoroughly recommend. If she could recommend a nice restaurant for the occasion. She told us about a high end restaurant called La Mouette, at Sea point which a short drive from Cape Town. She said she would try to book a table, but could not promise as it gets booked well in advance, but luckily for us we managed get a table. We decided to go for the six course taster menu, which also comes with a glass a wine with each course. The food and the wine was amazing. If this restaurant was in London the cost of the meal would be astronomical, I’m sure well out of our price range, but the meal was just £60 for the both of us

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The planning of our trip to India

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The planning of our trip to India

Like I said on my previous post it all started way back in January 2014 when we all decided on going back to India, first stop was looking into flight prices. Now I have no real advice on when to book your flights, as if you leave them to the last-minute prices do go up especially short haul, but long haul is always a bit of a lottery, you see we booked flights to Thailand last year well in advance and discovered that we paid much more than leaving it to last
minute, but this year we booked well in advance and paid much less that last-minute so from the flight point of view it’s always a gamble. You can use certain flight price tracking tools such as Tripadvisor, Skyscanner, Kayak etc which can be useful, but we found that this year we got a price we were happy with it and so booked them, it’s all a case of personal preference.
Domestic Flights
There are a couple of airlines we used these being SpiceJet and Indigo, we have used Indigo before on a previous trip to India and they were very good indeed, SpiceJet I will post my opinion when we have flown with them, both offer a good selection of destinations throughout India and both are very good value, booking via their website is very easy and straight forward.
Indian Railways
During our trip we will embark on four train journeys, these being from Jaipur to Sawali Madhopur (Ranthanbhore National Park), Sawali Madhopur to Agra, Agra to Delhi and an overnight journey from Mysore to Hospet (Hampi temple complex, these were all booked via the website Cleartrip, the booking process is quite painless but you have to look up the rail stations nearest your destination as there are 1000’s of rail stations throughout India as you can imagine, looking up the stations sounds obvious but the station names don’t necessarily match the place you want to go for example the station for Ranthambhor National Park is Sawali Madhopur, but the fix for this is to use good old Google to search for the station nearest rail station to where you want to be. The next problem is getting your head around the different classes of tickets, so after some trawling on the net I found a couple of really useful sights which are far more informative than I can ever do justice on here. First I would like to mention the really useful website Indian Mike this is where I found a great post on the Indian railways booking system (click here) Now I found the Indian Mike website a very useful and informative especially for the independent traveller also a very good source of information on all things India in general. Another useful site to mention whilst on the subject of transportation is the Red bus company who have a good network of luxury coaches to various locations around India, but unfortunately they take card payments from outside India so they need to resolve this issue, but once in the country I’m sure it would be easy enough to find an agent to do the booking for you
Accommodation
Finally the accommodation, all our hotels were found on booking.com I have used them for a number of years now, and had excellent service from them, that is not to say that there are not many other hotel search engines out there that are just as good, it’s a matter of personal preference. One thing I will say is once you find a hotel you like on a hotel search engine it’s always worth seeing if booking direct with your chosen hotel is offering a better deal we have found this on more than one occasion.
Well that’s about it for now but I will post some more tips after our trip as I’m sure there will be a few more. So stay safe keep well and most importantly keep following.