Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Where to start?
We made it to South Africa.
Even in COVID-times, a smidge of determination will get you places.
This is how we did it …
On 17th September, SA President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced that international borders would open on 1st October.
In such, a list of naughty and nice countries would be published.
We immediately booked flights direct to Cape Town on British Airways.
We waited for the list. And waited waited for the list.
We packed, tidied, planned, wintered our allotment … and waited some more.
We booked exorbitantly expensive private COVID tests (£150 pp).
We waited some more.
Then the COVID test clinic emailed to say they could not guarantee results in 70 hours.
We cancelled our tests.
No list, no test, so we cancelled our BA flights.
On 30th October, at 4pm UK time, South Africa published their long-awaited list.
The UK – predictably – was on the naughty list.
Plan B kicked in – to fly to one of the countries on the good list.
We looked at Germany, but flights were expensive and we felt we could not impose upon our German friends too long.
Turkey it was!
What to do in Turkey for 10 days? Do a diving course – of course (we needed a holiday).
The day before we were to fly to Turkey, a travel agent we’d been tapping for info, told us that as a passport holder and a long term visa holder, we’d have no problem entering SA – even from a naughty country.
We hurried our plans up, ditched the diving holiday idea and flew to Turkey for 3 days – enough time to see a couple of clients, wander around Istanbul for a day, be tested (just Euro 30 pp) and get on a flight to SA.
In the taxi, on our way to Istanbul University Hospital to be tested, we received a text to say that our Turkish airlines flight to Cape Town (the next day) was cancelled!
Stuck in Istanbul.
So we rang Ahmed (our agent in Turkey, linked to our Travel agent in South Africa).
“Don’t worry,” he assured us. “My friend is the MD of Turkish Airlines Cape Town. I will sort this out.”
And he did.
This is where booking through a travel agent really pays its dues.
We’ve heard a lot of promises from all sorts of people in business and in life. Most have disappointed us.
Ahmed did not!
24 hours later we were on another flight.
“We can get you to Johannesburg,” Turkish Airlines informed us, “But you will need to get yourselves to Cape Town.”
Our paper-printed negative COVID test results were checked in Istanbul before check-in, at check-in, at the departure gates, on the flight, getting off the plane in Johannesburg (where they were taken from us).
From then on, it was plain sailing.
In fact, from landing and disembarking in Johannesburg at the international terminal, through passport control, baggage claim and customs, to the domestic terminal for our flight to Cape Town, it took just 30 minutes!
This has NEVER happened before.
In Cape Town, we hired a car and drove to one of our favourite places in the Cape – Franschoek. There we stayed for three days, sojourned with my sister, walked on the mountain passes, did a wine tour, ate delicious food, and then road-tripped to the Eastern Cape, where we are now ensconced in our home in Morgan Bay.
Some snaps from the journey – Turkey:
Road tripping through the Karoo (The Swartberg, Valley of Desolation and Nieu-Bethesda):
Morgan Bay critters and our satellite office in Morgan Bay:
We nearly kissed the ground when we made it all the way.
It did feel like a series of miracles had brought us safely here.
We are still pinching ourselves.
P.s. The ‘naughty list’ and ‘good list’ are my terms. There was in fact only one list, which SA called the list of ‘High risk countries’. The rest of the world was supposed to be on a medium and low risk list, but no list appeared. Flying in from a low risk country, having been there for a minimum of 10 days, means a traveller is low risk and is welcomed into the country. All African countries, including COVID-deniers, Tanzania, are allowed to travel into South Africa with a negative test result no older than 72hours at time of boarding the flight.
P.p.s. The great thing about flying in COVID-times (and there are not many things) is that most airlines who have not gone bust, are prepared to allow flight changes and cancellations without any cost … we have not lost out at all flight-wise, though we’ve had flights cancelled probably over 10 times since April 2020. Word of warning: we have lost paid seats though.
P.p.p.s. We almost never book flights, accommodation or anything else through a travel agent – it’s so easy online ourselves – but as we had tapped an agent for info for several days, we (running a brokerage ourselves) decided not to cut out the broker, and opted to book through our agent. Her advise was invaluable. I wish everyone could have at least one ‘Ahmed-rescue’ experience at some point in their lives!
P.p.p.p.s. My dear Hubby saw a baby shrew on my Mama’s lawn, picked it up and brought it into the house to show us. I missed a trick when I shared this photo with our family WhatsApp groups – I should have captioned the photo “The Taming of the Shrew”. Though he had this effect on the baby shrew, he’s not impressed with rain spiders.