Tuesday, December 20, 2005

We Arrived

December 20, 2005 We arrived in Johannesburg at 7:10 am, ten minutes ahead of schedule. For such a large plane, we still had to disembark onto a bus to be transported to the terminal. There were only three passport control booths for “All Passports”, but there were seven others for “African Nationals”. The process of getting through Customs took over an hour and after having a tiring night, I was not in any mood for this. After we made it through, we had to collect our luggage and recheck it in to follow us on to Cape Town. A porter in an “official” orange uniform insisted on helping us with the luggage, though we did have a hand cart. He would not take “no” for an answer, though I told him we did not have any Rand yet. When we could not tip him, he suggested we venture over to the bank machine and get money while he escorted us over. I don’t think so, not with all of the advice we received about safety here. The signs do state that if the port assists you, you should give them a tip of 5 Rand (less than $1.00) minimum. There is nothing there about coercion. We promised him we would return and would look out for him. We did not include the day or lifetime that we would return, so it was not a complete lie. We walked over to the Domestic terminal and asked six different people how to get to the Diners Club lounge, each time getting a different set of instructions that led to no where. We knew it was supposed to be on the 4th floor, but all of the elevators only went as high as the 3rd. Finally, we asked at security and they pointed upward. It was on the upper level after going through security. I had forgotten my card at home or rather left it there for safety. I did have my account number with me and they were kind enough to let me in without it. By now it was 8:40 am and our connecting flight was not until 2:30 pm. The lounge was lovely in a tasteful African motif. There was a separate room for smokers with a heavy duty exhaust system, so when you entered, you still would not realize you were in a smoker’s room. Diners Club shares the facility with the airline lounges, therefore, there were all of the refreshments you would expect both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. In addition, there were sandwiches, cookies, muffins, coffee and tea as well as a variety of chips. It was eye opening for us to see chicken, beef, and billabong flavored potato chips as well as tomato flavored corn chips. The lounge attracts a lot of families. They have a shower room you can reserve for free. There are 2 computers with high speed Internet services and Wifi connections. We ate drank and napped the hours away. At 2:10 pm they started boarding our flight and 20 minutes later, we were leaving the gate for the runway. I wished I had my camera in my lap and not in the overhead. The scenery below was breathtaking patchworks of red and I would have loved to shoot some of it. The overhead was too congested to sort through it to retrieve the camera. As we approached Cape Town, the mountains were magnificent with the patchwork changing to greens. While waiting for our luggage, we heard our names being announced. Our ride to the hostel was waiting for us. Ron had forgotten his vest on the plane; we were sure it was lost for good. He stopped at Lost and Found before we left and it had been deposited there already. The trip to Ashanti Hostel was 40 minutes. We traveled with a German woman, Maria, who had been here since November and was unwillingly leaving the next day. She was staying at a different place than us.

Ashanti is a large hostel http://www.ashanti.co.za/ in Cape Town that had great reviews in some of the budget online travel boards. We decided to risk it though our ages are well beyond the average backpacker. Actually, I feel like a degenerate entering these places with luggage, but they did not seem to notice. Our room was right by the pool, which seemed like a great idea when I booked it. We had a sink in our room, but the showers and toilets are communal. They do have another house with ensuite rooms. To save money, we chose to share. The kitchen is huge and fully stocked with anything one could need to create a dinner from scratch.This picture is a view from the bar on the second floor.
About 3 long blocks away is a grocery store called Checkers. Going there usually in the early evening became our daily routine. We bought groceries and cooked rather than eat out too many times. The food is much less expensive than in Budapest and there are many fruits and vegetables we do not have access to making it a treat to shop and cook. We did go to a pizza restaurant tonight just due to tiredness from the travel. I had a large pizza with spareribs and Ron has a sun dried tomato with different cheeses. We each had a large beer. The total bill was about $12.00. The hostel warned us not to walk in certain areas at night. If we wanted to venture to the clubs at night, we were advised to take a taxi there and back again. We are not club people, so it did not affect us, but we did keep the warning in mind. Ashanti has a bar on the second floor with a great open patio. The view of Table Mountain is magnificent. Today was cooler than I had expected, needing a light jacket due to a heavy breeze coming through. Hopefully, it will start warming up as the days go by. The rule at the hostel is that the noise stops at midnight. It seems it did tonight, but we were so exhausted from travel, we could has slept through it anyway.

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