Rondebosch is a southern suburb of Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. In January 1952 I started my schooling at Rondebosch Boys Preparatory School in Sub A (Grade 1). Seven years later in January 1959, I progressed to Rondebosch Boys High School. Now in Standard 6 (grade 8), I advanced to my senior year, Standard 10 (grade 12) or as it is known in South Africa, matric. My twelve formative years at Rondebosch were indeed very happy years.
In our senior year, Lindsay Kennedy was a prefect and our head boy. After school, Lindsay dedicated his leadership role to keeping us together as a team through frequent meetings, letters in the early days, and later with emails conveying the latest information about individual and general developments. I spent all twelve years at Rondebosch school. Lindsay invited many of our classmates who joined in later years, or some who left before matric to be part of our group. Some joined our cohort, but others refused. I was personal friends with JG and GC, and I protected their identity by not naming them, but just two who elected to not be part of our group.
In the end, Lindsay assembled a total of 168 guys. Recognizing that we are all around 77 years of age today, fifty of our classmates are deceased. Due to the political situation in South Africa, thirty-three are living in other countries, leaving just seventy-three who remain in South Africa. Twelve are no longer in contact because they have not kept us informed of their current contact information.
Lindsay, supported by his wife Tessa, did a sterling job for over 60 years keeping us current with developments. When I decided to make this trip to Cape Town, Linda, my wife of 52 years elected not to travel with me, and for the first time in our marriage, I took a vacation on my own. Linda felt that to travel so far for two weeks and put her body through an eight-hour time zone change, plus of course, the expense of the journey was asking just too much.
The following are details of my journey. For the record, my flight to Cape Town from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Detroit, Michigan to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, to Cape Town, South Africa was 10,307 miles or 16,588 kilometers. On the outbound journey, I lost eight hours in time zone changes. The return journey from Cape Town to Atlanta, Georgia, to Milwaukee was 8,799 miles or 14,160 kilometers. Here I gained seven hours in time zone changes because the U.S. was now operating on daylight savings time.
This was my first return visit to Cape Town after our dramatic departure three years ago from Cape Town on March 26, 2020, with the outbreak of Covid and boarding the last available flight back to the United States. I grew up in Cape Town and attended school there. My goal on this occasion is to attend our sixtieth high school reunion. Celebrating with fellow Rondebosch Boys from the class of 1963 with many now living all over the world. This promises to be a great gathering. Some classmates I have not seen since our fiftieth reunion.
Do I have some apprehension about returning to South Africa even for this short fortnight visit? Yes. After the African National Congress (ANC) came to power in 1994 and is now the ruling political party, the country has been on a downward spiral with a devalued currency, high inflation, high unemployment, deteriorating schooling for black children, an ailing healthcare system, increased political corruption, increasing crime, with an incompetent and corrupt police force, and the total destruction of the electrical power supply company, ESKOM, resulting in “load shedding” where power is cut for several hours a day. Several other governments run institutions are also falling apart, so it is not a rosy picture within a breathtakingly beautiful country with a magnificent climate.
South Africa’s decline started in 1948 with the white Nationalist Party following the American Jim Crow Laws of white supremacy until the ruling ANC took power where corruption, lawlessness, and incompetence has become the order of the day.
With that diatribe, why do I travel to South Africa? Why put my body through a thirty-hour flight ordeal from departure time to arrival, and in my case flying via Europe? I have friends and family I love to see and spend quality time with them. The reality is that with such a short two-week visit I can only see those within Cape Town and its surroundings.
The day before my trip I watched an interview with Andre de Ruyter, the recently resigned CEO of ESKOM, the South African national electricity generating utility, and distribution company. Annika Larsen from e.tv was his interviewer. Andre describes some of the sabotage and corruption taking place. Andre warned that power cuts or “load shedding” will continue for the next two years. Andre had to leave the country on vacation after an attempt was made on his life to poison him with cyanide. His goal is to spend time with his children after a three-year absence from his role as a father. In this interview, he shared details of corruption.
I was recommended to watch an additional interview featuring Rob Hersov. Rob Hersov speaks out about the corruption in South Africa. Ruben & Charonike of GROOTFM 90.5 interviewed entrepreneur and billionaire, Rob Hersov regarding the current economic climate in South Africa. He shared his ideas and viable solutions for economic and political change. Rob predicts when the country might collapse. The major problem is the African National Congress (ANC) the ruling government in South Africa. Rob provides a solution in a great interview. “Russia destroys Ukraine, the ANC destroys South Africa, and both can be rebuilt.” The EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters, or cynically Everything for Free) is worse than the ANC. “Our ANC cabinet is a cabinet of clowns. Young South Africans are crazy to stay in the country, get business or technical experience and skills overseas, and return when you can make a difference if the country is ready for change.”
Day 1 Tuesday, February 28, 2023, air travel
To say that my day started off badly is an understatement. While packing my last few things, I got an email from Hotel Verde, my hotel accommodation in Cape Town for tomorrow night. They inform me that I have two days of accommodation reserved, and if I do not pay my account in full immediately, they will cancel my room.
I copied all the bank transactions to show that I paid in full on January 20, 2023, and emailed the information to them. I followed up with a phone call only to be told that accounting may not have informed reservations that I had indeed paid in full. I am aware that the ANC government is incompetent, but it was a great surprise to be coming from a hotel group. Doing their due diligence, they found the payment.
