Sometimes traveling does not go as smoothly as one would hope.
I was enjoying a nice ‘create your own’ stir-fry for dinner last night at Chobe Game Lodge, and thinking through my travel plans for the four hour trip back to Victoria Falls and then my flight down to Johannesburg. One of the activities staff asked about my preferred time for a wake up call and then told me that my pick up time had been put back until 12:00 noon. That didn’t work as it was less than two hours before my flight – and that wasn’t nearly enough time! I really needed to catch it, otherwise I would not make the start of my photo tour in Nairobi.
In my mind, I started working over the potential reasons. Maybe my flight time had changed? Maybe it was just a mistake? The first thing to do was seek out a very competent lady at the lodge named Brenda, who looked after all the guest relations. The tour company’s offices were closed at that time of night so she couldn’t call them, but promised to do so first thing in the morning. I decided that I should also see if I could find out any information some other way. I couldn’t get on to the Internet to see if the flight time had changed, so all I could do was to locate my travel agent’s phone number (as a last resort) and then go to bed and see what Brenda came up with in the morning.
I was up early, expecting to have a problem, but good to her word, Brenda called me just before 7:00 am to say that she had sorted things out and I would be picked up at my planned time of 9:00am. This would give me plenty of time.
We left Chobe Game Lodge just before 9:00 and travelled slowly for the first twenty minutes over the rough sandy, dusty road through the national park. We passed some more wildlife on the way and at one time passed a military troop carrier that was coming towards us at high speed We had noticed an army patrol in the park on the previous day and they were working to prevent poaching. They had obviously been shopping in the local town as their vehicle was full of big bags of food and fruit.
Once we reached the park gate, we turned onto the bitumen road, heading past the town of Kasane and on to the border check point. On the Botswana side, we were very quick, only having to get our passports stamped. When we reached the Zimabwe border point, about 500 metres down the road, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no queue. Expecting a quick entry, we parked the safari vehicle only to find out a very different story.
For some reason a queue was extending out through the exit door on the other side of the building, rather than the entry one. We had arrived just after two large tour groups, so we joined the queue in the sun alongside busses, semi trailers and a mass of private vehicles waiting to cross the border. There was only one immigration desk operating and it took about three minutes to process each person. A quick count of the number of people in the queue ahead of us tallied forty; this meant two hours of waiting and standing in line. It’s surprising how many short term acquaintances you can make in an immigration line.
As in coming though the airport on my arrival into Zimbabwe, there were two officers at the desk. The first one collected the visa payment and wrote a receipt in triplicate using carbon paper. The first copy was stapled to the immigration form that we had filled out while waiting in the queue, the second copy (pink) was given to each person as a receipt and the third copy stayed in the book. The second officer than took the passports in turn and hand wrote a visa, again using carbon paper and stuck the visa in each passport. The trouble was that the first man could write faster than the second man who issued the visas. There was a fairly orderly line up to the officer accepting payment, but then there was a jostling melee with people standing around in a disorganized rabble, waving their pink receipts in the air and looking for their passports.
A few minutes under two hours in the queue, I had my visa and headed for the bus on the other side of the boom gate. I was the last person through in our group; some having been waiting for over an hour in the bus for us to all complete our immigration processing. By the time we left, more people had arrived and the queue was now twice as long as it was when I had originally joined it.
We then zapped down the road to Vic Falls and the airport. The speed limit along the road was 80 kmh, but my GPS was telling me that we were traveling at 110 kmh. I think that the driver was as frustrated as we were. The scenery wasn’t very interesting- a bit similar to the area around Kakadu in Australia. As we arrived at the airport, a large group of Asian tourists was assembling. having had enough of long lines, I made a bolt for the terminal and checked in before them. It didn’t help much, as I now had a longer wait in the very primitive departure lounge. I found a seat and sat there for the next forty minutes, waiting to board with my handwritten boarding pass in my hand. On two occasions, the power failed, meaning that the security process ground to a halt and everything had ti be restarted. Unexpectedly, there was a free wifi connection available – what a contrast between that and the old technology of the airport.
In the end, I had a very uneventful flight and know that I know where the shuttle busses are located at Johannesburg, I was over at my hotel in no time.
Tomorrow, I need to catch a shuttle back to the terminal and then I’m onto my flight to Nairobi. I’m quickly finding out that travel in Africa is not to betaken for granted!