November 9, 2008 – Sunday – Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria, BC, Canada
I kill time in my hotel room until it is time for my 4:30pm transfer to Cape Town airport. The hotel insists that I pay 450 Rand (US$54) for a late departure, and I have to change rooms, so I feel entitled to take full advantage of the facilities before I depart. I use the time to catch up on my travel journal, annotate photos, have a couple of naps, and have a shower before leaving for the airport. I will be traveling for over 30 hours before I arrive back home!
I have a panic attack after going through security at the Cape Town airport. I can’t find my passport and boarding pass! As it turns out, I put it in a different pocket as I prepare to walk through the security scanner! The South African Airways flight from Cape Town to London/Heathrow is 12 hours long. SAA serves a wonderful dinner and complimentary wine after we leave Cape Town, and then the cabin lights are shut off until a couple of hours before our arrival. As usual I don’t sleep during the flight. We are in a holding pattern over Heathrow since we arrive a bit early. Apparently they have a 6am curfew at Heathrow – no doubt to give the surrounding neighbourhoods a bit of respite overnight.
South African Airways uses Terminal 1 at Heathrow and Air Canada uses Terminal 3, so I catch the shuttle. At least Terminal 3 is a more modern and civilized place to wait five hours for my 12:05pm departure, although I still can’t find any Wi-Fi networks. This is a prime people-watching place, since Heathrow is probably the busiest transfer point in the world. After boarding my Air Canada flight to Vancouver, I notice right away the more “basic” service provided as compared with the full service provided by SAA on my previous flight. The Air Canada flight departs on time and goes smoothly. I don’t see any aurora over the polar region this time, like I did on the Victoria to London flight.
I only have an hour and forty minutes connection time in Vancouver, but manage to clear customs and immigration and board my flight for Victoria with time to spare. I’m home by dinner time on November 10th, having gained 10 hours as I cross so many time zones traveling in a westerly direction for some 32 hours elapsed time. The marathon flights are over!