All packed before breakfast, I checked out- making sure that they didn’t charge me VAT (some kind of tax, don’t ask me what).
I had breakfast and gave a tip to the gentleman who has taken care of me in the early mornings when I’m the only one in the restaurant. A sweet man.
That concluded, I went back up to my room, where I saw the lovely gentleman who has kept my room spotless, given me a new rose bud in a vase every day, as well as fresh fruit, small candies, and yesterday, even slippers. He’s also provided loofahs and washcloths. I’ve been very pampered, so I gave him 50 K, (essentially $10).
He kindly helped me trundle my quite heavy hot pink suitcase to the elevator, while I had my ridiculous colorful polka dot carry on. (I can’t ever miss my stuff, don’t you see!)
I left both with the person near the door and decided to go for my very first walk in Lusaka. I walked around the very very long block. What a treat, to walk down a street lined with purple jacaranda, stepping on falling petals. It was warm, but there was a very nice breeze.
The hotel shuttle was jam-packed, so much so that they put our luggage in a small trailer. I asked the hotel rep (who usually sits up front with the driver, I suppose overseeing the transport since he wears a very sharp suit and tie, but couldn’t because a hotel guest took that seat) to help me avoid anyone who would take my luggage and then expect a tip (as happened when I went to Livingstone). He did.
Inside Lusaka airport, it was absolutely crazy. I finally figured out that I had to get in a very long queue (50 people in front of me). Luckily, the gentleman immediately in front of me, Steve, was a friendly, very handsome (and married) man from South Africa now living and farming in Tanzania. We had a lot of fun chatting about travels, Lusaka, and Africa in general. He travels a lot, now looking for a tractor (?) and only sees his family in South Africa approximately every 3 months. What a hard life.
Bless his heart, he guided me through the line, through luggage check (hoisting my pink suitcase onto the conveyer belt for me), through passport check (where I lost him for a while). He was getting saran wrapped around his luggage for a small fee, a very good way to deter sticky fingers. When I finally got to the passport check where I could also give them my suitcase, I discovered that they would only accept 23 KG and my bag was 28. So I had to unpack and try to cram things into the small carry on. When I hoisted it onto the scale, it was 22.4 KG. Whew!
Steve waited for me, and then led me to where we had to complete a blue customs paper. We then went through security (where I had to get my computer out from under all the stuff I’d crammed on top of it). Then thank goodness Steve was there, because we had to climb up a non-working escalator (he carried my now heavy carry on) and then snake through long hallways, down a working escalator, down another long hall, to check in to board the flight. If he hadn’t been there as my guide, I would have probably lingered in one of the shops and missed my flight!
We had quite a long walk outside to the plane, passing many rose bushes! We then had to climb a steep ramp into the plane and Steve again hoisted my carry on for me. What a great guy!
By the way, I kept running into John in the Lusaka airport, in different lines, since he, too, was heading to Joburg (that’s what they call it) to get his flight to Washington, D.C.
I thought the flight to Joburg would be very pleasant, because for a while I had the window seat (not my preference) and another woman had the aisle seat, with an empty seat between us. Unfortunately, it was filled by an older but large gentleman, who kept poking me with his rather chapped elderly elbows. I spent the entire 2 hours trying to scrunch myself away from him.
We were given a very nice lunch on the plane, so I was well fed by the time we got to Joburg. The elderly gentleman (who, by the way, lives 3 hours away from Joburg and, non sequitor, has the largest hands I’ve ever seen) kindly took down my carry on for me.
As soon as I had gotten down one hall, I sat on the floor and rearranged the stuff in my carry on so that I could almost close it.
Then I was on my own and very confused about where to go. Finally, I decided that international transfers sounded promising. I walked and walked and walked and finally found another very long queue, where I kept passing John, or he kept passing me.
Unfortunately, just as I got to the airport representative, I noticed people handing her a boarding pass. I didn’t have one.
So, I had to go back (not too far) and get my boarding pass. Then I got back into the queue (I suppose I could have jumped to the head of the line, but given that I was going to have 5 whole hours to wait before my next flight, I didn’t see any reason to hurry).
The Johannesburg Airport is huge, with lots of duty free shops and shops filled with African pottery, jewelry, fabric, toys, books, clothing, etc. I spent a lot of time wandering into and out of stores. I did go into a luggage store, because my poor carry one was almost bursting at the seams. The saleswoman showed me a terrific tote that would hold my computer and my purse, but it was $100. I decided I’d risk staying with what I have.
In the middle of the shops, there was a Hagan Das ice cream stand. Next to it was a chocolate shop- and there were Tobblerone bars in all the duty-free shops. I refrained from making any culinary purchases. Instead, after wandering around for 3 hours, I found a quiet place to sit and decided to write to you.
I think this airport offers free internet access. I’m going to try and send this to you.
My next missive will be from Atlanta!