There's an old expression about how long a first impression will last. It would seem as though this runs fresh through the minds of all employed by this establishment; they're just "nice people".
Being met at the airport by a guy flapping a sign reading "Weasel" is a pleasing this to be sure. Every one of the guests is met in this fashion, no matter what their mode of transport. Friendly handshakes, warm smiles and firm shoves through the barricades of porters.
The venue itself is only a few kilometres from the airport, sharing a street with stately buildings sporting well manicured gardens and sweaty security guards. These are not homes, but businesses that preferred the suburbs to the crimey city centre. Much of Johannesburg is like that now, businesses taking up residence in the residential areas, making a walk in the city a very long task. The city has become "dodgy over the past few years." But the driver didn't say anything beyond that, and turned up the radio to avoid making awkward conversation.
Two gates form the entrance, one after the other forming a secure "chamber" should the guy at the desk have buzzed the wrong sort of person in. Razor wire and broken glass adorn the walls all around the complex thus making unauthorised entry a bloody affair; the same goes for those trying to slip away without paying.
The grounds are kept finely manicured and complement the charming appearance of this old hillside mansion; one would forget that it is full of degenerate backpackers. Short soft grass is complemented in parts by a layer of small yellow blossoms, knocked off a tree by bees. The pool is clear and inviting, and the limeys are sunburnt yet friendly. The steps between the two buildings are edged in white to aid the drunken backpacker in their stagger to a steamy room.
Breakfast is made as soon as the breakfast lady is told to jump up and make breakfast for you. The kitchen boasts multiple sinks, stoves, and a communal fridge with carefully labelled food from various tenants.
The desk staff are as friendly as they are knowledgeable, knowing almost every tour on the entire continent, and have time to tell you all about it, no matter how busy they are.
Providing the free pickup from the airport is just the sweetener; you have to pay 70Rand to get back. This is about the same as a normal taxi, but who's going to trust a stranger in a foreign place? These people are your friends....
Gaining points all over the place, these people provided refuge for the weary and bewildered traveller. A foul mood can ruin an entire review, but this sort of thing was easily sidestepped. These aren't the kind of folks to throw you up against a wall for "borrowing" a glass from the bar.
Reviewed on Thursday, 9 January 2003