Posts Tagged ‘flying’

Arriving In The Delta

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The speed of the turbine engine powering the Cessna Caravan reduces to idle as the young bush pilot expertly manoeuvres the plane for our arrival into the dirt airstrip in the remote Okavango Delta.  Our short and comfortable ride from Maun, Botswana is coming to an end.

Large passenger windows provide us with an excellent view of the landscape below and we stare into the vastness of the Delta looking for any sign of movement.  After all, we did come here to see some animals.

On Approach

As the pilot banks the aircraft onto the base leg The Princess points excitedly at the scene below.  A small herd of zebra graze on the dried winter grasses as a family of giraffe reach high up into the trees for their next meal.  Several huge elephants, oblivious to the plane overhead, approach a small waterhole for an afternoon drink.

We barely notice the plane’s purpose built undercarriage absorbing the forces of the rough surface of the bush runway as the plane touches down.

We have arrived in the mighty Okavango Delta.

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The Delta Experience Begins

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Loose dust particles are whipped into a frenzy as the Cessna Caravan’s constant speed propellor increases its speed. The small turbo prop plane accelerates quickly down the dirt strip and, before long, the young pilot flies the plane into the warm Botswana skies.

Powering Up

As the noise from the Wilderness Air plane reduces we become aware of the sounds of wildlife around us. We have arrived in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
Willie, our guide for the next three days, introduces himself and welcomes us to this beautiful aquatic African paradise. Willie produces some cold drinks then he outlines the program he has in store for us – morning safaris, sundowner safaris, lots of eating and drinking and plenty of photography. Perfect.
Before we set course for Banoka Camp we take in the sight of elephants grazing nearby. The first of many sightings of these huge mammals.
The scene is set. Let the adventure begin.

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Mountains and Sheds On The Cape

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Our small Citroen rental car’s window is filled with the distinct shape of Table Mountain as we motor along the impressive freeway toward Cape Town.  It looks like someone has sliced the peak off a huge mountain and forgotten to put it back.  An incredible sight despite having seen it in magazines and on TV.

A glance at our watches tells us that we have been traveling for over 20 hours since we left Hong Kong however we are wide awake with the thought of spending the next six days in Cape Town.  We have only just arrived on the Western Cape however the aerial views of the rugged mountains, extensive vineyards and the southern Atlantic ocean have piqued our desire to explore this beautiful region in detail.

Flat Top Welcome

Our short journey to Hout Bay, a small town south of the city, takes us past several shanty towns – millions of people call this part of South Africa home.  This is our first close up look at these communities and we are quite shocked at the number of flimsy shacks that have been erected here.  It becomes painfully obvious to us that despite the demise of apartheid the black majority in South Africa are still a long way from living the dreams held by Nelson Mandela and other staunch anti-apartheid activists.  That day will come.

We follow the instructions sent to us by the hosts of the B&B we will be staying at and before long we are driving through the forested winding road that links Hout Bay to Cape Town.  Huge houses surrounded by acres of land are visible behind tall fences.  Electrified wires are strung across the top of the fences and warning signs send a message to those who have nefarious intentions.  This beautiful suburban area is a stark contrast to the sprawling shanty town landscape on the outskirts of Cape Town city.

Our history lesson begins.

Our fellow avid traveller Jen Miller (Jen Reviews) has written some great articles on “100 Best Things To Do In South Africa”  Please check out Jen’s excellent articles for some great advice on when visiting South Africa.

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Good Morning Africa

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Mineral rich landscapes stretch to the distant horizon below the wing of our Boeing 777 aircraft as the crew command the plane to start its descent into Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo’s International airport.  The sun has not long started its daily trek across the skies of the vast continent – a signal to millions of Africans that another day has dawned.

On Descent

A morning sunbeam lights up the roof of a shanty town hut and grabs our attention.  As our eyes focus on the brightly lit structure we realise that it is just one of thousands.  Scan just left of the township and the contrast is significant – a modern suburb laid out in an orderly fashion with streetlights casting their glow over freshly paved roads and sidewalks.

The dichotomy of South Africa reaches us at 8000 feet – our journey has begun.

