Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 8th – Frantic Trip to East London

After two exhausting days, the early morning call for 5am for our final morning's game drive was not something I was looking forward to. The rutted tracks through the jungle were as incredibly bumpy as ever, but somehow I managed to keep dozing off as we bounced around the reserve on our final mission to catch those leopards. We never did see the leopards, but the whole experience was fantastic.

But, by 10am, it was all over, and we were on the bus heading back to East London to join up with the ship which was leaving at 2pm. Everything was going fine until about halfway through our journey, when the bus driver pulled off the road and said he needed to make a phone call. On further investigation, it appeared he was phoning his depot, because the fan belt had snapped and we were overheating. Rural South Africa isn't normally a place that you want to be stuck, but it just so happened that we had stopped next to South Africa's oldest pub, and so the passengers went off in search of a couple of bottles of champagne (they had to settle for beer instead).

As they got stuck into the beer, I was acutely aware that I (as the ship's escort) was responsible for getting them back to the ship before the ship set sail. I was informed that we had about an hour and a half left of the journey, by now it was 12pm. With the driver saying the bus was a gonner, we got the bar owner to call us some taxis to get us back asap.

The taxis weren't exactly quick in coming, but once we were in them they drove like the absolute wind, overtaking furiously and even braking a couple of red lights on the final frantic minutes as we approached East London (by now it was 2.45). As we crossed the bridge and saw the Silver Whisper still docked on the river, there was a relieved cheer from us all.

I don't think the captain was very pleased about the delay, but thank god he waited. However, my relief of finally getting there was short-lived when I was told that I had 15 minutes to prepare for my next lecture – I think my heart only started beating normally by about 5pm. What a frantic afternoon.