14 February 2011

2011 - Valentin travelling to Desteni farm in South Africa report

The 10. February 2011 when I was to departure to Desteni farm in South Africa was getting closer and closer. The night before I had the third speech about Desteni at some youth club at Škofja Loka. I was invited so speak there by some guy who runs the web site www.ujet.si (Ujet si = You are trapped) and exposes the information about secret world elite and how we are all manipulated, controlled and enslaved. Due to four month of event advertising from his side and also me creating the FaceBook event and inviting all of my friends who live in Slovenia, I expected at least 20 people to come. My speech would also be recorded with video camera and put on the Ujet.si web site for others to watch. But half an hour after my speech was to begin, there was still no one in the room besides me and the guy from Ujet.si who prepared the camera. Thus I decided to perform the Desteni introduction speech especially for the camera, so at least many people would be able to hear it later on the internet. The guy shared his experience that young people are not interested in listening this kind of stuff and that people would come only if we would offer a beer for 1 euro. So indeed, as Bernard predicted, only people about age of 30, who extensively experienced the inequality of current money system, would care to stand for a change. Thus in the future I will not push any more speeches but focus on blogging and vlogging and attracting attention by me being the example of the change.

The next morning I started to pack for the trip. The day before I also bought some photography accessories that I planned to use, like the light bouncer and very robust tripod and the stand head, suitable for smooth moving and panning to be able to shoot high quality video. I packed it, together with clothes and personal accessories in a very large travelling case. And I packed the laptop computer and the camera body, lenses, flash and other small camera equipment into the camera backpack. I dressed in long light trousers, cotton pullover, high waterproof leather shoes, and a soft warm jacket. I asked my father to give me a lift with his car to the airport. So about one hour before the flight departure, we went on the road and we also stopped at the bank where I raised some money, since they did not manage to provide me with the new credit card on time. My father then left me on the airport and I headed for the baggage checkpoint.

This was to be my second experience of travelling with the airplane. The first one I had was about 20 years ago, when I travelled with my classmates to Monte Negro at the end of elementary school. And we only flew one way and returned via ship and bus. Now the first thing I wandered about was, how heavy was my big case. The limit was 20 kilograms and they weighted mine to be 30 kilos, so 10 kilos over weight. I had to decide whether to leave some objects here or to pay for the extra weight that was 20 euros per kilo. The money I already paid for the ticket to South Africa and back was around 1200 euros. Since I had enough money and I packed only the most necessary equipment, I decided to pay 200 euros extra, which was not really much, considering the length of the flight.

Then I continued to the traveller’s checkpoint where I had to put the computer out of my backpack, and put the backpack, purse and the jacket in the big plastic trays. They were then transported through some kind of x-ray machine in order to be checked for explosive or some other forbidden objects. And myself I had to go through the doorframe, which was some kind of metal detector. It beeped, and then I had to put each of my foot onto some additional scanning device. All went well, so I picked my stuff and continued for the waiting area. I ordered a muffin and a glass of water and made the first photos of my travelling adventure. I checked at information if there was some restriction at shooting photos at airports, since I did not want to become a suspected terrorist, but they said that it was completely fine. Soon the clock was 17:00 and the exit gates opened. I was to show my airplane ticket and passport to the person at the gate and then I went on the airport bus that waited outside. When all of travellers entered the bus, it took us to the relative small airplane of our Adria Airways airline. I firstly was not aware that we had already assigned seats, so I mistakenly seated down at the empty chair of the first class at the front. But then the stewardess asked me to show her the ticket and instructed me, to move behind in the economy class, where the seat in the middle of the airplane's length, on the left side next to the window was waiting for me. The stewardess put my backpack in the shelves above our heads and closed the doors.

