Not saving the planet

26 07 2012

“Yes it is expensive” commented the travel agent, “but I have just started booking the tickets for the school holidays and they are 900 dollars”.

I looked in disbelief at the sum of $535 she’d written on the printout of my itinerary and wondered if it would be cheaper to drive to Jo’burg. I had to go for a follow-up consultation for my knee replacement but the thought of driving through the lowveld heat in October was distinctly unappealing.

It’s 970km to OR Tambo airport in Jo’burg from Harare. For a return trip that makes it US27.5c a km. It is slightly further to drive but $535 would buy me about 420 litres of diesel which in my Land Cruiser, which is not very economical, would take me some 3360 km. Where is the incentive to take a more eco-friendly flight? The convenience of a flight is obviously a big factor in flying, driving is tedious over that sort of distance, and I can be home the next day if I fly. Unfortunately SAA and BA are the only carriers on that route and they can pretty much charge what they like.

I would be interested to know if there are any other international flights out there that compare with this one.


20 08 2010

I have been uninspired since Jenni’s death. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, on the contrary, I filled 21 pages of my diary with my memories of her, but it’s private stuff that I won’t be posting here. I just can’t seem to find much to write about.

We actually managed to get a group of pilots together for the long weekend this month and head up to Nyanga. It was to be my first flying since the neck op in March and I was not at all sure that my right arm would cope as it is so much weaker than before. The Sunday we all went off to the Honde site (east facing) which is spectacular enough, overlooking the Honde Valley into Mozambique. I was too nervous to fly at midday but by the afternoon when I’d plucked up courage the wind had dropped to nearly nothing and it wasn’t worth the effort. Still, it was nice to chill with flying buddies in the evening and drink a beer and talk the usual pilot talk.

It was westerly on Monday and we waited around at World’s View. Pete and Manu offered to get me off the hill and after more than a bit of dithering on my part I got a clean, easy launch and headed out to find a thermal. The previous inexperienced pilot had missed all available thermals and sunk out to the “turkey patch” without ever getting above take off. I headed away from the takeoff and soon picked up a nice thermal that took me nearly 1000m above take off and the flight was on. It was quite emotional for me; Jenni should have been with me and a good friend, Trevor Ambrose had died suddenly early on Sunday morning in Harare. But I settled into the flight and enjoyed the smooth relatively strong climbs and landed 1.5hrs later at the National Parks grid into the park. A very slow flight but enjoyable..

Last week I had to go to Jo’burg for a follow up consultation with the surgeon who did my neck op. Setting the alarm at 04h15 I got to the airport by 05h30 only to find I was the first in the queue. I still managed to be last onto the plane which was fully booked.

I’d plenty of time to do my own thing so after sorting out a bit of business I looked up Cheryl whom I’d contacted about getting another Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. She’s a breeder in Edenvale and invited me around the next day to see a bitch she was thinking of rehoming due to some breeding difficulties with her – she was also being bullied by the other dogs. I knew I was being assessed but had taken the precaution of directing her to Jenni’s album on my Facebook page. We got on well and she introduced me to Kharma, a young, very gentle bitch who is a quite different build from Jenni but a similar temperament. It took a while but Cheryl eventually agreed that I could have Kharma (I’d pay for her to fly up to Harare – a road trip would be too risky).

I saw the doctor that afternoon and he pronounced himself satisfied with the result. I didn’t point out that the right arm was still not up to the functionality it had before the op.

On Tuesday I went past the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services to see if I could get an import licence for Kharma. I’d been alerted that there was a ban on all animal and animal products into Zimbabwe from South Africa but an internet search revealed it was all about protecting local industry rather than preventing Rift Valley Fever getting in. There was a poster up on the wall informing all that there was a total ban on the import of animals and animal products from South Africa. But I asked anyway. No, there was no ban, it had been lifted. Yes! I was too elated to bother pointing the poster out.

