Monday 9 June 2014

Homeward Bound...

We've come a full circle - almost.  We are flying home as I write this.
Let me answer the easy questions first.
Yes we had a great time.
Yes we felt safe everywhere we went.  (Of course, we applied common sense and big city rules in our travel and were aware of that crime is an issue that South Africa is aggressively combating.)
Yes absolutely we would use Elizabeth Edwards as our southern Africa travel consultant again.
If one had enough time and money to visit one of the countries we visited which one would it be - South Africa is hands down the first choice.  Zimbabwe would be a close second.
Now for some final random thoughts and musings.
We've travelled extensively in the USA and internationally - pretty much as independent travellers. We wanted to do an African trip on our own without relying on a guided mass sales tour or using a package reseller who has never set in Africa.
The down side is that as independent travellers things can go wrong and as much as I plan and research (and pester Elizabeth with questions) the resolution of issues cannot simply be delegated to the tour leader.
We also recognize that we covered a lot of ground in various modes of transportation - after a few weeks of driving, flying, flight connections and such the rigors of travel would catch up with us.  This especially true when things happen at a much slower pace.  Or if minor expected conveniences such as a jetway to get to a plane, orderly boarding of an aircraft and an orderly retreival of luggage usually never materialized.
In many instances along our travels we were approached by people who wanted to sell us something or ask for spare change (even in Cape Town) and invariably one had to negotiate and bargain for many purchases.  That could be a grind.
We encountered first hand the issue of luggage theft and tampering in Jo'burg airport.  Very early in our trip one of our suitcases was tampered with - locks picked and contents ransacked but nothing of value or interest so nothing was stolen.  But we still felt violated on a certain level.    The solution was to wrap all our luggage for every subsequent leg of our trip.
And yes the domestic airline we used several time manged to lose one of our bags on one of the last legs of our trip.  Of course, that is an expected part of travel. The unexpected and unacceptable part is the lackedaisical and almost apethetic response to this fact of travel that we encountered.
Speaking of the domestic airline - carry on luggage (hand luggage) is a source of constant irritation for airline staff and passengers (all over the world).  Yet in South Africa we observed people who appeared to be locals ignore the airline rules with impunity.  In many cases the individuals would simply argue or walk past gate agents, ramp personnel and even the flight crew with a certain sense of entitlement.  Yet, over and over again the tourist types would be singled out for arbitrary and uneven application of baggage rules even when none were violated.  Full disclosure: I filed a formal complaint against the purser of one of our flights for her complete and utter unprofessionalism and extreme discourtesy.
As one reads this post one may get the impression that the trip was a dismal failure.  This is CATEGORICALLY not true.  We had a FANTASTIC time and have had memorable experiences which will continue to mould us as individuals interested in travel and more importantly as humans looking for a better future for all of us.
I mention and blog about our experiences not to dissuade anyone from making a simply magnificant trip to Africa.
I hope our experiences will prove helpful in others' planning and establishing a base line of expectations - both crucial aspects of a successful trip.  Keep in mind a trip to Africa is not similar to a trip in Europe or USA.
Elziabeth, thank you for all your help and giving me the opportunity to describe our experiences.
Borrowing a phrase, we indeed have dreamed the destination and lived the journey!

Hope many others do the same.