The good news is that we woke to clear skies in New Berlin, Wisconsin, with a slight wind, and temperatures above freezing. This comes after a week where we had rainstorms that set an all-time record for a single day, breaking a record that dates to 1835. We experienced snow and ice, but now all is calm. Linda and I got in a 40-minute walk before setting off to the airport.
My flight to Detroit is usually an hour’s flight across Lake Michigan. The aircraft is a regional jet, CRJ900 (00). The pilot said we would land early because they did not have to de-ice the plane. The one-hour ten-minute flight took only 35 minutes. Arriving 27 minutes early, we had to wait for a gate to open. The weather in Detroit is great.
Our flight to Amsterdam is on an Airbus A330-200/300. Taking 7 hours and 30 minutes from takeoff to touch down. We pulled away from the gate at 6:52 pm (Eastern Time). The travel distance is 3941 miles or 6343 Kilometers.
The best action I took for my journey was to wear cargo pants with lots of pockets. The worst thing I did was to wear cargo pants because I could never find what I needed.
When we travel there is no problem if Linda and I are leaning against each other because the seats are so narrow. On my flight into Amsterdam, I had a very tall, large man who needed so much elbow room that I had to lean into the aisle for some comfort. On this leg, I did some reading and some snoozing. I checked out the available movies and decided to take a pass.
For dinner I ordered pasta. For breakfast, we were given a toasted egg sandwich. Both servings were unbelievably hot. I took water for dinner and coffee for breakfast. The guy sitting across the aisle from me watched endless videos about preparing and making food. This was not an option that Delta provided so I assumed he downloaded them to his iPhone. My large neighbor ordered two beers and a glass of wine for dinner. The one can of Miller Lite was frozen so when he opened it, it sprayed all over the tray and his clothing. The second can opened just fine.
I had one disappointment at Amsterdam airport. Several years ago, we purchased a couple of cheese slicers decorated with windmills in blue and white coloring. One broke and I wanted to purchase another. Despite there being dozens of shops, all specialty, I could not find what we needed. Then too I had a tight connection with boarding for my onward flight 90 minutes after landing.
It should not come as a surprise listening to the boarding announcement in Dutch, that I could understand most of it. Afrikaans is a Dutch derivative. However, from experience I found Flemish to be much closer to Afrikaans.
The weather in Amsterdam was below freezing with low cloud cover as we came into land. Currently, there is total cloud cover.
I am not sure if I mentioned that to board the flight in Detroit you could only board using facial recognition. We experienced this with our trip to Italy last year May.
Looking at a guy who is obviously South African in the boarding area wearing the most expensive gold watch I have ever seen.
Boarding now with the ground crew verifying our boarding with passports.
With all the bad news coming out of South Africa, I could not believe the full flight. The majority were tourists. I was sitting alongside a family of five looking to enjoy the summer weather on the Cape and escape our winter weather in the northern hemisphere. My neighbor did tell me that they had vacationed in the Cape the prior year.
Day 2 Wednesday, March 1, 2023, Hotel Verde, Cape Town
Not much to report here as the day was taken up by flying to Cape Town. Travel time to Cape Town is 11 hours and 8 minutes. Our Aircraft was a Boeing 777-300. Travel distance 10,054 kilometers, or 6247 miles.
My greatest challenge was taking my medication. I need to wait for the air hostess to hand out water before I could swallow my meds.
My passenger was from The Netherlands, they were only visiting the Cape for two weeks along with his wife and another couple. They were very aware of the challenges South Africa is facing with the political upheaval, crime, and load shedding. They were visiting to enjoy the beauty and made a vow to never travel at night.
Day 3 Thursday, March 2, 2023, Hotel Verde, Cape Town
After four hours of sleep last night, I woke to a beautiful day. After my desperately needed shower, I had breakfast which is included in the room rate. I must say it is a breakfast to die for. I did not want to overeat but started with cut fresh fruit, a small banana, followed by a single fried egg with bacon, mushrooms, and half a fried tomato. That plus a small cup of strong coffee will more than see me through the day.
Linda’s one request of me is to shed some weight. I was obliged to not have another meal, but I did have an afternoon snack. For the record when I arrived back home, I had lost 7 pounds or 3 kilograms.
One question for the front desk is what they do about load shedding, where the electric utility cuts the power for several hours daily on a different schedule. He informed me that they have backup generators that kick in instantly in the event of power disruption. Going down for breakfast I was fascinated by the number of the flight crew who stayed at this hotel and saw many tourists, some with toddlers speaking foreign languages.
I had a very interesting start to my day. I went to Hertz to pick up my rental car. They provided me with an automatic VW Tiguan with 265 kilometers on the odometer. A brand-new vehicle. Being so new I was certain that the vehicle included Apple Car Play. Following instructions, I had it working quickly and linked to my iPhone. However, when the system requested that it loads all my contacts and telephone numbers into the system, I declined.
Fussing with technology in the basement parking garage at the hotel, I was surprised and delighted to see that they have two parking bays reserved for charging electric vehicles. Impressive.
I set out to Wally and Vicki who live not far away, and I was chuffed as the iPhone GPS directions were relayed via the car’s radio system. One purpose was to borrow a taser from them for my two weeks stay. It is sad to say that petty crime is a problem in South Africa where people are vulnerable to losing their phones, watches, jewelry, cash, and anything else of value. Including in some instances, your life. I explained to them where we live in Milwaukee and watched the daily local news at Noon, breaking news items 1, 2, and 3 cover the gory details of who got shot. I guess that we all have societal challenges.
