Lots of talking,many, many Phone calls. Frequent questions. ‘Do you have a fever? How long have you been coughing? Any fever? Do you have a runny nose?
Much waiting. Polite chit chat with the two ladies accompanying me for no apparent reason. T5A area manager working hard to clear us the issue and get me on the next flight. ￼
Finally, success. I’m booked on the 3:00 flight home.
It’s been quite an event. I tried to stay calm and helpful, never blaming anyone for the corporate foolishness. Maybe I just don’t have the energy to make a fuss.
I’m landing in SFO at 7:20 tonight, headed straight to the embassy suites for ten days. Gail says I can’t even come by and visit the dog. The sacrifices we will all have to make in this.
I am coming home, or at least I think I am. Waiting for the first of my three flights to get back, I was in the airline lounge coughing as usual when two nicely dressed employees came over and handed me this mask. Very polite, not really an option.
Once on board, I proceeded to have an awful paroxysm of coughing. The three people sitting in front of and next to me all got up and left, moving to other seats. Even though I was wearing my mask, no one is going to sit next to a cougher these days.
A while later, the senior cabin attendant came by and asked if I would mind waiting for a medical exam when the flight landed. Again very polite, but not really a question.So the plane lands, and they carefully disembark all of the passengers so as few as possible need to walk past me.
So I’ve been screened four times in the last three weeks, one of them a seriously intensive screening. Now I have to land in London and I don’t know what will happen there. Everything I’ve read says that there is no genuine screening in the United States despite the incessant lies of Trump.￼ That isn’t a surprise.
And when I get home? Gail has informed me that I’m not welcome in the house for 10 days maybe more. She’s taking this very seriously, and I can hardly argue. I’ll be holed up at the Embassy suites. I suppose there are worse things in this world.
I’m on board my flight home from London. Except it isn’t—they are going to take me off and send me somewhere to get screened yet again and given a certificate.of health
I made the mistake of telling the flight crew that I have chronic bronchitis and they needn’t worry.
That set the British nanny state into overdrive and they contend I need this certificate to enter the US. I’ve got $10 says nobody in San Francisco ever looks at it.
So I’m off this flight, but they claim there is another this afternoon I will make.
I guess most everyone likes elephants. Giant, gentle, slow-moving, totally peaceful, they stroll around the area eating Lots of eating. Hundreds of pounds a day eating. It’s a living, I guess.
Zulu Nyala has 3 elephants, all female. The little one is the daughter of one of the big ones. The park is nowhere near large enough to support a male.
Elephants are intensely social–they stand close together, wrap their trunks together, just want to hang out with their friends.
Elephants can be very destructive, breaking down trees to get to the sweet wood under the bark.
Most of all, they’re just fun to watch.
And now for the smallest critter:
This is a dung beetle. The area is full of them. They get balls of dung from the large animals and then roll them away. Sometimes this is for food, sometimes this is for a place to lay eggs–when they hatch they are surrounded by food. You see them everywhere, rolling their balls of dung up the road to their secret hiding place.
The beetles aren’t as much fun to watch as the elephants, but they’re not bad.
Giraffe are my favorite to photograph. They are gentle, quiet and beautiful. They are also easy, because they will stand right by the side of the road and delicately pick the perfect leaves from the trees.
Giraffe have amazing eyelashes. Once you see them, you can’t help noticing them every time.
They’re curious, too. A giraffe will just stare at you for the longest time, trying to figure out what strange creaturs ride around in strange vehicles and point shiny black things at them.
Giraffes have just 7 neck vertebrae, just like us. Their blood pressure has to be very high to pump up that long neck.
The giraffe is the only animal with a tongue long enough to clean its own ears. That really isn’t a capability I envy.
The still photos of them are gorgeous, but the real pleasure is seeing a group of them walking smoothly and gracefully along. That by itself is reason enough to go to Africa.
I’m going to try something different. Instead of trying to make a chronology of the trip, I’ve grouped photos of the major and minor animals and we’ll go through them one at a time.
Zulu Nyala has quite a collection of rhino, and they go to extraordinary lengths to keep them safe from poachers. There are armed guards patrolling every night, sitting in watchtowers, keeping an eye out for helicopters that swoop in, shoot the precious animals and cut off their priceless horns.
