South Africa – First Days


If I was asked to sum up our South Africa vacation in one word, that word would be “hospitality”. Everyone, our new extended family, family friends, tour guides, and the staff at the various establishments we visited, were incredibly warm and welcoming.

Our plane was due to take off from Portland early Saturday morning June 16.  We were so excited that we did what we’ve done one other time: Friday night Starr and Linda dropped Carla and me off at a hotel near the airport. That way we could sleep a bit more and have the shuttle drop us off right at the gate. Jeff met us at the airport Saturday morning. Andrew and Henriët were waiting for us in South Africa

Since it was the first weekend of summer vacation, everybody was flying somewhere. We booked our flights on United Airlines but the flight overseas is operated by South African Airways. We freaked out a bit a couple of days before we left. Even though we selected our seats when we booked our flights in early Spring they didn’t show up when we reviewed our reservations. That meant we couldn’t check in on-line and resulted in a 1+ hour wait in the check-in line at the United counter.

PDX Airport. First Saturday of summer vacation = 1 hour check in line
Our trip over consisted of 3 legs. First we flew on United Airlines from Portland to Washington D.C. Then we checked it at the South African Airlines counter and to our relief got our originally assigned seats. The South African Airways flight stopped in Dakar, Senegal to drop and pick up passengers, refuel and resupply. We couldn’t get off the plane so had about a 1 hour wait. We landed in the middle of the night. Then we flew over the south Atlantic, Namibia, and Botswana to eventually land in Johannesburg, South Africa
The 3 legs of our flight. If the airport in Dakar were any further west it would be in the ocean
Our airport-to-airport travel time was about 27 hours so we were well and truly jet lagged. We arrived early Sunday evening and after making it through passport control and customs we were greeted  by a good sized welcoming party. In addition to Andrew and Henriët, her mother Jeanette, aunt (Tannie) Engela and family friend Trix were there with balloons, flowers, and lots of hugs. We piled into two cars, Jeanette’s Mazda and Engela’s “Bakkie”(light pick up truck) and headed into town. 


Our accommodations were fantastic. Jeanette’s best friend Irien Ferreira and her husband Adrian (aka At [pronounced “Ot”]) had a house at our disposal. They have a compound with their house and a guest house. Their daughter Heidre lived there for a few years until her recent marriage. It was so nice to have a home away from home. 
Adrien and Irien Ferreira’s compound. They live in the back house
 and had the run of the small house in the right hand side
We found the kitchen larder fully stocked with foods we love. Lots of breakfast things along with bits of biltong, a type of jerky made from kudu.
Kitchen of our house. It was well stocked with goodies
People could tell from the X’s in our eyes that we needed sleep! We crashed early in comfy beds and slept late. Monday morning was pretty laid back. We relaxed and in the early afternoon Henriët and Andrew dropped by to say hi. We stretched our legs on a walk around the block and then headed to the mall to get some sun glasses for Jeff.

The Braai

Have I mentioned how welcome everyone made us feel? On our second night, At and Irien organized a braai for us. A  braai is a South African cross between a pot luck and barbecue. It’s often an all day affair where people bring food, play games, hang out and generally have a blast. 
Adrian and Irien’s kitchen with some of the braai fixins.
Andrew, Carla, Jeff, Henriët, Jeanette, At, Irien.
After having some delicious South African wine in the house we adjourned to the back yard. The picture below doesn’t do the back yard justice. Just behind me is a huge covered area with a giant table, the built in braai and dart board. 
Looking at the back yard from the covered area.
Me, Andrew, Henrët, Carla and Jeff hanging out.
Adrian fired up the braai with a full bag of charcoal on the bottom with nice dry oak or similar wood on top. After it burned down a while he put on the meat: beef short ribs, lamb, and pork. That’s right 3 types of meat. 
The braai in action

After a bit Adrian and Irien’s daughter Heidre and her husband LaCell dropped by with a bottle of champagne.

Le Salle and Heidre

 Shortly after, their son Jones dropped by after work. He’s a fun guy. He runs a metal fabrication shop and showed us a design for a piece he is working on.

Adrian and his son Jones.

Irien telling stories about growing up in Namibia

Irien grew up in Namibia which is north of South Africa. Adrian loves going up there to fish on the Skeleton Coast.  Even though the Bushmen called it “the land God created in anger” it sounds like a beautiful country; we talked with many people who regularly vacation there. Irien’s family were pioneers in that land. They had a homestead which her mother managed while her father travelled. At one point Irien’s mother wanted to raise sheep but were having problems with the local lions making lunch out of them. No worries, her mom just hunted and shot the lions. That is a tough, tough woman.

After enjoying a salad and appetizers in the back yard we adjourned to the dining room and had a feast. It was delicious. Everyone was so gracious and wanted to know about us and America. We had a fantastic time getting to know our new friends.

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