They get scam calls in South Africa as well. Wally was telling me that he received a telephone call recently from a person advising him that he had won a substantial amount of money. Wally was asked to provide his banking details. Wally said that he did not use a bank, so where could they meet to collect the cash? The scam artist ended the call.
The balance of my day was spent planning for my trip to Montagu tomorrow and packing one more time to be ready to set sail after breakfast in the morning. Sadly, I will not go for a walk in the neighborhood because of the danger, even if I would really like to get out in this beautiful weather.
One obsession while in South Africa is how to recharge my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Kindle. I brought an adapter with me to convert the South African 220-volt system to the US 110-volt standard. However, I did not want to merely plug my devices into the adaptor, because with the power disruption, after the electricity is cut, or “load shedding” as it is called here, often there is a power surge that destroys the internal electronics within these devices. Then I got inspiration. I brought a small battery backup charger with me. When my watch needed recharging, I charged it from the backup unit. And similarly backed up my iPhone and iPad until the battery backup was drained. Now I hooked the battery backup to the voltage adapter and recharged the unit. In conclusion, if I ruin any device, it may be the battery backup that is inexpensive to replace and not any of my electronic devices.
Day 4 Friday, March 3, 2023, Montagu Country Hotel, Montagu
Today I say goodbye to Hotel Verde and head off to Kraaifontein, a northern suburb of Cape Town, to meet my sister Monica and her husband Colin for our drive to our other sister Gail, and her husband Derek, and adult children Noelani and John-Derek in Montagu. The drive is under two hours, about 160 kilometers or 100 miles. We stopped over In Robertson to visit the Robertson Lifestyle Estate, a senior care facility the brainchild of Jane Philips. The Independent living and assisted living units are specifically developed for the person who wishes to remain independent but requires assistance with activities of daily living. The residents have the peace of mind that medical care is available on a 24-hour basis. Assisted living services are also available in single residential houses. Jane has a care facility in Bonnievale where my mother spent her last days, and I got the pleasure of seeing what a caring person Jane and her team are.
My two days stay at Hotel Verde cost South African Rand (ZAR) 3,987 or $220 at today’s exchange rate of $1= R18.20. The rate included an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. Based on US hotel standards I would not rate this hotel less than 4 stars, and this is my second stay here. I had the convenience of parking my rental car in their secure basement parking structure.
On my drive to Monica, I will be using the notorious R300 a highway that must never be used at night. The road is notorious for stone-throwing both from the side of the road and from the overhead access roads.
I should add that jet lag set in and I woke at 4:00 am today but got to sleep just after 7:00 pm last night. Truthfully, I had a disturbed sleep overnight. Not fun.
Day 5 Saturday, March 4, 2023, Montagu Country Hotel, Montagu
Today is my birthday and one that I will not forget in a hurry. I have been alive for 28,134 days today. I guess that is another milestone.
I have stayed at the Montagu Country Hotel before and wrote a blog about this hotel on a previous visit.
You cannot believe my stupidity. I arrived in the Cape and drank water from the tap/faucet due to feeling dehydrated. That gave me diarrhea and stopped me from eating for two days. I wish I had a scale to see how effectively I lost weight. For some reason, jet lag got to me and I more than caught up with sleep in the afternoons and had no problem with sleeping at night. My time was spent with my sisters and their spouses. Sadly, I had to bail out of lunch celebrations for my birthday.
To be less pedantic, it may have been the water that brought on diarrhea, or it may have been the food I ate somewhere along the line. With the power cuts in South Africa, many people find that the food goes off in the freezer or refrigerators. Who really knows what caused my problem?
My sisters and their respective families mostly sat around to catch up on the good old days. I went grocery shopping for items for Linda. She wanted specific grocery products that are not freely available and affordable in America.
The greatest disappointment of the day was that we had to cancel a lunch date with the whole family at BluVines Restaurant. Here I would have wanted to say hello to owner Richard Weilers, a restaurant I blogged about on our prior visit.
Day 6 Sunday, March 5, 2023, Montagu Country Hotel, Janet in Tokai, Cape Town
We woke to horrendous thunderstorms in Montagu that covered the entire route into Cape Town. I got up very early at the Montagu Country Hotel, finished showering and packing the car, and drove to Gail and Derek by 7:00 am. For the record, it is only a three-minute drive from the hotel to Gail’s residence. We sat chatting until Monica and Colin said that they were ready. I fetched them so all our family members could assemble for breakfast at The Rambling Rose, belonging to Sergio and Cay Fernandez.
As expected, the breakfast and company were all great, and this was the start of goodbyes to the family in Montagu. As agreed with Monica and Colin we had a short stop on the road to Cape Town at a roadside oasis in Worcester. It was a worthwhile break after all the rain we encountered on the road. But the rain did not let up for the rest of the way. In fairness, the rain was intermittent. The toll fee to go through the 4-kilometer Huguenot tunnel was R47.50 ($2.60).
One story I cannot avoid was my experience of driving through the town of Worcester in the Western Cape. We got to the city while they were experiencing “load shedding” where the electric power is cut for a few hours since the government-run electric utility company ESKOM has insufficient capacity to provide a reliable service. Picture all the traffic lights out, and all intersections are left to the discretion of the drivers to see who now has the right of way. In South Africa, a menace on all roads is the minivan taxis who are a law unto themselves with zero consideration for any other motorists or pedestrians.
