Expat Life, The Great Trek, Travel

The Great Trek: A Chaotic Air Travel Tale

Despite previous travel trials with the kids, I was almost looking forward to flying home this Christmas….almost.  A night flight with two well-seasoned little travellers, an unlimited supply of movies, plenty of white noise and a nip of wine (for me) to assist with fragmented sleep.  It should have been a piece of Christmas cake…

Unfortunately, it was more like ‘The Nightmare before Christmas” thanks to a long delay.  We eventually set out on our now day flight 12+ hours later than anticipated having already endured a wild goose chase outside the airport in the dark for the non-existent shuttle bus (having just watched two manacled undesirables being forcibly removed from OR Tambo Airport), then a restless half night of sleep in a middling hotel with a broken a/c, a lot of predawn queuing, more queuing – and I know we’re British, but flipping Nora, even more queuing after that.

Additionally there was patchy food, Pickle having an epic nosebleed in the deserted airport with Sweetpea relaying back and forth to the bathroom for loo roll, a bat on the plane (no, I’m not making it up), a post-bat inspection from the Port Health Authority and the unhappy discovery that my UK mobile contract had been erroneously cancelled and I had no way of letting anybody know where in the world we were. Bah humbug.

On the plus side the kids were AMAZING throughout our 35 hour trek, not even the tiniest whinge when I hustled their tired and hungry little persons straight past the Giraffe restaurant to hoof it to the boarding gate onto the last connecting flight to Manchester to spare us a second night trapped in an airport hotel.  As an aside, last time – when we did have time to stop at Giraffe for breakfast- Pickle was scathing at the anatomical incorrectness of the little neon plastic giraffes they dole out.  He’s right, their necks are way to long to look like a real ones.

Mr Incredible, (who – can you guess? – was NOT on the same flight), was mostly sympathetic, but did subsequently show me an extract from In Search of South Africa by H.V. Morton, 1948 implying that I had nothing much to complain about as Morton’s journey totalled 36 hours.  Cheeky so and so.

Our Great Trek, was of course no match for THE Great Trek where waves of pioneers called Voortrekkers migrated from the eastern frontier of South Africa’s Cape Colony to escape British rule and find their promised land during the 1830s and 40s.  Some 12-14 thousand Afrikaans speakers dispersed northward and north-eastward.

Our trip after Christmas was far smoother and less time consuming than the outward one, the only highlights being Pickle getting frisked for the first time at security and the kids complete incredulity that Daddy was on the same plane, for real!  It really was a piece of Christmas Cake this time, bearing in mind that I don’t actually like Christmas Cake, it’s just a necessary component of the whole Christmas package, much like the flights being an essential part of a trip home.

The time in the UK was well worth the trek, with a full on family Christmas in a giant hide-and-seek house bursting at the seems with children, presents, food and good cheer and the acquisition of a gorgeous future sis-in-law.  Happiness.

The Voortrekker Monument is on the outskirts of Pretoria and can easily be visited in a morning from nearby Johannesburg.  You can climb (or take the lift) to the roof where there are good views.  Click here for further details.  

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