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
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
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
the aisleway row by row as security rummages through the seat pockets
underneath the cushions. It was honestly a welcome diversion in
the middle of the long flight, even at 4:30 in the morning.
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.
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,
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
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
Emerald Guest House
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-50s (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
Tom Goetz's Homepage