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Stopover in Jo'burg

Written on: Sunday March 29th, 2009

It was with all too familiar African inefficieny and travellers' irony that my flight from Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg brought me first to Zanzibar (where I just flew out of that morning) and then to Nairobi (where I had visited immediately prior to Zanzibar) before touching down in South Africa shortly before 1:00am.  No worries, I wanted to avoid spending another night in Dar and was content with backtracking my way across the continent in order to do so. 

Because of the late hour, the airport was a ghost town.  Only one guy was around to offer a ride to the city, which I eagerly accepted.  After dropping off other travellers, I found myself alone with 'Doctor', the friendly cab driver, heading in the general direction of a hostel to which I did not have a reservation, but rather a general hope that there would be vacancy.  There wasn't.  Hmmm...now what do i do?  Doctor knew of a few other places nearby and was kind enough to call them for me.  Unfortunately, none of the establishments that answered the phone at this late hour had an empty room. 

"Well, you could stay with my Auntie."

 'Are you serious?'

"Yes. She has a nice place and regularly rents out rooms to travellers."

 'Is it ok to wake her at....2:15am?!?'

"Sure.  No problem."

So we drove a couple miles to his Auntie's house.  After ten minutes of buzzer beating, I was half expecting to walk through the gated entrance and get assaulted.  Instead, I was met by the kind smile of a middle-aged woman who sincerely wanted to help me, at a reasonable fee, of course.  There were actually three other people already staying in her spare bedrooms, so we decided that I would sleep in the oversized living room, on a mattress specially brought in.  She provided sheets and blankets and a towel for the morning...even set out a tray of coffee and biscuits before shuffling back to sleep at nearly 3:00am.  Well, I didn't see this one coming...at least I've got a place to sleep tonight.

Morning came quickly.  I showered, packed and left the equivalent of $10 on the folded blankets stacked neatly on the couch.  A short walk around the neighborhood allowed access to a phone, where I called Doctor and asked if he could bring me to a hostel.  We tried the same one from last night, only to be met with 'no vacancy' cries over the intercom.  But this time they did suggest a nearby hostel that supposedly had available rooms.  And it was only 100m away.  Shit...why didn't they recommend them last night?!?  We walked over and found a wonderfully renovated property with heaps of available rooms.  Cool.  I dropped my bags in the sixteen person dorm and immediately crawled under the covers to make up for the previous evening's four hours of sleep. 

Feeling rejuvenated that evening, I enjoyed two perks of the hostel: fast internet access and a cool manager, Hanz, who wanted to share a beer and play pool.  And as there were only two other guests besides myself, we had ample time at the billiard table.

The following day I set off to explore a bit.  There was a local craft market only a couple miles away that came highly recommended.  Hanz was kind enough to drive me there.  I explored the vast displays of woodworking, jewelry, clothing and food, before stumbling upon some cute childrens' clothes that I bought for some cute little girls back home.  Aside from that, I kept my rand in my pockets.  On the walk back to the hostel, there was ample time to hunt for a few geocaches.  Although the sun was hot and the hills of the city steep, it was great fun to find a few caches in the area, proving once again how this activity can take one to places that otherwise would never be seen.  By the time I returned to the dorm I was spent.  Hanz and I ordered a pizza, after which I packed and prepared for the next, highly anticipated destination: Mozambique!