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Goodbye South Africa

Written on: Monday December 4th, 2006

A journal entry from: The Winter of 2006/2007

Arlene?s flight back to the States was a day before ours, the wait for the cape buffalo crossing almost caused her to miss her plane ? or could it be that we got lost on the way!!

After dropping her off, we found the place where we would spend the evening at White River, which is quite close to Nelspruit (Kruger?s airport).   We stayed at Ku De Ta, a bed and breakfast which is run by two gay guys, actually it seemed that it was run by one gay guy (Johan) and the other was just a trophy wife.  The B & B was well set up, our rooms looked onto a garden full of tropical plants, a waterway filled with fish meandered through the garden.  One really novel thing about our room was the bathroom, the toilet was next to a floor to ceiling window overlooking the garden and fish pond, the glass was clear and there were no blinds.  It wasn?t until the next day I realised that it actually overlooked our room?s private courtyard so we weren?t really on display.

 

It was time to leave South Africa, another early morning to catch our 8:30 am flight to Johannesburg, we were anxious to find out if Roger and I were going to be able to get seats on the plane to Perth as last time we checked on the internet we were wait-listed.   

 

We flew into the domestic terminal at Joberg airport and it was all very civilized, well set out and orderly, then we had about a ten-minute walk to the international terminal and it was complete bedlam.  At the moment the international terminal check-in area just isn?t built for the amount of people and luggage passing through although there is construction going on aiming at having a modern airport ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.  Many of the South Africans that we spoke to had doubts that the infrastructure needed to host the World Cup would be completed in time and felt that Australia might have to take it over.  Anyway we joined a long line up for the ticket and reservation counter only to be told that we were still wait-listed and needed to go to the check-in counter to be put on stand-by.  Although the flight was on South African Airlines we?d bought our tickets through Qantas and their office didn?t open until 2 pm.  The girl at the check-in told us that the plane was already 11 people overbooked and there were two others ahead of us on stand-by, however she said that there?s usually 10% of those booked that don?t show (which translated to 20 people on our flight) ? sounded strange but we were actually told the same thing by a number of people.  We wouldn?t find out if we were on the plane until 3:50 pm ? the plane left at 4:45pm!!  Jean and Mike were flying business class, so they were already confirmed on the plane, we made contingency plans on what would happen if we didn?t get seats on the plane.  We had a long tense wait ahead of us, Jean and Mike couldn?t check-in until 1 pm, it was so hard trying to move around the airport we decided to plant ourselves in the café area, Jean and Mike had been able to check their luggage through to Perth from Nelspruit but we were still pushing ours around.   Getting to the café proved to be difficult, there were two elevators with very little waiting room outside especially when we had two luggage carts with us.  Jean and Mike decided to take the stairs and we said we?d meet them up there.  We waited ages for the elevator and when it arrived, I got in, the doors closed behind me and I couldn?t get them open again.  The next thing I knew I was on the 2nd floor, saw Jean so knew I was in the right area, we assumed Roger would be with us a few minutes later but no sign of him.  I then went down the stairs looking for him, each time the elevator doors opened I expected to see him but he wasn?t there.  Eventually I rounded a corner and there he was looking very harassed, there were two cafes in the airport and he?d gone to the other one.  The elevators are quite small especially when you have luggage, Roger got on one that already had several people inside so it was a bit of a squash, the doors wouldn?t close because his knapsack was in the way.  By the time we got to the café he wasn?t in too good a mood.  Just before 1 pm Jean and Mike went to the check-in to get their boarding passes, we expected them to be about 15 minutes, when they hadn?t come back after almost an hour we went to check on them.   Jean told us that Mike was trying to get in touch with our travel agent as his ticket to Perth had been pulled out of the book and they weren?t able to give him a seat on the plane unless he paid $4,000.  So now Jean and Mike are feeling the pressure too.  By now it?s 2 pm and the Qantas office is open so Roger left me in the café with the luggage and went up to speak to the Qantas people, Jean and Mike still haven?t come back.  After about 20 minutes I see Roger approaching, there?s a bit of a spring in his step and then he sees me and I get the thumbs up, we?re on the flight and so are Jean and Mike.  He said that the girl in the Qantas office was very helpful, couldn?t understand why we weren?t confirmed on the flight as Qantas had booked 96 seats and only used 90 of them, she got on the phone, gave someone a piece of her mind and all of a sudden we were given the OK.  After she?d sorted us out and before Roger left the office, she took a phone call ? the call was about Jean and Mike and she got them sorted out too ? we were all on the plane.  So now we could check in our luggage and go through to the departure lounge, unfortunately we had to go through check in 13, which did nothing for me, my nerves were already in tatters.  Once into the departure lounge it was like another world, there were beautiful stores, bars and restaurants, everyone seemed calm and it was very quiet and it was only 100 yards away from complete chaos!!

 

We got on the flight without incidence and had a reasonably smooth flight to Perth arriving at 8:30 am Australian time.  We picked up our vehicle at the airport and drove to Gracetown near Margaret River about a 3˝ hour drive from Perth.  Fortunately Mike had slept quite a bit on the plane so was able to drive, the rest of us were pretty tired but once here and settled into our house, got a new lease of life and went for a walk along the beach and to pick up a few supplies.  The house is really nice, it has great views of the bay, three bedrooms a big kitchen/dining/living area and a nice deck to watch the sunsets.  One huge asset is a washing machine, this is the first washing machine we?ve had in a place since we left Penticton and it?s bliss.