Africa - August 18, 2012

Statue at Buckingham Palace.
After 33 butt-numbing hours of travel, we've finally made it to Jo'burg. Had a seven-hour layover in London, during which we fled the airport via a London Connect train to stretch our legs and do a bit of sightseeing. Following Mum Judith's advice, we enjoyed an al fresco lunch at Victoria's near Paddington Station.* Felt like bloated cows after devouring our delicious lamb tagine with prune and apricots (Jenn), steak & ale pie (Brad), and fish & chips (Kate), so we walked a couple of miles to Buckingham Palace. Then raced back to Heathrow for the second leg of our journey.

Walking out of customs into the noisy sea of Jo'burg locals and cab drivers, it was a relief to see our airport shuttle waiting for us. The economic disparity of the city was immediately apparent as we drove past sheet metal shanty towns on the way to our hotel in the city center.** The crazy-beautiful reception staff graciously allowed us to check in far earlier than we should have, and it was a good thing. Our exhaustion was greater than any of us realized, and our 2-hour nap turned into a 4-1/2 hour coma.

After shaking off the sleepiness and disorientation, we wandered down to Nelson Mandela Square to enjoy the fresh winter air for a couple of hours. Then back to the hotel for our first group meeting, the highlight of which was learning the proper technique for moving your tent in the morning to check for snakes that may have been sleeping under your warm body.*** Useful information.

Brad's footnotes:
* So many beers on tap at this place. So many beers I'd never even heard of. I might secretly be British.
** I kept thinking of "District 9," sadly. Most awkward moment, as we're cruising past one shanty town, the cabbie asks me, "You have places like this in America?" Yes. I mean, no. I mean, yes. I mean, oh, damn it.
*** Hint: The answer is not to go feeling around under there. 

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