December 26, Day 513
Alarm goes off at 4 am. Whaaaaaa, I don’t want to get out of bed!
Force myself out of bed under the false belief that I will be able to sleep on the bus on the way to the airport.
Shower, get dressed, pack my things up into my suitcase and make sure the Airbnb is clean and spotless just the way I found it when I arrived.
The kittens are sleeping by my front door and scatter under a nearby car when I open the door.
Just as I exit carrying my suitcase, I run into the landlady of where I’m staying and hand her my keys.
“Where are you going now?” she asks.
“I am walking to Riverwalk Mall nearby to catch the bus at 5:30 am to Johannesburg airport,” I say.
“Oh no! You cannot walk alone. I wish I had known you would walk by yourself this early in the morning,” she replies. “I would have driven you. I like to walk very early in the morning. Why don’t you wait here and I’ll get changed quickly and walk with you to the bus stop?”
I agree, though I admit I’m worried.
I need to leave NOW NOW to walk to the mall to catch the bus on time. I don’t have time to sit here and wait while she gets dressed. I decide to give it 10 minutes of waiting.
A few minutes later, she returns to the driveway dressed for walking. That was more than 10 minutes, but if we walk fast enough we will make the bus on time. I’m stressed out because this is the only bus that goes to Joburg airport directly all day and I cannot miss it.
The landlady, Boitumelo, is lovely. We talk about sites to see in Cape Town and she recommends I see the botanical gardens. She tells me she is from Moshupa.
“Ah, yes! The President’s village! Isn’t President Masisi from there?” I say.
“Yes! I grew up with him. When we were children in school I was a member of the choir. He was the only boy who joined the choir and he sang tenor for us. I remember him well,” she tells me.
We walk fast and soon I am at the bus stop. I thank her and give her a big hug and join the line of people waiting to get on the bus. They weigh my luggage and I climb onboard and immediately pass out.
I’ve done a lot of traveling on this bus in the last few months and what do you know… they’re playing “Planet of the Apes 4” yet again on the way to the airport. I have now seen this movie four times. If only Kerry Russell knew that her movie was such a giant hit on African airport buses, I would have told her when she lived near me in Brooklyn!
I space out and soon enough we are at the South African border. I go through the border and the man at security realizes I have a laptop in my backpack and sends me back to customs to claim the laptop… even though it’s a 10-year old Apple that isn’t worth much anymore. I go back and claim it as requested and get back on the bus.
Space out. They serve me a scone and coffee Yum. Space out more.
We arrive at the Joburg airport around noon. I get off the bus and go into the airport and check in for my flight. I’m flying Mango Airways, which is a knock off of South African Airways. I will admit that I just booked this flight because orange is my favorite color and their planes are all painted orange.
“You know your flight doesn’t depart for another 5 hours, right?” the woman at the check-in counter says.
“Yes, I just don’t want to carry my bag all over the airport,” I reply.
She agrees and takes my bag.
Now, where to kill 5 hours in an airport?
Head to the bathroom and when I get there, I notice there is someone talking on a cell phone loudly in a storage closet in the bathroom and recognize it is the cleaning lady hiding out in there. Cool.
Do my thing and then walk to the airport craft brewery. Now, Botswana is a landlocked country, so we don’t get much fish around here. Even the fish we do get I don’t trust is very fresh. Hence, when I arrive at the airport craft brewery I decide to order seafood.
Is it a mistake to order fish at an airport? Probably. Was I willing to take the risk? Yes.
Order several appetizers for myself, along with a beer. Is it a bad idea that I just ordered mussels in an airport? I guess I’ll find out later. I gorge myself with it all and have no regrets. Pay the bill and leave the restaurant.
As I walk out of the restaurant, I become aware that something is missing.
Where is my water bottle? My water bottle is a very expensive Hydroflask that was on sale at REI when I visited this summer. It is as vital as breathing air in my village because it is extremely hot in the desert. Without it you’ll die.
Oh no! I CANNOT lose this water bottle.
I run to the bathroom and look around. There is nothing.
Go outside of the bathroom and ask a nearby security guard if they can contact the cleaning lady who was in the bathroom. They lead me to find another woman, who I am assuming is the head of all cleaning staff in the airport. I tell her I left my Hydroflask in the bathroom and I live in the desert in Botswana and can only drink filtered water, hence, my water bottle is extremely important.
She listens graciously and asks me sit on the floor near the bathroom while she hunts down the cleaning staff. Apparently they are on lunch break right now.
