Thursday, February 28, 2013

South Africa 1: Reaching Johannesburg

Considering that I had always heard that South Africa is one of the best country for travelling to, this trip was planned with very very high expectations. During the planning stage itself, I had the feeling that those expectations will be fulfilled. For a wildlife lover like me, SA has a lot to offer. On land, they have almost every major animal except for our very own Tiger. Other than that, there is a lot on offer in South African seas with Whales, Sharks, Penguins, Seals being the prominent few. I was surely very excited to be visiting SA.

As we were travelling during the peak Christmas/New Year period, I started the bookings as early as September beginning. International flight was booked first followed by Kruger Safari, various hotels, domestic flights, car rentals and adventure sports like Sky Diving, Shark Cage Diving and Scuba Diving. For anyone planning a trip to SA, its highly advised to make bookings as early as possible because even after starting so early, I found most lodges in Kruger already sold out.

When a 4 am flight is delayed to 7 am!!
On 22nd December early morning, we reached Delhi Airport well in time before the flight only to find that our flight with Ethiopian Airlines was delayed by 2 hours due to technical reasons. This 2 hour delay later extended to 4 hours and it ensured that we miss our next flight to Johannesburg from Addis Ababa. As the next flight to Jo'burg was only after 24 hours, the airline compensated us a bit and accommodated us at a reasonably nice hotel in Addis. However, this also meant that we would miss our first day at Kruger reducing our Kruger adventure to just 2 days. Considering how much we had paid for the lodge at Kruger, we were really disappointed. However, this also meant that we get to see one extra city namely Addis Ababa. Even though the name of the city doesn't sound much exciting, but I used this logic to help my friends get over with the disappointment of the delay.

Bird's eye view of barren Lands of Ethiopia

Other then the normal city life, Addis Ababa has two good museums one of them hosting the oldest known human skeleton. Ethiopia is believed to have the first humans. However, due to some further delays in getting transit visa, we reached our hotel by about 5 pm and were unable to visit any of the museums. After a short drive through the city, we stayed in our hotel rooms only considering that we had to wake up pretty early next morning for our flight to Jo'burg.

Deserted Planes at Addis Ababa Airport

In the morning, we reached the airport well in time for the flight only to find that even this flight was delayed by an hour. The flight continued getting postponed further and further and finally we took off after a delay of over 3 hours. Later, we found out that this delay was due to some electric issue in the Dreamliner we were supposed to fly in. The various issues with Dreamliners have since become an everyday issue.

When you have to wait for 3 hours to get a Transit Visa done

Finally, we reached Jo'burg at 5 pm SA time on 23rd December. After the regular immigration procedure was over and we came out of the airport with a slight sense of anxiety considering how much we had heard about Jo'burg being unsafe. The Car Rental building is located right next to the airport exit where we were guided by a local who seemed to ask for some money when we reached there but as we hardly had any change till then, we had a tough time getting rid of him. Once I took out the papers for our Car booking, I started reading the terms & conditions there. There was a point which mentioned that if you don't pick your car at the designated time, your booking might be cancelled with no refund. However, the lady at the counter was helpful and told us that she will arrange a car for us in an hour. Thankfully, the car was there in 30 minutes and we left for our hotel in Melville that was booked for the night prior hoping to get some discount from the manager as sympathy for all the trouble that we had faced reaching there. Even with GPS, we had some tough time driving the 20 kms to the hotel and reached there around 10 in the night. The roads were pretty good with people driving properly in lanes which always is a big deal for us Indians. I took some time adjusting and finally curbed my tendency to switch lanes at whim during my stay in SA. The caretaker at the hotel provided us rooms but had no bottled water left. Considering that tap water is portable in SA, it wasn;t such a big issue.
We slept pretty quickly after reaching hotel due to exhaustion and the long drive early next morning to Kruger.

Continue reading the next part: The Wildings of Kruger

10 comments:

MANU PRAKASH TYAGI said...

wow , nice travelogue

sachin dixit said...

Thanks Manu

Unknown said...

Seems like you turned a jinxed trip to a wonderful trip fr urself and ur frnds...

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sachin dixit said...

It was our best trip till date for sure!! :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sachin
We also decided to book Gomo Gomo Game lodge after reading your travelogue.Thanks:)How did you make the advance payment?They are asking 25%payment immediately for the confirmed booking by credit card.Is it safe to provide the credit card details.Please advice.
Deepa

sachin dixit said...

Hi Deepa,
Even I was a bit uncomfortable with providing mt Credit Card details but later found out that its a norm with bookings in SA. So you can provide it. :-)
Enjoy your exotic stay at Gomo Gomo!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Sachin:)How was your safari experience and stay in Gomo Gomo??Also we cancelled our Durban plan and decided to explore garden route:)Great travelogue!!!

sachin dixit said...

Safari experience at Gomo Gomo was just perfect as you could have guessed through my blog post!
Also, its good that you cancelled Durban for Garden Route. Its one of the best drive you will get for sure!! Do give it atleast 2-3 days though!!