South Africa was calling, and we decided to heed the call. Ray has some excellent wine contacts in Stellenbosch, and many of my former students had returned absolutely in love. My extra income made it seem more doable, and it really was time for us to break free from Europe–not forever of course, but there is a big world out there!
Planning a trip to South Africa was a little overwhelming. We are really comfortable with the DIY approach in Europe and North America, but this seemed different. In short, we were clueless, and the necessary research seemed overwhelming. Since this was going to be “the trip of a lifetime” (or at least one of them), we decided to bite the bullet on the added expense, and opted for Africa Travel’s Highlights of South Africa. We did not regret it one bit! Africa Travel was flawless: the connections perfect, the accommodations insanely luxurious, the pace just right for us, and the independence of a carefully planned self-drive vacation could not have been more suited to our need for adventure coupled with our (my) slight neurosis. But now that we have our bearings and an improved sense of African geography, we wouldn’t hesitate to apply the DIY approach for a second trip, if we are that lucky.
Getting to the airport always poses problems. We decided to drive to Logan and leave our car there. It cost $200 for the 15 days, but preferable to other options: limo twice as expensive, parking in Framingham too much hassle (and there almost wasn’t room the lat time we tried this), and there was no one we could really ask to drive us and pick us up. We chose a slightly more expensive lot than the last time (Preflight parking) because: a) it was closer and b) the shuttle to and from the airport seemed more frequent than the cheaper lot we tried when we went to Norway. This proved to be true. No regrets!
We have our shots–turned out we only needed Hepatitis A. We have our malaria pills, our Cipro, our bug spray, our dehydration powder, and I have successfully paired my bluetooth keyboard with my iPad mini so I can write while away, but leave my MacAir safely at home.
The day finally came! Very smooth transition from home to parking to Logan to Heathrow. We had prepaid for a hotel right in the International Terminal (5) but thought maybe we would take the express train right into London for lunch, especially since it was such a beautiful day. But once we got into the luxuriously modern Sofitel, we decided a little nap would be better fortification for our eleven hour overnight flight to Johannesberg. Probably a good call. Had a mediocre lunch in lovely surroundings, regrouped and then headed back to terminal 5 for the next leg of our trip. We had the mobile apps for our airlines, so checking in ahead of time on my phone was easy to do, and using mobile boarding passes seems to be standard everywhere.
The flight to J-berg was surprisingly easy. Actually slept a little and watched a movie. Arriving in JNB was a little chaotic, but it was easy enough to follow the crowd and figure out how to head for our connecting flight to Hoedspriut. There were loads of “helpful” people around willing to whisk us around to recheckin our luggage and guide us to our gate. Fortunately, we had been forewarned about this practice and knew how much was appropriate to tip. He wanted $20. We paid considerably less.
The tiny plane that flew us to our final destination soared over majestic canyons and along winding rivers. Literally purple mountains rose in the distance. We were about to land in a brand new adventure.