So, the price was right. An almost round trip ticket to Johannesburg, South Africa, from New York for about $435. Sounds reasonable. I booked it. I was going to have a little dream trip and go on safari to Kruger National Park and see me some cuddly wild cats.
After much research and planning, and dragging my long suffering mother along for the ride, I had identified my lodge, my transfers and the end game for the trip.
Phase One: JFK to Doha, 14ish hours. Here’s the thing: the ticket allowed ONLY 70 minutes to change planes in Doha. When I called Priceline to try and get a different outbound flight, they denied me, saying I had enough time. WELL. You people are wrong. Dead wrong. We landed and after the small delay at JFK, and then actually getting off the plane, it was a full on sprint. Doha airport was beautiful and clean and a big blur. Some running, a tram, finger crossing, and a great deal of cursing, we were one of the final few to board the plane. The cursing, by the way, was from my mother to me for making her run and literally drip sweat. But we made it and that’s what matters. Right? Are we having fun yet?
From Doha, a city I’d love to see at another time, we had another 8 hours to Johannesburg. And I have to say, it was a lovely and relatively easy flight. At least for me. My mother shot me side eye across the aisle as I slept comfortably.
After 20 plus hours of flying, running and educating the locals on American expletives, we arrived in Johannesburg. Customs was a long twisty line that appeared to be a mess yet went by relatively fast with a fair amount of indoor sweat. Again. After winding our way out of the airport to the shuttle area, and shooing away every single person asking for a tip for reasons unknown, we arrived at the Protea Marriott. It’s a delightful airport hotel modeled after an airplane, it even has the corrugated metal detail. Just delightful.
We grabbed a shower – a shower, which, by the way, was in the bathroom area. An area, not an actual room, as the shower and sink AREA, was sectioned off by a hospital curtain. Literally, you pulled the curtain around to separate the shower from the bedroom. Different, but I guess it made sense in the interest of space, but still. At least the toilet had a door.
Dinner was in the hotel since we could barely hold our heads up. We had an early flight the next morning to Nelspruit, just outside Kruger. I hope we don’t have to run to make this one.