My time in South Africa was absolutely incredible. The scenery, the people, the culture--simply amazing. It was great to see my dad, his wife, my brother and my half-brother again, too. The trip had everything: action (a safari in the Eastern Cape), adventure (shark-diving in a cage off the coast), romance (but that's another story...)-- it was awesome!
Getting to the safari in the Eastern Cape was a bit too far to drive on my (way too short) visit, so we took SAA-- an excellent choice.
Photo © Thomas Klein
Wed., May 14
South African Airways 656
Cape Town (CPT)-- Port Elizabeth (PLZ)
sked: 10:10 a.m.-- 11:20 a.m.
actual: 9:55 (board Gate 16)-- 10:11 (push)-- 10:17 (takeoff)-- 11:11 (land)-- 11:13 (arr. at stand on tarmac)-- 11:15 (deplane down airstairs)
B737-244 Adv., ZS-SIA, "Tugela" Seat 12B (switched to 12D)
Fatigue be damned, we're off to see some wildlife! As we walked out of gate 16 and across the tarmac to our waiting 737 Classic, I got excellent views of tons of SAA metal (including an SAA Cargo 732); a Sunair DC-9; BA 777; SQ 777; and MH 744. A bit more interesting that what we get at SA - Wisconsin">MSN! The first thing I noticed was the inflight mag, "Sawubona." I was very impressed, particularly by the Fleet and Route Map sections-- very well put together. After launching into the glorious South African sky the F/A's came around with:
Snack: Sandwich (smoked chicken, red pepper, pickle, mustard & mayo on cheese- covered bread), Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar (full size!), apple juice
All in all, much better than what you'll find nowadays in the U.S. (sadly, this includes my beloved Midwest). I found it interesting that when the sandwich contents listed "pickle," they meant pickled carrots as opposed to the pickled cucumbers we Yanks are used to. Another cool thing was that the food box had South African slang printed on it (e.g., "aida" and "howzit" meaning "what's up") with funny little explanations. Someone at SAA's got a pretty good sense of humor. Of course, I'm such an aviation geek that I saved the box, along with almost everything else from my first SAA flight. During the flight the outstanding meal was complimented by stunning views of the coastline and Indian Ocean. It really struck me how far from home I am here--travelling is such a great experience. On landing, the capt. pointed out a huge school of sardines off the starboard side of the a/c. It was a good flight, my first in years aboard a 732. From the looks of the spotless refurbished interior and gleaming engine cowlings, SAA seems to be treating the old birds pretty well in their golden years.
The time in the Eastern Cape was wonderful. We saw elephants, giraffes, rhino, hippo, cheetahs, you name it. Unforgettable. But soon it was time to head back to Cape Town.
Photo © Eddy Cuperus
Friday, May 16
South African Airways 665
Port Elizabeth (PLZ)-- Cape Town (CPT)
sked: 7:15 p.m.-- 8:30 p.m.
actual: 6:54 p.m. (board Gate 3, airstairs)-- 7:04 (push)-- 7:09 (takeoff)-- 8:10 (land)-- 8:13 (arr. stand on tarmac)-- 8:16 (deplane down airstairs)
B737-244 Adv., ZS-SIK, "Olifants" Seat 19E (switched to 20F)
Snack: 2 slices of meat, cheese, lettuce, roll, butter (though I was the only one I saw make a sandwich out of it), cake, chocolates, OJ
We got beautiful views of Cape Town twinkling in the Southern night, and as we walked from the airstairs to the terminal we walked right past a SAA 744 at the next gate over, getting ready to push as SA 209 to Ilha do Sal/Atlanta. It was all lit up and simply beautiful. Wow! A definite highlight of my spotting career.
Cape Town is amazing, and a place I can't wait to get back to. But, as all good things must sadly do, my time in South Africa came to an end. It was one of my best weeks ever, and although the country has its share of problems after everything her people have been through, it is a shining testament to the strength and beauty of the human spirit. Okay, enough philosophizing-- get on the plane already!
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Tuesday, May 20
Lufthansa 573 (SA 7573)
Cape Town (CPT)-- Johannesburg (JNB)
sked: 3:55 p.m.-- 5:55 p.m.
actual: 3:40 p.m. (board airstairs after bus ride)-- 3:54 (push)-- 4:06 (takeoff)--5:48 (land)-- 5:55 (arr. gate)-- (unable to disembark, stay on plane)
747-430, D-ABVZ, "Niedersachsen" again! Seat 36K again!
Snack: Chicken tikka sandwich, fruit "cup" (four little pieces of fruit), Cadbury Top-Deck mini chocolate bar, 2 waters, apple juice
As I walked through gate B1, took the bus, and ascended the airstairs to the mammoth Boeing jumbo, I was sad to leave but knew I'd be back. The flight to JNB was quick, and again we stayed on board while they catered, refueled and boarded more pax. Now, on to FRA.
