Wherever the Road Leads

Once upon a time in Africa

Now that the dust has settled – Getting there.

It’s been three months since the trip to Africa, but it’s been a very hectic three months. My plan to become a part-time Canadian and full-time nomad was hatched last summer. Ideas and dreams were formed, some research accomplished, but it wasn’t until after I returned from Johannesburg and Cape Town that I actually began to take action on renting my house, finding the camper that would best suit my needs, then downsizing from 2,000 square feet to 200 square feet.

Returning to Canada during the summer would have been the practical and common sense plan to begin my cycle of five months in Canada and seven months in the US; that is the plan for the future. So I decided to come up to Canada during the dead of winter. It’s culture shock being up here and for more than just the weather.

However, the cold and snow is on the outside, it’s warm enough inside and now, with internet installed, I have nothing but time for the next four and a half months so the opportunity presents itself to share my long-anticipated trip to South Africa.

I never seem to do things in a conventional manner. The first time I traveled to South Africa a few years ago, I wanted to fly by a European airline and did not want to fly through any northern US city as it was in late winter and I was trying to avoid any weather delays. So, I flew KLM from Atlanta to Amsterdam, then down to Cape Town after a relatively short layover.

It was seven hours to Amsterdam and then twelve hours down to Cape Town. By the time I got there, all I wanted to do was stand. I returned Delta through Dakkar, Senegal and that flight was only about sixteen hours. Once I got home, I looked at a map of the world. By flying through Amsterdam, I added about three thousand miles to my trip, I went north to go south. And this trip wasn’t much of an improvement.

I came to Toronto first, spent some time with my mother and then we flew through London’s Heathrow airport before another overnight trip to Johannesburg, South Africa. The layover in London though, was ten hours. And that ten hours was spent with a Scottish mother whose philosophy is, why waste money on airport food and drink when the airline will be feeding us… nine hours hence. Nine hours with no internet on an empty stomach does not make for a happy traveler.


My view in Heathrow Airport for ten hours. On an empty stomach.adjutant02

We flew from Toronto to London on a Boeing 787 – a beautiful, modern and comfortable plane. The plane’s cushions haven’t been subjected to forty year’s worth of overweight passengers squeezing themselves between the loose armrests, down to only left-side audio. The entertainment center has a usb port, good for charging cell phones, or watching whatever media you may have brought on board as you’ve seen all the available movies.

The flight from London to Johannesburg was aboard a Boeing 747 – the “Jumbo Jet”. Long thought to be the elite of passenger aircraft, this thing was a bucket of bolts. The key word in my description is “long”. The 747 has been around for a long, long time – first put into service in 1970 – and I think the plane we were on was the original prototype. And we flew British Airways Business Class, we weren’t on Bubba’s Discount Airlines and Crop Dusting Service, sitting in a K-Mart chaise lounge by a screen winnder.

Our 747 in 1975, a million passengers and a billion miles ago.

The one very good thing about traveling with one’s 90-year-old mother, is that she qualifies for wheel-chair service. Pushed by airline personnel, we fast-track to the front of any line – boarding the airplane and clearing Customs. It was almost worth the ten-hour fast in Heathrow. We zoomed past all the common folk and waited impatiently at Baggage Claim, then out into the Arrivals Area to be met by my cousin Margaret and her daughter, Lynda.

After loading our luggage into the “boot”, the first thing I did was to go round to the wrong side of the car. South Africa follows the British tradition of driving on the left. I’m sure Lynda wondered if I wanted to drive her car as I stood beside what, for my entire life, has been the passenger door.

I have driven in every condition possible – ice, snow, white-outs and blinding rain. But there is no way I am going to try driving on the left. I’d be coming home in a body bag. The last time in South Africa, our driver was entering a ’roundabaout” – a traffic circle. He turned left into it, what to me should have been driving directly into oncoming traffic. I reached for the dashboard and braced myself for impact, only to realize that he was correct and I  would have been the one to get us into a wreck.

So, no thank you Lynda, I’ll go around to the other side. You feel free to get us home safely and alive.

Johannesburg skyline.

As curious as I was to see Johannesburg for the first time, I really paid attention to Lynda’s driving, trying to get into the mindset of being on the opposite side of the road, merging right onto a freeway, what lane to be in to make a right hand turn, the one where you cross oncoming traffic. I quickly determined that it was impossible for me, so went back to enjoying the view.

If I was to come to your house for a visit, by no means would I take pictures of it and then do a blog post. However, as so many people throughout the world seem to have a distorted view of cities in Africa – that lions and giraffes are wandering down the dirt-road main street – here are some shots of Lynda’s and her husband, Gavin’s, home in suburban Johannesburg.

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They have a lovely home. Not a zebra in sight.

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  1. Leslie Crawford  March 6, 2015

    Great blog!


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