We are picked up at the airport by car organized by The Residence. This is a great luxury in a city you don’t know very well especially a very large city like Johannesburg. Our driver, Lucky answers our questions on the drive, chats about his life and takes us past Mr Mandela’s house which is in beautiful Houghton and looks like a lovely respite for this country’s much-loved and very elderly leader. On arrival we are shown to a beautiful room where I slept for a couple of hours – Gord less so because of discomfort. Adrian was waiting to greet us coffee in hand. We had lunch with our hosts on the beautiful terrace where it’s warm and humid enough that I felt very relaxed and comfortable. After a swim and chat and a rest we met for drinks on the rooftop terrace – gorgeous- and welcomed our SA guest for dinner. He is ex managing director of DeBeers (London, I think) now involved in many important SA charities including one which supports the education of 200 students from a tough JB area bringing them to a private school by taxi (which in Africa are vans holding up to 20 people) and offering them the best education possible. A drop in the bucket, our guest says but at least it’s something. We have met many white South Africans, on this trip and our last one, who are working to improve this country that is so beautiful and has been through so much trauma in the last century.
620 wake up call for the 7am shuttle to Terminal 4 JFK departures. Gord is a little more comfortable this morning and I can carry both our carry-on bags. Arrived at the airport easily and found a sky cap to transport our bags to the check-in for a buck a bag. Easy wait for boarding – this terminal is not really busy anytime we’ve been here.
We’re very fortunate the plane is not too full and they give us 4 seats across the middle for ourselves, and don’t fuss over our large carry-ons. The 4 seats mean we can lie down if we want to. Once we are in the air the captain tells us the winds are good and they will shave an hour off the 15 hour flight time. How lucky we are! The flight staff – all black – are charming, friendly and very helpful. Lunch is delicious with real dishes and cutlery and Stellenbosch wine. Service is superb. They offer delicious sandwiches after a few hours – really fresh, brown bread with crusts cut off! And then a good breakfast about 90 minutes before arrival. During the flight we share the seats for lying down and have a decent rest. TV choices are quite good. I watch Argo and Lincoln again to catch the small bits I missed the first time. Gord finds a documentary about the life of Harrry Belafonte. All in all everything is very smooth. Gord doesn’t seem to be in excessive pain but there’s a constancy to it that is draining. On arrival it’s a pleasure to hear the beautiful South African accents and see the bright colours of the country’s flag. The warm weather is very welcome.