It takes a long time to get to a bush camp in South Africa from the U.S. There's just no getting around that. We have arrived in South Africa, spent the night in an airport hotel in Johannesburg, and are awaiting our small aircraft flight to Londolozi at the Federal Air terminal.
Yesterday, or rather Monday as it's now Wednesday, we had a leisurely time in Atlanta before boarding our international flight to Johannesburg. We slept rather later than usual and spent the morning taking care of some final details online. Then we went for a walk in Piedmont Park and found the weather more humid than we are used to. Atlanta's gay pride festival had just concluded the night we arrived, so the park was still being cleaned up and we saw brightly colored feathers littering the walkways. Michael kept asking where all the brightly colored birds were! “Probably sleeping it off,” was my answer. We had a nice lunch in a cafe by the hotel and then checked out and loitered in the lobby for another couple of hours. The hotel gave us a ride to the MARTA station nearby and so we headed back to the airport. We found MARTA, Atlanta's rapid transit system, to be an easy, cheap, and efficient way to get downtown from the airport. The train stops right inside the airport. Atlanta is not a walking city so I had been careful to book a hotel close to a MARTA station so that we could use this means of transport and not have to take a lot of taxis.
The international terminal at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport is in the newest part of the airport I think. It was quite pleasant and well lit. Our Delta flight boarded on time and we had plenty of space for our carry on luggage. Since the cost of Business class was prohibitive, we had chosen to upgrade our seats to Economy Plus which gives you 4″ more legroom and greater recline in your seat. I felt this was well worth it. Michael is 6'3″ making regular airline seats terminally uncomfortable. Not only is there no room for his legs, but his head sticks up above the head rest making that comfort a forgone conclusion. These seats were better. I definately noticed the extra legroom and being near the front of the cabin was also good as fewer people had to go by our row in the night. Still, getting comfortable in an airline seat is always difficult. We lucked into another great seat mate however, and although fifteen hours on a plane is hard to do, the time passed, we slept some, and then we were landing in Johannesburg around 4:30pm local time.
Customs and Immigration and retrieving our luggage was easy. In fact we were surprised that there was virtually no customs check. Although we saw an agricultural inspection station, nobody stopped us, asked us any questions, or even batted an eye at us as we sailed past one sign saying “Nothing to Declare”. There weren't even any forms to fill out on the airplane as there are for many other countries. Once we were in the main terminal our first stop was the Vodacom store to pick up my pre-ordered sims for iPhone and iPad. This too was quick and easy. Next up was finding the hotel. Although it was a bit of a walk, we had a cart and some good directions from the information kiosk personnel. The City Lodge Hotel was a good choice. Easy access to the airport, clean rooms, and a nice breakfast buffet. After a much appreciated shower and some re-packing, Michael and I took our extra luggage back to the terminal to store at Bagport while we are on safari. First we had the pieces shrink wrapped as was recommended to combat possible theft or smuggling. Then we found an ATM for some more cash and a restaurant for a hot meal. The restaurant made us giggle as it was called Spur's and was Native American themed. We came all the way from the REAL home of Native Americans to go to a restaurant that touted “the secret tribe”. Ha Ha! Nevertheless, the hamburger tasted good as did the glass of red wine. With our bellies full and starting to feel the effects of our long journey, we made our way back to the room and tumbled into bed for what we hoped would be a good night's sleep. Here's a shot of the view from our room when we arrived at sunset, showing highways and what looks like a nuclear power plant in the distance.
This morning I awoke a bit too early and had trouble going back to sleep – classic jet lag I suppose. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was quite nice and included in our room rate. There were a few unfamiliar items including the “Special of the Day” which looked a bit like a cube of hash browns but turned out to be something like a chicken nugget according to Michael. After breakfast we checked out and walked over to the bus terminal at the airport, which happened to be close by. We approached the Federal Air office and were warmly greeted by Supo, a smiling man who scooped us up, tagged our bags, checked us off his list and handed us over to another smiling gent who drove us the ten minutes to the Federal Air terminal. We were checked in for our flight and are now waiting in the lounge. This is quite a nice little terminal. Federal Air provides flights in small planes to bush landing strips as well as other destinations within South Africa and perhaps a few other places. There is a nice outdoor garden area and a comfortable indoor area with couches, complimentary drinks and snacks, free WiFi, and a small gift shop. Since our flight turned out to be 11:30am instead of the 10:30am we had been told, I've had plenty of time to write and enjoy a cappucino. I think they tell everyone 10:30am just to make sure they get here on time! At any rate, now the fun really begins. Next stop Londolozi!
The outdoor lounge of the Federal Air Terminal
The indoor lounge
First impressions: So far I have found the people we've met to be very friendlhy and helpful. Of course, we've really only been in the airport, but I think that's a good sign.
For anyone who needs an overview of our trip, you can find one on The Africa Trip page of this blog. I promise there will be more exciting pictures and activities coming soon!