12 July 2011
It is COLD here! and by "here" I mean Brisbane. I'm coping by sitting about a metre away from my blazing woodstove and eagerly anticipating my temporary respite from winter that begins in a few days. Meanwhile: South Africa.
First I will say that I liked Cape Town, sort of. It's hard for me to truly like a place where I'm warned away from public transport for safety reasons (the Lonely Planet guide calls it "informal redistribution of wealth" - I'll take the formal kind, thanks) and also from walking even short distances after dark. We had unexpectedly mild, sunny weather for the weekend of our brief visit. Really liked the place we stayed. Visited a colony of African penguins and the Cape of Good Hope, beloved of mariners past if not present also.
Next I will say that Phinda Private Game Reserve rocks. They know all about service and the food was excellent and nearly non-stop. The animal viewing was superb. See photos. We stayed at Rock Lodge and enjoyed the services of Sibu, a fantastic guide and intrepid 4WD driver.
After Phinda, the balance of the trip was slightly disappointing. Montusi in the Drakensberg Mtns - okay, just okay, even given we were aware of having been entirely spoiled by Phinda. Good hike though, which we were sorely in need of after 3 days of 4WDing and eating.
Durban: as with Cape Town, don't go out alone but here it was don't do it even in the daytime. Too bad, because it has a big harbour that might have been a good running destination - we saw what we could at dinner by the water one night. Taxis to dinner and back if we went out.
The Hilton: well, it was close to the convention centre. First room they gave us was on the 7th floor but twin beds. We said no, and ended up on the 3rd floor with the view of the car park. Internet was wired and barely usable, and expensive. Charged for the telephone support call. This is a business hotel!! Restaurant: plenty of waitstaff (they call them "waitrons" there) but a struggle to get anyone's attention beyond seating you. Lots of "yes sirs" and inquiries about your wishes and then when you tell them, "right away sir" and they disappear for 20 minutes. The Veneer of Service, I have christened it. In contrast to Oz where there is no service to speak of and thus you neither expect it nor have to tip for it, in SA they make it look like they offer service when really they don't, and they still expect the tip. Our room cleaner left dirty drinking glasses on the sideboard for two days until I happened to be there when she arrived and pointed it out to her. She seemed surprised that it mattered. "Fitness centre" had broken equipment and not enough space for it.
ICM: quite an experience to be there with midwives from all over the world. Must say getting to the food tables in the exhibit hall was even harder with this crowd than at ACNM. They practically knocked you over to get there and if your pre-prandial session ran a bit late, forget it; you might just as well wait a half-hour or so and try again after the feeding frenzy died down a bit. I was happy to get my talk over with early on and enjoy the rest of the conference.
Would I go back? To Cape Town, big maybe. To Phinda, maybe after I've seen some of the places on my list that I haven't been to at all yet. To ICM? I could see doing that. Prague 2014 sounds good...