You've no doubt heard the saying "Half the fun is getting there." Maybe you've used it yourself. Certainly there are times when it's true, but maybe there are times when the more appropriate cliche is "Good things are worth the wait."
That was our experience as Dan and I made our way to hunt plains game animals with Koringkoppie Safaris in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Getting there was in no way "fun," but once we were there...
It all started at the airport in Cincinnati. We were booked on a Delta Airliens flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta, then a long direct flight to Johannesburg. We had just been issued our boarding passes when we were informed that the flight to Atlanta had been cancelled and there was no way we'd be able to make our connection. That started a long chain of events that almost doomed our trip altogether.
After about 2 hours of trying to figure out how we could get to Johannesburg, where Jacques Kombrinck - our PH - was to be waiting for us, they told us we were booked on a new itinerary that would put us in SA about 9 hours after our scheduled arrival. The new itinerary would take us to Boston, then on to London where we would catch a British Airways flight to South Africa. It wasn't ideal, but it was a step in the right direction.
We boarded 2 crowded planes and finally made it to London. Feeling a bit jet-lagged, we made our way to the British Airways ticket counter to pick up our boarding passes. Everything would have been great except Delta didn't actually confirm us on the full plane to Jo'Burg, and there was no room for us today, tomorrow, or the rest of the week. They told us to return to Delta to get the rest of the trip figured out.
We made our way back to the Delta transfer desk and found ourselves in line with disgruntled passengers from a cancelled flight to Atlanta. We waited for an hour and a half for the lone Delta agent at the desk, then another hour as he tried to make sense of our situation. Finally, he told us to go through passport control to speak with the Delta agents at the main ticket counter - they should be able to take care of our dilemma.
So, we grabbed our bags, got our passports stamped, and found ourselves, once again, standing in another line with a new batch of disgruntled, displaced travellers. It seems, at least on this day, Delta was far better at having their passengers stand in line than they were at actually getting them to their destinations.
When it was finally our turn, we were told there were no seats available for us until Thursday. This was Monday morning. We had been placed on standby for every flight to South Africa, but were not confirmed a seat until 4 days later. London, I'm sure, is a great city, and, I'm told there are a lot of great things to do in that fine city. However, there are no kudu in London. If we stayed, we'd only have 3 days left to hunt - and that just wouldn't work.
The short, family-friendly version of this story ends with Dan and I back on a plane, heading in the wrong direction. Since they couldn't get us to Africa, they sent us home. The good news for Dan, at least, was he was sitting in a bulk-head seat. I got the middle seat in the middle row between to big fellas heading to the Twin Cities. I was mad to begin with - my new accommodations didn't help matters any.
If you're following along, we have flown from Cincinnati to Boston, Boston to London, London to Minneapolis, and Minneapolis to Cincinnati in just under 32 hours. It was a 9,000 mile trip to nowhere, and we had nothing to show for it but a stamp in our passport. A far cry from the kudu, impala, gemsbok, or eland we were hoping to bring home with us.
When we returned to Cincinnati the second episode of our drama began - it is entitled "Baggage Claim."
We've all heard horror stories about lost or delayed baggage, and we've had our share of trials with the airlines. So we weren't surprised when we returned to find that our bags were nowhere close to being home. Two clothing bags and two bow cases were somewhere in the world, and no one was quite sure where they were. But, "Don't worry," they said, "We'll get them back to you." What they didn't tell us was that it would take 20 days...
The next day was taken up with phone calls to Delta Customer Service and Baggage Claim, trying to resolve our situation. During the whole course of this ordeal we had met some fine people who did everything they could to help us. And on Tuesday, we talked with a very helpful ticketing agent who said she could get us re-booked and in Jo'Burg that same day. Only one problem there - we didn't have our bags.
The plan evolved to flying out on Wednesday, hopefully giving enough time for our bags to make their way back to the airport or, at the very least, to re-stock and re-pack for the trip. As it turned out, we had to re-stock and re-pack. Our bags were nowhere to be found.
Like most stories, this one has a happy ending. Thanks to the help of some courteous customer service agents, we were finally able to make the 8,800 mile trip and meet Jacques, Frans, and Nella Combrinck at Koringkoppie Safaris. The hunting was outstanding, the accommodations were amazing, and the memories will last a lifetime. So maybe the old cliche is true... at least it was in our case.
Make sure you read the story of our hunt at Koringkoppie Safaris to find out how "worth the wait" this trip ended up being.