#925745 by pjh
05 Sep 2016, 16:28
Incorporating EK773 (CPT-DXB) and EK11 (DXB-LGW)

For those more generally interested in our adventures I’ve put these further down the TR, after the flight specific stuff. Suffice for the moment to say it was the best family holiday ever, well at least since we first discovered crabbing in Walberswick nearly 30 years ago. Sobering to think that it may have been the longest continuous time #1 son (29) and #1 daughter (25) will spend together for the rest of their lives.

As with our outbound we were picked up ludicrously early (09.30) for our flight (13.05), but this time it wasn’t Emirates but the local company Audley contract for travel services. Given that we’d done 2 weeks around South Africa with 20Kg of luggage each the fact he turned up with a trailer provoked some amusement.

So by 10.05 we were arriving at the portal of the Emirates lounge at CPT, even with the slight delay where MrsPJH was again questioned was to why she wasn’t travelling on a South African passport. (answer: she’s never had one). As with our outbound at LGW, we started out being the only ones there.

It’s a relatively new facility over two levels adhering closely to the Emirates standards of…..beige. Most of the seats are equipped with USB charging points.
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Upstairs there’s a secluded corner that looks out over the terminal and where you can, if so minded, re-enact the final church scene from “The Graduate”. We opted to set up camp here.

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The usual Emirates food

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and drink

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were on offer. In between sampling both, we each took on the task of trying to deplete our stocks of Rand, which with some judicious buying of spirits we almost managed to do.

Time passed (as it tends to do) and we were soon striding down to the gate to depart on time, pass a couple of these

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And then it was goodbye South Africa, we’ll miss you

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This leg was again on a 777, so paired window seating and no bar. The IFE worked properly this time around, but the food was no better than on the outbound which was disappointing. Also disappointing was the “Dad’s Army” film which I stuck for about 5 minutes until giving up, opting instead for the charming Dublin based “Sing Street” and following up with Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in “I Saw The Light” which was nowhere near as good as I had hoped.

Service was attentive though, particularly once #1 Son got all twinkly and friendly with two of the cabin crew. This was fine up until the point he passed the summit of “peak gin” and started down the other side. As he said to me later he was unused to having real cutlery on a plane never mind the temptations of “Another?”. Not that there was a behaviour issue, just a fatherly concern on my part about his managing to get off the plane in at DXB.

We did manage an orderly disembarkation to a bus for a tour of the airport, which would have had me worried had we not been around 45 minutes ahead of schedule. This gave us the opportunity to sober up a little in the lounge, and for #1 Son to head off for a restorative shower. It was then the parting of the ways as #1 daughter headed to her gate for MAN and we headed for the gate for LGW. Given her experience on the internal flight we’d taken I was a little worried, but business class and gin had clearly settled her and she later related she slept most of the way back tucked into 7K in the little front cabin of a 777.

We were again in an A380, looking forward to some final roistering at the bar only to find our stamina gone and sleep taking over. MrsPJH made her way there for a diet coke, and reported the service again functional; many crew in the area, but no attempt to engage. When I passed though on a visit to the facilities (has to be done to use the outer ones with the window..) the bar was all set up and looking very twinkly but my body was registering the fact that it was actually something like 4 in the morning and (more) alcohol was not a good idea.

And hello England

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One of the fun things about Emirates is the camera channels..

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And….doors to manual and cross check…

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And save for a quick immigration experience (after all the walking) and a short wait for our car that was it. We’ll gloss over the arrival home to find one of our walls transformed into a water feature…

But to keep my spirits up…


A few highlights from the truly amazing trip;

Durban

Our travel agent has suggested Umhlanga Rocks as our first destination, about half an hour north of Durban and a short trip from the airport. Though the Beverly Hills hotel positively shrieked “It’s the 1960s!” from the outside

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the interior wasn’t similarly retro and the service was excellent – including the whispered report of a bug in the bathroom to the manager resulting in a bottle of Moet in our room for our sundowner. Every room has a sea view and small balcony,

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and it was a treat to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the Indian Ocean though MrsPJH did in her drowsiness mistake it for the air conditioning and ask me to turn it off. I’m good, but not that good.


Day 1 we ventured on a walking tour of the city. It had been planned for day 2, but day 2 was election day and there was some uncertainty about whether there might be security challenges in some of the city.


The City Hall is a near replica of Belfast City Hall

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A highlight was a visit to Warwick Junction Herb Market which was quite an assault on the senses with roots being pounded and flayed animal skins much in evidence. Quite different to our Farmers’ Market.

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Lunch just had to be bunny chow
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Oh, and the Old main railway Station Building has the snow supporting roof design originally intended for Toronto, whilst Toronto got the roof designed for Durban…which collapsed in the first winter.