Johannesburg (JNB)-- Frankfurt (FRA)
sked: 7:15 p.m.-- 5:30 a.m. (May 21)
actual: (already on board)-- 7:22 p.m. (push)-- 7:35 (takeoff)-- 5:46 a.m. (land)-- 5:54 (arr. Gate B26)-- 5:59 (deplane)
Service and Entertainment:
Water & apple juice
Videomagazine (interesting format--one anchor speaks English, the other speaks German)
Dinner: Roll/butter; chicken w/gravy; potatoes; spinach; cucumber & tomato salad; apple pie, 2 waters, apple juice
Although I was bummed that the trip was over, I found the Club Mix channel and continued my journey into German techno junkie. Somewhere over the Congo they called for a doctor over the P.A., but that was the last I heard about that, so I hoped everything was okay. I noticed that about halfway through the flight the overwing lights came on and stayed on for about an hour. It was kind of unusual, but the silver wing illuminated against the black sky was pretty cool. I'm sure I was just grumpy for going home, but I noticed that it took over an hour for the dinner trays to be cleared, which was kind of a drag. Well, whatever, I'm on my way home after a great trip! I slept through "Two Weeks Notice" (again) but managed to stay awake for "Catch Me if You Can," a must-see for airplne freaks like me. Overnight I had one still and one sparkling water, and was treated to stunning views of the pre-dawn North African lights, Sicily, and sunrise over the Alps (wow!). The F?a's then turned up the cabin lights and served:
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, canadian bacon, hashbrowns, croissant/butter, fruit cup (full size), water, and apple juice. I must say I've been continually impressed with the quality & quantity of food on LH.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we touched down at FRA. After a new record (ugh! I've got to stop setting these dubious new personal records!) 14 hrs 19 min on the plane, I was ready to be off. As we deplaned, there were authorities with drug-sniffing dogs checking us all out. I almost reached out to pet one, but his glare matched his master's and I didn't feel like losing a hand so I just kept on walking. Since I only had a few hours at FRA, I did a bit more spotting and added these beauties to the list:
Gulfair 330 (o/c/s); SriLankan 330; LH 763 (Star Alliance n/c/s); Swiss 320; DL 763 (intermediate c/s); CO 764; Finnair 320; SK 321; US 330; and LH 744 D-ABTE with "The First Real Internet on Board" titles. After a few hours of good spotting, let's head home!
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Tuesday, May 21
Lufthansa 460 (MX 3460, TG 7708, UA 8825)
Frankfurt (FRA)-- Chicago O'Hare (SA - Illinois">ORD)
sked: 10;10 a.m.-- 12 noon
actual: 9:48 a.m. (board Gate A63)-- 10:18 (push)-- 10:30 (takeoff)-- 12:11 p.m. (land)-- 12:15 (arr. gate A10)
747-430, D-ABVE, "Potsdam" Seat 56J (window)
After boarding, I was a teensy bit stressed, since I was an idiot and gave myself a super-tight connection in Chicago, but oh well, nothing to do but kick back and enjoy the ride aboard another sparkling Lufthansa jumbo. I love those seats in the back of the 747--they almost feel like J class (well, almost... okay, maybe not) in the fact that you have so many windows and a bit more space.
Service & Entertainment:
"Chicago" (I thought I'd hate it but it was pretty good)
Lunch: same meal as ex-SA - Illinois">ORD (salad, roll, chicken curry thing, cherry cake), 2 waters, apple juice
"Maid in Manhattan" (by this point I was way too into my techno to turn on the audio for the movie)
Snack: spicy cream cheese/tomato sandwich, big honkin fruit cup, German cranberry granola bar (called "Corny"), water, apple juice
On landing we saw Milwaukee, my hometown, off to the starboard. We flew over the airport and doubled back, so I looked down and saw a UA 763 and KL 747 coming in on short finals. pretty cool. After deplaning, I zoomed down to customs, worried it would take forever and I'd miss my flight. You know, I've gotta give it up for U.S. Customs--it always looks like a huge line, but those folks know how to keep it moving. This time it took exactly 15 minutes to get my stuff, get my stamp, and be released into a beautiful Midwestern afternoon.
It's a good thing it went so fast, too, since after hustling onto the train and over to the United Express terminal and through security, they were announcing last call for my flight to Madison. Yikes! Luckily I *just* made it. They quickly printed up my boarding pass (at first they printed one that said, "Infant," and I had to spend several minutes convincing the gate agent that, no, I am not an infant, nor do I have an infant anywhere on my person...) and I was the last one on board.
Photo © Tim Samples
United Express 5535
Chicago O'Hare (SA - Illinois">ORD)-- Madison (SA - Wisconsin">MSN)
sked: 1:15 p.m.-2:05 p.m.
actual: 1:02 p.m. (board Gate F4)-- 1:16 (push)-- 1:22 (takeoff)-- 1:46 (land)-- 1:48 (arr. Gate A5)-- 1:51 (deplane)
Service: water, mini-cheese puffs (this is a flight to Wisconsin, after all!), mints
As we flew over the farmlands of Illinois and Wisconsin, I thought about the trip and how lucky I was to go. We came in for a typical Madison Kai Tak-style landing (does anyone who flies into SA - Wisconsin">MSN regularly know why they do this? Not that I'm complaining, 'cause it's way more fun...), and pulled up to Gate A5, the same place this whole adventure started. One of my roommates picked me up and I was home by 2:15. It was an incredible trip, one I'll never forget. Thanks for coming along with me! Now where to next?