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A Bag Lady without the Bag

By Erika Hoffman

The path was stony, littered with manure, and presented many tripping hazards, especially for those of us who were young when Bruce Springsteen was young, which was the whole group.

The flight from Cape Town to Kasane was uneventful except our luggage didn’t fly with us but instead became stranded in Johannesburg. The sad thing was my husband and I predicted it.

At the Cape Town airport, everyone in our tour was lined up to be checked in on the left where our guide, Andrew, aided in the process. A bossy woman with the airlines directed hubby and me to a reservationist, who wasn’t busy, on the right. Although we protested and told her we were part of the group queued up on the left, she signaled we were to go to the reservationist, who was noshing her lunch behind the counter on the right.

This employee didn’t seem happy to accommodate. We told her we were changing planes in Johannesburg and then on to Kasane. I took out my tickets and showed them to her. Very nonchalant was she. Hardly would she glance at the tickets. She put stickers on our suitcases and set them on the conveyor belt. We were given one boarding pass each. At that point, our guide Andrew looking for his lost sheep – us – scooted over and told her something in Afrikaans, and she produced two more boarding passes for our next leg of the trip.

Then, I saw a mild hint of concern, dare I say, sheepishness, as she whispered something to the man next to her who got on a walkie-talkie, and though I couldn’t discern what he garbled into the thing, I’m sure he was trying to redirect our luggage to Kasane. I was certain our suitcases were disembarking in J-berg though we’d journey on. We told all the group we’d not be seeing our luggage, and therefore it hadn’t done any good to follow the advice to plant an outfit of mine in my husband’s case, and he do the same with an outfit of his in mine, as both pieces were going to be lost. I’m not sure anyone believed us. When we reached Kasane without our luggage, our fellow trekkers looked surprised and gazed at us as if we were soothsayers. We knew that girl whose lunch we interrupted had dispatched our baggage prematurely, although she never owned up to it!

A van got us to Kasane Immigration, which is a concrete building with a lot of official folks standing around, but only two working. A woman took our temperature by pushing some sort of laser gauge at us, and then a man in long sleeves and a bowtie checked our papers. Behind them was a huge white board, and on it were the days of the week, and each box recorded murders (M), thefts (T), drugs (D), or rapes (R).Wednesday was marked “M.D.R.” I assume the crime spree was done by the same perp. Pigs grazed outside, covered in muck. The path was stony, littered with manure, and presented many tripping hazards, especially for those of us who were young when Bruce Springsteen was young, which was the whole group.

We climbed into tenders and motored out to the Zambezi Queen, a riverboat to become our home for the near future on the Chobe River in Namibia. Because we had no luggage, we wore the same clothes when I went bird watching and my husband went angling. We wore the same clothes for the sundowner cocktail hour and the same clothes for dinner that night. When we returned to our cabin, there were two tees there with the Zambezi Queen logo. After sleeping in them and using them as our shirts the next day at breakfast, everyone sympathized with me. Make-up less, I looked like a bag lady without the bag. Then, we trekked back down to our cabin, discouraged, and wearily opened the door. VOILA! Our suitcases were there on the bed. Surprise! And Hallelujah!

The silver lining of lost luggage? We got two free comfortable tees that I still wear. And a memory and a story out of our African travel luggage snafu.

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