We were really glad we took the tour, going places we wouldn’t have gone independently. Our guide from the townships told us of her home life, taught us about lobola, (no use to me, I don’t have room for 11 cows) took us into meat and fish markets (Smileys, anyone?)

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and insisted we experience one of the many local minibus taxis. Man, was its loud. Quite an experience too, screeching to a halt to let people off and then only starting again once the vehicle was full after full on touting for business.

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Our evenings were spent around Umhlanga Rocks, as there are many bars and restaurants. It was there that we realized what excellent value we were getting, having hedged my bets and bought currency pre Brexit at around 22 SAR to 1 GBP. At first we had to quietly double check the prices but in the end understood that a good meal for the 4 of us including 2 bottles of wine would come in at between around GBP 40 and 50.


The Battlefields

MrsPJH’s mum and dad had, years ago, come back from South Africa praising the story telling abilities of (the now late) David Rattray about the Battle of Isandlwana and the defence of Rorke’s Drift (as represented in the film “Zulu”) and so I’d built a visit to Fugitives’ Lodge into the itinerary. This involved a 5 hour drive where we learned that following instructions was a good idea. If the directions said head south when your ultimate destination was north they did so for a reason, generally to avoid the speed limiting factors of by potholes, children, speed bumps (though we learned the pattern for recognizing when these were coming up), dust from overtaking motorists and

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On the upside we did see a bit of the country that we wouldn’t otherwise have seen, including some huge forestry and logging operations which we were not expecting. On the serious downside the extent of the drought in KZN was clear, and on the lighter downside there was the rest room experience of which the family will never again speak.

Once at Fugitives’ Drift Lodge we began to get “views”.
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And the next day we did the two tours, first of Isandlwana and then Rorke’s Drift. As we were the only ones on the tour of the former that day, we were taken up Isandlwana Hill

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to hear the story from one of David Rattray’s sons and could see how the battle unfolded on the land below, as the battlefield remains almost the same as it was back in 1879.

Each white dot is a cairn of stones representing where a group of soldiers fell; the progress from left (out of shot) to right tracks the battle.

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In the afternoon it was on to Rorke’s Drift with one of the other Rattray sons

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where he recounted the desperate defence of the small compound, which took place in an area no bigger than a large suburban lawn. It was timed perfectly, so that when he recited the 4th verse of Binyon’s “For the Fallen”, the one that begins “They shall grow not old”, as he got to “At the going down of the sun” the sun was indeed going down.

The hospitality was tremendous. Once you had been introduced to Grace – looking after about 30 guests in total - she addressed you by name at all meals and remembered your preferences. On the second evening a large corporate group was gathering, so care was taken to ensure that we didn’t feel pushed put and we finished the evening chatting with one of Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s grandchildren who was working at the lodge brushing up on his Zulu.


Phinda Forest Lodge

The following day it was up and out for the drive north to Phinda, fortified by road pack of flapjack and water (though not much water was consumed). After another 5 hour drive (including one apparently more civilized rest stop) we arrived at Phinda in time for lunch on the deck and the first of our game drives. We were shown to our rooms which were quite wonderful. There are 17 lodges each for 2 people;

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Just out of sight on the left of this is the personal minibar.
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We did 5 game drives (3 afternoons and 2 mornings), seeing a lot of these;
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Many of these;
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And some of these (having a rest, which they do most of the day)
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And these (having their dinner). Somewhere we have a video with sound of this; a lot of tearing and chewing going on.

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And having a couple of these when Dave The Ranger got a bit overenthusiastic off-roading to track the lions.
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Bear in mind you’re never supposed to step out of the vehicle.

Well, except for sundowners..
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When first presented with the sundowner we opted for g&t. Dave The Ranger made a quip along the lines of “well, you are English” to which I replied “if we were being really English it would be Pimms”. The next day we arrived at our sundowner location to find this, the elusive Phinda Pimms Tree

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It’s difficult to overstate how wonderful the Phinda experience was. There are several environments to roam across (sand forest, mountain, grassland), the wildlife plentiful and the hospitality wonderful. You’re teamed up with the same Ranger and Guide for your game drives, and you do feel like you’re out there tracking the animals (even though the Rangers are in constant contact with each other advising of sightings) particularly when going off road pushing your way through the bush. The day is structured around a morning drive at 6.30 am (hot water bottles and blankets provided), back for breakfast and then lunch (the latter is light) and then a 3.30 afternoon / evening outing until about 6.30 pm. In their summer the morning drives are earlier and the afternoon drives later.