After saying goodbye to Monica and Colin my goal was to drive to Janet in Tokai, a southern suburb of Cape Town. If I say so myself, I was extremely proud of myself. By this time my iPhone was dead, and I had to rely on memory to find her home across the interstates and suburban roads. Janet was able to help me recharge my devices: iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
Janet is Linda’s sister. Janet’s daughter is Simone.
I got to enjoy time with Simone’s 4-year-old son Alex when Janet got called to fetch Simone and two friends after Uber refused to cross the scenic mountain drive along Ou Kaapse Weg (Old Cape Road) to bring them back home.
Day 7 Monday, March 6, 2023, Janet in Tokai
I was up long before the crack of dawn to beat the “load shedding” to shower and be ready to take Simone to the airport for her trip to Johannesburg to attend a meeting. We left home at 4:30 am for the drive to Cape Town’s International Airport. The return trip took an hour.
The load setting started at 4:13 am and ended at 6:03 am. You have no idea how wonderful it is to have your lights come back on.
We last lived in Cape Town in 1978, and I have visited the Mother City on many occasions, the last as COVID broke in March 2020. Understandably much has changed, and the journey to the “drop off” at the airport is all new, even for Simone.
When you get to the area there is parallel parking available facing the curb that I made use of, but the volume of traffic using that facility at 5:00 am is quite astounding. I pulled in, Simone hopped out, and then I had the near-impossible challenge to back out to get into traffic to the exit. The traffic was relentless at that time of the morning.
My next goal was to set my GPS to Janet’s home. Before I left for South Africa, I paid for a service with our cellphone carrier T-Mobile to allow me to make calls and provide roaming in South Africa. I entered Janet’s address and was informed that the service was unavailable. Silly me, I forgot about load shedding, so the service was down. Quite frankly, driving roads that I am no longer that familiar with in the dark with constant rain is very challenging. My one salvation is that the rental car has license plates from Johannesburg, so I can get away with some driving and traffic mistakes.
I visited Alex’s playgroup and was interested to see how the kids are entertained. They all looked happy at their school and excited to see each other. For a four-year-old, Alex has an amazing vocabulary and learning to improve his languages in English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. The next stop was the shops where I purchased the last few items I needed to take back home. I trust it will all fit in my suitcase. The final expense was to fill the rental car with petrol/gasoline. It cost 1,000 Rand or US$ 55. It is more expensive than refueling my vehicle in the US.
Day 8 Tuesday, March 7, 2023, Janet in Tokai
I awoke today after my best sleep since arriving in South Africa. It must be true what they say that to get over the jet lag takes one day for each one-hour time zone change. USA Central time to South Africa is an eight-hour difference. I also woke up with the thought that the South African government subjects their people to Chinese water torture. Yes, I am aware that the government is in cohorts with the Russians and Chinese but subjecting the population to the understanding that the constitution does not guarantee one hundred percent electrical coverage is one way that the constituents have been conditioned over a period to keep accepting less, a drip at a time.
Looking at the power cuts for tomorrow in Tokai, power will be cut for nine hours over a twenty-four-hour period in three sessions. However, South Africans are an intuitive breed, so they are organized with generators and invertors to address the power shortages. That of course is if they can afford the investment in alternative power generation and the expense of diesel for the generators.
In my travels, I have been more than amazed at how motorists in the San Francisco area accommodate others on the road. If you need to change lanes to prepare for exiting the motorway ahead, turn on your indicator, and even in very heavy traffic, they will open a spot for you to graciously let you in.
Driving to the airport last night I experienced another extreme. With three rows of traffic, you will find an unroadworthy vehicle in the slow or fast lane traveling at half the speed limit, and another in the center lane also trying hard to frustrate the other motorists. Here, you have little option but to rapidly change lanes in dodgem style. For the record, I did see two places with police coverage. The first appeared to be criminal activity, and the second a serious accident with an ambulance at the scene.
The other good news today is that we will be in for fair weather, so I arranged to get a load of laundry done. There is no such thing as tumble dryers in South Africa, clothing is hung on the line outside to dry.
Day 9 Wednesday, March 8, 2023, Janet in Tokai
When I woke up today, I had no special expectations with nothing planned on my calendar. It turned out to be a very special day. Several years ago, while visiting South Africa, Linda purchased a variety of curry powders that each came combined with needed ingredients plus a recipe to make a roasted vegetable curry, bobotie, or mild Cape curry, etc.
The grocer in Montagu no longer carried the product, so I made an inquiry at the manufacturer’s website in Port Elizabeth. The local distributor sent me a list of a dozen local stockings. Janet drove me to a grocery shop in Constanta where I could purchase everything that Linda wanted. After a coffee treat, we returned to Janet’s home.
I was sitting and thinking about who I had not contacted and called a cousin in Franschhoek. Elmarie was available and we agreed to meet. Driving time to Franschhoek was 90 minutes driving either by the coastal route, or the inland route. I decided I would do a circular drive going out on the coastal road and returning on the inland roads. Franschhoek is a very special town, and it was there that Linda and I spent our honeymoon fifty-two years ago.
The drive along the coastal road passes Khayelitsha, a Xhosa word meaning new home. It is reputed to be one of the largest and fastest-growing townships in South Africa. It is a shanty town and home to thousands of people who all live in homemade shacks. It is a sad sight to see, but that is the life of impoverished people. Further on I arrived in Stellenbosch, the heart of wine lands in South Africa.
