Saturday, January 01, 2011

Johannesburg to Blantyre

It was an early morning today. The wake up call (which never came) was for 5:45 a.m. We’d also set the alarm in the room and the cel phone alarms. We didn’t need them. Both of us were awake well before 5:45.

Our bill had been slipped under the door and it included breakfasts, minibar, internet and more. Fortunately my other new best friend Sanjay Patel was on the desk as he promised and everything was taken off. How I got Gold VIP status with Hilton is beyond me but I’ll take it.

My new best taxi driver friend Eddie had sent a driver for us and we got to the airport by around 8:15. He dropped us off at Terminal B which was what the electronic ticket said. Which was correct but it didn’t say that we checked in at Terminal A where 83 million other people were trying to check in too.

We stood in line to weigh our luggage and to collect the weight ticket. We stood in line to get our seats and to hand over our bags. If only one of the South Africa Air personnel looked like they cared it would make life a bit more pleasant for the traveler. That process too over an hour and we were worried about the lines at security.

But first we needed to walk back to Terminal B because that was where the gate was located. We didn’t need to worry about security for any reason. There was no one in line in front of us and the glance we received as we walked through the metal detectors was very thorough I am sure.

But then we entered shopper’s paradise. If you only came to South Africa to shop you didn’t need to leave the airport. If you could imagine it they sold it.

Decaf coffee is an issue here. They will serve it to you begrudgingly but it is really sanka in hot water. Starbucks could make a fortune just on decaf in that airport.

We found the gate and Margaret appeared. Margaret is the woman from SIAST who is sharing this workshop with me. She had flown from Regina to London, stayed in a hotel that she described as an RV and then flown London to Johannesburg. I think we made a good decision going through Atlanta – one flight – a long day – and then we were there.

The flight to Blantyre was uneventful. The plane was mostly empty so we had room to spread out. The cloud cover was sporadic so we could easily see most of the terrain. It was very green and looked beautiful.

We disembarked the plane via ladder – haven’t done that in a long time – and the heat hit us as soon as we were outside. It was close to 30 degrees and the humidity was immense. Through the afternoon the humidity built and built until there was a torrent of rain that lasted around an hour. The sun came out, the earth steamed and all was back to normal.

I can’t keep enough fluids in me here. I drink and drink and I sweat and sweat.

Noel from the project met us and his driver brought us to the Mt Soche Hotel – the project hotel. I’ve seen better!

We agreed that the drive from the airport reminded us of the tour we took in the Turks and Cacaos.

We checked in and headed downtown to find a store that would sell us water. The supermarket had closed already so we found a smaller store and bought water.

Margaret had told us about a good restaurant near the hotel in another hotel (Ryall Protea). We explored that hotel and restaurant and decided that we would stay there for the last two nights in Blantyre on our way out. Marble is much preferred to old, neglected carpets.

We sat outside and had a drink, came to the room for a sleep and the went to the 21 Grill for dinner. Helene had calamari and I had fish and chips all for 64500 Kwacha whatever that is.

Tomorrow we are on our way to Mangochi