TWENTY-THREE hours…that is the real travel time that it took for us to arrive on the soil of South Africa. I have to be honest and say that it did not quite feel that long…maybe because I was extremely excited about getting there or maybe because I had more than enough to keep me busy on the plane. I watched several movies, typed a product review, drafted some writing, played some games and read magazines on my iPad.
The meals were a pleasant surprise. Not too bad at all. I was expecting bland hospital food but found the dishes to have flavor and the desserts were very good. The only complaint I would have, if that were possible, would be that the seats were not designed for sleeping. I actually only slept a total of 2 hours, at best, during the entire trip.
Once we landed, I had the opportunity to talk to the pilots…yes, that was PILOTS! There were a total of 3 pilots on this flight. Regulations required that flights over 8 hours have two pilots, flights over 12 hours must have three pilots and flights over 16 hours must have four pilots. They are only required to fly three international flights a month. But if all that was not interesting enough, they also shared with me that regulations require that no two pilots eat the same identical meals during the time in the air at any given time. This is to safeguard that if by some chance any particular item or meal was tainted with salmonella or another bacteria that you would not have a plane without a pilot. I found that very interesting and comforting.
We sat in the last two rows on the plane and because of this we were the last three to load the shuttle bus to immigration. As we walked in the door, I think you could hear all of us sigh at the line of people who were three lines deep. We started to approach the end of the line as a very nice gentleman came hurrying up to us and asked which flight we had just departed. When we told him the Washing DC South African Airlines flight he waved toward a special counter and said, “Come, come, no need for you to wait so long in that line. I will rush you through.” We felt like VIP as we walked past the long lines to the baggage claim within mere minutes of walking in the door. We tipped the gentleman graciously and was on our way to claim our luggage.
Diane’s crossbow was temporarily missing and luckily the hang-up with finding the correct address for the outfitter on a very sluggish public WiFi gave us just enough stall time for the case to have been found at Security. We were headed to the pickup area and just as we rounded the corner we saw our guide, Mara Nel waiving a Ladies in Camo placard. We loaded the car and were on our last final leg of the trip arrival…a five-hour drive to Maroi Conservancy just outside of Musina in the Limpopo Province,
We settled in to a tent house in the Luxurious Tent Camp of Maroi Conservancy at nearly midnight. A very cool living quarters that was half tent and half concrete. The bathroom and shower area was very large with a double window that was only covered with a canvas blind. Taking a shower in the morning as you watched kudu and impala room off in the distance was an amazing experience. The tent had two twin beds, two dressing benches, two drawer/storage and hanging area and was decorated with South African decor, hides and even Cape Buffalo hoof night table lights. We had very large, fluffy towels, thick face clothes and two thick terry cloth robes that came in handy.
The tent gave you the experience of South Africa and to make the experience that first night even more “in the moment”, faintly in the distance we could hear a group singing at a local gathering place. The music was African music and it was such a serene sound…it was at that moment that we realized this adventure was happening. We were spending our first night on the other side of the world.