This past Christmas 2022 and New Year 2023 we were visiting with my daughter and her family outside of San Francisco, California. While there we drove to Napa Valley, California’s wine lands. Very sincerely, the wine lands of Stellenbosch are significantly more beautiful, with scenic mountains and many more wine farms where tasting and tours are encouraged, and yes, we have done that, and even did wine tours around adjoining Franschhoek on our previous visit.
Elmarie and I met for lunch and coffee, and it was great to catch up after a three-year absence. I set out to drive on the inland route back to Janet’s home in Tokai. In driving, I decided to use the GPS on my iPhone. Today I elected to do something ridiculous and follow the directions! I ended up as I neared Janet’s home being routed through a busy suburb when I knew extremely well that I could have taken an earlier change of direction by staying on the freeways. The other shock was to see how painfully slow the traffic was along some stretches. Here again, I have driven the very busy interstates around San Francisco, and even in places where nine lanes merge into three, that traffic moved significantly faster than what I experienced in some sections today.
After getting to Janet’s home safely in my rental car, I headed off to friends nearby for dinner. Kelly and Rob were very generous, and Kelly had been quite instrumental in influencing us in planning our trip to Italy in May 2022.
With load shedding in effect, I headed back to Janet for an early night. Just thinking, if you employ a domestic worker who is on duty one day a week, what do you do when the power is cut for four hours during the day? Not much opportunity to use electric appliances such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines. But then again life is much worse if you live in Ukraine.
Day 10 Thursday, March 9, 2023, Janet in Tokai
Today is the first day of four to meet with my classmates who all graduated high school in 1963. It is also Janet’s birthday today. I had met a few classmates for our 50th reunion, ten years ago, but seeing a person once a decade is not sufficient to truly remember them. I was amazed at how far many had traveled for this event. Others like me came from the United States, but we had representatives from Canada, New Zealand, the Isle of Man, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and some local or from the Johannesburg area. I cannot deny that chatting with several of the guys, and many brought their wives to the function, was a wonderful experience.
In driving to this event, I elected not to use my GPS. I found the school without missing a beat, but once there the challenge was to find the specific venue. I parked on a side road outside the school and walked around until I found a taxi gaining entry to the school through a gate that the driver could open. Security was evident. I am not sure that I have been to the preparatory school in sixty years, so I found the expansion with many new buildings more than impressive. One other notable fact was a brief address by the principal who told us that Rondebosch is now the top-rated academic school in the country. The downside is that they get more applicants than they can possibly accommodate. They can only accept less than thirty percent of applicants.
Since I elected to not use my GPS for the return trip, I got on to the freeway going in the wrong direction and had to travel nearly to the city of Cape Town before I could find a place to turn around and double back to get to Janet’s home in the southern suburb. Overall, a fun day.
Day 11 Friday, March 10, 2023, Janet in Tokai
When I am home, we try to walk for at least forty minutes a day in winter and an hour in summer. Today was the first opportunity I got to walk on a beautiful day. I started with a forty-minute walk including half the distance through a local forest. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on the local environment. Every house, without exception, consists of high walls around the property with electrically operated gates opened only to let the cars get in and out quickly from the road to the garage. The walls are topped with razor wire and an electric fence. Naturally, you may conclude that crime is an issue, and crime prevention is a wise strategy. Then the piece de resistance is the two dogs per home. So, what I saw on my walk were the many people, mostly women, walking their dogs to get their necessary daily exercise.
I had an accident on my walk today. I was walking on a grass sidewalk when I stepped into a shallow hole that was covered with grass clippings, and therefore not visible, and I ended up with my nose in the dirt and three scratches below my knee. Other than hurting my pride, I got up and quickly started walking again. A few passersby checked to verify that I was in good shape.
My second venture is almost impossible to believe. I have a bank account in South Africa. I elected to draw cash and decided it may be safer to get the funds inside the bank versus drawing it from an ATM machine in the mall. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be standing in front of the teller for an hour as he reviewed my account to verify that I was the person due the funds. I had to show my passport for identification and provide both my home address and telephone number verbally to make sure it was the one held in the banking record.
Then things got stupid. He asked if I stayed in a suburb or city. I responded that I stay in a city of forty thousand people where we do not have suburbs. But their system requires both a city and a suburb. So, when I received the printout to sign, they repeated the city name twice, once for the suburb, and the same name again for the city. When they verified my cell phone number, there were more problems. The number was incorrect in their system so that required a telephone call by the teller to a busy corporate office. The teller was kept on hold for a long time. I was handed my cash and made my way back home.
Tonight is the formal dinner for Rondebosch Old Boys. The evening was for all graduates beginning with 2022 and on to the oldest attending who graduated high school in 1950. 328 Old Boys attended the event. It is held at Kelvin Grove, an upscale club in Rondebosch. The main course was lamb shank, and the guy sitting next to me commented that it is the same meal they serve every year.
We were entertained with two speeches, one from the principal of the junior school, RBPS Headmaster Ian Ryan who spoke on behalf of the Prep & High Schools and proposed the toast to the Old Boys’ Union. The other is a guest speaker Jonathan Trott who graduated from Rondebosch in 1999, a cricket player who went on to play professional cricket in the UK.
The most meaningful event of the evening, however, is to meet and greet many guys who were at school with us those very many years ago. Some are instantly recognizable as they have not changed much, while others require a fresh introduction.
Day 12 Saturday, March 11, 2023, Janet in Tokai
One more event today for our class of 1963, this time at a cricket club. The day is somewhat cool but rain free. I started my day off by traveling down memory lane.
