Do you remember the days before the internet and email? Booking a weekend away was a whole research project. We used to keep a copy of the Automobile Association’s self catering guide at home and scroll through the Getaway magazines and rely on other people’s recommendations. And when you are a young working adult who cannot afford to pay top dollar to make sure you are not staying at a dump, then it gets tricky.
Nowadays, it is a lot easier and you can do all the research from the comfort of your chair. I also have a little more disposable cash, so that helps a bit. But, that is no guarantee that you won’t rent a dud.
Last weekend was the Easter weekend and we decided to do a family get together. My brother lives in Cape Town so we don’t often get the opportunity to get everyone together, and in fact the last time we all got together was in December of 2007. It has been a while.
Unfortunately, I left it a bit late and by the time I was trying to find a 8 bed self catering unit that I could rent for a weekend without mortgaging my house, choices were a bit limited. But I did a few enquiries, sent a few emails and got a couple of comparative quotes. Eventually, it came down to two quotes and I made the bean counter decision and went with the cheapest one. In all fairness, it was fairly low cost, but certainly not cheap.
So, on Thursday afternoon, I left the office a little early to make sure we are all packed and on our way, in time to pick my brother up from the airport. For a change, this was well timed and he was flying into Lanseria airport, which was en route to our little weekend haven in Magaliesburg. My mother, stepfather and my niece and nephew were on their way from the general direction of Pretoria. All going according to plan, until my brother send me a message to say he missed his plane. Yup! On the day before a long weekend…
For the next hour and a half we were all sort of suspended in mid air (i.e. diddling daddling at home) while we waited to hear if he could get onto another flight that day. The good news came through at 15:30, an hour after his original flight. He managed to get a spot on the 16:00 flight. The bad news was that the flight was into OR Tambo, which meant we had an hour detour to pick him up. So the estimated arrival time at our weekend destination moved from 18:00 to approximately 20:30. Yuk. But at least we would all be together.
In the meanwhile, my mom was phoning in a state of panic, saying they’re lost. Now, there is something you need to know about my mom. She is notoriously bad with anything more technical than an electric kettle. I dread her phone calls telling me that she cannot access her emails, or her 3G card is not working or how to add a person to her email distribution list. Most of the time the ‘turn it off and then turn it on again’ advice sorts out the problem, but sometimes I end up pulling out clumps of hair in frustration. So, needless to say, she does not have a GPS and even if she had one, she would not be able to operate it. So, if anyone out there was thinking of buying her one, you will have to deal with my wrath!
Having said that, I was clueless as to how I was supposed to help her get to where we were supposed to go, without a location. As she clearly had no idea where she was. So I was giving help on the other side of the telephone line, frantically googling names of places she saw as they drove. But ‘Fresh farm market’ will, surprisingly not yield any useful results. Eventually, I asked her if she had the maps application on her BlackBerry. And if she could send me her location. She said she would, but never did. Luckily, after carrying on down the road they were on, they eventually did find the place. One down, one to go.
But, of course this is when she sent me a message to say the place is ‘a very old farmhouse with only one bathroom’. And it was not the content as such, as the tone of her message that alerted me that this may not quite be the iddilic venue we were looking for. In hindsight I should have made her compile an inventory list there and then, as I was still at home and could have taken some essentials such as braai tongs, a bread board and a WINE opener with! Alas…I bundled the kids in the car and set off for our trip to the airport (late….).
When we eventually arrived that evening, it was dark so we could not observe the place’s redeeming features, such as the luscious green lawns, the lapa at the swimming pool, etc. all we saw was a very old house with mismatched furniture that looks like it was picked up at a local dumpster. At least it was clean. I was told that the swimming pool was very green and that we could not use the shower as the house is made of clay and when you use the shower, the tiles fall off. Ever heard of paint? Anyhow, we settled in, used the kitchen counter as a cutting board to make some burgers and laughed at how the day ended up. And started planning our weekend.
In the end, we had a lovely weekend. We relaxed, played Monopoly, cards, Jenga, went for a hike, and ate until we looked an felt like fattened calves. We even had to employ some monkey gymnastics on Saturday morning, because my brother took the wrong keys out of my car, and when we wanted to leave for the hike, we were stuck in the house! Eventually, we found a tiny window that did not have burglar bars in front of them, and my brother had to airlift Anya through the tiny opening to get to the car and rescue us!
I think I will let some pictures tell the story!
After all is said and done, it was great to spend the weekend with family. We never know if we will have the opportunity again, and let us hope it will not be another 5 years!