Archive for October 2007

My trip back from Cape Town, South Africa

October 12, 2007

My flight from Cape Town to Jo’berg was uneventful.  But, I did had delay, on top of delay, from Jo’burg – on to the States that caused me to miss my connection at JFK.  

The first delay was because a person on board the plane was sick and needed to be evaluated for travel, so we had to wait until someone on board our plane volunteer their qualifications as a medical doctor and evaluate the ill passenger to determine their travel worthiness.  When it was determined that they couldn’t travel, the baggage handlers had to then go into the cargo hold to retrieve their bags. That took about 45 minutes. 

Then while that was transpiring this guy on the plane (he looked Nigerian or West African) started acting weird…walking around the plane sitting in different seats…wondering thru Business Class…and then he started wearing a plastic bag on his head…the bag that your headset for music and movie listening comes in.  I knew this wasn’t good…I knew this would be trouble! 

So the pilot noticed this behavior as he was tending to the ill passenger and after interviewing a few people and his staff, decided that it was too much of a risk to have this guy on the plane, so FAA officials attempted to remove him from the plane.  The guy wasn’t too happy about this (who would be?) and when he finally cooperated and stormed off the plane, he left without his bags (this was another 20 minutes of delay). 

 So because he left without his bags we had to all reclaim our overhead luggage so the security team could scour the whole plane and remove any unclaimed bags…never know if he left a bomb on the plane…but how would he have gotten it past all those incoming security checks?????  So this took another 30 minutes to clear all our bags in the overhead compartments.

I assumed the pilot would make up the time in the air on our way to Dakar, Senegal.

Upon arriving into JFK the fog was as thick as thieves so we had to fly a pattern for 30 minutes to determine whether or not we were going to have to land in Boston!!!!!  Although Boston is my hometown and my family is still there….I was ready to be home…NOW!!!!

After about 30 minutes, we finally were able to land in JFK.  Not sure how the pilot could see anything.  The fog was very low lying and as we descended we could see the top floors of all the skyscrapers poking out!  I’ve made it back to the US!  But of course I missed my flight by 10 to 15 minutes to SFO.  United was able to put me on another direct flight that left two hours later.  

Sorry the story isn’t over.  

Normally I’m falling asleep by the time we take off and was just nodding off when the plane accelerated down the runway to take off…just before it was to lift off the ground the pilot slams on the brakes and we all get thrown forward in our seats and smoke was pouring in throughout the cabin!  The pilot apparently saw smoke as we were taking off and aborted take off.  The cabin was filled with smoke, but it wasn’t the kind to thick smoke that would choke you…but was obviously an indication that something was wrong…very wrong!  We were then told we had to sit still one the runway while the emergency staff checked out our plane for possible immediate evacuation.  After a few moments we were told that we were heading back to the gate to investigate the smoke and we were escorted by 7 emergency vehicles on the left of us and about 5 to 7 vehicles on the right of us — Fire engines, ambulances, bomb squad, police cars…all flashing their emergency lights and doing a good job of parading us back down the runway–as well as scaring the shit out of us all!

We were told to wait a few hours to see what the deal was with our plane and that we may have to be put up in hotels for the night because all remaining flights where booked.

Six hours later they fixed and tested the plane and they began the boarding process again…”so are we really taking the same plane again???…hmmmmmmmm!!!!”

I was due in at SFO at noon on Saturday and got there around 8:30 p.m.

That was my trip home!

Cape Town Journey (Sunday)

October 12, 2007

Sept. 30th 

Township Tour & Simons Town (as written by Mirabai)

Today we loaded ourselves into an oversized van, with Crosby as our guide, and headed off on our Township Tour.  We drove through District Six and past the museum which was closed because it was Sunday.  District Six began in 1867 as a community filled with families of diverse origins, yet by 1982, the life of the community was over and 60,000 people had been forcibly removed, because of the color of their skin, and relocated to a barren outlying area known as the Cape Flats.  We left District Six and headed out of town toward our first township, called Langa.  Crosby still lives here today.  He spoke much of the history of living here during the apartheid, giving us a first-hand impression of the trials and tribulations of that time.  Visibly now, the community has turned the once “men only” quarters into homes for their families.  There were many coming or going from church as any Sunday at home, but there still remains a vast difference from the township and central Cape Town.   We then traveled to an art center where many local artists displayed their wares.  We shopped for jewelry, sand paintings and ceramics.  The premises house a ceramics school and/or business, where we were graciously invited in for a tour of the process.   Back in the bus and off for an excursion to the next township.  We moved from a small, bustling community and art center to the whole lot of us, shoulder to shoulder in a metal-corrugated shanty. Here we were offered to try their local beer.   With an alcohol level well below anything to get you inebriated, I myself still chose to decline this local specialty.  It was explained that this was made only by women and served only by women as well.  Interestingly enough, the women didn’t drink it!  The shanties had no indoor plumbing and the toilets were found lined up along the street for almost a block.  Amazingly enough, the backdrop to all of this was a breathtaking view of Table Mountain.  Once again, this served as a clear reminder of the vast differences between inner and outer Cape Town. Next we traveled to the township of Khayelitsha.  As far as you could see across the horizon, lay a shanty town consisting of 1.2 million people.  Here live masses of people, being coaxed into believing that a new “free” building will replace their tin-roofed shanties.  I couldn’t help but think of our Native Americans, displaced and yet told they were receiving a gift, when they were shuffled off to a reservation.  It was hard to witness these conditions and moreover difficult when we were privileged to visit a complex which housed a family in a home not yet renovated, followed by one that had been renovated.   In every case, the people remained gracious and inviting as they opened their front doors to our group.  But the truth remains, as with most bureaucracies, the only time anything is really done…is during an election. We drove through the township seeing that most of the businesses are built in shipping containers.  There are street bar-b-ques displaying goat’s heads, small open-air markets, with grocery stores and gas stations filling in the corners.  Somewhere on a small street, in the midst of all of this, there stood Vicky’s Bed and Breakfast.  Vicky, a sharp, young black women decided to open the only B&B in the township, in order to give visitors a first-hand experience in the area.  She invited us in, gave us a tour and told us of her venture.  She proudly exhibits the only two-story building in the area and I’m sure will continue to spread the word of her township through her ingenuity and bright smile.   We ended our township tour with a visit to one of the local churches, where we delighted in song, dance and God.  What a perfect ending to an experience filled with so much emotion. In our high-stress world, with its emphasis on material wealth and instant gratification, it is important to take a moment to get back to basics—especially if the basics are as profoundly rewarding as the real people of Africa.  Back to the lodge, we gathered ourselves once again, filling the two rental vans and we were off to Simons Town and the Penguins.  Yes, that’s right Penguins in Africa!  What a lovely site, nestled in a sheltered cove between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, The Boulders is a world famous spot for a thriving colony of African Penguins.    We walked along the boardwalk, in close range of the birds, with some of us witnessing even more than “just a snuggle.” 

