31 Days · africa

#write31days {When Visiting Isn’t Easy}

I woke up that morning excited. My bag was packed and I was ready to being the halfway-around-the-world travel to the USA. My sister was getting married, and I was going “home” for a weeklong visit. Home is used loosely, because I was going back to Texas, not Iowa, though it was still the US.

My sister, radiant on her wedding day!
My sister, radiant on her wedding day!

I left my house around 6am that morning and walked with my luggage about a mile through the desert sand, to the “hitching point” in Kudunkgwane. I waited for awhile until a pickup (bakke) came along, and hopped in the uncovered back of the truck. Totally against Peace Corps rules, but often how I got out of the village. I rode in the bakke about 10km, until it dropped me off at the hitching point in Tlakgameng, the next village over. That’s where I found a bush taxi (kombi) that would take me to my shopping town, Vryburg.

Walking through the village sand.
Walking through the village sand.

After waiting for the kombi to fill up, and driving around the village awhile looking for passengers, we finally passed out money forward and sped off along the dirt roads. An hour or two later, we rolled into Vryburg, where I hopped off at the Shoprite grocery store.

I had lunch with two fellow volunteers, who had come to town to shop and send me off. Then I headed to the Steers restaurant, where the Intercape bus stopped.

I decided to travel in style that day. Instead of 5-6 hours in a cramped, airless, overflowing kombi to Pretoria, I opted for the 7-8 hours on the “luxury” bus, the Intercape. It took longer, but was WELL worth it, when I could afford it. I won the jackpot on this trip, scoring the upper deck front seat, with a panoramic view of the countryside.

Upper deck Intercape seat!
Upper deck Intercape seat!

Around 9pm, the Intercape rolled into Pretoria, where I paid the premium fee for a private taxi to my favorite backpackers, Khayalethu Guest House. I spent the night there, and had fun visiting with other volunteers the next morning (there were always a few around).

Midday the next day, I grabbed my luggage and walked the few blocks to the Gautrain station, which is a highspeed rail between Pretoria and Johannesburg. About an hour later, I stepped off the train into the airport.

Waiting to board.
Waiting to board.

America felt so close at that point, but it was still so far away.

I had gone for the “economy” flight option, which meant I was flying Qatar Airways from Johannesburg to Dubai (8 hours), and then Dubai to Houston (16 hours). Twenty four hours of flight time, plus layovers.

A full day later, I slugged off the plane, made it through customs, grabbed my luggage, and found my sister waiting at the arrival gate for me.

I’m fully convinced arrivals is the happiest place in the world.

My sister in her wedding sari at the reception.
My sister in her wedding sari at the reception.

That visit was wonderful, and seeing my only sister get married was a true blessing. Even if the multiday journey by foot, bakke, kombi, bus, train, plane, and car was a little ridiculous!

-Jen

#write31days
#write31days
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11 thoughts on “#write31days {When Visiting Isn’t Easy}

  1. I have to agree, Arrivals is for sure the happiest place on Earth!
    So happy for you that you got to fly home to attend your sister’s wedding! Happy Sunday

  2. Oh my goodness, that is quite the journey! Puts my twelve hour journey from Florida home to Seattle into perspective! Although this Christmas I’m making the trek with my three kiddos under 4, by myself!

    1. I’m finishing up the second draft of a novel based on the village I lived in. And perhaps in a year or two I’ll look at writing something of my actual experiences.

      But thank you so much for the kind words! 🙂

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