Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TO JOHANNESBURG

I left Ngara on 11/29.  Since I had all my luggage with me, I opted to arrange for a taxi to pick me up and take me to the border.  The long way on tarmac road costs 45,000 shillings ($30), and the short way on dirt road costs 30,000 ($20), versus 3000 ($6) for a shared taxi.  The disadvantage with the shared taxi, besides less security for your belongings, is that you have to wait in Ngara and at the transfer point in Benako till the taxi gets at least six passengers.  This can take up to an hour at each point. 

The hired taxi took me straight to the border at Resumo on a dirt road through villages and fields.  We had to stop once to change a tire.  The bridge over the river was out, so we had to take a car ferry.  I saw the driver pay for the ferry, but I don't know how much it was.  In the end, I don't think he made much profit.  He was very nice and waited for me at the Tanzania border till I got through immigration, then took me down the long hill to the Rwanda side and got someone to help me with my luggage.  Normally I just have my daypack, but this time I also had a large duffle.  Both the Tanzania and Rwanda immigration offices are up steep stairs, and I was happy to be able to leave the luggage in the car until I was ready to go to the bus.  I had to pay for an extra seat on the bus for my luggage.

I got off the bus at Top Tower Hotel in Kigali. I had limited cash and knew they would take my credit card.  The banks in Rwanda won't take my ATM card and I found out in Uganda that a cash advance on my credit card is very expensive.  I had planned to ship some stuff home from Kigali, since my bag was getting too heavy to get on a plane without extra charges.  I went to where the internet site said the FedEx office was, but it was not there.  I asked several people who pointed me in different directions, but I never found it.  Luckily the baggage allowance to Johannesburg is 30 kilos, so I had no problem.  Top Tower gave me a free ride to the airport, so I ended up with about $30 extra in Rwanda money.  I didn't find out until I got to the airport in South Africa that none of the exchange offices there will take Rwanda francs.  The ATM there did take my card though, so I was able to get some South African rands.  

I had thought to take the airport train to Sandston, where the major tourist hotels and business center are, but the internet showed all hotels were over $200.  The tourist information desk at the airport was very helpful and found me the Airport Transit Guest Lodge in Kempton Park for $60 a night.  This turned out to be a house in a leafy suburb not within walking distance of anything.  The family had added a row of rooms with baths and a swimming pool in the backyard.  The brother in law of the owner provided transportation to and from the airport.  For an extra 100 rand ($12) he also took me to mail my package at the PostNet and dropped me off at the Festival Mall.  The mall did not look like much on the outside but was pretty big on the inside.  I didn't recognize any of the store names except Bata shoes, but some of the brands were familiar.  I later met a representative from Columbia Sportswear at the hostel who worked out of the European headquarters in France.  He said South Africa is the only African country they deal with, since it is the only one with a high enough income level to afford the imported goods.  There was a multiplex cinema at the mall with American movies, but nothing sounded good.  I went to a chicken place for lunch.  I expected a good piece of chicken, since I asked for a breast piece.  It had a little more meat than the chicken in Ngara, but not much.  I think that is what a real chicken probably is like and the meaty ones we get in America are probably genetically engineered.

The package of clothes, kangas, and papers I sent home weighed 3.7 kg (less than 10 pounds) and cost $226 to mail.  They ship it to America then it goes into the US mail system.  It should take 3-4 weeks.  If I had sent it by a regular shipping service it would be well over $300 but take only 2-3 days and have tracking.  I will not be home for awhile and there is nothing critical in the box, so I opted to save the money.  I am leery of what it will cost to send my duffel bag home when I continue on after my Tanzanian safari with just my daypack.  I have already left clothes, shoes etc in Ngara, Kigali, and Johannesburg.  I thiink most of my clothes will be staying here.  There are a lot of poor Africans who I am sure would love to have them.  My students in Ngara wanted my black shoes and several people have already asked for my tennis shoes.