On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.
The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.
Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.
Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.
The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage. Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both.
I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great.
I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.
We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.
At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.
Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.
I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!
The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too.
I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.
Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”.
They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train.
I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited.
It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014.
South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence.
And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.
© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017