I should have picked the permit up today but did not go that way. So it will have to be Monday. There is no rush, Kharma only flies up in 2 weeks – I think Cheryl is getting a bit┬ápossessive! That’s a good sign.

Time off

29 03 2010

I was totally unprepared for the “aftershock” of the neck surgery in Joburg. I guess I was a little naive in thinking that after nearly 5 hours of surgery I’d be up and about in 5 days or so and ready to do a bit of easy shopping. The pain was intense and not very well managed. Nursing varied hugely from non-existent to professional which was not great for what I’m lead to believe is the top private hospital in Joburg. One thoroughly nasty little woman on hearing that I wanted some pain killers plonked them down on my bedside table with a glass of water and walked out leaving me flat on my back and unable to sit up unassisted. Another nursing aid could not understand English and had no idea how to adjust the back of the bed. Thank goodness for Moira, the hilarious Scottish physiotherapist who could not do enough for me and always had some amusing anecdote.

The surgery consisted of a 3 level cervical spine fusion and a corpectomy on the C4 vertebra. Now I am held together by a titanium plate and screws. The surgeon was pleased with how it went though on the 4th night I woke to realize that I couldn’t get my right arm off the bed and my left hand was also losing strength. Panic! The surgeon ordered another X-ray and MRI but they showed nothing untoward and my left arm recovered fast. My right is back to about 70% pre-op level so I am hopeful.

Initially I was scheduled to have the surgery done here but on advice I brought my offshore medical aid to use and had it done in Joburg. Subscribing to this medical aid some years ago has been one of my better decisions as I am not at all confident that the 79 year-old surgeon who was going to do it would have been up to the task. Not doing anything would have been disastrous eventually leading to a form of quadriplegia.

The shakedown

31 03 2009

“Do we understand each other?” the cop asked.
“Yes, I can understand you” I replied.
He asked the same question again, and I replied with the same answer.
He was not asking if I could understand English, he was asking if I was interested in paying a bribe. I had been stopped on the R512 that goes east across Jo’burg from the Krugersdorp highway to the western bypass or ring road.

“We need to search your car” he said, calling over a woman cop to the passenger door. He was impatient or making out that he was. The passenger door had been deadlocked so needed opening from the outside but I was not getting out to help. They eventually got it open and the woman started to rifle about in the shopping on the floor.

“What’s this?”
“An air filter”.
The male came back onto my side.
“Show me your driver’s licence”.
I did.
“But this is not a SADCC licence”.
“I know, but it is a valid Zimbabwe licence” (I happen to know that they are a different format).
“It must be a SADCC licence”.
“Well it is a Zimbabwe licence and it’s the one we are issued so if you have a problem with that take it up with the Zimbabwe government”.
This continued a bit further but I was not going to budge.
“What is this?” the woman cop asked, now rooting into the first aid kit behind the seat.
“A first aid kit” – it had the relevant writing on the bag.
“What is that?” the male asked.
“Zimbabwe dollars”.
“Oh, so you are rich then” – another hint (there were lots of zeros on them).
“Do you want some?” I asked. “Not even any good as toilet paper” but they were losing interest and I was soon on the go again. It was just your average JMPD (Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department) shakedown.

It happened again at the South African side of the border at Beit Bridge. This time the “facilitator” actually knew me from my Hortico days (he knew the names of my co-workers there). I was a bit more receptive this time as I had something to gain from this; I definitely did NOT want to be paying duty on the camera that I’d bought in Jo’burg. I was mildly surprised that I’d been approached by a Zimbabwean on the SA side as they are not usually that forward but I was assured that “everybody knows me” and sure enough nobody even blinked that there were now 3 on a gate pass for one (it seemed that we’d picked up and “assistant”). Sure enough I was through the notoriously congested Zimbabwe side and out into the Beitbridge dust and heat in all of 15 minutes. A bit poorer for sure too but, in my books at least, worth it. I guess I am a real African!

Evening sky looking north

Evening sky looking north

This is the view from my verandah last night. Notice all the city lights (just joking, there aren’t any).