Wednesday, July 9, 2008

South Africa - The Good and the Bad of our Final Days

Our last day with the tour we went wine tasting. It was actually really fun, even though I happen to absolutley HATE wine. But I was a trooper and tried anyway. The countryside was beautiful and we went to two vineyards. We had the afternoon free and then we went to the diamond store to see how diamonds are cut and all of that fun stuff. They had beautiful jewelry but there was a bit of sticker shock. One woman in our group looked at a pair of diamond earings (I think that they were a carat each) and they cost $23,000 ... that's U.S. A little out of my price range! But I've always wanted diamond earings and had been asking for them for my birthday and Christmas for years, so Matt bought me some genuine South African diamonds (NOT blood diamonds...they are certified as such) over at the waterfront. So they are an early birthday present. I try to get a piece of nice jewelry whenever I travel somewhere...something that is special to the area ( I have my gold cartuche (SP?) from Egypt and my saphire, get well soon, necklace from Thailand (and I don't think that Costa Rica had anything special there) this is my special South African diamonds.

So, after all of this, we went to our going away dinner. It was actually at The Gold Museum which was pretty cool. So, we had our tour of the museum...which was actually pretty stupid really...and we went outside and they had huge heaters set up for us and we had a great dinner. It was a hodge podge of different types of foods, lots of veggies and it was actually fairly spicy. By far the best food that we had while we were there. It was probably one of the best nights of the trip. The servers were dressed in the native African clothes and there were traditional dances in between the courses. At the very end, the servers all sang and danced for us as well...they also invited some of us to join the dancing and Foster (you may remember him from the first post where he had his "accident") joined in the dancing. He actually had a couple (3 or 4) shots before he did this...I'm sure he was a joy the next day at his 4 am flight to Zimbabwe!! It was a perfect night and so sad to leave some of the people in the group, especially Dave, our tour guide from Collette and Jonathan, our native South African tour guide. I will actually really miss them both! Then we were on our own!

South Africa had been so good to us weather wise for our WHOLE trip...even on the days when it didn't matter...but then, when we really needed the weather to pull through for all went to hell!

Tuesday, the day we had added on to specifically go shark diving turned out to rain. We were actually standing in the lobby waiting for the pick up and the company called and canceled because of the weather. Apparently if it is nasty on the mainland, then it is even worse out on the sea...So, we didn't get to go diving, which was a big disappointment, but there are worse things in life! It gives us a reason to go back!! So, we spent the day at the ocean front going through the shops and then we went to the aquarium to see the sharks sort of up close. But it was good to have a quiet day since we had marathon flights the next day.

We went to the airport at 11am yesterday so we could collect our VAT refund and got the tour of the Cape Town airport, which is undergoing major construction for the 2010 world cup which will be held in South Africa. So, as you can imagine, with construction comes chaos! We checked in domestic b/c we had to go to Jo'burg and then we had to go back outside and walk through a bunch of parking lots to find the international terminal to get the VAT refund. Then we had to find someone who could tell us where the refund terminal was...another issue! So, we get that done and our flight runs only a couple of minutes late and we board and get to Jo'burg in about 2 hours or so....Then all hell breaks loose in Jo'burg. It is complete chaos!! People everywhere going in every which the signs aren't so great, so we're trying to figure out where to go...we find the elevator to get us where we need to go, but for some reason it will just shut the door and act like its moving up a floor, but then it just opens up on the ground level did this 3 times before it actually worked. Then, when we did get to the correct level there were terminals as far as the eye could see ( did I mention that for some reason the girl in Cape Town wouldn't give us our boarding passes to go all the way through?? Don't ask why, I don't know..she did tag our luggage all the way through though...) So, we get in our line and stand there for a while and finally get up to the counter and get our boarding passes for all the way through...while we are in line though, a fight breaks out between these two girls...I think that one said the other cut in line or something like that, but I was pretty sure that some fists were going to fly!! Luckily security came by and quieted them down but they continued to exchange some choice words with each other!! So, we go through that line and have to stand in yet another line to go through security (quite a very long line I might add). So, we finally get through security and our 3 hour layover in Jo'burg actually ends up leaving us with only 30 minutes to wait for our flight. CRAZY!! We were hoping that we'd have good seats on this flight because it was a 9 hour flight to Paris, but as it turns out we were seated in the middle aisle in between two other people, so we were sandwiched in. Fine if your flying for 2 hours, but 9 hours is a bit long. It was actually an abolutley miserable flight. I couldn't even get sprite with my breakfast! We were pretty much given a sandwich for breakfast (and I know that it was breakfast because they called it that) but they wouldn't give me a damn sprite!! Damn AirFrance and french people everywhere. So, in Paris, we had to leave the secure area once again and ride the tram to our next terminal. So, yet again we had to stand in line to go through security. And this was quite a long line as well. But again we got throught it and had a chance to have some french pastry before we got on the plane. Everything was pretty uneventful except for the fact that the girl didn't like the boarding pass I was given in Jo'burg and wasn't sure she was going to let me on the plane...she talked with the girl who was letting Matt through and then decided to let me through. This flight I might add was much better...first of all, American food (and ice cream as a snack). Plus, the seats were much more comfortable and we had the only two seats on the left hand side (window!!). There was no video on demand like the flight to Paris, but it was worth it to have the extra space since this was yet again another 8 hour flight. Then, we get to JFK and we have to go through security once again. I think I got radiation poinsoning from all of the times I walked through the metal detector! Our flight was late, but it was only a little over an hour flight home, so it all worked out. I am so happy to be off of planes and out of airports!! We spent over 20 hours up in the air, and then figure in all of the layovers, and we spent well over a day and a half traveling, and if you saw us, you would have known!! Thankfully we both took tomorrow off, so no work for either of us until Monday.

So, we are home now and begining the process of uploading pictures!! I missed the house and the puppy, but I could easily pick up everything and move to Cape Town. No doubts!!

No comments: