Dear Friends and Family,
This is a good news, bad news letter. The good news is we have arrived safely in Pretoria and are established in our hotel. The bad news is that not one of our bags has arrived as yet. Luckily, we carried a complete change of clothing in our carry on bag and also all medications, cameras, etc. But a lot of the stuff we need for our upcoming safari is in the checked luggage and we are REALLY hoping that it arrives today! We have spent a few hours today buying a couple of new shirts, some sandals, gel insoles, and a manicure kit. Perhaps this will be a trip in which we will learn just how lightly we can travel with regard to STUFF.
Our flights were not too bad, although the South African Airlines flight left Dulles about 3 hours late. They also had lousy service which they said was because of the delay, they had to allow their cabin personnel extra rest time, so most of the flight, they weren't even anywhere to be found. Then when our luggage didn't arrive and we had to file a claim, that wasn't handled very efficiently either. And there were hundreds of bags just sitting around in that area, which didn't make us feel any better about the way they were handling things. After such a long travel time, and the loss of our bags, we were very relieved when we exited the customs area to see that the guy was still there waiting to take us to the hotel, even though we were so late. We have been trying to adapt to the time change ever since, and also get over jet lag.
Yesterday we walked around in the downtown part of Pretoria and so far have not had a very good impression of this city. There are not a lot of tourist attractions and even though this city is recommended over Johannesburg with regard to safety, we are always cautioned never to go out of the hotel at night. Everyone suggests leaving all money and valuables in the room safe and not even showing a camera most of the time. We have been severely reprimanded twice by people who thought we were doing something offensive, such as entering the wrong door of the store, and taking a picture of a costume on a mannequin in a restaurant. But overall, most people have been friendly and helpful.
In the central part of Pretoria, we visited Church Square yesterday, which is surrounded by old stately sandstone buildings from centuries ago. Very interesting but mostly not available for entry. Today we walked down to an area called Hatfield, which is one of the only areas recommended for walking around and finding decent restaurants and shopping. On the walk down here we passed lots of consulates and embassies, including the US embassy, and most were stately and had nice gardens and flowers. The US Embassy looks like a modern fortress however. Every property of any value has high fences and the windows are often barred.
Our tour starts tomorrow, although we don't leave Pretoria until Monday. So in the next report, we will tell you about our leader and our group. Sending big hugs.
Love, Mary & Elaine