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Borneo Bound

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Our excited yet reluctant bodies rose at 0400 to ready ourselves for the 0545 pick up by one of the internal taxi vans in Discovery Bay. We had packed most of our things over the weekend so we only needed to shower and have a light breakfast – mainly to wake ourselves up at this unusual hour.
The Van arrived close to the time we had booked and the trip down to the plaza didn’t take too long at this hour of the morning. Fortunately the Uncle Russ coffee shop was open so I was able to get my first “brew” for the day. There is something about a fresh, hot coffee first thing in the morning – particularly when one is normally still in bed at the hour I was ordering this one.
The airport bus from Discovery Bay leaves every half hour and the trip down to Chep Lap Kok airport takes around 20 minutes. Despite today being a public holiday the bus was quite full and this meant a slower trip out of DB (Discovery Bay) because we needed to pick up at each internal stop.
We arrived at airport at 0630 and made our way to the Dragonair check-in area. The airport was very busy so we had to negotiate our way through the crowds before we arrived at the Dragonair counter.
Dragonair (Cathay’s sister airline) flies directly to Kota Kinabalu every day and our staff travel benefits allow us to fly business class with KA (the code for Dragonair). The KA check-in staff were very helpful and had us on our way to the gate in no time. The flight was “wide open” (plenty of seats) so getting a seat in business was not a problem.
There was no one to say goodbye to us at the airport so we made our way through screening and immigration and found some water and the nearest Travelex money exchange – it’s always handy to have a few ringgits in hand when arriving in Malaysia.
We passed some time by browsing the few shops that were open then made our way down to the departure gate area. The gate (524) was located in the “bowels” of the airport and this meant that the aircraft was parked on a stand (not at a gate). We followed the rest of the “sheep” onto the bus and crammed in like happy little sardines. The Princess enjoyed being down on the tarmac area and liked being able to look up at the variety of aircraft makes and models from below – always unique for passengers that are used to loading via a ramp.
The bus had quite bad brakes and despite the driver taking it nice a slowly the standing passengers became aquainted a few times when the brakes almost locked on and we all went “A over T” a couple of times.
When we arrived at the aircraft we met the crew -friends of mine that I had trained when I was a part of Dragonair. We took our seats in business and settled into “holiday” mode shortly thereafter. We departed on time from Hong Kong and before long we were “tucking in” to a sumptuous breakfast as we winged our way south toward Borneo.
Despite the trip being only 2.5 hours I managed to get a sleep in after breakfast – waking shortly before top of descent.

Arriving In KK

Brian, the captain of the A321, made a smooth approach and landing into Kota Kinabalu and taxied the short distance to the modern terminal. Unfortunately there was a mix up with our parking position so we ended up waiting for close to 15 minutes while the ground staff arranged a new gate for us. The delay allowed us to finish reading some interesting articles in the Dragonair magazine – always a reason for these sorts of things. Besides, it allowed us to slip into “malay” time!
Customs clearance and baggage delivery was quite efficient and we exited into the arrival area and were greeted by the driver we had arranged for the trip to the Sutera Harbour Resort.
Sutera Harbour is located close to the airport and the city so it took less than 10 minutes to get to the hotel.
Check in was very efficient however we didn’t realise that we were staying at the VIP section of the Magellan Resort complex so it meant a short walk around to the reception area for the Magellan Club.
The first room we were checked into was not suitable because the blinds did not close properly but it wasn’t a problem getting the room changed. The second room, over looking the pool complex, was perfect in every sense and we settled in quickly.
The Princess had a short sleep in the huge King size bed while I unpacked and prepared for an afternoon by the pool. When The Princess woke up she donned her bikini, lathered herself in sunblock and found her book.
Despite our best efforts to find a poolside lounge chair we discovered that they were all taken so we made the most of some shade under a group of palm trees. We spent the afernoon around the pool – reading, relaxing, swimming and talking to some of the staff and other guests. A perfect start to the 6 day break in Borneo.
We had a late lunch by the pool then headed back to the room for an LLD (little lie down) before freshening up for happy hour. When we checked in we were told that the Magellan Club was inclusive of free happy hour drinks and delightful plates of local food – a nice touch indeed.
We took up residence outside on the balcony of the club and watched the beautiful sunset and the changing colours of the sky – perfect. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of white wine and spent time talking with Colin (one of the staff) – a lovely man that shared his knowledge of the local area and some of the sights that we might like to see.

