Best rates not coded by colour

2010-03-21 12:15

I have been a vagabond, living from town to town, for almost two years. Home has been the cheapest hostels on offer; usually no more than R130 a night for a bed.

It has made for anecdotes like bath time starting with drawing water from a well to using water and my left hand to clean poo from my ass.

Then along came a sho’t left to Cape Town. Long Street has the cheapest budget accommodation. The hostels and ­hotels there are the best I have seen in the nine African countries I have been to.

One night, I had a heated ­telephonic row with someone that had the management of the establishment on my neck about “noise” and his “other customers”. This happened the night ­before my departure, so I had no problem checking out of Long Street Backpackers at 10am.

Lucky for me, there were two backpackers in that building. Even better, Pack and Go on the fifth floor was a (rare) black-owned establishment.

The receptionist on duty, Moyo, glanced at me and got back to starring into space without so much as a “how can I help you”.

“It’s obvious I need something,” I said, adding “You are not a brothel so I am not looking for a pimp. That leaves me with looking for a room.”

He said, “Oh.”

Me: “Shame bhuti, no one can accuse you of being a bright spark, neh?”

He smiled, a sign that I was at the wrong place.

Personal ­politics dictate that I support Team Black: black doctor, lawyer, service providers and – in the event that it happens here at home – a darkie establishment serving darkies and dodgy white people.

Pack and Go also happened to be the cheapest place I have called home at R60 for a bed in a dormitory. The hostel looked dull. It was also under construction with workmen tiling corridors and tending to the new-ish bathrooms.

Still, I proceeded to the dorm and proclaimed myself happy with sharing a room with nine strangers. Most of them looked like the prostitutes the owner later confirmed them to be.

When I put my bag on the floor, the robust owner Mr K, warned, “Never leave your property unattended. They will steal from you!”

That should have sent me looking for a better roof over my head. Instead I payed Moyo the “non-refundable” money. I was told to leave my laptop and other valuables in the safe at the owner’s office. I told ­myself things couldn’t get worse than my first ­impression. Wrong. My cellphone was stolen while charging at ­reception. As was another guest’s.

The night receptionist ­refused to call the owner so I could have my laptop. He also refused to give me his cellphone number; never mind that my bus was 30 minutes away from leaving Cape Town for ­Namibia.

As for Moyo, he claimed that he did not have his ­employer’s number. His tune changed when I revealed my former affiliation with journalism.

Meanwhile, the supposed Fifa-affiliated hotel has set me free from the need to spend on black. I am now pulling a Madiba and getting my services from non-blacks. So thanks to Pack and Go for helping me get over personal politics.

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