South Africa: On The Way

Oct 15 2010

This is the first in a series of blog posts about my recent trip to South Africa. I’m posting them a week after they happen. For all 825 photos from my trip, see my Flickr photo set.

Cape Town, South Africa

The first challenge of a trip to South Africa is getting there. My flights lasted a total of about 24 hours each way, including layovers in Dakar (Senegal) and Johannesburg (South Africa).

Fortunately, airplane travel these days is dead simple: swipe a card, receive a boarding pass, stand in a line, remove electronics from your bag, stuff electronics back in your bag, walk, then sit down.

I opted for aisle seats on all flights, so I could rush to the bathroom if I felt like it. I did feel like it, but I was never sick. One of my seat-mates, however, looked ready to: during take-off, he gripped the arm rests and muttered prayers to himself, then put a blanket over his head for the next 4 hours. Nice guy, though.

The main problem with this kind of air travel is sleep. The seats are cramped and not conducive to 8 hours of uninterrupted slumber. Every plane flight included a mewling infant. One neighbor snored. A full night’s rest is impossible for all but the most determined or medicated, and I forgot to take my Sominex beforehand. I made do with a few hour’s sleep and fitful dozing otherwise.

I switched planes in Johannesburg, allowing me to observe a South African airport. It was like any other international airport; I walked past Subway and KFC on the way to my gate. 3D TVs were on display (they had to be watched head-on, and induced headaches no matter how I looked at them). I arrived at Cape Town weary but awake, and marveling at modern air travel. I jetted from North America to South Africa with all the drama of a bus ride.

The 15 on Orange Hotel foyerI met up with my travel agency contact, and a few of us weary travelers piled into a van and were driven to our hotel: the 15 on Orange.

This is a serious hotel. Employees bustled around the foyer at 10:30 at night. Everyone was professional and perfectly groomed. When I got to my room, I discovered that the worrisome fiery light emanating from my bathroom was the glowing counter-top. It was made of backlit orange stone. I didn’t know you could do that.

I changed, flopped down on the bed, and closed my eyes. I fell asleep in record time. Jet lag has its benefits.

Tomorrow, I would explore Cape Town on my own, and find out just how much of a “developing nation” South Africa is.

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