Test­ing a great guide

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2009 -

DID you know that there is a pair of breed­ing pere­grine fal­cons nest­ing in the cool­ing tow­ers of the Athlone power sta­tion? And that the birds can dive on prey at speeds of up to 288km/h? Not fully con­vinced, I checked Google and came up with the same an­swers. Also, in 1908, the Cape Town horse-driven cab driv­ers staged a protest against the use of mo­tor cars on Cape Town roads. I learnt this and other facts this past week­end while test­ing a great­guide GPS.

We re­cently met Brian Se­gal, MD for the great­guide, which he de­scribed as the ul­ti­mate tourist guide avail­able on hire for any vis­i­tor, es­pe­cially on their first visit to Cape Town. It can also be set in sev­eral lan­guages. He de­scribed the in­stru­ment as a nav­i­ga­tional and ad­vice guide of­fer­ing a per­sonal itin­er­ary.

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions in Europe we made use of an elec­tronic guide while tour­ing his­tor­i­cal build­ings and have used a GPS on the road but have never had a ded­i­cated GPSbased guide.

We col­lected the GPS on a Fri­day and had the or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­gramme in a ran­dom three-day itin­er­ary, which I in­tended to test over the long week­end.

It is easy to use and we plugged it into the cig­a­rette lighter socket, stuck it on the wind­screen, switched it on and set off. Be­cause I had busi­ness in Som­er­set West, I se­lected the map and put in an ad­dress.

I am used to the bor­ing, and some­times ir­ri­tat­ing, voice prompts that di­rect on an or­di­nary GPS, but this is not so with the great­guide. As we passed var­i­ous land­marks, I – as a Capeto­nian of more than 40 years – be­gan to learn more and more about the city I live in. The voices changed con­stantly as the talk­ing guide de­scribed ar­eas of in­ter­est.

This is where I learnt about the fal­cons, as well as plenty of other facts. Amus­ing to the lo­cals but of note for vis­i­tors are the hints and tips that are ran­domly re­lated while on the move. It hinted at how to deal with the plethora of taxis and how to avoid a con­fronta­tion, as well as what to do at a traf­fic light when the many beg­gars and on-the-hoof sales­peo­ple ap­proach. The guide has bat­tery back-up and can be used away from the car while walk­ing the city streets or sur­round­ing towns. In fact, the guide ad­vises that the real way to get to know the city is to walk.

So the or­di­nary jour­ney to Som­er­set West and back be­came in­ter­est­ing while the great­guide ex­plained the var­i­ous town­ships and how they came about plus an in­ter­est­ing snip­pet that by 2020 the pop­u­la­tion in greater Cape Town will dou­ble in num­bers. It also feeds dif­fer­ent in­for­ma­tion ev­ery time you pass the same point, help­ing to keep up in­ter­est without re­peat­ing it­self.

The great­guide is avail­able at www.great­guide.co.za and can be used on the route from Cape Town to Port El­iz­a­beth via the Gar­den Route, from Jo­han­nes­burg to Nel­spruit and the Kruger Park, and from the Kruger Park via Swazi­land to Dur­ban. At a hire rate of R99 a day it is even worth­while for lo­cals to hire a unit for a day and learn more about our great city and the Boland.

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