Our last day in Africa started early. We knew we had a long travel day ahead of us. We woke up at 05h30 for the final game drive. Mervin (from Durban) and Rene were leaving with us. We traveled 45 minutes to the Victoria Falls Airport together — we had a lovely conversation the entire time. I do wish we had gotten better acquainted earlier in the trip. They aren’t people we’ll ever hang out with again, but I did find them quite entertaining.
We opted not to check our bags all way through to ORD (VFA-JNB-LHR-ORD just seemed like a lot of failure points to overcome). We exited like we were staying in JNB and immediately checked our bags again. At this point, I was hurting. After my massage the day before, I had gotten a very bad sun burn (less than 10 minutes in the sun with no sunscreen and massage oil on you makes for a blistery burn). I always travel with Clinique After Sun Care (even when going to Minneapolis in winter), but I didn’t bring it to Africa with me. I was trying to find some at Duty Free, but I couldn’t justify spending $US65 for it (when it goes for $16 back home). I just suffered through it.
We had a 5 hour lay over in JNB. I wanted to find some booze — either South African Port or a great liquor called Amarula. I opted for the Port, which was a great choice, considering I found Amarula at a liquor store in Chicago immediately upon my return.
We tried to sneak into the First Class Lounge, but the South Africans are quicker than we expected. We went to the Star Alliance Gold/Business Class Lounge and spent time checking email (after being disconnected for 4 days), writing post cards and enjoying our last few minutes in South Africa. Upon checking the news, we heard of the massive earthquake in Japan and the ensuing tsunami warnings for the west coast. I ended up working for about an hour making sure we were properly prepared for this.
OR Tambo (JNB) isn’t like Heathrow, but it is a long walk from the lounge to the gate. We had a night cap (Amarula on the rocks) and headed to our flight.
The plane to London was such an upgrade compared to the flight from London to Cape Town. We didn’t get exit row, like we requested. We did get two seats next to each other, ate a great meal (who knew SAA would have such tasty food) and watched some movies. Since I can sleep on planes, I put on my Bose headsets, put my travel blanket over my head and went to sleep — I slept about 7 hours on the flight and was perfectly rested by the time I woke up for breakfast about 90 minutes from Heathrow.
Would I fly South African Airways again? Absolutely — considering that is really the only logical Star Alliance carrier to get to South Africa. My experience with EVERY Star Alliance partner (except Lufthansa) you need to file a request for the miles to be posted to your account. A little bit of a pain, but on the grand scheme of life — not a big deal.