Making friends


The 2010 visit to Cape Town also revealed two really special accommodation establishments.

Akela and Mike Oughtibridge
Akela and Mike Oughtibridge

First there was Dongola House in Constantia.  It’s a place that just gets everything right, but there was one even more memorable reason.  While Akela always made friends easily with women and children, she avoided other men and pulled away when they tried to touch her.   She would spot a female friend at the far end of the beach and charge across, jumping up and trying to kiss on the lips.  But men she had walked with for a long time remained frustrated in their attempts to pat or stroke her.

But at Dongola House, on her second meeting with Mike, she sidled up behind him and was quite happy for him to rest his arm on her back and stroke her.  A first in her 12 years!  Thank you Sally for this pic.

Mike, Sally and manager Peter are perfect hosts.  Peter attends to every need in the most unobtrusive way, almost anticipating one’s needs.  It’s a lesson in how to attend to guests.

Mike, a seasoned gaming industry executive, and Sally moved from Johannesburg after tiring of the security-obsessed lifestyle there.  We enjoyed humorous recollections of working with Sol Kerzner.  He and Sally are hospitality industry professionals, spending holidays as guest managers of five star lodges, picking up ideas they can apply to their four star guest house.  It shows, and Dongola House is easy to recommend.

Akela, Kenya & Daniel Balbach
Akela, Kenya & Daniel Balbach

The other memorable establishment was 11 Cape Diem Lodge in Green Point, a stone’s throw from Cape Town Stadium.  Daniel Balbach has turned a charming Victorian home into a designer gem.  It’s the sort of place you’ll visit and leave with ideas to apply at home.  Staff are attentive and very friendly, and Daniel is a great host.  This was another establishment where Akela felt completely at home.

But I owe Daniel for something very, very special.  He wanted photos of Akela at his guest house so badly that he got his friend, photographer Dimitri Vervitsiotis, to come across.  And Dimitri took the photograph that defines a big era in my life.  It shows clearly just how different Akela was to any dog — the skinny legs and narrow chest which allows them to run through deep snow.

Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis
Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis

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