Part of what turned out to be a Manila – Dubai – Cape Town – Johannesburg – Richard’s Bay – Durban – Dubai – Manila trip. So that’s MNL-DXB-CPT-JHB-RCB-DUR-DXB-MNL. I had the option to go back to Johannesburg and fly out to Dubai. That could have been with an Airbus 380 super. But Durban will be the more logical and cheaper option.
Flying domestic is not very easy. Earlier in Western Cape, I was taken to some super nice winery tour. I couldn’t help but take with me some bottles of locally made wines. South Africa is one of the world’s biggest exporter of wine and brandy. I came to appreciate the different kinds of wine. Apparently, early settlers are vineyard farmers from France and Netherlands. Several centuries ago, maybe around that time when Magellan was also circling the globe and chanced upon Cebu, some families established themselves here and started out what will soon flourish as winery business. Soon the place became very famous for its wine. That will also explain why most inhabitants (over 60% I guess) are whites with Dutch-sounding names.(Maybe I need to write something about this winery tour)
Emirates’ checked in baggage allowance is a generous 30 Kg. The problem comes in when you have to go around domestic carrying the very same weights. CPT to JHB, which uses a B737-800 jet has a 23 kg provision. Since my luggage has some 3 wine bottles on it, it had to be tagged as ‘fragile’ and go through the oversized luggage route. My total luggage exceeded 23 Kg by almost 10. But the check-in crew allowed me to get in without paying extra. How generous! I was very thankful.
After having some nice chats with newly-found friends – a young couple and a young fellow, I bid goodbye and had to head to the gates. The boarding process was a breeze and the flight onward to Johannesburg was smooth.
I was surprised when they served a full course meal. (Maybe because SAA is a Star Alliance member?) They also serve wines upon request. So I did. I don’t remember if it’s a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. I can’t tell the difference now!
This South African Airways flight wasn’t fully booked. The FAs are nice, but I think one of them isn’t happy with her job. They seem to be a bit older than what we normally see in domestic flights. I wonder how old their international cabin crew are. I hope not too old as are for Delta.
My stay in Johannesburg was quite short – I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and have to fly out on Monday afternoon. So I only have few hours to spend at the office on Monday. After accomplishing my very objective, I have to head towards the O.R. Tambo International Airport. This is about 30 minute-ride from the office in Booysens.
Here are some photos I was able to snap along the way:
Johannesburg has a vibrant skyline with several skyscrapers and a nice centerpiece tower – similar to that in Sydney.
By the way, they drive on the right side of the vehicle. When you are in a country who does things this way, you have to be mindful when crossing the street. I almost got hit by a speeding car in Kenya. I was looking at the other direction. While in Cape Town, I almost claimed the driver’s seat thinking it was the passenger’s. That was a funny mistake!
This time, I had to take a turbo-prop aircraft. So it’s not surprising to be given a lower baggage allowance – 20 Kg. If you think about it, it’s more generous than our usual 15 Kg allowance here in the Philippines. However this time, the check-in crew required that I pay for the excess weight. I don’t remember how much was the rate. But I remember paying about 400 rands.
Before heading to the gates, I climb up to the upper floor – which offers a good view of the runway and the apron of what seems to me like the domestic wing of the airport. Here are some photos I got:
A newer South African Airways B737-800 and older B737-300 British Airways on the background. BA is operated regionally and domestically by Comair. Hence the narrowbody jets.
Taxiing for departure
Just before take-off, I noticed several widebodies at the international wing. I’ve seen at least two A380s. I think one is Lufthansa and the other is Air France. Emirates also flies its superjumbo here. O.R. Tambo Aiport is Skytrax best airport in Africa.
Johannesburg to Richard’s Bay
Flight to Richard’s Bay is a dragging 2 hour (almost). The passengers are mostly young and mid-aged males of different nationalities. One was giving the FA a hard time. When asked to remove his headseat from his ears during take off, he insisted that his gadget is turned off. Whether turned off or not headseats must not be worn during take-off or landing. I remained silent on my seat.
Again, we were given a nice meal. I was pleasantly surprised. This is a turbo-prop plane. It’s not usual. But again, this plane must have a reputation to protect.
We touched down at RCB after dark. The runway is complete with lighting equipment to guide landing aircraft. I can hear the first officer doing a height countdown. First time for me.
A local affiliate picked me up and brought me to what seemed to me like a lodging resort. The cottages are scattered in what looks like a forest. I was housed in one side of a duplex house. It’s got tropical feel. But since temperature is chilly, I had to stay indoors most of the time. Windows and doors shut.
