Friday, December 1

Coming Back to South Africa

My first trip to South Africa was 7 years or so ago. Technically it wasn't actually my trip per se, I was just graciously allowed to hijack a couple of friends' plan to attend a wedding there. Whatever the context, that trip (which now seems like a lifetime ago) most certainly ranks as one of my best. Perhaps it was the drama of getting there (ash clouds and the like), or how I was just a passenger being taken care of by some wonderful people. Or perhaps it was the total ignoring of the tourist trails in lieu of some first class dossing, bonding and socialising. Whatever the case it was a whole bundle of perfect moments strung together like pearls on a necklace - I know for sure there will never again be a trip like it for me.

It's difficult not to reminisce about that trip during normal times let alone on the day when I've returned - indeed I actually spent most of the time writing this post revisiting what I had written all those years ago. So it wasn't completely surprising how emotional I felt just merely landing at Johannesburg airport to catch my flight to Durban (Ocean Basket! The ex-Mugg and Bean! Even the prayer room!).

And yet I already know that my second time in South Africa will be very different from the first. It's absolutely more of a tourism-themed trip - I'm travelling with family, not friends and so expect a much more independent, isolated and perhaps even clinical trip this time around. We're self-driving a lot of kilometres too, something that is sure to increase my intimacy with the land. I'm both excited at seeing more of a country I had such an amazing time in, but also sad that the context is so different.

We also have much more time here. The total including our stint in Zimbabwe will be five weeks, a time not spent away from home since the heady days of Summer Holidays in Pakistan. That timescale, alongside the aforementioned tourist vibe, almost guarantees homesickness for me. But despite the immense amount of time here Johannesburg itself has become a bit of a casualty, with us using it mainly as a transit hub. That also makes me sad since I do have some pretty important people there I would have loved to have seen again.

But still, I write this in Durban, staying again at the friend's house I randomly found myself in all those years ago. It's almost like I had never left.