I visited the two homes where I grew up. The first was from birth to age 14, and the second through age 22. To be frank, these homes are unrecognizable. The amount of security that has been added to both homes makes them look like a fortress from the outside. I had wild hopes of seeing the current owners, but that was indeed wishful thinking.
Next, I decided to go to an old haunt at Keurboom Park. Here I encountered an insurmountable problem, I could not find parking. It may be that on Saturday everyone tries to enjoy the freedom of a walk in the park, but all the streets were lined with vehicles. One fact that struck me, is I recalled wide roads. I could not be more mistaken. The roads are unbelievably narrow. Attempting to turn into a different road presents a challenge. One drive to the end of the road, or if you plan to turn at a stop street, with the very high walls surrounding all the properties it is nearly impossible to see if there are oncoming vehicles.
While getting myself a bit lost near the park, I stumbled across the Rondebosch school for kindergartners. This was new to me, and I will readily admit an impressive series of buildings that includes sports facilities. Here again, this was not in existence when I was in junior or high school.
By midday, I joined our 1963 classmates at a cricket club for lunch and dessert. It was one more time that we could share experiences, both old and current. I found it particularly interesting to talk to others living in America or Canada and had a lengthy conversation with one colleague living in Portugal. We agreed that attending Rondebosch Boys School prepared us well for everything that we experienced and achieved in later life.
Tomorrow will be our fourth meeting with our classmates, and it is becoming very apparent that we need these multiple visits to get time to reminisce and understand where we are today.
Day 13 Sunday, March 12, 2023, Janet in Tokai
Cape Town has its bicycle race today, so the main freeway that I would like to use to go to my fourth and final 1963 event will be closed. I will travel along the main suburban road to get to my event. The 45th Cape Town Cycle Tour is the biggest timed bike race in the world.
Primarily, the Cycle Tour provides a glorious day out for tens of thousands of cyclists, no matter the weather. For just one day of the year, human power rules the roads of the fairest cape in the whole circumference of the earth (Sir Francis Drake, 1579). It’s not all about riding legally on freeways, though; in the months following the Cycle Tour, millions of rand are plowed back into the communities the 109km route crosses through the ongoing work of the event principals, the Pedal Power Association, and the Rotary Club of Claremont.
Today was the fourth and final meeting of our classmates from 1963. It was another well-attended event and wonderful to catch up with friends from years gone by. Our session began with a tour of our high school. To say it was not recognizable is an understatement with many additional buildings and in the classroom the use of technology. Each student uses an iPad for learning and homework. In the classroom, they have a projector that can record information written on a whiteboard, and a useful tool to transmit to the students a record of the subject matter discussed in class.
The good news is that Rondebosch is the most highly rated school in the nation for its academic standards. One statistic I found interesting is that there are 900 students in the five grades. They have 1,500 applications for entry into the school each year but can only accept 50. Most of the students entering the school are junior school graduates, plus several boarders from outside the immediate community. The government only funds sufficient to cover the upkeep of the grounds, and the reason the school requires fees from parents.
After the challenge of getting to the school by driving through the suburban main roads, the journey home was a blessing as the cycle race was over and I could use the freeway again.
Several of our classmates paid tribute to Lindsay and his wife Tessa with gratitude for all they have done over the six decades.
Day 14 Monday, March 13, 2023, Janet in Tokai
My day started off in a panic. After I woke up and checked my email, Delta Airlines sent me an alert to say that my flight had been delayed by 13 hours. When I checked the details, my calculation showed a delay of 26 hours. I found a telephone number for Delta support in Johannesburg and waited patiently listening to the same 60-second music playing monotonously repeatedly.
The agent who took my call said that they arrived at work this morning in chaos. As all the flights from Atlanta to Cape Town had been delayed, causing a ripple effect for the next several days. When I flew to Cape Town, I flew to Milwaukee, Detroit, Amsterdam, and Cape Town. My homeward journey was supposed to be to Cape Town, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. The agent offered me a flight the way I came, traveling via Amsterdam. I accepted that flight, but it cost me one day in Cape Town.
I was at high school with a friend who I correspond with regularly. Peter is wheelchair bound so did not attend any of our class functions. I called him up and I went to his home to chat about numerous topics. He has a magnificent home overlooking the harbor, the Green Point Stadium, and much of what makes Cape Town magnificent. I wanted to say a final goodbye to my sister and her husband so that was my next stop in Kraaifontain.
Most motorists were never informed about this feature called an indicator. It is much more fun to change lanes without warning and see what other motorists can do to avoid an accident. When I drive from my sister in law’s home, there is a three-way T- junction each with a stop sign. Imagine me driving to that intersection and watching a local motorist flying through that stop sign at full speed. It is so hard to believe that this is possible.
South Africa’s minibus taxis are notorious for the way they drive without regard for anyone. One frequently practiced maneuver is to travel up a lane to a traffic light, and as the light turns green cross over all the other lanes of traffic to make an illegal turn, whereas waiting behind other motorists is a waste of their time. Possibly the worst is the way that motorcyclists drive as they scream past in the middle of slow-moving traffic, weaving in and out to find another open spot.
When we drove on the autostrada in Italy last year May, we learned that motorcycles are banned from driving on those freeways. Another driving feature in South Africa is the solid white line between the lanes on a three-lane highway. This is normally close to an intersection allowing motorists to exit the highway from the slow lane, or near a curve over a hill where visibility is limited. The game is about how quickly you can make a lane change across that solid white line!
