South Africa: Johannesburg 2.0

We arrived in Johannesburg early Friday evening.  The departure for our 27 day camping safari with Absolute Africa started Monday morning.  We got right down to business.

First mission: get laundry done.  We took all our laundry to the local laundromat near Hanni and Gavi’s house to drop it off before we ran our other errands.  It was closed.  We were too far from home to go back on foot, so we carried it with us all day…two bags full of one week’s worth of dirty laundry.  Mission failed.

Second mission: get US dollars required to pay for safari.  We didn’t anticipate how difficult this would be.  We walked to the mall in Johannesburg (p.s. no one does that).  We took out money in Rand to take to a money exchange.  Did we have a flight out of South Africa within 48 hours?  No…then we couldn’t trade our money.  So we tried another…nope.  And finally, a third who would do the exchange, but didn’t have enough “clean” US dollars.  So we had a final option, take a local taxi to another mall where they had ample currency to exchange.  With Joshua’s pockets BULGING with Rand…think 17,000 of them and our huge bags of dirty laundry, we took a local collective taxi to a part of town we were not familiar with, where a local walked us to another taxi that got us to our final destination.  These taxis are great except for the fact that they do not depart until every seat is full.  On the way back, we were the first ones in the bus…doh!  We accidentally sat in the front seat, which in Johannesburg means you are the banker for the bus.  We had to collect 15 people’s fare and give change.  Good thing Joshua is great with math…quick 15 times 8.5 Rand each.  We were able to get US dollars at the second mall, but not before Joshua approached a group of Portuguese business men to see if they wanted to trade their US dollars for Rand on the side (totally illegal).  It was too off color for the men in suits, but another traveler took us up and we improved our rate, only slightly.  Mission accomplished.  By the way, we now know that you can do a cash advance via credit or debit card at any Amex exchange office.  Of course we did it the hard way.

Third mission: purchase items required for 27 days of camping and find room for all the gear in our already full bags.  Ugh, buying things imported from the US to foreign countries is the worst.  It’s hard to pay double the cost, but we had no choice.  We walked away with a bag full of supplies including +5c sleeping bags (hopefully warm enough for Kilimanjaro), pillow, cans of bug spray, camping dishes/utensils, snacks, etc.  Hopefully, this second attempt at camping goes better than the first (see Torres del Paine, Chile) as we’re now in it for the long haul.

We efficiently ran all sorts of other errands like printing off receipts, getting visa photos taken (you can still see the jellyfish sting on my face and neck in these, lovely) and calling our parents.  Throughout this whole weekend of running from one chore to the next, Gavi took care of us.  Hanni was still at her in-laws for post-wedding celebrations, so we stayed with her husband.  He made sure we had everything we needed and even sent us on our way early Monday morning before work.  If he hadn’t, we would have over-slept and missed the whole thing!  Gavi–the lifesaver!

We waited at the Backpacker’s Ritz for our safari to Nairobi to start.  When our overland truck pulled up, we were joined by two other travelers, Aussies—Lindel and Nicole.  We looked around, waiting for the rest…it turned out to be just us on a 26 person truck.  The hardest part was picking where to sit!  We met Leanne, our tour leader, and got the lowdown on the tour.  Basically, the truck needed to get back to Nairobi to start another 80+ day tour, and we were getting transported the opposite direction to help pay for gas.  We couldn’t have been more thrilled.

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