Sundowners With A Sun Down

The only downside to sitting outside were the Mozzies – they were ferocious and The Princess was obviously a tasty meal for them because they devoured her. Her legs ended up looking like a war zone after the first night of sitting outside. Mental note – use the insect spray we carted all the way from Hong Kong!
After happy hour and our long chat with Colin we took a walk around the Magellan resort area before stopping off at the lobby lounge for an iced tea. The evening’s entertainment (a trio of local performers) provided some wonderful background music as we lay on the day bed together and settled into Malay time. The ambience was superb. What a wonderful way of finishing off the day.
Both of us were quite tired after our 0400 start this morning so we returned to the room, readied for bed then sank into the luxurious King size bed. It was an unusually early night for us (2200) however we felt as though we had been on holidays for about a week.
If this is what the first day of our holidays is like we are going to have an awesome break in Borneo!

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Leaving On A Jet Plane

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Kelsterbach, Frankfurt Airport, Hong Kong

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Today marks the end of our 2011 holiday to Europe.  6 countries, several thousand kilometers of road travel, trains, boats, planes, a lot of wining and dining and thousands of photographs and hours of video  What a wonderful trip!

We both enjoyed a very comfortable sleep last night at the Mercure and we woke refreshed after our long day of driving yesterday.  It was a stunning morning in Frankfurt – sunny with clear, crisp air.

We enjoyed our final European breakfast – the remainder of the food we bought yesterday in Baden-Baden before finalising our packing then we headed down to the lobby and checked out.

The shuttle bus for the airport left at 10.35am and we had a short walk to the shuttle bus stop so we made our way down the short road with a luggage trolley – a little strange but it worked out.

The shuttle bus arrived on time and the friendly staff helped us to load the rather full (and heavy) suitcases into the luggage area before we boarded the bus.  The short trip across to the airport took around 10 minutes.

We arrived at Terminal 1 with plenty of time to spare (around 3 hours before the flight departed) so we found the Starbucks outlet and sat down to our second Starbucks experience for the trip.

Cathay Pacific’s check in counters and departure area are located in Terminal 2 and this meant a lengthy walk to the Sky Line (small unmanned train) station then a 5 minute ride to Terminal 2.  We were happy to walk some more (given the food we had eaten on the trip) and enjoyed negotiating some of the foot traffic and “learning” more about Frankfurt airport.

We found our way to the Cathay check-in desk and we were served by one of the lovely Frankfurt staff.  The loads back to Hong Kong were looking rather full for business class so we were issued a couple of economy tickets to get us on our way through customs.  However, we both enjoyed two very comfortable business class seats back to Hong Kong because when we arrived at the gate Iris, the duty supervisor, had two business class tickets waiting for us.  Excellent service from the Frankfurt staff!

We boarded around 1.30pm and settled into our seats for the 10 hour 30 minute trip back to Hong Kong.  The flight departed on time and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying an excellent lunch, some Australian red wine and a couple of great movies.

The very smooth trip back to Hong Kong allowed us both to get some sleep on the lie flat beds – about 4 hours for me and around 2 hours for The Princess.

The Boeing 747 touched down in Hong Kong a little ahead of schedule (around 6.30am) and we parked at a “inner gate” at the Hong Kong terminal.  The short walk and efficient customs process meant we were at the baggage carousel before the bags arrived from the plane.

After recovering our baggage we proceeded to the Starbucks outlet in the arrival hall and had an early morning (very early for our European body clocks) “brew” before making our way to the Discovery Bay bus stop.

Walking out of the air conditioned airport and into the Hong Kong summer humidity got our attention and it wasn’t long before we were both sweating and feeling rather warm.

We arrived home around 8.00am and after turning the air conditioning on and cooling the apartment we climbed into bed and slept for around 4 hours – a nice way to ease back into Hong Kong’s heat!

Now it is time for blog updates, uploading of photos and videos and preparation for our next trip!!  Keep tuned for the updates to the European adventure in the coming weeks and standby for the African adventure in September!

Ciao, Gut Morgen, Gut Nacht and Arrivederci!!

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