The Hendersons       Getting to South Africa and our first night in Cape Town


An Unforgettable African Adventure

Journal Pages
 Click a pic

Favorite Images

Getting To South Africa



Cape Town

Zulu Nyala Tented Camp

Zulu Nyala Nyati


Zambia - Victoria Falls

Botswana - Chitabe Trails

Botswana - Vumbura Plains

Namibia - Sossusvlei

Kruger National Park

Getting There

Tom's comments are in regular type, Mel's are in Italics

It was in April of 2005 that Mel and I attended The Beggar's Banquet, a fund raising auction for Nativity House, a drop-in facility for homeless people in Tacoma. One of the items in the live auction was a six day photo safari in South Africa. We put in a few bids, but then dropped out. Surprisingly, the auctioneer stopped the bidding well short of the specified value. Then he asked who else wanted to go at that price. A number of bid cards went up and ours was one of them. We had two years to take the trip. We decided that if we were going that far we were going to stay as long as practical and see as much as possible. So we started contacting travel agents, looking for one who could help organize time in other areas of southern Africa. We finally located one in Pennsylvania and he was very knowledgeable and helpful. As we were planning we learned that the sister-in-law of a long-time friend lived about 450 km east of Cape Town. Mel suggested that Margaret and Jay Quigley go with us and they agreed.

The resulting plan had us flying to Cape Town and then driving to Jay's sister's home in Knysna. We would stay three nights with Charlotte and Dennis, then drive to Franschhoek in the wine country near Cape Town for two nights. From there we would go back to Cape Town for two more nights before flying back to Johannesburg and driving to Zulu Nyala for the photographic safari. Following those six days we would drive back to Johannesburg so Margaret and Jay could return home (they are still working). We would stay on for almost another three weeks, traveling to Livingstone, Zambia to see Victoria Falls. From there we would go to Botswana and stay in two different reserves before continuing to Windhoek, Namibia. We would spend two more nights in another reserve, return to Windhoek and then to Johannesburg, Finally we would drive to Kruger National Park for three nights, then back to Johannesburg for our flight home.

We spent almost two years planning and preparing for the trip and were satisfied that we were as ready as possible. As departure date drew near we became more excited and read and watched videos to learn as much as we could about our destination. We knew we would not sleep much on the night before departure, and we didn't.

Thursday, March 8 - Seattle to Washington D.C. and on to South Africa

The alarm rousted us at 3:00 AM. We had almost an hour to grab a quick snack and cup of coffee, shower and dress before Margaret and Jay arrived. We got it all done and were waiting when they pulled in the driveway. We got to the park-and-ride a bit early, but soon enough our bus arrived. It was not the usual 574. This one was more like a coach - comfortable seats but narrow aisles and difficult to get your luggage in and out. It was a very quick ride to SeaTac and we were soon checked in and on our way to security. We went in what seemed to be a logical direction based on signage, and found ourselves in a short line. It was for the first class and frequent flyer passengers, but was not sign-posted. So we went through, got scanned, put our shoes back on, and proceeded to our gate. We were away a few minutes early and had a smooth flight to D.C., although leg room was at a premium.

Once in D.C. we deplaned and made our way to the shuttle that took us from the D concourse to the B concourse. We got checked in at the South African Airways gate (our luggage had been checked through) and were soon on board another shuttle that took us to the airplane. Apparently SAA does not get gate privileges. We joked about driving to South Africa with some of the other passengers. The shuttle took us to our Airbus 350 (we had flown from Seattle to D.C. on a 767-300) and we boarded and settled into our seats. There was more room than on the United flight from Seattle. Soon we were on our way for a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg. SAA provided courtesy packs with socks, etc. and came through with complimentary wine and other beverages. Dinner followed quickly and was quite good. We had chicken in a sauce with penne pasta, carrots and pea pods. There was a potato salad with bay shrimp and a cheesecake sort of dessert.

We were very impressed with South African Airways. The cabin and restrooms were clean, the crew was very polite and personable - all-in-all a very fine operation. Still, it was a very long flight. We kept ourselves occupied for a while, but then tried to get some sleep. We dozed off and on and eventually got to Johannesburg. The landing was as impressive as the rest of the flight had been. Processing through immigrations and customs was smooth and efficient. As we looked for domestic departures, we were approached by a porter who took control of the baggage cart and took us directly to check-in for our Cape Town flight. That was another good flight with another surprisingly nice meal. We collected our luggage and went to the Budget office. The car turned out to be a new Honda Accord, so I was already familiar with all the controls, and it was an automatic, so Jay wouldn't have to deal with right-hand drive stick shift.

    Our Accord

We found our way out of the airport and directly onto the N2 headed for Cape Town. When we got into town we found that the streets are not always signposted, or at least not where our eyes were trained to look. We only made one wrong turn on our way to the hotel, and found it easily. At first, there was no response when we rang the bell and we thought we were in the wrong place. But then the door was answered and we were shown to our very nice rooms. They were well equipped and comfortable and we got a good night's sleep.

When we had been trying to find a place to stay the first night in Cape Town it seemed that all the hotels that we contacted were booked. Eventually Tom found a website that was an agency for a number of hotels and self-catering places - we booked at the Primi Oxford House, a self catering apartment in a very good location called Green Point. Although the advertised price was about R1050, the price they charged was R1250. When I inquired about the discrepancy, I was simply told 'R1250 is the price.' After we arrived we learned that we had managed to book the same weekend as 40,000 bicyclists had descended on Cape Town - there were very few rooms at all available, so I guess we were lucky to find one at all. Our apartment was very clean, very modern - lots of pale beiges, stainless steel and granite. It was quite lovely and the bed was heavenly.

Top of Page