Upon return to the airport in Atlanta, and before getting onto the plane, I had the opportunity to walk around Atlanta’s airport for a bit and make another lounge visit. This time it would be to the Club at ATL, with enough time to enjoy a few snacks and a beer. Again, it was a nice way to spend the time while waiting for boarding the flight.
Seeing as this lounge was in a different terminal than the one my flight would depart from, I did have to use the underground tram, but since it works fairly efficiently, I had some spare time before boarding to walk around the E Terminal, while allowed to discover a few neat displays, including one dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. that featured one of his old suits and other Items provided by the King Center in Atlanta, and a neat display of a variety of puppets provided by Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts.
Before long, the time arrived to begin the journey to South Africa by way of Delta Airlines. As of the time of the trip, this route is among the top 10 longest commercial flights in the world. It was scheduled to take around 15 hours and 10 minutes, which would make it the longest flight that I had ever experienced. On top of that, it was also my first experience on a Boeing 777. In general, the time of the flight seemed to go by quicker than I had anticipated, although it wasn’t the most comfortable ride due to the lack of space between my knees and the seat in front of me regardless of how I sat, and I’m not even that tall of a guy.
With the 15+ hour flight and changes in time zones, our arrival to Johannesburg was around 4:45 local time the next day. Upon arrival to O.R. Tambo Airport, the customs process was quick and painless, and I was ready to get to my first hotel for the night which was to be at the Airport Game Lodge in Kempton Park.
It wasn’t long, however, that things would take a turn. I was picked up by the lodge’s shuttle driver (a gentleman named Thomas) and as we began to ride over to the lodge, I mentioned to him that I had an early morning flight to Durban the next morning. It was then that he had told me about a scheduled protest where taxi drivers were going to block the two main highways into the airport as part of a protest, which would block the route from the lodge to the airport, thus making it possible that I would miss my flight the next morning. He took the time to help me try and find another hotel that was located close to the airport, which we found that there were still rooms available at the Southern Sun Hotel at Tambo Airport. It was a nice hotel, which had an on-site restaurant that was perfect as I was about ready for meal after the long day of flying, in which I had the filet mignon sandwich that was really tasty. And after two flights that combined for over 20 hours in the air, I was ready for sleeping in a real bed.
The next morning, I was able to take advantage of the hotel location to get back to the airport without any trouble from the protest since the it was an easy drive right onto the entry ramp to the terminal from the hotel.
And thanks to a quick security check and early arrival to the airport, I had time to enjoy the Bidvest Premier Lodge with use of the Priority Pass. Much like the other two lounges I had experienced so far, this would be a more comfortable place to await boarding my flight. One thing that stuck out about this place was that it seemed to have a bigger spread for the food that you could enjoy for breakfast as it was more of a meal rather than snacks or continental breakfast. Each of the seats also had easy access to a variety of plugs for charging your devices.
For the flight to Durban, this would be my first with Mango Airlines, a South African based low-cost carrier. While I generally avoid them back in the states, I saw that baggage was included in the cost of airfare, and with the ability to get this flight, along with a flight from Durban to Cape Town a few days later, and then a Cape Town to JoBurg flight the next week for under $150, I thought it would be worth a try. Much like other low-cost carriers, any service items were a la carte in which you would pay for them if you wanted them, Although the prices at least seemed to be reasonable with an approximate conversion rate of around 11 Rand per U.S. Dollar.
After what seemed like was going to be a chaotic boarding process because of a lack of boarding order made fairly quick because of the plane being loaded on both the front and back like they had done with Qantas domestic flights back in Australia, we were on board and ready to go only a couple minutes behind schedule. I decided that I would take a window seat for the short 1-hour flight and was offered an exit row which I was grateful for after feeling the cramping the previous day. As luck would have it, I was literally the only person to sit in either of the two exit rows of their 737, even though the flight seemed to be about three-quarters full.
The flight itself was pleasant enough, even with the style of seats that do not recline (which I think were standard in the entire cabin and not just the exit rows), and at cruising altitude, they brought down the video screens which offered ideas of things to do and places to stay in different areas of South Africa that the airline served. I was glad to have taken the window seat as it afforded some fantastic views during the flight, especially upon approach to Durban. The downside was that the South African Civil Aviation Administration has tighter restrictions on electronic devices, thus I was unable to take pictures during the approach.
Upon arrival to King Shaka International Airport, the facility itself felt quite modern. There are several pieces of neat artwork to be found throughout that pays homage to the culture and heritage of the region.
With this visit to Durban, I had decided that because of the location of a few things I was hoping to see, I figured it would be a good idea to rent a car to get around. In South Africa, much like several other countries, vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. This much I felt would be easy enough to handle thanks to having driven on the other side before in Australia. The big difference this time would be that most cars in South Africa are manuals. As I would find out later, while automatics are becoming more and more common in the states, it is something that is only seen with more luxury vehicles in South Africa. This would be the case for my rental this trip as I was given a Renault Dvit to drive. While using my left hand to shift took time to get used to, by the first afternoon I was feeling pretty comfortable with it.
Next, its time to really get this South African Journey started and make our way into Durban to explore!
See more of 2018 South Africa Trip:
1: Flight to Atlanta & Delta Flight Museum / 2: Arrival to South Africa / 3: First Day in Durban /
4: Second Day in Durban / 5: Last Day in Durban / 6: V&A Waterfront / 7: Cape Town City Sightseeing Tours /
8: Table Mountain / 9: Ratanga Junction / 10: Rugby at Newlands Rugby Stadium / 11: Cape Town Walking Tours /
12: Cape of Good Hope / 13: Boulders Beach Penguins / 14: The Last of Cape Town / 15: Cape Town Water Shortage /
16: Sightseeing Around Johannesburg / 17: More Johannesburg Sightseeing / 18: Botswana Day Trip /
19: Kruger National Park, Day 1 / 20: Kruger National Park, Day 2 / 21: Kruger National Park, Day 3 /
22: Gold Reef City Resort & Amenities / 23: Apartheid Museum & Rand Show / 24: Gold Reef City Theme Park /
25: The Return Home