Friday, August 16, 2013

Durban: A Good Night's Sleep... Thanks To Our Guide

We arrived at the Docklands Hotel, located near the waterfront in a seedy area of Durban seemingly removed a couple of blocks from the revitalized beachfront area.

After the usual greeting and sorting of bags (hotels here commonly offer arriving guests a glass of juice and wander around with trays of drink glasses for our group), we headed for our room on the second floor.

As we unpacked, we realized we couldn't get our air conditioning to work. The thermostat would only display a couple of nonsense letters and numbers.

Brian went directly to the front desk and requested help. Yes, somebody would be right up.

We were meeting at 6:30 to take the bus to our restaurant (last night was a "dinner included" night) so Brian called the front desk after 10 minutes to ask when the assistance would be arriving. "He is doing other minor tasks around the hotel" but will be up soon.

No he wasn't, so we both went to the front desk again, and Brian told the clerk we expected the air conditioning to be fixed on our return or else we required another room. Incidentally, it's not hot in Durban but it's warm and our room was stuffy.

At this point the story changes. The technician has gone home for the day and will return to fix things in the morning around 7:30 a.m. We request another room. "Sorry, we are all booked up."

We ask to speak to Craig Oliver, our tour guide. They think he is "in the restaurant." We wander through the restaurant but Craig is not to be found.

We accost the clerk on his way elsewhere and demand to be put in touch with Craig's room. Craig is in his room and the clerk hands me the phone. Brian explains that we will bow out for dinner, find a hotel somewhere in Durban with air conditioning, and meet the group in the morning.

Craig insists on trading rooms with us. His air conditioning is just fine. Brian tells him that isn't fair to him. Craig says he's outh African and doesn't need "air con." We meet in our room and Craig cheerfully and firmly insists. He even wants to help us take our bags to the new room.

Later we learn that there is a block of four rooms without "air con" tonight and we hear two other members of our tour party speaking to Craig. After a very pleasant group dinner at a restaurant a few blocks away (the Cargo Hold where we were seated next to a 20-foot aquarium wall with a shark and other sea creatures staring at us as we dined), we returned to the hotel and have had the best night's sleep of our trip so far - more than nine hours!

Today we drive up into the mountains toward Drakensburg and there will be more photos to follow as time and Internet permit.

We owe Craig - who is a real gentleman as well as a great guide - big time for this most excellent night of sleep. 


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