Day 15 Tuesday, March 14, 2023, Janet in Tokai
I had a restless night in that I set my alarm at midnight to get my boarding passes 24 hours prior to boarding time for the next day. No matter what I did, the system would not allow me to secure my passes. I purchased my tickets through Delta, but I am flying with their KLM partner, and KLM repeatedly requested that I check in at the counter to receive the passes.
Another enjoyable day in Cape Town. The city is doing its best to make me sorry that I am leaving Mother City. I went shopping with Janet and we had delicious coffee and cake. Janet took me to a bookstore to buy an activity book for Alex. I was impressed by the size of this specialty shop. We also stopped in at a toy store to get 4-year-old Alex a hula hoop to help him improve his coordination and if you will believe it, to help him skip. The firm circular hoop helps him to jump over the hoop.
Stopping at the many shopping centers requires that you tip the car guards as that is their only source of income. To be fair, other than showing you were to park, and watching that your vehicle is not broken into, I am uncertain of how helpful their service is. In the one shopping center, Janet pointed out a beneficial car guard who is a Moslem, named Easter.
I completed packing and forgot to put my pocket knife into my checked luggage. That device is forbidden on the plane. I am delighted that I realized my error before boarding the flight.
As you might have discerned from my years of travel, I consider myself a seasoned traveler. Now Cape Town is my birth city, but it pains me to say that the airport must rate as the most customer-unfriendly airport that I have ever encountered. The lack of clear signs must be experienced to fully grasp the terrible situation.
I was fortunate in having the GPS on my iPhone operational and that is how I found my way to rental returns. But where to park for Hertz? A hustler saw my confusion and hoped in my car to direct me where to drive. He did say that is how he earns his money guiding lost and confused motorists. Once the paperwork to return the car was complete, now to get to the terminal building. I was extremely fortunate in that a luggage cart happened to be abandoned near where I handed the car back in and now to push the luggage cart and find out where to check in for my flight.
I trust that you are young and fit because it is a long walk including the need to push your cart down and up a long slope and incline as you pass underneath the access road. Again, without clear signage, you try your best to find international departures to see that it is in fact upstairs, and a long escalator ride takes you up.
After we arrived in America three decades ago, I selected Delta Airlines as “my” favorite airline. With all my travels I went from Silver to Gold, to Platinum frequent flyer member, but currently since I no longer fly frequently, back to Silver. I flew Delta across America, Canada, and one business trip each to Mexico, Europe, and together with the family to South Africa on several occasions. Why is this relevant? All to add to my shock and surprise as to what happened to me on trying to fly back home from Cape Town.
It began with making my reservation in January to fly from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Cape Town, South Africa in early March 2023 to attend a high school reunion. It was a two-week trip that would take me to Detroit, Amsterdam, and Cape Town, with a return trip to Cape Town, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. The return date was originally Wednesday, March 15, 2023.
I woke up on Monday, March 13, to an email from Delta saying that due to unforeseen circumstances, my flight has been delayed and that I can make alternate travel arrangements. I called the Delta office in Johannesburg, and the agent told me that they had walked into the chaos that morning with all the Atlanta to Cape Town flights being delayed and causing a ripple effect throughout the system.
The agent suggested that I fly to Cape Town, Amsterdam, Detroit, onto Milwaukee. Being agreeable he told me to get to Cape Town International Airport by 9:00 pm on Tuesday for a midnight flight. Needing to hand my rental car back, I got to the check-in counters at 8:00 pm with all the checking agents sitting diligently behind their desks waiting to begin work and facing a lengthy line of passengers. They opened for business eventually and when my turn came, I faced a very confused agent. I explained the background story and he called the manager over to help him.
I learned that I had been booked on an over-full flight to Amsterdam and would be waitlisted. I later learned that I was at least one of nine people trying to get a seat on a full flight. I was fortunate to find the Delta manager at the airport who requested that I speak to a local airport Delta booking agent to determine what can be done. Now brace yourself. The noonday flight on this Tuesday, today, was now going to be flying at noon tomorrow on Wednesday. The good news is that I now have a seat. But where to spend the night?
I called the Hotel Verde on the airport grounds where I spent two nights on my arrival in Cape Town to be told that the hotel was fully booked as were four other nearby hotels. The booking agent recommended that I call the Protea Hotel (part of the Marriott group), and that too was full. I went back to the Delta booking agent to see if she had any recommendations. I learned that thirty passengers had been busses to a hotel in the center of Cape Town, passengers who got stranded with the Tuesday flight that never arrived and hence did not depart. However, I was too late for the shuttle but could make my own way to the hotel.
We have been friends with Wally and Vicki since 1971. They live near the airport in Pinelands and came to my rescue. After my fiasco at the boarding and booking counter, I contacted Wally and told him that I could see cars parked immediately outside arrivals, so I would go out and meet him there. But no! A security guard was in place to prevent passengers from exiting there, only departing passengers were allowed access to the airport.
I was informed to find Parkade 2, where Wally would be allowed to meet me. This required me to take the escalator down, with my luggage cart and try and figure out where to go thanks to the lack of signage again. By asking a taxi hustler I was directed to the appropriate place and a quick phone call to Wally, now on his way, allowed us to meet. Wally met me at the airport, and I spent a very comfortable night with them in their spare room. Wally dutifully ferried me back to the airport Wednesday morning.
