This South African adventure is now over. I was unable to keep my blog at the time due to the intensity of the travel arrangements and, of course, very limited wifi which would not have allowed for the uploading of lots of photos.
Through Trailfinders we booked a tour - Grand Tour of South Africa. This was organised by Ilios Travel, one of the premier tour organisers in Southern Africa. I cannot praise it highly enough despite one occasion where our group, following an exhausting day's travel (the first, in fact), was not booked in in the expected hotel and had to endure a further 45 minutes travel to get to where we were expected.
As is our wont, Jim being a stickler about time-keeping to the extent that we are always early (very early!) for everything, we left Raphoe early and expected to have more than an hour at Dublin airport before we were even due to check in. That Saturday morning was one of a recent few mornings of frost and some snow so some defrosting had to be done. However, we had plenty of time in hand and I was equipped with my crochet to avoid boredom. I didn't expect to get as much done but I did, due to the journey being much longer than expected!
Between Omagh and the Ballygawley roundabout there were signs to indicate that the road ahead was closed and that diversions were in operation. However, the signs made no mention of Dublin and we assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that the road to Dublin was open. Finally we came to where the road was totally closed and we had no option but to take the diversion indicated - a narrow road to the right. We turned in, preceeded and followed by lots of traffic, including a huge truck directly behind us. From the volume of traffic that had been coming towards us on the main road, it was clear that this diversion was very busy. We very soon saw that the diversion was not equipped to deal with two-way traffic and after about 500 metres we came to a standstill. We could see ahead that a car had stopped, unable to pass the oncoming traffic and, behind it, was another huge truck. I sat in the car, crocheting furiously and silently swearing, as Jim joined all the other drivers in an effort to resolve the situation. Finally a man took charge and started instructing us all to reverse back to the main road. This was an extremely difficult task for the driver of the truck behind who had to be guided all the way as he negotiated the snow-lined verges. Finally, back on the main road, a local man said that the narrow road was the only way to avoid the roadworks that had closed the road. We had no option but to return towards Omagh and follow the detour signs for Belfast. We had no idea if we were going to end up in Belfast and then have to travel to Dublin. We went through Sixmiletown (I think), Pomeroy and Dungannon, at which stage we assumed that Nuvi (our sat nav) would no longer try to get us to the Ballygawley roundabout but would negotiate a route to Dublin airport. An hour or more later we got to the A1. We arrived at the airport about 25 minutes later than planned so, despite our fears, were in good time for our flight. The complete drive had been conducted in the most blinding winter sun so, without the detour, would have been stressful enough. However, Brian was there awaiting us in order to take charge of our car while we were away and he had kindly sussed out a parking place close to the departures entrance so it was all systems go!
Our flight brought us to terminal 5 in Heathrow and there we met up with my cousin, Charlotte, our travelling companion. We started our holiday with white wine and a beer (for Jim) and shared tacos. Our flight to Johannesburg was at 9pm. It took off at about 9.30 for a 10 hours 25 minutes flight - enough time for me to watch 3 films (I can recommend The BFG), one episode of a series and a question time with Mary Berry but, sadly, no sleep! We landed at 10 a.m., Johannesburg being 2 hours ahead of Irish time. Our transfer worked perfectly. There were Jim, Charlotte and me, another couple, Garth and Eileen and 3 Hindu couples from London, who, as it happened, had been the people to annoy Charlotte most during the flight (they were seated behind her)!
While I am writing about this adventure in retrospect, I will probably write most of the time as if the events are just happening.