I left a sunny Oxford on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to take the airport bus to Heathrow. Fully air conditioned and full on people dying to go on holiday (myself included) I was content to sit there for an hour until I reached the airport.
The red Virgin Atlantic poster beaming out from Terminal 3 put a massive smile on my face and once checked in I went off in search of food which I ate whilst people-watching in the terminal and trying to guess which flight everyone was going on. Finally, after a buying some goodies for the flight I made my way to the gate. I was in my element – dozens of South African people with their amazing accents. I already felt like I’d arrived!
I was seated on the plane, with about 5mm of leg room (learnt my lesson and will be prepared to pay extra for leg room on my return), next to a lady from Pretoria and a guy, who I later found out works in marketing for a telecommunications company.
Well fed, well entertained and blissfully happy, I still couldn’t believe I was on my way to SA.
11 hours later and we arrived in Jo’burg – a mere 10C but sunny. Surviving on about 2 hours of sleep I got through customs and collected my bag before being met in the airport by a lady from the charity I was to be working for.
To start with, she nearly welcomed me to South America, which was slightly alarming, but then she proceeded to get me set me up with a SA sim card and phone – very exciting.
It took us an hour to get back to camp, with the scenery getting wilder and wilder by the minute. We ended up in the bush at a beautiful chateau-style house with tiled floors and a veranda. After being shown around and meeting the other volunteers I settled down with a cup of tea (even miles away from home you can’t shake the English tea habit!)
An evening walk proved just how wild we were. No houses for miles and when you stood completely still, the only sounds were that of birds, or monkeys. The sun was setting in the large African sky and there were cows grazing at the side of the road, and animals wandered around in the neighbouring estate, behind a large fence.
Looking over my shoulder as I made my way back to the house I saw a perfect picture: a red sandy track leading off into the bush with the sunshine shining down casting long shadows off the trees and in the distance, the silhouettes of mountains with the shapes of houses underneath.
This is South Africa.