I plan to be at O.R. Tambo nearly two hours early, unsure if a Jo’burg-Maseru flight counts as international or domestic, but assuming the former.
Goodbyes in Pretoria. Hugs. Kisses. Parting words. Meanwhile, an hour passes.
Winston speeds down the highway, south to Jozi, west to the airport. The flight information clutched in my fist wrinkles by the minute as they tick by; time before departure hits the 95 minute mark, then 90, then 85…
I leap from the car and hug the team goodbye once more, not yet appreciating that eight months will pass before we can be together again. Racing into the departure terminals (A – international or B – domestic?), I beeline for the South African Airways kiosks in terminal A.
Punching in my details and booking reference numbers produces an error message. The attendant directs me to terminal B (Domestic, really? Regional, she says). Of course.
Bag swinging behind me, I pause at an information desk to confirm. He points to an aisle of counters and wishes me well. Cheers, mate. Bag straining my neck, no South African Airways counter in sight, domestic, regional, or otherwise. The counter staff point me back down the terminal. U-turn and reverse. Bag beating against my bum, the South African Airways counters are for domestic flights only. She points me back the direction I came. This is getting old.
I query a passing SAA uniform, who speaks in rapid Zulu to the woman behind a closed counter for regional flights. I scurry under the ropes to check in. No, no checked bag. The gate closed 20 minutes ago? It’s taken me 20 minutes just to find this damn counter! Yes, thank you for holding the plane. Should I wait for someone to come by in a cart to drive me to the gate?
Barge through the passport check queue.
Skip to first in line at security and baggage scan.
Race through the halls to the very last passage in the entire airport: South African Airways regional flights.
One final boarding pass check, then alight the tram (breathing heavily) just before it pulls away from the gate to meet our waiting aircraft. An hour later and I set foot on Basotho soil once more, where I will wait for an hour and a half until my ride to Mokhotlong arrives.
Puleng: “Do you need anything in Maseru before we head back to Mokhotlong?”
Me: “Groceries would be nice, but it’s not necessary if there is no time.”
Puleng: “Becky, why should we rush?”
How variable the pace of life.