We were then all shown how to use the safety belts, the oxygen masks and life saving suits in the case of the air pressure falling down or landing in the water. Since my seat was just next to the emergency exit, I was also explained how to open it in case of emergency. The stewardess checked if we all had safety belts fastened and we were ready for the flight. The jet positioned itself to the runway and started to accelerate. In couple of seconds we became airborne. We needed to stay on our seats until we would reach the cruising altitude. The sun was going down and it was nice view over the numerous high alpine mountains. Just a few minutes after we reached the final altitude, the stewardesses started to offer us a sandwich and a drink. We were able to pick ham or cheese sandwich and between different sorts of soft drinks, tea and coffee. I choose ham sandwich and orange juice. The ride for the Frankfurt airport in Germany was to take about one hour and a half. It became already very dark when we were to prepare ourselves for the landing. And we were cruising for quite some time after we needed to fasten our seat belts again. I don't know if it was usual to be prepared so soon, or the pilot had to wait for the runway to become available for landing. Finally we started to lower the altitude and we successfully landed.

The Frankfurt airport was very big, at least hundred times bigger than Ljubljana airport. The first thing I wanted to find out was if I needed to pick my big case somewhere, or if it will be automatically transported to the next airplane. I went to information and found out that my luggage would be transported automatically. Then I went to search my gate for departure to African continent. At information office they told me that I would have to go down the hall for about 1,5 kilometer. Yes, so big was the Frankfurt airport. But I had enough time, since the departure was scheduled at about 22:00 hours, so I had about three hour of time. I had to go through three checkpoints where the police firstly checked my passport, then someone checked my passport and the airplane ticket, and then they checked my backpack and scanned my body again. But this time the security procedure was much more detailed. Some guy detailed scanned my body with handhold scanner and touched every centimeter of my body. Since his sensor beeped when it would approach my shoes, I had to take them off and he took it somewhere for additional control. Uh, how my shoes become wet and smelly.

I successfully passed the safety control and continued to the waiting area. I ordered sandwich and a fruit tea, sat down and ate. Then I wanted to check my mail and write a blog, but there was no open and free Wi-Fi signal like at Ljubljana airport. There was option to buy the HotSpot credit for certain period of time, but I would need a credit card. I noticed there was also a computer terminal for public use. It had a metal keyboard and metal trackball. The cost of use was 20 cents per minute. I wanted just to update my FaceBook status, so I inserted 20 cents to see how far would I get. But since the trackball was so hard to move, and FaceBook asked me for some additional safety questions since I tried to login from unusual place, the time was not sufficient for me even to complete the FaceBook login procedure. So I had to feed the machine with additional 2 euros and then I had just enough time to write a few lines, so that my father and everyone else could know that I am fine. Since my shoes were very hot, I took them off in order to dry. I then took a nap for an hour, lying down across three seats, with my backpack under my head.

Slowly the waiting room started to become more and more filled with people. Half an hour before the scheduled departure I put on my shoes and approached the gates to check what was going on. They started to call some passengers by their names, since they had a reservation in the first class and privilege to be served before others. Then the four automatic gates for the rest of us opened. I approached the bar code scanning machine and pressed my ticked towards device, but it did not let me through. Some women called me to go to the computer and she had to enter the information from my passport and the ticket into computer and print for me a different kind of ticket. I was then able to pass the gates and enter the airplane. The machine was the biggest passenger airplane in the world, owned by the Lufthansa flight company, and had two passenger decks besides a lot of storage space. My seat was in the upper deck, almost at the tail and four seats away from the window, so I was not able to take many photos through the window during the flight. But every seat had a monitor and you could choose see the live video from one of three cameras, positioned above the airplane, aside the wing, or from above the tail. I preferred to observe the view from above the tail, since you could see almost all of the airplane body and the scenery bellow.

The flight start was delayed for couple of minutes, since the loading device got blocked and the maintenance workers had to fix it. This time the safety instructions were given via screens in our seats. Then the machine slowly taxied to the runway. And after some moments of acceleration, I was airborne again. The monitors provided also the option to watch the virtual landscape and flight information, similar to Google Earth. You could check the speed, altitude, time remaining to destination, and the globe map with the planned route and finished flight route. You could also pick to watch one of several movies from different genres. The stewards provided each of us with the blanket and headphones, packed in the transparent plastic bags, so it were probably freshly washed and sterilized. Shortly after we were offered a drink and a snack, also the warm dinner was served. I got the salad, bread, beefsteak with rice and beans and a cake. While eating, I started to watch The Social Network movie about the creators of FaceBook. Then I decided to get some sleep. It was so cold on the airplane that I had to button myself up completely, use the provided blanket and even put the warm cap on my head. The seats were quite hard, not very much place for legs, and just with little tilt available. So I had to change my position occasionally in order not to suffer too much pain on my buttocks.

The flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg was to take about 10 hours. I woke about two hours before the landing, had some juice and then started to watch the R.E.D. action movie. Soon they also started to serve the warm breakfast. It was some bread, fruit spread, cheese, and omelets and a drink of course. At that time the sun already started to shine, but most of passengers still had their windows closed. When we approached the airport, all the windows opened and the bright sun light flushed the room. I also went to toilet in the morning. It was tight, but very nice, everything made from plastic, to reduce the weight I guess. The landing was perfect and we reduced the speed very fast since the runway was much shorter than in Frankfurt.

When we entered the Johannesburg airport, the uplifting African music played on the speakers in the hall and big posters welcomed us. This airport was also very big, I would say the half the size of Frankfurt airport. This time I had to pick my big case from the baggage carousel and transport it to another baggage checkpoint. When I headed to the exit gate, one portiere approached and asked where I am going. I showed him my ticket, he grabbed my big case and told me to follow him. This surprised me, since I did not know if it was his duty to assist me. I was grateful that he showed me the correct way to the second floor where and we were going very fast. I asked him if he expects any tip for his service and he said that he is not employed at the airport and that he expects a big tip. I gave him 10 euros, but he wanted me to give him 20. I insisted that this would be quite enough, especially since I did not asked for his services and I had enough time to find the necessary points by myself.

I then continued for the passenger checkpoint. For the third time I had to have my bags and body inspected and this time it went very quick. When I got to the departure gates I still had three hours left until start of my next flight. I checked for the Wi-Fi internet signal and again there were some, but all locked. I wanted to buy myself something to eat end drink and I asked where the exchange office was. They told me that I needed to go all the way back through the passenger checkpoint and down two floors, almost exactly where the portieres were. So if the portiere would not take my attention, I would probably notice the exchange service and would not need to go all the way back. There were three different exchange offices and I checked for their exchange rates. It seemed to be all about the same, so I picked one with the shortest queue. The exchange rate was about 10 rand for 1 euros and I exchanged 200 euros just in case.

On the way back I notices some area called lounge, like a self-service café with very cozy seats. I asked the women at reception what this place was about and she explained that if I pay 150 rand, I was able to use the facility, including unlimited food, wireless internet and also the showers. That seemed to me very cool offer, so I took it. Firstly I took a shower and also washed my socks, and dried the socks and shoes with the fan and then also refreshed the shoes with the deodorant spray from the toilet. Then I went to the foods and filled the plate with mini sandwiches and cupcakes, and for drink a picked the orange juice. After I filled my stomach, I connected to internet, updated my FaceBook status and did some other stuff. The connection was not very fast though. Half an hour before the departure time I went to the exit gates. At 17:00 SA time all the passengers were ready, but we had to wait a bit longer for the airport bus. We did not have to wait very long, and I found myself again on the airplane. It was a small one, similar to the first one, and the flight to Pietermaritzburg took only 1 hour. For the snack, we were offered a soft drink and a bag of potato chips.

The Pietermaritzburg airport was very small, I would say one fourth of Ljubljana airport or a little bigger than the size of our Lesce airport. Andrea awaited me there with her big white Jeep car and transported me to Desteni farm. The feeling and smell here is just like in our country in the area near the sea in the middle of the summer. The soil is red, a lot of forests, some rivers and lakes, but very hot and dry. Bernard was the first one who greeted me and firstly I did not even know that he was the one, since I pictured him very differently. After I settled in my room, I was introduced to other people on the farm and then also to the dogs. Beside myself there is also some other guy here from Amsterdam who came for a period of three weeks. In the evening I had a chat with Bernard and we spoke about some points. They offered me a meal and then I went to bed. I took a long sleep to rest from the travel. I will report more about my adventures on Desteni farm in my next blogs.

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