There’s a nearby lagoon where hippos would every so often visit and bathe into. That sounds exciting. I have seen other lakes elsewhere on the way to the office. I was told they host some wildlife. And when there are lakes, there are mangroves. And they are protected habitats. Beside the lakes are a perfect spot for spending a relaxing weekend with family and friends. I also have seen some monkeys enjoying the morning sunshine. This is one place where nature and progress can coexist. At least for the time being.
Arriving on a Monday evening, I have to leave on Thursday to comply with my visa restrictions. I could have stayed longer. But rules are rules.
The weather, to me is perfect. It’s sunny but with intermittent chilly breeze. It’s close to the Indian Ocean so it’s humid. But not the uncomfortable level that we got in Manila.
The ports authority are strict in allowing visitors to come in. Since the office is within the port, we had to secure some paperworks for me to get in. I got to see the dry bulk terminal of the port. The coal terminal is located somewhere else. I suppose this is the part where grains and the likes of cement and fertilizer are discharged (or loaded). Then they are transported onward to different parts of Africa.
Needless to say, cameras are not allowed outside the office premises.
Come Thursday, I have to be driven down south to Durban for my onward flight home. I thought it’s a 2 or 3 hour drive to the airport. We didn’t have to go through the main city as the airport is outside the business district.
I got to see some interesting landscapes along the way:
I heard this one is the longest bridge in South Africa (?). However, only one side so far is completed.
These are sugarcane plantations. The northern part of South Africa along with the country of Swaziland are main sources of sugar. I heard those canes can grow over the height of human. Amazing!
These trees were planted by mining companies. After a mountain is mined for its minerals, mining companies are required to implement reforestation and rehabilitation of the area. So I heard. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
Part of the reforestation program are these walls of trees:
I was asked if we don’t have the same landscape back in our country. I thought for a second. I said ours is different. Good or bad? I didn’t elaborate. I’m not sure really.
I arrived at the Durban’s King Shaka International airport quite early. The airport is mid sized. I think it’s just enough to serve this part of the country. It feels new. No wonder. I found out later that it opened just last year, just in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Hosting a world event seems to bring wonders!
I headed right away to the check-in counters. Most of the crew are Indian. I heard there’s a is big population of Indians here in Durban. Now I’m starting to believe so. My small carry-on luggage was overweight. Full of books and stuff. I bought two jackets from the Johannesburg office. So I had to get them wrapped separately, hoping they’d arrived in order in Manila. (Thankfully, they did) I was a little bit over the allowed 30 kg allowance. But after a nice chat with the check-in crew, they let me check-in without extra cost.
After check-in I took some shots:
Then I headed to the immigration for final checks. I joined the queue to towards the security check. Only to find out I was on a domestic queue. Well, I thought that was the only queue. The international queue beside it doesn’t have any passenger passing through.
I placed my luggage on the x-ray belt. Then the airport police, a lady, said something about an airplane and my luggage. My mind was somewhere else. Bewildered, I asked her to say it again.
Then she repeated “you got the whole plane in your luggage.” He noticed I got confused. Did I do anything wrong? Then she pointed to the x-ray image on the monitor. And there it was – a very clear image of a diecast Gemini jet I got from Dubai airport! Whew! I was relieved.
I explained “it’s an airplane model I bought from Dubai.”
She asked me “Is it for your son?”
Then I thought for a moment. “No, that’s for me. I don’t have a son.”
That is quite selfish, I thought.
That could have been more exciting if that is really something that I’m bringing home for my son. But in this current rotting system we are in, raising a child, or raising a family for that matter, is most certainly a whole lot of challenge. I’ll have to wait for the new system to come.
After clearing from immigration, I checked the shops around. I decided I need something to eat. I bought a coffee and a muffin cake. Then I realized, I have to make some calls. So I did. I have time for it. I called up some friends in Somerset West. I tried calling up the elderly couple I met during my DXB-CPT flight. I shopped around for some duty free goodies for some friends back home.
Unable to reach two by phone, I just sent them SMS. One of them replied. This will be my last chance to use my phone credit, I thought. But I used it a little too much. So I had no more credit to call the nice couple I met in JHB. So I texted them using my roaming phone instead, and asked if they could call me back to my local number. So they did.
This trip to South Africa, although short, is full of nice memories. Memories and experiences, which I’m sure will make me even a better person now and in the future. I found few good friends. Most of them still call up or email me every once in a while. I’m so looking forward to seeing them again.
The next installment will feature the remaining sectors of my trip. Durban to Dubai then onward to Manila….Find out why the lady FA’s simple words brought so many things to ponder upon. Cheesy….