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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!