Your Ranger also sits with you are dinner every other night, and it was there we learned that Dave The Range’s great grandfather owned the Durban department store at which MrsPJH’s great grandfather had worked. At least they didn’t find they were related…

However controlled the environment is there is still a frisson of adventure. We’d had an experience one evening with elephants when returning from our drive in the dark. One elephant was spotted in the bush just in front of us so we stopped. And then we noticed an elephant behind us. And two more either side of us. We didn’t tarry long. Then when in the compound after dark you’re escorted to and from your lodge to the central eating area. On the last evening we found out why when elephants got into the compound as they crashed around knocking things down and trumpeting loudly.

All good things have to end, and we had to forego the final morning drive to be confident of making our flight out of Durban, the tale of which I recounted here. In not being up and out with the rest of the lodge we got to observe morning monkey ritual, which involved their strolling onto the verandah of each lodge and trying the slide the exterior doors back.

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Cape Town

It felt a bit odd being back in a city, but we were in a great location off Kloof Street in an apartment hotel where the turndown service included hot water bottles. Whilst everyone local was wrapped up in sweaters and jackets we were a bit like Martin from “Friday Night Dinner” tearing off layers of clothes and declaring ourselves “roasting”. Which we almost were on our final night as our chosen restaurant featured a blazing log fire, and we were given the table next to it.

For the first day I’d booked a wine tour purely for the practical reason that it we bought wine we would have 3 evenings over which to drink it. Our guide turned out to be a front runner for the loudest person in South Africa, but once we got used to it we realized that he was a font of knowledge about, well, just about anything.

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Stellenbosch was incredibly green and lush compared to KZN.

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One of these (can’t for the life of me remember which) provides wine to M&S.

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I’d left the next day without a planned trip, so we opted for Table Mountain followed by a walk round the Waterfront and a visit to the District 6 Museum.

As the Table Mountain cable car had only reopened a day or two earlier, it was busy when we got that and even busier as time passed. In its general concreteness it reminded me of a Bond villain’s lair

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On the way up the car gently rotates so that all get a view.

At the top the view was great and the wind was mighty…

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The Waterfront was buzzy and international

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and the District 6 Museum simple and moving, not least when you realize the clearance happened in your lifetime. It also quietly made the point that similar clearances occurred in European cities in the 1960’s, though based more on class than colour.

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And on the way back before repairing for a restorative at our new favourite beer shop we visited Bo-Kaap.

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Up until our last day we had great weather…but there had to be one poor day, and this was it.


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We still managed a few sights though…

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If you made this far, congratulations! And thanks for letting me ramble on and relive the experience.
Last edited by pjh on 07 Sep 2016, 15:56, edited 1 time in total.
#925765 by Sandissi
05 Sep 2016, 19:34
What a fantastic trip report - thank you! It brought back quite a few memories of my trips to Durban many years ago staying with my Auntie. We did the walking tour too, and have quite few similar photos of the animal heads!
#925773 by ScoobySu
05 Sep 2016, 20:51
What a fantastic family trip!

Thank you so much for sharing your special times - and I hope the waterfall has been sorted!
#925781 by honey lamb
05 Sep 2016, 23:19
Lovely, lovely , lovely TR. Thank you so much.

For a time I was transported back to South Africa especially with your descriptions of Durban and also Phinda. My niece goes there a lot on corporate jollies and rates it highly but she also goes to Nambiti near Ladysmith which is very similar. The descriptions of the game drives and having the same ranger each time (as well as the sundowners :D ) resonated highly with me. Nambiti is slightly different in that it has a range of lodges ranging from the very luxurious to the more basic ones and I have sampled a couple of them and enjoyed the different experiences. I'm glad your travel agent recommended staying in a game reserve as opposed to doing game drives in may of the reserves while staying outside of the reserves. We have done these in the past both independently and also with the hosts of wherever we were staying but it can be so hit and miss as to what you get to see. When you are in the reserves the rangers are great at sharing information.

D*mn you! I need to go back to South Africa again!!
#925783 by whiterose
06 Sep 2016, 06:39
Fantastic TR, you've described it so wonderfully it takes us all with you. I'm marvelling that you managed on 20kg each! Hope the waterfall hasn't done too much damage, not a good return experience.
#925785 by hiljil
06 Sep 2016, 07:08
Thank you for such an interesting, informative TR with wonderful photos. I really enjoyed it .
#925815 by Sealink
06 Sep 2016, 14:23
What an amazing trip report! Loved it, brings back fond memories of my trip to SA.
The lodge looks amazing - how did you book this?
And like me you were incredibly successful with clear skies at the top of table mountain. :)
#925816 by marshy11
06 Sep 2016, 15:34
A thoroughly captivating read. Thank you so much for sharing it, along with the photos.
#925825 by ColOrd
06 Sep 2016, 16:40
I have have to concur with my fellow V-Flyers, really well written and illustrated trip reports PJH, looks like you and the family had a really good time! Glad to hear the flight back to Manchester wasn't too bad for your daughter!
#925827 by HWVlover
06 Sep 2016, 17:14
Paul, two great TRs (this and the outbound) for which thank you.