These are all white rhino–the “white” is a corruption of “wide”, which describes their mouth shape.
There are black rhino here, too. I don’t seem to have photos of them. I don’t think I’ll go back. The black rhino are smaller, with pointed mouths and they walk with their heads upright, because they browse the leaves from the bushes. The white ones keep their heads down because they are grazers.
I’ve always loved babies, and I guess baby rhino are no exception.
And that’s the rhino collection. Next up: giraffe.
I’m in Durban, in a lovely guest house, waiting for my 7 am flight tomorrow to Vilanculos, Mozambique.
The last 6 days were spent at Zulu Nyala, a resort/private gamer reserve in KwaZulu-Natal province, in the east of South Africa. Their wi-fi sucks, so I couldn’t post. I have catching up to do.
The private reserve is 2300 acres of open space, carefully curated to be hospitable to the big game they keep there. You will see giraffe, elephant, hippo and rhino, 4 of the “big 5” critters that are the goal of the tourist. The fifth, lion, requires more space than the park affords. In theory, there are occasionally leopards passing through, but we didn’t see any. Cheetahs also require more space, but there are two brothers who like to sun themselves just outside the fence.
The park holds 3 female elephants, two adults, and an adolescent. They quietly wander and eat.
The facility is an odd mix. our room has a very modern bath with an old fashioned bedroom. There is wi-fi only at the reception area–at night there are many of us sitting in front, checking email and playing games. They try to be an upscale experience, then nickel and dime you for everything—water is extra.
Now I’m at the airport with a plane to catch, so I have to sign off. There is much more to come.
I’ve decided that my favorite phrase is “I know a guy”, or perhaps “I’ll make a call”
The world runs on connections, who knows whom.
We’re here in Durban, driving around with our guide, Jordan. He’s an Indian man, the fourth generation of a family that migrated to South Africa in search of work long ago. His grandchildren make it 6 generations.
I felt lousy. The persistent nagging cough I’ve had for weeks got better for a while, then came back with a vengeance. I decided I needed antibiotics–taking a short course after the dentist coincided with me feeling better.
Google told me what I wanted and what dose, so we walked into a pharmacy and asked for Amoxicillin. “No can do” was the response–I needed a prescription.
We walked out, then Jordan said the magic words, “let me make a call”. Four generations in this city, and he knows people. We crossed the street to another pharmacy. He told us to wait in the car. I gave him 1000 Rand, about $63, to cover the bill.
15 minutes later, he came back with exactly what I had asked for, and gave me back 850 Rand change. The pills had cost $3.15.
I feel better today, so maybe they’re working, maybe I was getting better, maybe it’s all in my head. I don’t care. I just want to always be around the person who can say “I know a guy……”
On to the trip. We spent a few hours seeing the limited sights of Durban. It’s a city of 3.5 million on the Indian Ocean. Nice beaches, nice hills behind them. White and Indian people live in the ‘burbs. Black people live cheaply in the city. Apartheid is gone, but the economic segregation maybe not so much.
These sand sculptures are created by homeless kids the state has taught a skill so they can live. They ask for a small tip when you photograph, and for a price will design a happy birthday or other greeting. Notice there are two advertisements for a local dentist–advertising is everywhere.
I guess it’s mandatory to go to the local market, bazaar or souk. They guys selling spices always make for good colorful photos, but I didn’t want to buy anything. If I had a mother in law, though……
Saturday night we walked up Florida street, which is apparently the hot area for the local young and cool, to a restaurant called the Butcher Block–they specialize in lots of beef. For perhaps the first time in my life, I ordered a T-bone steak, after starting out with venison carpaccio. The tragedy of the night was they were out of the lemon meringue pie that graced the menu. I made do with a chocolate sundae.
Sunday (to use the same word twice in a row and not be incorrect) we drove to the midlands, an area of rolling hills about 50 miles to the west. It was all green and glorious–Jordan says March 1 is the official end of summer, but that doesn’t make sense to me. The vernal equinox isn’t for another 3 weeks, but maybe things are different in the southern hemisphere.
