On our last morning at White Pearl, with a departure time of 11:30, we had our morning beach combing walk at 7 am and discovered an unusual sight. Over the past four days, we had come across evidence of turtles hatching, the shells broken and discarded along the high water mark in the sand where the hatchlings had broken through and made their run for the sea. We knew there were nests, but were told that most hatch in the night and are rarely seen. We were also told that the season for hatchlings was over.
As we walked south from the resort along the shore line, my sister was a few hundred feet ahead of me. I saw her wave her arms and motion for us to come quickly, which we did. She was standing over a single turtle hatchling slowly making its way to the water. I have seen this before in Australia, hundreds of turtles racing towards the water, but this little guy didn’t look anything like that, and wasn’t in very good shape. He was moving slowly, had flies on his back and looked pretty dried out. We surmised that the nest had hatched during the night, and following his tracks, we saw he had crawled out of one of the crab holes. Either he had not made a successful run of the crab gauntlet, or had fallen down a hole, but either way, he was fading fast. My sister scooped him up with a handful of sand, and helped him the last few yards to the water, an outgoing tide. As soon as he felt the cool ocean water, his flippers began to move and he perked up and sped off. We wished him good luck and hoped that he would survive.
After another fantastic breakfast, we reluctantly bid farewell to the people at White Pearl and ended our beach stay. The birthday celebration was over, much champagne had been consumed, and now it was time to make our long way home. The return trip to the states started with a 30 minute drive to an old overgrown air strip where we boarded a Piper Cherokee for the 40 minute flight up to Maputo.
I sat in the co-pilots seat and watched as we took off downwind with no flaps, a surprise to me. I had pointed to the flaps and motioned to the non-English speaking pilot whether he might want them, but he shook his head. We lifted off at the far end of the airstrip, just in time. The flight was uneventful and we had a great view of Maputo and the ferry as we came in to land.
The short private flight was followed by a one hour Airbus flight on SAA from Maputo to Johannesburg, South Africa. We had little time to shop (maybe that was a good thing) before our 6:15 pm flight on SAA from JNB to IAD. We landed on time in Washington DC after a long but uneventful flight from Johannesburg, South Africa on South African Airways.
All the flights and transfers through Mozambique and South Africa went off without a hitch. It wasn’t until we landed in Washington DC and discovered that United had canceled all our conneting flights did things turn bad. (The storm never did hit DC and the cancellations were unwarranted. We did hit snow further south during our drive to Florida). United had kindly “protected” us on flights home two days later out of Washington DC, an option we found unacceptable. We opted instead to rent a car and drive from DC to Florida, this coming after having already traveled for more than 24 hours. The drive was long, 940 miles, but it got me home two days before United could, and my sister one day ealier. This is just one of many times United Airlines has let me down.