This one does indeed take the Olympic gold medal for me. Not just the flight information but the very impressive photos (what camera?) and description of your holiday.
It looks like it was great fun and a fabulous experience.
Happy Days.
Thank you again.
David
PS A safari is very much on my to do list if I can just prise myself off that beach.
And I am pleased to see that the limitation on the number of photographs one can include in reports seems to have been removed.
#925828 by pjh
06 Sep 2016, 18:09
Thanks all. I enjoyed putting the TR together as sat here mulling over staffing issues and client escalations it reminded me that the experience had actually been real.

Sandissi wrote:We did the walking tour too, and have quite few similar photos of the animal heads!


I didn't put the pictures of all the other bits. Nose to tail eating at its logical conclusion.

ScoobySu wrote:I hope the waterfall has been sorted!


So do I :) . I need to double check that what we suspected the cause to be has been well and truly sorted nd then get on with dealing with the damp timber and the redecorating (i.e. pay somebody else to do it). Could have been much, much worse.

honey lamb wrote:For a time I was transported back to South Africa especially with your descriptions of Durban and also Phinda. My niece goes there a lot on corporate jollies and rates it highly but she also goes to Nambiti near Ladysmith which is very similar. The descriptions of the game drives and having the same ranger each time (as well as the sundowners :D ) resonated highly with me. Nambiti is slightly different in that it has a range of lodges ranging from the very luxurious to the more basic ones and I have sampled a couple of them and enjoyed the different experiences.


Very envious that you've done several! I think the plushest lodge at Phinda is Homestead, where you get a dedicated ranger for each room, meals are cooked to your order and you have a personal chef and butler. We were booked here until we decided that perhaps it was a wee bit OTT. Of the others it's mostly around the number of units in the lodge.

whiterose wrote: I'm marvelling that you managed on 20kg each!


It was a little bit of a challenge particularly around outer wear and shoes, but for half the trip we only needed clean shirts and undies as at the Battlefields and Phinda everyone wears the same base khaki day in day out. We also benefited from Phinda's laundry service, even though it carried a warning that baboons might steal the clothes when on the line. Clearly ours were so non fashion the baboons turned their noses up at them.

Sealink wrote:What an amazing trip report! Loved it, brings back fond memories of my trip to SA.
The lodge looks amazing - how did you book this?
And like me you were incredibly successful with clear skies at the top of table mountain. :)


Glad to be of service.

The lodge was simply down to Audley. I sketched out with them what I wanted to do and a rough budget, and then we worked together refining the itinerary and cost over a few weeks. You can book direct and here's a link to the AndBeyond website where you can see more of Forest Lodge (including the Boma where we had two of our evening meals) and then zoom out to their other offerings. It was, as you say, amazing. All inclusive (save for premium drinks, but the standards were all brands) and with tremendous food and attitude to making the guests happy. Overall we did, of course, benefit from the ZAR - GBP rate last year which was nudging 24/25 when I booked.

Yes we were very lucky with the Table Mountain trip, particularly given the following day's weather.

ColOrd wrote:Glad to hear the flight back to Manchester wasn't too bad for your daughter!


As I say, gin and business class are great comforters. [/promo on]She was also looking to get back as the company she's working for are launching a new pub called The Pilcrow in Manchester in a few weeks.[/promo off]

HWVlover wrote:but the very impressive photos (what camera?)


A combination of iPhones 5 and 6, iPad mini and an old Canon Powershot point and click job.

HWVlover wrote:A safari is very much on my to do list if I can just prise myself off that beach.

I recommend it. I'd happily do it again, take longer on the safari and fly internally rather than drive. Phinda has its own airstrip capable of taking small executive jets, and I rather fancy the romantic idea of a small prop plane flying just over the treeline and throwing the bags into the back of a Land Rover. There's also something you can't describe about the light (there is no dusk...) and the fact that sound travels far... Knowing your interest in "the other place" on the downside the fizz is just that (but available at breakfast) but the red's a decent pinotage and the minibar is refreshed daily. I would have liked an afternoon just to chill on the deck but you'd definitely have to stay longer to value missing a game drive.

HWVlover wrote:And I am pleased to see that the limitation on the number of photographs one can include in reports seems to have been removed.


That's by the magic of referencing the photos as held in a photo hosting website, in my case Flickr, rather than uploading into V-Flyer. Pinched the detail of how to do it from Sealink. I can let you have details if you like.
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