Wednesday and Thursday, 8-9 June, 2011
Graskop to Johannesburg to Tennessee

Our flight doesn't leave till this evening, so no need to make too early a go of it this morning. Linda did some shopping first thing, then we checked out of the chalet and headed off to see some waterfalls before leaving the area.

Lisbon Falls, 92 meters (300 feet) high, is a couple of kilometers to the north of Graskop. The entry fee is R10 per person, and you're able to drive right up to the edge of the falls, which was good for Linda because by this point of the trip, she was pretty worn out. The waterfall was beautiful!

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Lisbon Falls

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From Lisbon Falls

Next we drove just a couple more kilometers to Berlin Falls, a 45-meter waterfall. Unfortunately, work crews were doing controlled burns of the tall grass right in this vicinity, so the view was completely obscured by smoke.

We headed back south through Graskop, making one more stop, at the Big Swing, a 180-foot-drop cable swing over the gorge, like the one we did in New Zealand. But now a haze of low clouds combined with the smoke from area fires to completely conceal the canyon, so we moved on.

As we left Graskop, the weather turned ugly and stayed ugly for hours. It started to rain, then it poured. At times, until we left the mountains, the visibility was almost zero. When we left the mountains, although the rain continued, the visibility greatly improved, but the wind was brutal, and it was a struggle to keep the car on the road. Sheesh! Another day to spend in the Blyde Canyon area would have been great, but not this day. It was just as well to move on.

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Along the highway

We stopped for lunch at a Spur Burger at the PetroPort Alzu on the N4 toll road. The Spur mascot is an American Indian in full headdress, which was surreal. The burgers were good.

After lunch, the rain stopped, thank goodness, because then we entered the heavy traffic and road construction of the greater Johannesburg metro area. I didn't have too much trouble exiting and reentering the highway for a last tank of petrol, but in the mess of construction around the airport, I missed an exit and had to go back around. Much cussing occurred, all by me.

Even with the slight trouble, we arrived at the airport and returned our car to Thrifty at 4:20 p.m., four hours before our flight was scheduled to leave, which was exactly our plan. The rental folks looked over the car, and the only damage they were concerned about was the two chips in the windshield. Tom had to sign off acknowledging the damage, but they couldn't tell us what the charge would be. The rental guy thought “not much,” whatever that means. We were a bit concerned of what “not much” would turn out to be. When we got back to Tennessee, I watched my credit card bill with great anticipation, till finally a week later the charge showed up - $6.90. Woo-hoo! If we'd known they were that lenient, we could have driven even more recklessly! Maybe next time.

Summary of the journey home, in four parts:
(1) The Johannesburg airport was reasonably efficient, with hardly any hassles. The only oddity is that everyone on our flight was rescreened by security at the gate before boarding the plane, at which time my water was confiscated, but Tom's was allowed through.
(2) Left Johannesburg at 8:20 p.m. The flight was long, 17 hours, 'nuff said.
(3) Arrived in Atlanta just before 7:00 a.m. The Atlanta airport is inefficient, confusing, and the airport employees are extremely rude. It took us TWO HOURS just to exit the airport, even though it was our final destination.
(4) Just after 9:00 a.m., we started the drive home. We had lunch at Hardee's in Athens, Tennessee, dropped off Linda in Knoxville, picked up Spike in Powell, and Tom and I (and Spike) arrived home in Clinton at 2:00 p.m., where I had 2,446 emails waiting for me.

Trip Mileage/Kilometerage:
Driving in South Africa: 2,675 kilometers/1,605 miles
Driving in U.S., round trip Clinton-Atlanta: 500 miles
In the air, round trip Atlanta-Johannesburg: 17,000 miles

It was a good trip, but it's always good to get home!

THE END

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