Monday, August 3, 2009

Lost luggage, again!

The last few days in South Africa were hectic! The awesome family lunch at Quay 4 on the Waterfront on the Sunday, then Monday and Tuesday trying to get the Hermanus Rainbow Trust website done on Siobhan's macbook. After all the time and effort put into creating the website in iweb, the host guy couldn't figure out how to upload a mac website onto a non-mac server. Of course, we couldn't help him either. And, to make matters worse, the silly man had deleted completely the existing website, so now there was nothing. A void, an empty space. A, "This page has permanently vanished" message. No possible bloody way could I leave my Mom without a website, so we managed to upoad Wordpress onto the server, and I started making her a Wordpress website, just so she has something there. Worked until late Tuesday night, then got up at 5am to continue on the Wednesday, as we were supposed to be leaving Hermanus at 10am the latest. I wanted to do a little shopping first, and hadn't even packed our bags yet. Well, only finished the website at about 10am and then had to pack. Trying to pack a lot into a little is something I have perfected over the years. I managed to pack one big suitcase, two big backpacks, two draggy carry on bags and one gym bag. For us, that was hardly anything. We were no sooner getting ready to go out the door, when my Mom's housekeeper came running out with a pile of freshly ironed washing that we'd forgotten to take. I had to try and stuff it into the hand luggage, which proved to be a big blessing.

I had contacted South African Airways previously, to query why we had 20kg each from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and 30kg each from then on. The lady on the phone was very unobliging, and advised me to go on a wild shopping spree at the duty free in Johannesburg to make up our weight allowance. Fat lot of help that was. But, when we arrived at Cape Town International at 4.30am, the check-in man looked so tired and bored, he'd obviously pulled an all-nighter, and checked in our big suitcase and the biggest backpack. I had the one I usually carried on my back, and Siobhan hiding around the corner with the two carry on suitcases and sports bag. The check in man never asked about hand luggage or said how much our two big bags weighed, as I was worried they were over the 40kg we had between the two of us. The flight to Johannesburg was uneventful and we managed to get away with our heavily-laden hand luggage which was way over the 7kg we were each allowed. When we arrived in Joburg, we went to the baggage collection - our bags weren't there! I went to advise them at the lost luggage office, but then they looked at our baggage slips and said that they'd been put in to fly direct to Kilimanjaro with us. I did think that this was a bit strange as we were changing from the domestic to international terminal and still had to check in for our international flight, but stupidly, didn't take it further. When we checked in, the check in guy there asked us for our luggage and we checked in ALL our hand luggage with the exception of Siobhan's school backpack and our laptops! It was only 37kg! Which of course means, that we were very lucky to get away with carrying 37kg of hand luggage on the plane when we were only allowed 14kg! Never have we traveled with so little hand luggage. Both Siobhan and I had no idea what to do with our hands. The plane was delayed 45minutes, which meant that we didn't have much time to make our connecting flight in Nairobi.

The plane was so empty, Siobhan and I each had three seats to ourselves, so could really spread out, relax and watch the onboard movies. The Air Kenya plane was old and the fittings onboard really showed the age, but it was a pleasant enough flight, even though the pilot had problems with take-off and landing. His take-off was a little hair-raising and definitely reminded me of why I hate flying. It is such a long way to fall if something goes wrong. We arrived in Nairobi and it was all confusing, we weren't sure what we were supposed to do, or where we had to go. Eventually, we found that we had to head to the gate next to the gate we'd come in through. Twenty minutes after arriving, we were boarding Precision Air to Kilimanjaro. Siobhan was very concerned when she saw our little plane had propellers on the wings! They looked more like lawnmower blades! The plane was full and I wondered how they'd fit in our total of 77kg of luggage on such a small plane. There was no room on board for hand luggage and I was relieved that we didn't have any. I shouldn't have wasted my time worrying how they'd fit in all my luggage, as obviously they didn't. Our large suitcase and big backpack never arrived, and still hasn't. there is still no trace of it and at the moment, each airline seems to be blaming the other for losing it. As I like to travel braless for comfort purposes, all my bras were in my big suitcase. So, I have been braless ever since I arrived in Tanzania. What a good impression I've been making!

For such a small plane it was a great flight and flying past the top of Mount Kilimanjaro was one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen. There's not that much snow at the moment, but still, seeing it at dusk sticking up above the clouds - simply mind-bogglingly awesome! Everything had gone so smoothly, I should have been prepared for what happened next. As we had to fill in swine flu forms and our arrival forms, they asked me for our yellow fever cards, which of course we didn't have. I had checked before with the Tanzanian Embassy in South Africa, and on their website, and as Cape Town was not in a yellow fever area, we didn't need them. we would need them when we left, but I thought I would get them later. Unfortunately, I didn't factor in the fact that we stopped in Nairobi for 20 minutes which IS a yellow fever area. Therefore we needed them otherwise they'd deport us. The school principal tried to bribe the official, but for once he was above bribery, and we had to pay $50 each to get a yellow fever injection. Siobhan started crying, and the guy then momentarily had second thoughts, but decided he wanted to make us safe. Yeah, right. He showed us that the vaccine bottle was unopened and the needles were new, and put on one glove to make it semi-hygienic. Luckily, we haven't felt any ill-effects. The rest went quite smoothly, we paid for our visas and then had to queue up for the immigration official to take our photos for the visa. I asked him to try and make me beautiful and he laughed. However, when he saw the photo he'd taken of me, he sent me to another immigration official to take another photo as he said the other guy's camera took more beautiful photos.

Then we went to collect our luggage from the baggage collection area, and only our luggage we'd checked in at Johannesburg was there! Most of our clothes, lost! Four days later and still no sign of our things! I should have been suspicious of everything having gone so smoothly with our luggage! I reported the missing baggage and the official demanded a communication fee. I told him I only had rands, so he said he wanted R200. I said I only had R100, which he took and gave me no receipt. Obviously a bribe. When I asked for a receipt, he said he'd have to walk to the control tower to get the receipt book, and that it was getting dark and I wouldn't want him to do that, would I? So, I then countered, okay, will give you the R100, but if you don't find my luggage I want R200 in return. Looks like I might have to drive to the airport to collect!

Otherwise, have settled in quickly! The management here are great, and we have the biggest garden ever! The house is basic but comfortable and I'll do it up a bit in time. We definitely have enough room for guests, so, book your visiting times! The school itself is well-organised and very laid-back. The best place ever to raise young kids. I wish I had come here when my children were younger! For those of you teaching, enjoy the start of your new school year or term! Keep well, and keep safe!

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