Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Woman Named Deddy Has Your Passport

I woke up at 4:30 or so to prepare for the third day of my Kruger Park safari. By 6:00 I was walking with a small group of people and two well-armed guides through the South African brush. Early on we spotted Rhinos close enough it was necessary to (carefully) scurry away to safety. By 8:00 I had held the still smelly skull of a dead Buffalo in my hands. In another half hour, a rest break under a gigantic boulder, looking over the river valley. By 10:00 we were back in camp. Time for breakfast.

During breakfast I got an urgent message that Tony Carr wanted to speak to me. So I hustled down to the pay phone (a.k.a. the 'clicky') and pushed in a 20 Rand card. Some quick conversation and I had a flight booked for 6:45 to Cape Town. 2:00 p.m. saw us in White River, the Siyabona touring company's main Kruger base. We arrived at Joburg airport at 5:45 exactly. I hustled to the British Airways checkin on the top floor, presented the photocopy of my passport (never travel overseas without making a photocopy of your passport) and got my boarding pass. 6:10.

Since I had so much time to spare, I took the elevator back down to arrivals and made my way to the South African Airways baggage counter. I gave my name and information to the woman, and she turned and started searching on the computer. I could show from my perspective that nothing was showing up - she continued to widen and widen the search. Then she got up and went into the back room.

I waited. At 6:20 I showed my boarding card to the man at the booth, to stress my shortness of time. He nodded, then disappeared into the back room. I waited. 6:25. I am preparing myself to abandon the booth when the woman returns and says, "A woman named Deddy has your passport." Pronounced 'dee dee'.

My flight had been on South African Express (SAE). This is an airline that has the same logo and services as South African Airways (SAA), but is a separate airline (niminally). So when the cleaners found my passport late Sunday night (and not Friday, despite my telling the airline the exact plane and seat number where it was located) she turned it over to SAA. To a woman named Deddy.

I got the information I needed, told them I would b back in Joburg in a day or two (not having a return flight from Cape Town yet, since I still didn't have my passport and tickets), and dashed (but didn't run) to my waiting BA airplane. I was not even the last customer on board. The airline apologized, but I told them I was more than happy with the middle seat. I had long and interesting conversations with the people to each side of me.

Now it is Tuesday morning. I am in Cape Town. My talks here will go ahead as scheduled, and it appears that everything else (Australia, New Zealand) is back on.

I will comment that while I was in Kruger a lot o people did a lot of things for me, most especially Andrea, who hunted down passport regs and got our lawyer moving into action with the Canadian consulate, Tony Carr, who smoothed my way with the alternative tickets and arrangements, and Sophie Leblanc, who was communications central and who kept the Amex Travel agency (who operated travel for NRC) in the loop. Oh, and thanks to J.D. who offered to wire me money - that was very much appreciated. Big thanks to everyone, and now I have a Townships tour to take. Just as scheduled.

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