We stopped at the train station where Mahatma Gandhi, innocently traveling in a first-class carriage, was summarily ejected from same because Indians were not permitted. That was the beginning of his lifelong quest for equal treatment for all.
A few miles down the road is the spot where Nelson Mandela was arrested while driving an associate, disguised as the chauffeur because his compatriot was white. The museum is very well done, describing the entire history of the anti-apartheid movement.
Down a long path, meant to symbolize the long walk to freedom, are what appears to be a large number of rusty metal poles sticking up into the sky. When you get to just the right point, however, a portrait of Mandela coalesces. It’s an amazing artistic trick that never fails to stun me.
Mandela will go down as one of the great men of history, revered as a man of honor who brought peace and equality to a disturbed and violent nation.
And now for something completely different. We drove 5 miles down a dirt road to a ceramics workshop/gallery/museum. I wasn’t impressed, but other people must be because the clearly make a ton of money. This woman is riding in her private performance area, with the huge mirrors so she can perfect her routine. That certainly makes sense, but I would never have imagined it. You have to sell a lot of ceramics to pay for those mirrors……….
Tomorrow morning we’re off to the Zulu Nyala game reserve for our safari. Life is good.
If you have virtually limitless oil money, you can build one hell of an airport.
This place is phenomenal: immense, spotless, gorgeous modern architecture. All of the finest stores, although I have never understood who goes to an airport to shop.￼
There are staff members in suits standing ready to scan you boarding pass and tell you what gate and where it is. You can’t get lost or confused here, there are too many polite, English-speaking people to help you.
Qatar is a very modern, liberal country. In the airport you see women bareheaded, in hijabs, in hijabs with a veil, and in full black burqas. Men might be in sportswear, suits, or whatever the long robes and headdress is called.
Tiny Qatar isn’t getting along with its huge neighbor Saudi Arabia. Looking at the display in the airplane as we left, I saw we had to make a big detour to avoid Saudi airspace.
I slept 10 hours on the flight from Boston to Doha, and then another six hours on the way to Johannesburg. If you have to make these long flights, sleeping is a great way to do it. I just rolled back my seat, plugged in my CPAP machine and out I went.
Arriving in Johannesburg, we were lined up at the door to get off the plane. When the door finally opened there was a crew standing outside and we we were instructed to go back to our seats. The crew then boarded and went down the aisles taking everyone’s temperature with electronica sensors. I don’t know if that’s actually useful but at least they certainly look like they’re trying to do something about the new virus.￼ That has to be better than the clown in Washington who claims that is all a Democratic hoax.￼
Four-thirty this morning, I roll out of bed and hit the shower. The car will be here at 5 to take me to SFO for the first leg of my trip.
I’m flying to Boston, then Doha, Qatar, then Johannesburg then Durban South Africa. Meeting my brother there, and going to a Zulu Nyala, a private game reserve to spend a week driving around looking at animals. We purchased this trip at the Lafayette Rotary Club gala last year, and then Gail decided she didn’t really want to travel that far, so baby bro got the nod.
Then he’s going home and I’m headed to Vilanculos, Mozambique for 3 days to see what there is to see. Finally, a few days in Jo-burg (as the in-crowd says, I think) with a side trip to Pretoria to see a ceramic artist we like.
Finally, if the world hasn’t collapsed pandemic panic, I fly home via Hong Kong, completing a circumnavigation of the earth a whole lot easier than Magellan did. I won’t be leaving the airport, just changing planes.
The virus is affecting things already so who knows what will happen in 3 weeks. I already see a small percentage of people wearing face masks, athough every article I have read says that is a useless gesture unless you are already sick and trying to protect others. I notice more and better handwashing in the men’s room
I was scheduled to go to Japan with Mike and Linda in later April, but everyone canceled when they closed the Japanese schools for a month. So I asked Mike if he’d like to go to Gatlinburg this year, but he’s had enough. I know Gail won’t go with me. But then maybe the virus will lead to canceling that tournament too. Putting Mike Pence in charge of American efforts hardly fills me with confidence.
Stay tuned This looks like a great trip and I’d love to have you along.
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