I had the most wonderful holiday in Southern Africa – one of those you never want to end! It was wonderful to spend quality time with friends and family and visit some of my favourite spots again. So many special moments and picture perfect memories. There are so many stories to tell, but I was thinking today about how sometimes things just keep going wrong one on top of the other, squeezed all into one day. About 98% of my holiday was fabulous, but there was one day, the trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then connect to Swaziland that it would be better to forget. But since these things happen and it is rather ridiculous as you look back at it, I thought to share it. And by the way – there is a silver lining. 🙂
We said goodbye to our Aunt and one of our cousins at the Cape Town Airport after a lovely lunch at Wimpy, and proceeded on with our hand luggage, already having checked in our main luggage. Boarding the aeroplane after half an hour wait, we finally sat down on our small and squashed seats – note to self – ‘NEVER fly Mango again’. Then we had to wait another half hour just to hear the captain telling us there was a delay. We were becoming more and more stressed as time passed. We only had an hour to get our luggage, check in again and board for Swaziland after touchdown, but we were way behind in schedule. Babies crying and mixed up signals from the control tower to the pilot had us stressing. An Afrikaans guy at the back of the plane got fed up and shouted, ‘Let the fruit fly.’ I couldn’t agree more, but then, after the hour flight, we continued to circle the field about 5 times before finally landing…. at the same time we should have left on our next flight… We were devastated. I rushed to find the Mango help desk while my sister waited for our luggage to arrive on the carousel. I waited another hour for someone to help me, demanding they take responsibility for the mess, and then only to be told, ‘We don’t care if you are an hour late, only if it becomes over 3 hours overdue do we start to care.’
WOW, fantastic customer service!
Anyway, next I went to SAA flights where we were told we had to buy another flight, all the while the attendants at the counter were joking, talking and playing with each other – as if we are interrupting them. What a disappointment! We payed for new tickets as we had apparently, ‘waited an hour before telling them’ and with that ran for check-in, that was just closing. Dropping our bags off I realized we just had 10 minutes to the gate being closed. Anyone who has ever flown to Swaziland from Johannesburg Airport will know it is the furthest gate in the entire Airport, AND it is the farthest from where we were right then. Going through customs was another long wait, that we could NOT afford and sending my bags through, I was drawn aside by a police woman who asked if she could search my bag, I agreed and asked her to hurry, trying to explain that we were late. She could not find anything illegal… luckily 😉 and so asked me, ‘Do you have jewellery in your bag?’ I said yes and took out a long silver necklace, she then laughed and told me I could go. Apparently they had seen handcuffs on the scan…
My sister with my horse’s new (and very heavy) horse blanket, backpack, teddy bear and handbag, and me with an unbelievably heavy backpack, handbag, laptop case, tickets, purse, and penguin soft-toy ran as fast as we could. the sign said 7 minutes to the gate we were trying to get to, but almost killing ourselves and probably freaking out many others with our tomato faces we got to the gate – JUST in time! …..only to wait 45 minutes because they had not finished cleaning the plane…. By this time my sister was crying and I was ready to wring someone’s neck.
Riding in a bus to one of the smallest planes on the field, we waited some more as the cleaners joked and handed things (very slowly) one at a time from one to the other to put in the van. We were getting choked up with diesel fumes and desperate to just get going. Climbing in, we found our seats and settled down.
Finally things seemed to take a turn for the better. With a peaceful, pleasant flight and caring attendant we made our way into beautiful Swaziland. It was already 7 by this time and we would land at about quarter to 8. But our worries were not over, we had booked an AVIS car, and were told before that they close at 17:00 and only open and 09:00. We then had something else to stress about. The flight was soothing and reaching my beloved Swaziland seemed to calm me a bit. I collected my bags and as my sister waited for hers, I ran to AVIS – not hopeful in the least. I was shocked to see everything closed and dark… except for the AVIS desk where a slim lady with very stylish hair sat. I came to the counter and said, ‘Are you still open?’ She smiled widely and said most sincerely, ‘Miss Smit? Welcome! I was worried about you, but I waited in case you were still coming.’ This was around 20:00 and she was supposed to have closed at 17:00! Immediately a different ‘vibe’ surrounded us. Everyone was friendly, very helpful and kind. We got the car papers done in a matter of minutes, and before long were headed for our lovely little rented car. A very small and kind attendant helped us with our giant bags and made sure we were ok and all set. Heading off and at last feeling like things would be OK, we began our little journey to Malkerns, and Sondzela Backpackers.
But wait! More happens! 🙂 It was dark and I normally know my way around really well, but we missed a road and suddenly found ourselves driving through the big metal gates of Matsapha’s Correctional Facility… I climbed out and asked the guards where we had gone wrong – they seemed a bit aloof at first but probably realizing we weren’t there to break anyone out, they quickly gave me the right directions. I jumped back in the car and getting ready to do a 3 point turn, my sister drove across the middle of the small, narrow road. She put it in reverse and it would not work, studying the gear-lever she tried again, with no luck. Another car rushed up and hooted, but finding us stationary in the middle of the road, unceremoniously went around us. One of the guards appeared at the window and asked if we were OK – probably thinking we deserved to be in the correctional facility. Finally my sister found that she had to press a lever below the handle of the gear-lever before reverse worked – and waving goodbye to the guards, we were (once again) on our way.
Getting to Sondzela around 21:00, we were welcomed by the night guard, given the keys to our rondavel and told that we must just go to bed, and that we can worry about paying in the morning. Without even unpacking, we climbed into bed and fell into a deep sleep, ending the nightmarish day. The African morning was astounding – the trouble of the day before soon forgotten in the golden sunlight.