While Spier is closed to new guests during the national lockdown, we’re providing shelter to five guests who weren’t able to return to their homes in Europe. This is the story of the German family, as written by Anna Punke-Dresen on 1 April 2020.
Day 6 of our quarantine in South Africa:
For breakfast, we go directly to the gigantic hotel kitchen and help ourselves to the food brought out for us, set our own table and clear it ourselves afterwards. Back in our room, we make our beds and clean the bath. Since Friday, we are responsible for our own tidiness and satisfaction here in the hotel, as 99% of the hotel staff are working from home due to the lockdown.
Yes, dear Readers, that’s right. We are still here. Our repatriation flight which had been planned for 27 March has unfortunately been postponed because the South African government could not grant the plane permission to land. Since the lockdown began here, the rules and regulations have been very strict, much stricter than in Germany. It also seems that the negotiations between German and South Africa are not easy, since the airports have also been completely closed off, and the present special dispensation and logistics are proving to be more complicated than we thought.
In the meantime, we have become part of the family at the Spier Hotel near Stellenbosch, and have made ourselves a new home in the hotel, becoming emergency housemates with an 80-year-old British couple, who are also stranded here with the three of us. Apart from the hotel manager and a chef, a caretaker and various security guards are watching over the huge hotel property and wine estate.
According to the lockdown regulations, we, as well as all other stranded tourists in South Africa, may not leave the property. However, in these unfortunate times we are grateful for every minute that we are practically forced to extend our vacation in such an outstanding setting. The owners and manager have been incredibly welcoming.
Apart from our own occupations, board games and exercise, the hotel representatives offer us ways to pass the time, with small but very charming activities. Since Oskar and I love making our own pizzas at home in Hamburg, and since he also enjoys eating pizza here in South Africa, together with the chef we made pizza for all the staff members. This is why every day we can hardly believe how lucky we are to be stranded here.
Despite our deep gratitude, in the back of our minds we are of course dealing with the uncertainty and worry about how things will progress and when we will be able to fly back home. On an almost daily basis, the German Ambassador in South Africa contacts the registered German tourists stranded in South Africa with an update in the form of a letter to the “fellow countrymen”. Although the efforts of the Foreign Affairs office, who is under enormous pressure, have indeed been exemplary, the negotiations with the South African government still seem tough and uncertain. We have since been able to register for a new flight, which is planned to leave on Friday night (3 April) from Cape Town for Frankfurt. According to the latest update from the Ambassador, this plan has also not yet been confirmed:
„I must tell you very honestly that we have not yet received permission for these flights from the South African government. There are also some remaining unresolved problems for which we are trying to find solutions together with the South African authorities. This includes, first of all, the transport of travellers to the airport during the lockdown and the proceedings at the airports themselves. The rules of the South African lockdown are very strict, and the logistics are proving to be problematic. I am confident that we will be able to make it happen,” emphasises Ambassador Martin Schäfer on 31 March, in writing.
Therefore, we are trying to enjoy the late summer here with an optimistic attitude, while making sure to stay healthy, this being the most important prerequisite for the return flight. We also hope that many people back home in Franconia are holding thumbs that we will indeed be able to return home on Friday. After all, there is no place like home.