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South Africa journey Part II: The arrival

(Writer's note: My wife and recently returned from a two-week trip to South Africa. The following series of blog entries chronicles that trip.)

Show one bit of hesitation at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg and you're likely to find plenty of helpful people willing to show you the way to go. Only they don't do it for free. They want a tip. It's an odd set-up to the uninitiated, that the company that owns the airport would allow random people from the streets to hustle lost travelers. 

We definitely qualified for uninitiated because we walked right into this one. Truthfully, they were of some help, but after getting bit once you pick up on things and learn to say 'We've got it, thanks,' before they latch on.

And our lost luggage fears were put to rest. They were waiting in Johannesburg.

The plan was to fly from Johannesburg to Durban where we'd pick up our rental car and drive three hours to Zulu Nyala, a game lodge in the KwaZulu-Natal province. South Africans drive on the left but after having some experience with that in Ireland and the UK, it's like riding a bike. You pick it up again easily.

Driving in South Africa wasn't what we had feared. There are a lot of cautions about carjacking and other forms of robbery but at least here, those fears are unfounded. We saw school kids walking home from class, vendors selling varieties of trinkets on the side of the road and even guys selling fruit in the lanes of the toll booth. The highways we drove were better than many of those in Oklahoma and it's not even close. Other than the guys herding cattle alongside the road with cane poles, it sort of felt like Florida.

But eventually the tar road up to the lodge gave way to a dirt road. And then a bumpier dirt road. Followed by pot holes that could almost swallow the Toyota Corolla we were driving.

When we got to the gate, they didn't have our reservation on file.

"Great, nine thousand miles from home and there's no room at the inn," I muttered to my wife.

I snapped the photo above while the security guard sorted things out with the front desk more than two miles away by walkie-talkie. I had no idea what they were saying but a few moments later he walked out and said everything was good. After two days of delays we had finally arrived.

Up next,

Part III: On safari


Part I: Trials of a stranded traveler

Part III: On safari (finally)

Part IV: Phinda delivers

PartV: Capetown or bust

Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›