Sunday February 24, 2013 -The Residence

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.

Saturday Feb 23 2013 – JFK and South African Airlines

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.

Three days to go……..

20130218-141221.jpg

We’re down to our last 3 days and I’m testing out the camera and iPad, Word Press apps to be sure we can easily record high points. Passports and Visas organized, immunizations taken care of – Yellow Fever, Hepatitis and Tetanus updates – South African Rand and USD in hand, Malarone for malaria, ultralight soft-sided luggage required by the small planes in the Serengetti at the ready. Now we’d like to just get going!

Three weeks to go…..preparing

Its less than 3 weeks before we leave for New York City Thursday Feb 21st via Air Canada and then with South Africa Airways to Johannesburg on Saturday Feb 23rd arriving Sunday about 830am. We moved our flight to NYC up by a day to ensure we wouldn’t be stuck in a Toronto snow storm – the weather has been extreme winter, winter, winter for several weeks – and unable to get to the JB flight. We are scheduled to have our Yellow Fever vaccinations, and pickup anti-malarials prescriptions this Monday coming. Challenge at present is to figure out the soft-sided travel bags that will carry enough clothing, etc for a month and still be carry on sizing. More of a stressor for me as Gord likes to travel very light in true male fashion. I’m meeting our 7th travel companion for coffee Tuesday. I think she has been on many trips of this nature and may have some tips for me. We didn’t require soft luggage last year so this is new to me – how to keep everything folded and wearable in a soft bag as we move from place to place. Aren’t I lucky to have such earth-shattering things to worry about (Not)!

Such is Africa…….

“Such is Africa, the flawed beautiful, magnificent, beguiling, mystical, unique life-changing continent – it’s seductive charm and charisma, it’s ancient wisdom so often stained by unfathomable spasms of blood”. I found these words from Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer and his journalistic colleague, Graham Spence to be very moving and evocative of the mixed feelings we experienced in South Africa last winter.

It is 5 weeks until we travel back there – this time to East Africa, including Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa, Mozambique, and Tanzania. We are busy getting our shots and anti-malarials taken care of, and thinking about packing for cities (Johannesburg, Nelspruit, Nampula, Dar-es-Salaam, Arusha…. ), islands (Zanzibar), tenting in the Serengeti, and tree-top living in the jungle. What can I say? Excited, apprehensive, incredibly fortunate to have this experience ahead of us……