Wednesday and Thursday, October 10 and 11, 2007
Knoxville, Tennessee, to Johannesburg (Kempton Park), South Africa

Twenty-five hours of travel took us from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Johannesburg, South Africa.  We left our home at 9:00 a.m. on October 10, changed planes in Atlanta, and finally arrived in Johannesburg at 4:00 p.m. on October 11.  

The butt-stamina I've developed from ten years of court reporting served me well on the grueling 18-hour Delta flight 34 from Atlanta to Johannesburg.  The plane stops for an hour and a half in Dakar, Senegal, to refuel and change crews, but unless Senegal is your final destination, you're not allowed to get off the plane.  During the stop, Dakar security comes on board and matches each piece of carry-on luggage to its owner, and passengers are required to file into the aisleway row by row as security rummages through the seat pockets and underneath the cushions.  It was honestly a welcome diversion in the middle of the long flight, even at 4:30 in the morning.

Dakar-Yoff-Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport, Senegal

Tom and I had the unfortunate honor of sitting in the screaming-baby section of the plane.  The kid directly behind us screamed all the way from Atlanta to Dakar, but then the poor little thing must have tired himself out, because he only screamed intermittently from Dakar to Johannesburg.  Our doctor had prescribed us Ambien for the flight, and in spite of the piercing cries, I slept pretty well and probably missed four to five hours of prime screaming time.  Someone should have given a pill to that baby!

Leaving Senegal, we flew over the ocean again until early afternoon, when we had our first sight of the dry sands of Namibia and southwestern Botswana.  We landed in Johannesburg, South Africa, at O.R. Tambo International Airport half an hour early, at 4:00 p.m.

Arriving to Johannesburg, South Africa

If you plan to visit South Africa, be warned:  You must have at least two blank pages in your passport, or you may be refused entry.  Seriously!  Delta checked our passports for the requisite blank pages both in Knoxville before issuing our boarding passes and again at the gate in Atlanta before we were allowed to board.  Better to be denied boarding than to have to turn around at the end of an 18-flight and do it again.  Tom had plenty of space in his passport, but I just had a few blank pages in mine, and with the little bit of country-hopping we were going to do, I was kind of sweating it that I'd have enough pages to re-enter South Africa at the end of our trip to catch our flight home!

We'd carried on all our luggage to ensure we'd actually arrive with it, so after immigration, there was no need to stop by the carousel.  We next walked through the customs "nothing to declare" lane, handing our forms to the officer as we passed.  He let Tom right through but stopped me momentarily to ask what a "stenographer" was.  I never write "court reporter" on my forms because I don't want the word "reporter" to invite additional scrutiny.  I quickly explained to the customs agent what I do, and when he gave me a blank look, I demonstrated with a handy court-reporter mime and got an immediate "oh" of recognition.  

Maurice from Emerald Guest House was waiting for us just past customs in the meet-and-greet area, as we'd prearranged.  We had two nights reserved at Emerald's, located adjacent to the airport, for 490 rand ($70) per night.  Emerald's is a lovely walled compound.  In fact, every house, apartment, and neighborhood we saw in South Africa was a walled and/or fenced compound.  What a strange way to have to live. 

Emerald Guest House entrance

At Emerald's, we got a couple beers at the bar (Castle, a decent South African lager), then browsed through the half dozen channels on the TV, mostly playing American movies, but also some local programming in Afrikaans.  South Africa has 11 official languages.  Among them are English and Afrikaans.  English is broadly used but is the first language of less than ten percent of the population.  English is widely spoken in all the countries we were visiting this trip, luckily for us, but we did have some trouble with the accents, especially in South Africa.

There were four choices for dinner tonight:  fish and chips, chicken and chips, macaroni and chips, or lasagna and chips.  These people love their chips!  I'd never had french fries with lasagna before, but what the hell.  At dinner we met Leeza, a woman from Capetown.  When she learned we're American, she mentioned she was a big fan of Celine Dion, who I was quick to point out is Canadian.  Leeza didn't hold it against us, though, that I'd so quickly disavowed Celine, and we had a nice conversation.  Leeza had visited the parks in Botswana before and gave us some extra warnings about lions and snakes, but she was clearly excited for us and seemed reasonably confident we'd be okay as long as we paid attention to our surroundings.

Johannesburg was overcast and unseasonably cold today.  It was in the mid-50
s (Fahrenheit, obviously) when we arrived and falling.  Tom turned on the unfamiliar wall-plate heater, and I put on the one long-sleeved shirt I'd packed.  It took a long time for the heater to affect the room temperature, which eventually topped out at 61 degrees after several hours.  We should enjoy it while we can, because once we get to the national parks in Botswana, it's going to be sizzling hot.

Don't touch the heater!

Originally upon our arrival in Johannesburg, I'd intended to immediately purchase a pair of scissors and run with them, but so many friends and family members had told me to be careful in Africa, as a courtesy to them, I graciously decided not to do so.  You're welcome.

Continue to October 12

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