About 45 minutes later, the woman returns with the two cleaning women from the bathroom.
“Can you please tell the women what you are looking for?” the woman helping me asks.
“Yes, so I am looking for my blue Hydroflask water bottle. It is metal and I cherish it dearly and left it in one of the stalls. I heard you ladies talking on the phone when I was in the bathroom and I’m wondering if maybe you saw it after I left?” I ask.
“Water bottle? No. I didn’t see it and I’m on my lunch break. Bye,” the cleaning woman says. The two cleaning women walk away.
“I’m so sorry!” the woman helping me tells me. “What can I do to help?! I’m now personally invested in this and want to make sure you get it back!”
“It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, you have already gone above and beyond and I am grateful. It’s my fault for forgetting it in the first place! I’ll survive and get a new one. Thank you for your help!” I reply.
A sad day, but not the end of the world.
I decide with just a few hours left, I’ll go through security and wait at the gate on the other side. Whip through security with no problem.
There’s really not much on the other side of the security gates, so I’m grateful I had lunch already before going through security.
Just as I walk by a gate that is boarding, I recognize a guy I used to work with in NYC at CNBC boarding the plane. What a coincidence to now see him in South Africa!
My plane is boarding in a hallway, not really a gate. So, I go wait in the hallway and listen to music.
Finally, my plane boards.
Two hours later, we touch down in Cape Town. Woo hoo! I quickly get off the plane and walk to the car rental place to pick up my car and message the guy who is giving me the keys to my Airbnb in Cape Town.
Pick up my car and when I go to use the GPS, I realize it’s in Afrikaans. Go back to the car rental place and ask for one in English. Finally hit the road.
It’s now about 10:30 pm and the roads are dark and empty. It’s a little creepy! I drive on the highway and see big signs over the highway that say “Dangerous Area – Do Not Stop Your Car” and I see homeless people living in a box on the side of the road.
I am definitely not in Botswana anymore and it’s jolting.
The roads are narrow and winding up and down hills in the dark. I can’t see anything around me.
Finally, I enter the city and arrive near my Airbnb. However, I notice men trolling the streets up and down. Every time I slow down my car to park, the men approach my car yelling at me. I’m scared and decide to keep circling the block looking for parking.
But every time I slow down, more gangs of men approach my car.
I feel unsafe.
Finally, as I approach one parking spot, it finally clicks in my head.
WAIT… These men are all dressed alike. They must be WORKING!
I freakin’ realize that they are not gangs of men approaching women alone at night. They’re parking attendants! That’s why they’re approaching my car over and over again. Ah! Abbie you are definitely not in the desert of Botswana anymore.
Find a parking spot right in front of the building and a nice parking attendant directs my car into the spot.
Arrive at the Airbnb and meet the guy who is giving me the keys. The man is helpful and nice and asks if I have any questions.
“Yes, so what’s the deal with the parking attendant guys?” I ask.
“They are more like self appointed parking attendants. They don’t work for anyone. You can choose to give them a little tip when you go to pick up your car,” he explains.
We part ways and I get into the smallest and scariest elevator I have ever seen and take it to the fourth floor where my flat is.
The building is a tall apartment building with doors all facing the middle of the building. In the middle is a large courtyard, which means everyone has their own balcony. Lovely!
Get into the apartment and it’s very cold and a little creepy, but I imagine it will warm up. WOW, it is VERY cold in Cape Town. I did not bring enough warm clothes for this! I am shivering.
I find a space heater in the bedroom closet and turn it on and get into a sweatshirt. The wind is whipping against the bedroom window and I adjust to once again hear familiar city noises like dogs barking, music from bars and people shouting. You’re not in the desert anymore, Abbie.
Wait, where’s the Wi-Fi? I told Colden I’d let him know I got to Cape Town safely and he must think I’ve been abducted by now.
I find the box, but the password doesn’t work. Hmmmm….. I search everywhere and can’t find the password.
Crap, what do I do? My phone won’t work in South Africa without Wi-Fi.
I take the cord from the back of the modem and plug it into my laptop. Bingo! It works. I message the Airbnb owner and ask him for the password. He responds immediately and gives it to me.
Call Colden and tell him I’m alive.
I’m exhausted, hungry and cold. Time for bed.
Climb into this big, beautiful bed and fall asleep immediately. Will I be eaten by a ghost in this place? I guess I’ll find out. I feel like Cape Town is much more dangerous than I anticipated and wonder if I’ll have a good time.