The planning, preparation, and the actual vacation are the fun part, getting there is not. This is the third time I have traveled from Washington DC to Johannesburg, South Africa on South African Airways, and it doesn’t get any easier. This time we all met in DC the night before our flight out on SAA. That turned out to be a god send, as with less than one week until departure, we got word that Mozambique was turning away at the border some foreigners without visas. Everything I had read indicated that we could purchase a single entry visa at the border, but our wonderful Hartley’s Safaris planner Karen (www.Hartleys-safaris.co.uk) heard rumors of denied entries, so we all thought it prudent to do our best to get them in advance. Emails to two embassies did not calm our fears and the decision was made to use the morning in DC before our departure to get the Mozambique visas. And we needed exactly all the time we had.
The Mozambique embassy is near Dupont Circle, so that morning we took the hotel shuttle bus to the park and ride bus station, a 30 minute bus ride to the metro station, and another 30 to 40 minutes on the metro to Dupont Circle. Dressed in our warm weather safari gear we braved the 32 degree windy weather and walked the few blocks to the embassy. At least it was sunny. Of course money orders were required (no cash accepted), which was another trek to CVS, ears turning red and eyes watering with the cold. The incredibly unhelpful Mozambique embassy worker took our passports, forms, photos, itinerary and money order and told us to return at 12:45. A conveniently located Starbucks had us killing the time drinking coffee and discussing Downton Abbey and other favorite BBC programs. We returned to the embassy at the appointed hour and finally had our visas, along with the peace of mind that we would not be turned away at the border. We could have chanced it and made the attempt, but with visas in hand, I knew we would relax and enjoy the rest of the trip without the worry.
Back at the airport, with three hours before departure, champagne “flights” were ordered, toasts made, and final preps completed. Phone calls to family, “Good bye, we love you, we’ll try to email, but if you don’t hear from us, we’re ok.”
Then started the long slog. The first leg from DC to Dakar, Senegal was shorter than I had endured before, only 7 hours with a nice tail wind. After a fuel stop in Dakar, we were off again for another 8:15. As unpleasant as it is to spend that much time in one seat on an airplane, I do like SAA. They are always pleasant, very free with the mini Amarula bottles and you have your own personal entertainment screen at your seat.
Finally we landed in JNB. Through customs pretty quickly, waiting for bags to arrive – did they make it? Yes!– and a walk across the street to the hotel.
We had arrived! The JNB Intercontinental Hotel is quite nice, and just about 100 paces from the terminal. It felt like heaven to be off the plane.
The traveling portion is a necessary evil, and I am always happy to have it behind me. Now the fun begins! We had just enough energy for a hot shower and light dinner at Quills, and then off to bed.