Thursday, September 10, 2015

South Africa 2015 - September, 9 - Richards Bay & Victoria Falls

South Africa 2015 - September, 9 - Richards Bay & Victoria Falls

Travel days tend not to be too eventful over here.  Any travel we planned had to go through Johannesburg.  Not sure why, but it is something that we had to deal with.  Upon getting up at 0-dark-thirty so we could get the the Richards Bay Airport, we didn't have much time for anything other than a shower and hit the door.  We ended up having to gas up the rental before returning it, which was a feat in itself.  Naturally, I didn't stop at the first gas station I saw, because I was sure there was one near the airport - or so I thought.  Anyway, after going around in a giant circle and getting gas at a station very near the first one I saw, we were on our way to the airport.  Surprising fact over here in South Africa, there are still a lot of full service gas stations.

Airport security isn't quite a brutal as the US in South Africa either, at least not at Richards Bay. However, they only have one line and they scan all the workers as they enter the secure area as well.  Unbeknownst to us, we managed to get a full size bottle of sun screen (but we didn't know yet).  The plane was the daring prop plane that we took over to Richards Bay a mere 10 days prior.  No frills but plenty of seats as it was less than 1/4 full.

Once we arrived at Johannesburg, we traipsed through A terminal to get to the B terminal, where our new plane to take us to Victoria Falls would meet us.  If you have not been to Johannesburg airport, you aren't missing much.  Lots of shops you need to walk through to get from one terminal to the other.  Passport screening and gate security at each terminal too (not a full secure area, several mini ones).  No big deal though.  We made it through security with that bottle of sun screen again (we still don't know yet), but this time the guard noticed something in the bag so he had us take out the contents and allowed us through once he saw there was no bottle.

We arrived at the gate ready to board the bus in order to shuttle us to the plane out on the tarmac.  That is how domestic travel is in these parts - only international flights are in the cool kid gates.  Once we were in the line, Kathy went up and the attendant said that her ticket was no good and ripped it up.  She was in shock, however it was quick after that that they provided us information that we were going to be upgraded to business class.  Score!  We boarded the plane, got in the nice comfy seat, and had a very nice ride up to Victoria Falls.

Once arrived at Victoria Falls, since it is in Zimbabwe, we had to clear customs and pay the $30US each to get in the country - supposedly to get our visas.  After we paid the ransom, er ah visa fee, we went to meet our guide who was going to take us to the hotel.  He had a van full and we waiting a good hour before they finally decided to bus another couple and us up by ourselves.  Thank goodness.  There was a Umkhankaso Wamajaha group right outside the airport singing and dancing and selling CD’s.  I gave them a couple of bones so I could take some photos, but held back not the CD purchase.

We got to the room with around 2.5 hours before we were to leave for the sunset cruise, so we found the bar (duh), got us a beer, and went to the pool.  It was around 90*f, so warm enough for a dip.  The water was very cold, but once we were in, it was fine.  Very refreshing.  We went back to the room to get ready with another cold one in hand so we could hit the greeting point out front of the hotel.  When we were unpacking the necessities, I noticed that there was a big bottle of sunscreen in one of our carryons.  So that is what the security guard was talking about…  Now we feel like rebels!  

The sunset cruise was very nice.  There were only 10 of us on the very large one deck boat.  Eats and drinks were free, so thats what we did.  The eats were served as appetizers, so not a lot to eat, but very good food.  The beers were nice and cold as well.  Turns out, we ran them completely out of beer between our table and the table of Pennsylvania folks next to us.  Ha!  We disembarked and headed up the hill where some more Umkhankaso Wamajaha performers were.  This time I got a photo of the leader with Kathy and threw a $5spot in the basket as a thank you.  He forced the CD on me and asked for $20, I said no thanks.  He said, how about another $10 and you can have it.  So I bought it.  I hope it at least has some music on it when I get home…

We headed back to the hotel and hung by the bar for a bit.  Another foursome showed up and chatted it up with us as we all ate and drank.  Turns out they were from Denver, so we talked a little football and bantered a bit before heading to the room for some shut eye.  Early plans for the next day will get you to bed on time around here.  We planned to hit the Victoria Falls tour and should be picked up around 0825 SAST.  Until tomorrow, see ya!

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