We ended the evening, in the harbor, with a group dinner at Bertha’s.

Cape Town Journey (Saturday)

October 12, 2007

Sept. 29th 

Robben Island (as written by Marsha McNairy) 

We arrived at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for an 11:00 departure time to Robben Island.  The group was led through the Nelson Mandela Gateway to board the ferry.  The ferry ride over to the island was anything but calm, white capped waves all the way!!  It was almost like an amusement park ride!  Those hearty and brave souls that chose to stay top-side whooped and held-on tight to the rails so as not to be pitched overboard!  Once we arrived at the island, there were guides to meet and give us a brief history of the island before giving us the tour of the island by bus. Robben Island was, of course, the home of Nelson Mandela for many years.  Once the bus tour was over, we had a walking tour led by a former inmate of the prison.  Most of what we learned from our walking guide were things he experienced personally while incarcerated on Robben Island.  We were schooled on the history of extreme prejudice toward political prisoners (freedom fighters) and blacks in general.  If you were “colored” (which is described as anything other than black), you made out a little better than you would if you were “Bantu” which basically meant Black African.  Not to say that either group was treated with respect or dignity while housed on Robben Island.  At one time, there were also what they called “common prisoners” housed on Robben Island.  These common prisoners were better treated than those who were imprisoned for political reasons.  The common prisoners were actually taught skills, such as brick-laying and the like, while political prisoners were made to do “hard labor” in the lime quarries.  The limestone of the quarries was so bright; it often impaired their vision forever.  Robben Island was a sad history lesson for me, but it also did my heart good to know that Nelson Mandela survived Robben Island and brought non-violent peace and dignity to a people who had not experienced either emotion for quite a while.  It now serves as a symbol of freedom and liberation.


Once we returned from Robben Island, some of us hung out at the picturesque Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for lunch and a leisurely day of and shopping.  It was a beautiful day and there was music in the air played by live musicians!!  Another day in Africa, another adventure!!

Cape Town Journey (Friday)

October 12, 2007

Sept. 28th

Time to say goodbye to Victoria Falls!


All 16 of us need to get to the Livingstone Airport this afternoon and check-in at our respective airlines and fly about 1 hour and 15 minutes to Johannesburg, South Africa…from there we then have to hustle to the several airline carriers that we are booked on and fly about 2 more hours on to Cape Town, South Africa.  Someone referred to the task of getting everyone to this final destination as herding cats!  Hmmmm…that’s a really good comparison!  A few of us are riding different airlines with names such as Kulula Air, 1time, South African Air and British Air.  What a scene as we are all scurry trying to make our different connections.


Most of us start arriving into Cape Town International around 7:00p.m.  Mike and Donna Holstrom missed their flight by minutes but were able to get on the next available flight.  Amanda Miller had several hoops she had to jump through, but also made it to us that evening.  We rented a few 8 passenger vans from Avis and after reviewing how to drive on the “wrong” side of the road while sitting on the “wrong” side of the vehicle and shifting with the “wrong” hand we made our way to Ashanti Lodge near City Center in Cape Town.


October 2, 2007

Mirabai’s elephant encounter

Just your typical African Sunset

Jen-Rog @ Vic Falls

Damien on the oars!

Zambezi Sun

October 2, 2007

Our last two days in the Victoria Falls area was spent at the majestic Zambezi Sun Hotel.   The group spent the last two days doing some curio shopping and getting some last peeks at the Falls.  We did take some time to visit Mukuni Village.  Our tour ended at the elementary school with hundreds of kids peering out of their classroom windows eager to meet their new visitors.   A few classrooms came together and performed a few songs and dance routines for us.  We ended our visit by donating clothing to the teachers and Daring Journey frisbees and soccer balls to their PE department.  Our visit was too short, but we made a few friends and left many a smile on a face.

Chobe Safari

October 2, 2007

We only spent 24 hours in Kasane, Botswana at Chobe National Park, but I think it was well worth it!  We had beautiful accommodations at Chobe Marina Lodge.  The last game drive that the group took the morning of our departure was full of life long memories and amazing photo opportunities!  The group saw lions with their cubs so close you could practically touch them!   A herd of male Kudu with their impressive antlers and other evasive creatures were seen to top off an amazing tour of some of the finest national parks Zimbabwe and Botswana have to offer!