The Long Journey Home

Windhoek to Johannesburg to Melbourne to Sydney

Okay, this is it we are heading home. It’s going to be a hell of a trip as Kelly’s not feeling well and she’s upset I gave her this cold for a birthday present. I think all in all we will be in travel mode for the best part of 24 hours.

We are up at 6am to do our final pack as we don’t want to have to rush at the airport and we don’t know how long it’s going to take to do the car rental return. The flights at 12:35 Namibian time and check in is a couple of hours before. So I figure if we can be at the airport by 9:30am we will have plenty of time.

While Kelly finishes her packing, I’ll take the car down to the service station and get it filled and grab a few more Namibian dollars from the ATM. By the time I’m back we are just about ready to go, we grab a quick cup of tea and some breakfast, then pack the car and we are on our way. The airport is approx 45km from Windhoek but at least it’s tar all the way. About halfway there I pass a pretty weird sign for Taxidermy Souvenirs so I just have to stop and get a quick picture of the sign.  

Taxidermy Souveniers - Windhoek


Well this is about the first time in our lives we are at the airport before the flight check in even opens The car rental return went smoothly and we have about a half hour wait until 10am when the flight opens.

We are checked in by about 10:10am and to fill the time we are going to go outside the terminal as there is a nice little grassed area with some benches in the shade of some trees. We will just read a bit and take it easy until about 11am when we will do our custom/departure.

Just bumped into Eric, the father of the pilot, and owner of the Balloon Safaris, he’s on his way to see his other son in Cape Town. Kelly does a bit of reading and I try to get close and take some pictures of a little lizards running around the lawn... 

Lizard in the grass

 ...and one up in the tree

Lizard in the tree

All done and ready to fly, boarding is called and off we go, here's what the view of the area surrounding the international airport looks like from the top of the boarding stairs.

Boarding the flight at Windhoek Airport

The pilot lets us know  that we are flying to Johannesburg at 30k ft, with a very strong tail wind giving us a ground speed of 275 metres a second and putting us in almost half an hour early. A few thunderstorms around Johannesburg so it might be a bit of a bumpy landing.

Okay, safely down in Johannesburg, collected our bags and are back out in the main terminal. I just checked with the Vaustralia service desk and the check in opens at 3pm in one hour. Check in opens and we head for the counter, present our passports, check in 3 of bags and then the guy checking us in asks us about our carryon. We point to the rucksack and the North Face Bag and say that’s it along with the duty free Amarula I bought duty free in Windhoek.

Here comes another oh oh moment or dumb things you do. Okay I bought it duty free in Windhoek, got to Johannesburg and passed through customs so now I’m officially in South Africa, with a bottle of Amarula. Now you can’t take large bottles of liquid in carry on bags in planes unless it’s Duty Free alchohol purchased in the departure lounge and picked up at the gate prior to boarding. So unless I put the Amarula in a check in bag and hope it doesn’t smash on the way to Sydney I’ve got a bottle that I either drink, and a litre of Amarula would kill you, or I give it away. So now we have one very happy check in guy whose going to go home with a nice bottle of Amarula. Just another of those little learning experiences, but we made his day.

Okay so we are through into the International Departures and it’s one long shopping mall! You can buy just about anything in here from swimmers to diamonds. You can get a shave or a massage, drink a beer or play a computer game.

For Kelly and I it’s a bit of last minute shopping for those items we didn’t want to carry around with us as we flew from place to place. After a couple of hours of shlepping our carryon luggage around while we shopped I went to buy some Amarula while Kelly took a break. Now while I could buy the smaller bottles, 700ml, in Windhoek, the only ones available in Johannesburg were 1 liter and by the time I’d made my decision to buy them I was told that all the duty free for our flight had gone to the gate but that there was a small duty free at the gate where I could buy them.

So we headed down to the departure gate and bought a couple of the large bottles, glad I only bought two as they are quite heavy. We waited for our departure to be called and when it was the service attendant checking our boarding passes happened to be the very same on we had donated our bottle of Amarula to when we checked in. We had a bit of a laugh and joke with him about it and then headed on board.

Fortunately there was a bit of space in Premium Economy and we could spread out, the take off was a bit bumpy as there was another storm moving through Johannesburg just as we were leaving. But everything was fine and in no time we were being served dinner and I was halfway through my first movie, Predators.

The captain came on and told us we had a bit of a tail wind and that the flight would only be 11.5 hours, almost 2 hours shorter than when we came over, and we would be getting into Melbourne early. The rest of the flight was fine, watched a couple more movies, read a bit, worked on the blog a bit and had breakfast. The Melbourne landing was smooth and in no time we were down, through customs and into domestic for our flight to Sydney.

At the checkin desk we asked if we could get on an earlier flight to Sydney and there were some seats open on the 6:45pm an hour earlier than our booked flight, that we happily took. We landed in Sydney, grabbed a cab and at approximately 9:30 am were home. So all in all from leaving the Olive Grove in Windhoek to arriving at home in Balmain it was 27.5 hours on the trot.

It felt a bit disconnected coming home and both of us just talked about the things we had seen, the experiences we had been through and the friends we had met. For me there were so many highlights and no lowpoints, I can still see Kelly and I struggling through the pain as we climbed down Table Mountain, the enjoyment of that early morning coffee made by Anois with Amarula, the thrill of seeing so many magnificent animals at Ulusaba and Etosha, the truly awesome 60th bush birthday put on by Ulusaba and the friendly people of Namibia, the most amazing of countries.

When we first planned this trip we extended it beyond it’s original two weeks because we thought it would be the only time we would go to Africa, as there is still so much of the world we wanted to see. After this taste of the country I think we will be back sooner than later to explore other areas that we have heard of from travellers we met on our adventure.

Just a couple of quick thank you’s for making it such a great holiday. First to Rennaie for suggesting we visit Namibia, her home country, Michael at Karisma Optometrist for the present of the binoculars, they were sooo good for viewing animals, Karen at &Beyond for arranging and managing the Namibia and Victoria Falls section of our trip, Johan, our guide at Ulusaba, what a wonderful guide, passionate about his work and a love for the animals, all of the staff at Ulusaba who made my 60th birthday such a memorable event, fantastic, Steve and Julia for making Ulusaba just that little bit more special, David and Henni at Onguma The Fort for lots of laughs, Monique and Walter for putting the gloss on MowaniSigfried for a great Dune experience and fun on the Quad bikes and especially to Kelly, my wife, one for putting up with such an old fart for so long and for being the best companion anyone could ask for, all my love.

Tony Redhead

93 Maud Street, Unley, SA, 5061, Australia