Bitola to Johannesburg: Or, 38 Hours in Transit

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
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Trip End Dec 19, 2012


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Flag of South Africa  , Gauteng,
Saturday, September 15, 2012

(10pm, the night before: Packed! This and the clothes on my back are it for the next 8 or 9 months.)

5am: Leave Bitola. I'm sad to leave Bitola, which has been one half of my split home in the Balkans this past year and a half. Fortunately, I’m not a morning person, so the leaving part is totally unremembered.

12 noon: Land in Istanbul for an 8-hour layover. Just enough time to race into town to pick up a few things in the pedestrian traffic jam of the spice market, and visit the pretty and peaceful Rüstem Pasha Mosque again.

1am: Land in Dubai for a 9-hour layover. My reservation with SnoozeCubes was lost somewhere in their reservation system change, so there was some sleep-deprived wandering around until I gave in and went to the hotel (and made excessive use of the in-room massage chair). I’ve passed through this airport many times, and have no idea how I missed the camel until now.

10am: Leave for Johannesburg. I had a middle-aisle seat, so my first glimpse of Africa was over southern Somalia, when I stood up to move around. Bugged several rows for the rest of the flight, jumping up periodically to snap photos out the back window. I can’t believe how empty it is.

6:30pm: Arrived at my guest house. First impression of Johannesburg, from the air, was of walled compounds. That impression remains the same this morning, opening my door to the locked, barred outer door and a wall topped with electrified razor wire. There are three locks and an alarm system on my door; walls, security gates, powerful motion sensing lights, and electric wires around the house; and a security guard patrolling the area, who you can arrange to meet at the gate if for some reason you need to be out after dark. And this is supposed to be one of the nicer neighbourhoods.

But, the sky is blue, spring is in the air, and there are some massive birds in the tree on the other side of the wall making sounds I’ve never heard birds make before, so, so far so good!


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