We left New Delhi on a happy note, bouncing through the airport ready for our next chapter, South Africa, where we could almost already feel the ocean breeze and salty air of Cape Town. Little did we know that our simple red-eye flight would turn into 50+ hours of unwanted adventure.
That morning we had been standing in front of the Taj Mahal entrance at 5 a.m., been on a tour and drove 5 hours back to Delhi. We spent the afternoon visiting a friend and at around 9 o'clock pm we arrived at the airport, hopeful for our new airline Ethiopian Air. Finally a change from the several crammed, loud, and unique Air Asia flights we had experienced! Oh, how naive of us! The original flight schedule was as follows: Fly out of New Delhi at 2 am, change flights quickly at Addis Ababa, and gently land in beautiful Cape Town by noon the next day.
As we arrived to our gate, the Roy-Warrick clan was looking a bit...how shall I say...rugged? We were no longer the sprightly crew, smiling and enthusiastic to be off to the next place. India had done a number on us. We sported dark circles under our eyes, were on our last clean(ish) outfit, felt quite unwell with frequent trips to the squat toilets. We were exhausted!
It was midnight and our flight was not leaving for another two hours. Some of us tried to get a quick nap in. Of course Hannah was fast asleep within minutes, as she is the only person I know who can find a lawn chair in an airport, and be able to sleep soundly - even though she laid underneath a speaker blaring loud Hindi-Pop music. I was inspired, and made myself "comfortable" on a stiff seat by the edge of our gate. I rested my eyes since my body was not able to ignore the loud music until at 1:30 am, when our gate attendant announced that our flight was actually moved to take off at 4 am. This was a bit of a setback, but not detrimental. As soon as that happened, a plane technician in the fluorescent orange vest barged through the airport door looking relieved, and made himself comfortable on the floor right behind me. Within seconds I could hear loud snoring and he was in a deep sleep.
Not ideal, but we were used to waiting so we were all still relatively hopeful. About an hour later, the woman gets back on the speaker to make an announcement. We were eagerly awaiting to hear about our boarding, when she announces: "Hello customers, the flight to Addis Ababa is actually canceled. Goodnight." Then her fellow crew members quickly helped her closed up shop and exited the gate entirely.
Um....What?! Okay. A rather bewildered Brad and Fabs decided to take matters into their own hands and worked frantically to get us a new game plan. Not only had we lost our connection in Ethiopia, but this meant we would loose our hotel reservation in Cape Town for the first night. Try calling South Africa at 5 am to change a hotel reservation. No can do! Since this was evidently going to take a while. I decided to sleep while I could. I rolled over and decided that since it was going to be a long night, I would have to endure the snoring and the Hindi-Pop. While the kids slept, the parents booked us on the next possible flight, 3 hours later...putting us now on a 8:30 a.m. flight; of course with no vouchers or refunds from Ethiopian Air. We finally took off and "slept" almost the entire way. Everyone's body was aching by the time we finally arrived...in Addis Ababa.
Once landed in Ethiopia, we had to get the rest of our itinerary shifted as we had missed our connecting flight. After about an hour of negotiating with 3 or 4 different desk attendants, we were finally able to get a flight from Addis Ababa to Cape Town. Of course they neglected to mention, we later learned, it was in fact NOT a direct flight, but stopped in Johannesburg to extend our fun travels. With an 8 hours layover in this very populated African city, we were also able to score a hotel room voucher. SO exciting! We couldn't wait to take a shower and lay in an actual bed! We didn't have any luggage with us as it was checked, so no clean clothes to change into, but we were happy to have at least a little refresher.
We exited the airport and finally felt the sun on our skin. We were so happy to be out of filtered air, at least for a bit. Our next task was to wait for our hotel taxi to pick us up. Everyone we asked told us that it would "be here in less than fifteen minutes". Well, we waited and waited there for about an hour and a half. Of course we hadn't had food or water for about 10 hours, so we were scavenging each others' backpacks for the last drops of water and we all desparately split a two inch square of melted chocolate. When the van finally showed up, we crammed in with other travelers and asked the driver how long the ride was to the hotel. "Five minutes!" the driver responded, but of course that five minutes was almost thirty. Turns out the hotel was less than a mile away, but traffic extended the joyful ride. We could have walked had we known!
We finally arrived to the hotel, and we could finally shower, sleep, or attempt to use the weak wifi signal for a few hours. Even the all inclusive buffet had to be avoided at all costs. You see, when I went down there to get a meal by myself, the waiter kept telling me in broken English that he liked me and wanted to stay in touch with me. He persistently asked for my contact information and address. Trying to escape, he finally caught me as I tried to sneak in some dinner without him seeing me. He handed me a card with all of his information on it, Facebook, email, phone, address, and a sweet note saying "I miss you" at the bottom. He gave it to me and exclaimed, "Your turn, please write your information for me". My shocked rebuttal was, "Don't worry, I'll contact YOU". Then I quickly ran back up to my room!
After hours of finally being able to rest and hydrate, we were off again for our last leg. When we got to the airport we were so grateful that we didn't have to spend eight hours there. It was very small and packed with hundreds of people. There were no open seats, and no place to buy food or necessities. When we got through the third security line and got down to our small gate, we had to stand in a crowd of smokers, waiting for the security guards to allow us to walk on the tarmac to get on the plane.
We finally boarded, took off, landed in Johannesburg, and one more time finally took off for Cape Town. We met a few travel-mates who had endured the long hours of travel with us, with whom we could find sympathy. But, we made it! WOW, it was nice to finally be out of the airport scene and looking at the ocean! We definitely all slept VERY well that night.
In Cape Town some of our crew went to go see penguins and explore the coastline. The next day after we all hiked the famous Table Top Mountain. It was absolutely stunning, but definitely a difficult task for us since we had been sitting on a tour bus for the past months and hadn't gotten our heart-rate up since we we had snorkeled in Australia. Of course, Luke took off and finished the hike in record time, while others (I won't name names) took a nice slow pace and had to remember how their legs even worked in the first place. We enjoyed our three days in Cape Town before we joined with our Simunye Project crew in Johannesburg.