Longest plane ride ever – Johannesberg, South Africa

Sitting on the jumbo jet. The flight attendant just came to tell me that the white wine wasn`t as cold as he would like it to be for me so he will put it on ice for a few minutes. Nice. I watched a beautiful sunrise creating a volcanic red glowing lake through the clouds. As she climbed, she cast a peachy cap on the puffy blue shapes.

Transferred in Sydney for the 14 hour flight to Joberg. I made Coke floats and introduced Beamish to the crew who were way nice giving me cards, pins and EARPLUGS! Yay! I meet Gideon who gives me some great tips on safaris and warns me gravely of the dangers I may encounter.

So we had to divert to Durban after circling Johannesberg for an hour. Apparently there was a freak thunderstorm that came out of nowhere and the severity of the wind shear prevented us from landing. We ended up running out of fuel so we had to come to Durban to fill up. Two hours later we wondered why we were still sitting on the tarmac when the pilot informed us that the plane was “broken”.

I feel so sad for the flight attendants because some people just don`t cope well when things go wrong. It`s amazing how strange and unreasonable people can get on planes. The South African authorities will not let anyone off the plane and no one seems to know why.

Four hours after landing in Durban, anxious tense passengers and an exhausted crew continue to wait as we watch the thunderstorm that started this whole thing descend upon us. They have opened the emergency exit door and I can hear the piercing cracks of thunder. Lightning crackles through the air and I can feel the static electricity or is that the energy of 420 people all focused on the open door beside me. We can see the rains pouring down and smell the humid air but like waving candy in a baby`s face, immigration is teasing us.

It feels so strange to be held hostage on a plane by the authorities. The customer service manager was in negotiations with them and now they have agreed to release the Durban bound passengers. The rest of us will be corralled into the airport so they can try and fix our sick plane.

We also have to wait for them to fly in another crew as this one has timed out. They have gone past their 20 hours and not only need but seriously deserve a rest. They have been diplomatic and kind doing their very best to quell the storm building inside the aircraft. Didn`t you know? According to many angry passengers, the flight attendants create the weather. I find it humorous when I see someone yelling loudly “I am not blaming you BUT….” Peoples nerves are shot and they have been threatening to smash windows and jump out. They had better let these people off this plane or there is going to be a riot. Just how many times can one apologise for something that is not their fault?

I really feel for the little baby who ran out of milk hours ago. I can only imagine the state of this situation had they not locked up all the alcohol. There go the Durban passengers looking very grateful and relieved. All the smokers are hovering around the door with a 20 hour nicfit. Ok. When the toilets stop working then there becomes a big problem. It`s hot and muggy with no air circulation making things smell really bad.

Just in time, we were finally let of the plane only to be locked into the terminal. I played with baby Irfaan, singing him songs and walking him in the fresh air. We watched the heavy rain hammering the ground creating a giant lake. Sheet lightning illuminated the rolling low clouds and we listened to the booms that followed. I was really impressed with how well adapted this baby was, more curious of the storm than afraid. Worry is not a very becoming emotion especially on children. We were fascinated by the storm inhaling the calming warm moist fresh air until a security guard ordered us inside.

Bodies were sprawled all over the place and I wasn’t sure if it was the thunder of the collective tummy rumbling for something to eat. It`s now 11pm and the relief (rescue?) crew just filed through the terminal greeted by appreciative clapping. Finally, by midnight we were back on the plane ready to take off. Limited to sandwiches and water somehow Rod (the shark expert) scored the last bottles of wine on the plane. I guess it pays to make friends.

We are just about to touch down in Jo`berg (10 hours late) and I guess the moral of the story is that even Rolls Royces breakdown sometimes. Relax – its all part of the adventure. Hello South Africa! YAY!

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