My action-packed week of seeing my family flew by. The weather in South Africa was stunning. I had a lovely day in Johannesburg getting my roots done (they gave a new meaning to the term ‘dirty blonde’ and required a team of several hairdressers wearing commando gear to tackle them) and a bit of shopping in Sandton. Then I caught up with an old schoolfriend that I hadn’t seen since we were 15! The next day I was off to Durbs-by-the-sea, to visit with the folks.
Instead of flying out of Tambo Int’l, I flew out of the smaller Lanseria airport, located in some stunning bushland just outside Johannesburg. I’ve been really lucky with flights to date, they’ve all gone without a hitch, apart from an odd hour or two delay.
Fog in Lanseria had caused backlog and several flights were delayed coming in. Our pilot, a real character, had got sick of waiting for our inbound flight and had garnered another plane. I was in row 1D, right behind the cockpit. Kulula pride themselves on being a bit ‘out there’ with humorous banter during the safety briefing (“if you turn your iPhone on during the flight it becomes MyPhone” etc), and so far so good as we pushed out of the bay. And then waited. And waited. There was no aircon, and slowly we all started to shed layers in the stifling heat. After 15 minutes of this, where even the stewardesses started to look nervous, the captain’s voice came over the PA saying he couldn’t start the right engine and we were going back into bay.
Lots of engineers piled on the plane and there were several discussions, in Afrikaans, about what was going on. Another 10 minutes of sweltering, but at least the door was open. Eventually the pilot came out of the cockpit waving a manual. “Sorry folks, the book is wrong! It’s for a different aircraft! Soon we’ll have you safely on your way to Durban!”
Silence as we stared in horror at the guy flying the damn plane. Realisation dawned that he was following “a book” because he obviously didn’t know how the instrument panel worked, which scared the bejesus out of me and everyone else, judging by the shocked faces around me, and I was starting to wonder why the hell I’d chosen a cheap-arse airline like Kulula, when a woman stood up and announced: “I’m on the wrong plane! I’m supposed to be flying to Cape Town!”
Stowaway offloaded in time to make her flight to CT, finally we rattled and careened down the runway, only to wait another 20 mins to take off as we’d missed our spot. In sweltering heat. With no aircon. However, we were all united in the fact that we might not actually make it to Durban at all and that the people around us may be the last people we ever got to talk to, so there was plenty of banter and excited/nervous jabber going on. Eventually we wobbled into the air, flew the 50 mins to Durban without a hitch, and landed with absolutely no finesse whatsoever at King Shaka where my parents were waiting to pick me up.
Spending Easter with the folks was wonderful, and I also got to see my childhood friend Jo and her kids. It went by too quickly, and not without a touch of the bittersweet: my parents are leaving South Africa and moving back to Wales in July. I love the South Coast, hokey and stuck in the ‘80’s as it may be, it was my home for many years and is probably one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The Indian Ocean sparkles blue, the KwaZulu/Natal hills roll away into the distance, and the weather is balmy. As I flew out of King Shaka a few days later, I did feel a sense of loss. I know I can go back, and Africa will always be in my heart because I lived there so long, but it will feel weird not to have it as my second base anymore.
Next stop was the UK, to see my gorgeous labradors. Happily ensconced in the home of Lucy, Dan and Ethan, they greeted me in a flurry of wet slobbery kisses and fur! And how I’ve missed coming home to that every day. I do love the open road, but those dogs were my home – still ARE my home. I guess home doesn’t have to be a place – it can be something or someone that gives you a sense of peace and comfort, and I hadn’t experienced anything like that really in my adult life until I got my dogs.
Bittersweet this was too… particularly because poor Cacho was so confused about who to take direction from: me or Lucy. I upset his sense of status quo. Although it’s hard to tell sometimes with Cacho, his standard expression is confused/guilty. In some ways I had to hold something of myself back. They are so happy in their new home, and I didn’t want to make them more confused when I left again. Even when I was packing the night before they both came downstairs, saw the suitcases, and went straight to their beds in Ethan’s room. But they slept with me both nights I was there, and it’s the best sleep I’d had in 3 months. Even Bonnie’s snoring was music to my ears.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Lucy, Dan and Ethan for taking such great care of my babies, I could not have wished for a better family to adopt them. I’m lucky too, because their lovely flat in Brighton feels like home to me as well, and that’s as much because they’ve welcomed me into their hearts in the same way they’ve welcomed Bonnie & Cacho.
It was heartbreaking to leave, and I bawled all the way to London the next day. Which, by the way, was the day of the Royal Wedding! I visited my friend Merryn in Hammersmith, and we walked through numerous street parties on our way to the pub by the river. I have to say, it made me bloody proud to be British. If there’s one thing the Brits know how to do well, it’s a Royal Wedding. Even the naysayers watched it. Like everyone I thought Kate’s sister was prettier and I liked her dress more. The snog on the balcony should have been longer, but it was lovely to be back in England amidst all the hype, palaver, flag-waving, and nowhere is more beautiful than London on a sunny day.
Unless… it’s New York on a sunny day…