Wednesday, January 20, 2010

African Cockpit Experience

So…flying in the cockpit was amazing!!! The air hostess came back to tell us that Nat wanted to stay in the front a bit longer & she’d let me know when I could go to the front. That brat! She acted like she didn't want to ride in the front and now won't give it up! Ha. About 20 mins before landing it was finally my turn. We swapped seats and before I knew it I was strapped in (like a baby car seat) with the special headset on. Very cool. The guys, I mean pilots, Mark and Mark were awesome. Once I was settled we had a great chat as we flew over the mountains in the eastern Cape. It was absolutely stunning outside, mountains to the right and the sea to our left, well, when the clouds cleared a bit the sea was visible. We chatted about Africa, what we'd done so far on the trip, how this was their 3rd of 5 or was it 6? Flights today. Captain Mark has been flying 22 years and I felt very safe riding up front and landing with these two. Co-pilot Mark was cracking me up, he must get a bit bored because when they had to call out landing coordinates etc he'd make funny accents and voices to entertain himself. As we were coming into land at George another pilot radio’d in 'hi, we are leaking a bit of fuel over the wilderness (which I later found out is a town/area we flew over) can you clear us to land? We are turning back now, 6 passengers on board.' my pilots pointed out how calm the guy was, and let me know there'd be fire trucks etc. when we landed just in case. They asked if I’d ever ridden in the cockpit before...I don't think I have, but I'm sure I've been up front or close enough in one of JJ's planes. Or was I too lazy? Oh well I've def done it now and it was awesome. We also talked about how in America I’d never be able to ride up-front, or even England, because these strict countries have so many rules. They've got that right and I must say I do like the chilled out vibe in Africa. Heck at the petrol station people young and old walk around barefoot!

So after a short, but sweet, ride in the pit we safely (well they!) landed in George. When the let me out Nat, Justin and I took a few pics in front of the plane and Nat and I enjoyed a bit of a high from the amazing experience, all thanks to Justin!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

On our way to George & Plett

Up early again, 6:15am wake up to make it back to Durban for 12:55 flight to George! Justin is a pilot for Airlink (SAA) and has graciously gotten Nat and I seats on the flight for a minimal fee; compared to over R2,000 or about £200 - its high season here and we are on our way to Plettenburg Bay for the Kurland Polo, which are both extremely popular.

We made it to the airport with plenty of time, as Nat would say, it was all ‘cool in the pool’, but we had to wait until 12:25 to find out if we were going to be let on the plane! As standby passengers on a fully booked flight things weren't looking great. I wasn't worried at all, this may be the most chilled I've ever been on vaca, but Nats planned so well that I am just along for the ride. I hope they didn't find my ease rude, but I had faith and luckily I was right! Their stress was wiped away when they took our bags and gave us seats! No jump seats for us! Though as I type this Nat is in the cockpit! She sat with the pilots for take off and the last hour. I've just had my gross veg sando (let me say when you're almost a vegetarian and you don't eat cheese it's sometimes hard to eat) anyway, I'm next in the pit and get to sit with the captains for landing! All thanks to Justin! What a trip. On day 4 I've already had two family Christmas', swam in the sea, been on safari (saw 13 animals and 40 bird species), been up and down the eastern coast and I'm about to ride in the cockpit with the pilots!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Up at 4am to be at game park for open at 5am.

Today we've seen:

We also saw, A rhino fight, vulchers eating a carcass (massive ribcage) Rhino spraying his territory for about 5 mins, in the middle of the road!

I love SAFARI!!!

Day Two in SA - getting ready for Safari

In TN you buy a bed mosquito net for looks. For the first time I'm sleeping in the bush under a net and it's the real thing. We arrived in Hluhluwe and checked into our cute little cottage in time to have a swim, go on a walk through the forest and top it off with my first South African braai. From the pool we saw a few wilderbeasts and impalas. The lodge is full of families with small kids but after the pool we didn't run into anyone but the lovely owner.

It's quite peaceful here.

It's also steaming hot. We had dinner outside and spent the evening chilling in the cool breeze but now we are sweating in bed because the ac doesn't work well. The windows are open but there is no breeze and I'm a bit worried about something climbing in! I was already lucky enough to discover a hairy brown spider in the loo earlier. Yikes. Time for bed. 4am wakeup call for my first safari tomorrow!

Christmas - not quite the same in the Summer!

23 hours of travel later we arrived at Nat's dad’s house in Pietermaritzburg (close to Durban). My shower felt like heaven, Nat called me twice to come to the front porch for tea, but I just couldn't get out!

The view from their house is stunning- you can see Pietermaritzburg and the rolling green hills. Everyone in South Africa has pools and trampolines! So far it's not too different from America except for the Taxis!

Nats warned me back in London that there'd be crazy taxis/public transport - which had no rime or reason. They just pick up and drop off when you flag them. Today, on Christmas day, when Just took us for a drive we passed a few and the description was right on...there were loads of people piled into the car, all drinking, dancing and partying. Did I mention it was 1pm? At the petrol station one of the taxi buses was parked mostly full with the other passengers dancing next to the van. Wow. Merry Christmas...
We tried to go to the Piggly Wiggly Market (nope it's not the same as the Alabama grocery store!) but it was closed. Next Justin took us to see a gorgeous waterfall…

and then tried to take the fun way home through the bush. Again I feel like I'm in Bama- as we hot the land rover stuck in the mud on our way up the hill!

To which little Julia (Nats 7yr old step sis) asked 'Great. Stuck in the mud on Christmas. What are we going to do about all the presents??' never fear Just reversed the whole way back and we were home in time for a delic Christmas lunch and presents with the Wills family.

Merry Christmas!!! xxx