Our final morning in the park would have been rushed, as today is the day we say goodbye to the Kgalagadi, hello/goodbye to Namibia, and hello again to South Africa. Confused yet?
After one last lion-roar alarm clock, it’s time to pack up our gear and make the drive back to Windhoek.
(Catch up with the story starting here if you haven’t already.)
There is no time for things to go wrong on this theoretically 6 hour 10 minute drive, since we usually like to be at the airport at least 2 hours before a flight, and add a little extra time to return the rental car and visit the lounge.
At the WDH Airport:
On our last trip through Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport, the lounge options amused me greatly.
There was a tiny “lounge” for guests of Wilderness Safaris that seemed to just be there to show other travellers that they were special. It seemed very human-zoo-esque.
And then there was the lounge that we accessed via Priority Pass that seemed designed for Harry Potter fans, since the door was in between security and passport control and appeared to just be a door to a utility closet. Generally, I don’t risk straying out of line and opening random doors that lead into bare hallways when travelling in foreign countries, but that’s how we ended up in the Oshoto lounge. It was small and windowless, but had food and drink, seating and wifi, so that was fine by us.
This time, I was hoping to check out the Amushe lounge, as it looks bright and airy with nice views, and would hopefully have enough quality food offerings to sustain us before our dinnertime flight.
We had some technical difficulties booking our flight directly with Air Namibia, and ended up having to book it via Expedia. I generally prefer to book directly with the airline rather than through a travel agent (online or offline) because when IRROPS occur, you are generally unable to solve the problem directly on the ground with the travel provider and instead have to deal with your agent and hope they are awake, reachable, and able to work on your behalf.
Because we used Expedia, we could not cancel our booking when COVID-19 started disrupting world travel. If we had been able to book directly, we could have cancelled and lost only $50 per person. I confirmed this with an Air Namibia agent who I believe was processing emails from home, yet was still very helpful. Instead, we had to cancel through Expedia. However, despite the same refund policy being right there on my screen, when I went through to the cancellation screen, they said we would only be entitled to a voucher.
Expedia was not taking calls from anyone not travelling within one week, therefore, I could not cancel by phone and confirm the refund would be processed in accordance with the written policy. Therefore, we had to wait until closer to the flight date in hopes that the flight would not be cancelled by the airline, as that would make it too late for us to cancel and still get a refund. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Inevitably, the airline cancelled the flight before the date Expedia would allow me to call in, so we have ended up with a voucher credit that not only has to be used from the same departure country (rather than in the opposite direction or on any other route operated by Air Namibia), but also must be used by November of this year. Given that South Africa doesn’t seem to be re-opening to tourists before next February, we’ve essentially just lost around $400.
On an interesting note, Air Namibia works with Optiontown to sell potential upgrades for “up tp 75% less”. While we wouldn’t generally bother paying business class rates on a cash fare for a less than 2 hour flight, USD $17 per person seemed like a decent price to get to be treated nicer and sit in the front of the plane, so we went for it. According to their website, if you don’t end up scoring the upgrade, the money is refunded within 5 days.
In our case, I got an email 13 days after our flight would have departed, saying that my refund had been processed, and 31 days later, it was refunded to my credit card. The one bright spot in my refund adventure for this trip, is that due to currency fluctuations, I actually gained CAD $0.72! Whereas in every single other case, I have lost a not insignificant amount for the same reasons. So, there’s that.
The Hotel in Johannesburg:
I hadn’t actually gotten around to booking tonight’s accommodation at the time we pulled the plug on this trip, so no worries about refunds on this one, but we were planning to stay at the Protea O.R. Tambo Hotel. I like this hotel for a few reasons, including the room design, proximity to the airport, and Bonvoy affiliation, but the main reason is that it is aviation-themed from the runway views to the hangar design of the restaurant and the little details of everything in between.
They even have a flight simulator of sorts (it was out of order last time we were there, hence the very real need to return).
Today was another travel day, which for a lot of people means a slog. But for us, while it may be tiring to cross a border, drive halfway across a country, get processed though an airport experience and flight to recross a border all before checking into a hotel for the night, hoping there was an opportunity to eat at some point in the day, almost every single part of that day had something interesting or enjoyable to be found in it.
We could have started this day to the sounds of wildlife outside our walls, and on Day 10, we would have ended that same way. Stay tuned!
For referral links to American Express cards like the Bonvoy, Cobalt, Gold, or Platinum, please don’t hesitate to send me a message. These cards have contributed greatly to my travels and could do the same for you.