<<  Johannesburg, 27-Apr-2016  >>

On our way to Africa

Very scary start of a journey to my "last missing continent"

It’s been long time since I have returned from South America and slipped back to my normal life. Few weeks in Spain, few weeks in Bratislava and then more than 6 months of work in Prague, broken only by few days of vacation in Ireland and New Year in Spain. Nothing to report. Business as usual. Suit and tie and meetings and Powerpoint and Excel and SQL… BTW people in Raiffeisenbank Czech Republic, which I have worked with are really nice folks and I liked the project which I have worked on. But it’s end of April, my assignment in Prague is finished, and it’s time to go…

There is only one continent I haven’t seen properly, one that I haven’t backpacked through: Africa.
I’ve been to Egypt and Tunisia (back then, in more peaceful times), and for vacation in Zanzibar, which belongs to Tanzania, but all of those were just hit-and-run vacations of few days, without any proper traveling.
Well, that is about to change. The last unchartered piece of map is going to be explored. We are going to South Africa!

I flew to Madrid to meet with Irene, then we flew to London and from there to Johannesburg. And although the flight to Johannesburg started with big “COOL!” when I found out we were gonna fly in Boeing 747 (my first time in Jumbo) it was during that flight, when I had my probably worst travel experience ever. Some 3-4 hours away from London, we were just flying above middle of Sahara, somewhere over Libya – Niger border, half of people already sleeping, when suddenly the TVs turned off and in few seconds alarm sounded: “BEEP! BEEP! Attention please, attention please! This is an emergency message! We are forced to do an emergency landing. Please prepare for emergency landing! Do not take any of your belongings with you! I repeat, this is an emergency message, please prepare for emergency landing! Leave all your belongings behind! BEEP! BEEP!”. WHAT? Emergency landing with Boeing 747 in middle of Sahara??? It was obvious we were gonna die!!! 747 landing in sand somewhere in Libya or Niger? The immediate admitting of “we are gonna die” went through my body and brain. System shutdown. To my surprise, I didn’t freak out. I always thought that I would freak out in this moment (although I already had had 2 emergency landings in my life, but they were soon after departure and in Europe and seemed to be well controlled), but somehow, in this moment of terrors, I just quietly admitted that we were fucked. Actually, no one in the plane freaked out. Everybody just got frozen in expectation of horror. I said “I love you” to Irene (like they do it in movies, just before someone dies), put on my shoes and checked the security instructions. I swear I could feel in my ears that the plane was descending very quickly – but that turned out as paranoia soon after. Some 2 minutes after the emergency message a stewardess was passing thru the plane. I was sure she was gonna give us some more instructions or information about our doom, but in reality she said:
“It was a false alert! Everything is fine. We just have a problem with the entertainment system and this message was started by mistake. There is nothing happening!”
Never before have words relieved me so much!
I’m not quite sure if it was actually true what she said, but of course I wanted to believe it. We were brought back to life, resurrected!
Needless to say, the rest of the flight was filled with fear and paranoia and we didn’t sleep even one minute and every little turbulence caused me little heart attacks.

We landed in Johannesburg International Airport, but had no intentions to actually go to Johannesburg. We didn’t come here for cities, we came here for the nature, animals, open spaces. Plus, Johannesburg, being one of the most dangerous cities in the world and completely missing any substantial sights made it kind of easy for us to erase it from the list. To recover from the flight we just stayed 1 day in a guesthouse just 15 minutes away from the airport and then we were starting a “side trip” to Victoria Falls. So the only thing we have seen from Johannesburg was the suburb called Boksburg, full of neat houses with electric barb wired fences and signs “Armed response” (in other words “Try to break it and we will shoot your head off”), one supermarket and bunch of locals doing nothing in the streets.
Yes, after successful end of that eventful flight, it was rather boring start of African trip, but first day in a new destination is always like this.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak