Africa Adventures, Day 3 & 4: More flying, Port Elizabeth

Thursday, January 27, 2011
Time for the second long-haul flight of the trip! We dragged our butts out of bed at 3:30am to get to the airport in time for our flight to Johannesburg. This time we were flying KLM via Amsterdam, which is one of my favorite airports!

Unfortunately the flight was less than ideal. There was a box for the in-flight entertainment system directly under the seat in front of me, leaving very little foot room, and forcing my legs off to the side. Uncomfortable for an hour, and brutal on an eleven hour flight. I ended up with a really sore knee which took several days to recover. I can't say I recommend the aisle seats on the KLM 777s.

That said, the flight had some enjoyable moments. Flying over the Sahara Desert was fascinating - sand dunes as far as the eye could see.

Also onboard our flight were the Soweto Spiritual Singers. They're a popular choir down in South Africa who performed, among other places, at the 2010 World Cup. They had just completed a successful European tour and were returning home. When we landed they provided us a few impromptu songs while we waited to deboard!

We arrived into Jo'burg around 10:30, had our luggage and was out of customs and into a crappy airport hotel by midnight. We slept for three hours, then back to the airport again for our final flight to Port Elizabeth, on the southern coast of South Africa.

Port Elizabeth is the fifth largest city in South Africa. There isn't a whole lot to do there, but they have some decent beaches. The airport is pretty small - no official gates, and just two baggage claims. I was grateful for this however, as this would be the starting point of one of my major adventures: driving on the left side of the road! We were stuck with a Kia Picanto - a tiny car (possibly smaller than a Geo Metro) with an ultra-sensitive gas pedal to make up for the zero horsepower it had.

Besides the crazy gas pedal, there were a few other things to get used to. The turn signal and windshield wiper stalks were reversed, so whenever I went to signal a turn I ended up with the windshield wipers on instead. Getting in the mindset of yielding when turning right took a bit of work too.

After spending a few minutes driving through some neighborhoods getting used to the new feel and new road rules to learn, we were off to find the beach! Luckily Port Elizabeth is a small city and it was not hard to find. We found a nice quiet patch of sand and relaxed for a bit - and then realized we were really tired! I guess only sleeping six hours in the last 48 does that to you. We found an inexpensive hotel on the beach and took a nap.

It was still light out when we woke up. There was a dock directly across the street from the hotel, and we wandered down it just in time to see a pod of dolphins swimming around!

We hit up some places across the street for dinner, then went walking down the beach. Along the way we came by a carnival that had set up show. I stopped to take a few photos before calling it a night.

A few more photos can be found here.