Day 16 Wednesday, March 15, 2023, Wally and Vicki, Pinelands
With my ongoing complaints about customer service, Wally got me to the airport safely on Wednesday morning. However, seeing the volume of the traffic standing still for his homeward trip, I felt sorry that I put him through all this trouble. Once in the airport building, I went to international departures without any problems but with no information about when the boarding counters would open. I was fortunate to get a seat where I could keep an eye on potential activities.
Quite honestly it is the lack of information that frustrates me. By asking I learned that the check-in counter would be number 25. I went straight there and waited. I did learn that it should open at 10:00 am, but eight minutes later I was told to go through a passport inspection point. A line had formed, and I eventually got to the same check-in counter an hour later. The next step was to go through passport control, followed by security. I learned that this was security one of two. I was stopped for having half a bottle of water. I downed the bottle and was then allowed to proceed. My next challenge was to find boarding gate B5. That was downstairs with buses that would drive us to our flight.
I met one man in line who left South Africa for the US fourteen years ago. He too had a brief visit to meet with family and declared that he is not sorry that his home now is America. Quite frankly after what the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling political party is doing to wreck a beautiful country, I must concur.
We now had to have our hand luggage thoroughly inspected. We were told this is a prerequisite for an American flight. And they went through everything thoroughly in my carry-on hand luggage and backpack.
The next step was to wait for the call to board beginning with first class, and down the line to the main cabin passengers.
Our turn came to board the bus. The plane was parked on the far side of the airport. We all climbed the steps onto the aircraft to make it safely to our seats. I am not sure what wheelchair people do. We took off at least an hour later than the delayed time, but this was part of our ongoing ritual. Not having had any breakfast today, other than coffee and a rusk with Wally at his home, the smell of food was quite welcome.
And then my luck changed. I always prefer an aisle seat so that I can make it to the bathroom when the need arises and get an opportunity to get up to stretch my legs. An extremely helpful flight attendant had the seating map on her phone and suggested I move to the aisle seat in the row behind. It turned out that I had the row to myself, and had I stayed in my allocated seat, I would have had two companions, both guys flying to the States to work on a farm for nine months. They earn $35,000 for the duration, and all their cost-of-living needs are provided for free.
Lunch was served just after 3:00 pm. When I went out with Wally and Vicki last night, I had beef pasta. On this menu, we had a choice of beef, chicken, or vegetarian. I chose chicken and one more time was amazed at how heat hot the meal is. It included chickpeas as a starter and a not-too-satisfying dessert that defied being identified.
My flight attendant was gracious to explain why all these flights were delayed and what caused the ripple effect. Apparently, one jet got hit by lightning and had to return to Atlanta for repairs. That took more than a day and caused the subsequent flights to all get delayed. Frankly, I have no idea how they will get back on schedule. In any event, this mishap is nowhere near as bad as the disaster with Southwest Airlines last Christmas in America when more than 16,000 flights were canceled or delayed.
Day 17 Thursday, March 15, 2023, Home at last
We flew an Airbus A350-900. 16-hour flying time. Seats 306 passengers, but not a full flight. Flying speed 560 mph, 900 km/h. Estimated arrival in Atlanta at 12:30 am.
I have three seats all to myself and could stretch out to sleep when I chose to do that. As we raced across the Atlantic, I decided to watch movies. I started a few and stopped after they did not interest me. Then I hit pay dirt. “She Said” is a 2022 movie based on the bombshell New York Times investigation by two female reporters who expose a Hollywood sexual scandal getting a courageous woman to speak out. I highly recommend this movie about Harvey Weinstein. If you are into romantic comedies, then I have another 2022 movie recommendation “About Fate.” Like many Romcoms, it is a fun lighthearted story.
With one hour and ten minutes to landing, we were served breakfast. We had a choice of scrambled eggs or pancakes. I went with pancakes thinking that it would be safer after a 16-hour journey. Included were fresh-cut fruit, a croissant, and if you will believe it a small chocolate bar for breakfast! That topped with orange juice was how the morning started. Our estimated arrival time was 30 minutes after midnight.
The next step is deplaning and going through customs and passport control. All went smoothly. Now check in at Delta for new boarding passes to Milwaukee and need to wait until 4:30 am when the gates open allowing us to proceed to the domestic terminals. So, I could try sleeping in a waiting area for three-plus hours. Can you believe people? The line to go through the security gates at 4:30 am, already had a long line by 4:00 am, so I joined that line. All my activities seem to be a challenge. I went to a kiosk to print my new itinerary, but it refused to print new luggage tags. I handed in my large case and showed the agent that the label reflected a later flight to Milwaukee. He told me not to concern myself about that as the luggage will be loaded on the next flight.
I used my Amazon air tag on the plane to verify if my case was on board, but I could not get verification. I’ll be much wiser in Milwaukee. I did discover that Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport is the busiest in the world with over 100 million passengers passing through the airport and has achieved that milestone for the past three years.
I bought myself a bottle of water and swallowed my pills. And sat to relax for two hours prior to boarding. I lucked out in getting an aisle seat and despite the flight is nearly full, I had an empty seat alongside me. The flying time to Milwaukee is two hours. We took off on time so should be on the ground before 10:00 am.
Delta was gracious enough to offer me a one-night free accommodation plus two $15 meal vouchers in an Atlanta hotel three nights ago. Obviously now expired. Strange.
Yes, it was quite an adventure.
Linda met me at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport at about 10:00 am and persuaded me to have a power nap in the afternoon. I got to sleep at 8:00 pm my first night home and woke more refreshed at 7:00 am the next day, Friday.