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Welcome to the first post of our next trip, one which’ll take us to South Africa, AfrikaBurn, and on a cruise up the west coast of Africa. I’ll take pics along the way and post updates as I can; we won’t be in Silicon Valley any more :-)

Our adventure begins in Alameda, California, on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) platform, where I take the symbolic first photo of the trip.

We’ve got our “first-world problems” grum faces going — we have to wait for a train as we start this trip to the other side of our planet. Also selfie!

At SFO (San Francisco International Airport) we’re on the self-driving AirTrain. Carmella is tickled that she’s got a new wearable activity monitor.

Alameda Island, our home, as seen from my window seat. The distance we’ve traveled so far is such a tiny percentage of our total for this trip that it’s almost daunting to me.

Carmella pre-ordered ethnic meals from the available options; Asian and Indian, if memory serves. I also have my “bag ‘o meat”, my #keto bag of thickly-cut bacon. Best snack ever :-)

We’ve arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia, where Carmella is exceedingly overjoyed at the chilled, filtered water dispenser.

I love airport layovers. I love the people-watching and when local restaurants make an appearance. Today is a major win as we find One Flew South, which bills itself as “the first upscale dining experience at the world’s busiest airport”.

There are several choices of seating; stools at the bar, traditional tables in the middle, and then there’s a row of tables that’s alongside the wooden slats which separate the restaurant from the busy passenger walkway in the terminal. We selected a perch on the outer edge, so we could get both the restaurant ambiançe and the airport vibe. The front-of-house was nicely executed: helpful hostess, engaging servers, situationally appropriate serving frequency.

Beguiling food choices confront the diner; there’s actually too many good things on the menu for one to make an untroubled decision. I wanted something that’s easy to offer but hard to execute, so I went with the pork belly sliders (but without the bread, upping the presentation complexity). Carmella has a soft spot for sushi, so she picked several choices that have simple ingredients and would rely heavily on flavor balance — nowhere to hide :-)

I’m pleased to say that One Flew South executed back-of-house wonderfully. The sushi rolls were clean and crisp, with flavors all noticeable without any cookery tricks, with an interesting presentation of the condiments. Several times I had to remind myself that I was eating in an airport, for goodness sakes! This is good food by any measure, but that you’re eating it between departure gates is almost beyond belief.

One Flew South has done something that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been done before: it’s made ATL a desirable destination for layovers. Given the choice of flight paths, I’ll choose ATL and book something with a decent layover just so that I can see what One Flew South is offering. That’s success.

Boarded onto the next flight, this one out of the continental USA, landing in South Africa. Carmella and I are very happy, both with the allure of the upcoming adventure and having bellies full of tasty treats.

The flight time between ATL and JNB (Oliver Reginald Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg) is 15 hours and 20 minutes. That’s a lot of back-to-back movie watching, punctuated with uninspiring meals, or some sleep.

Thirteen hours in I’m awake and excited. We’re getting close to being “feet dry” (over land). My head is on a swivel; I want to see the moment.

Yes! Africa, ho! Things are becoming real.

Finally on the ground and in the terminal! That took a lot of taxiing time and waiting for our gate to be available, but it’s all worth it. We’re in South Africa!

From the gate window I can see planes flying the Republic of South Africa colors.

We walk through biometric security; our photographs are taken.

Here’s an ominous sign; what a greeting to the continent.

Carmella has found us a wonderful AirBnB in Johannesburg! It’s spacious, airy, a pleasant mix of rustic and modern; in a word, inviting.

Our hosts are the best ever: they’re knowledgeable, friendly, great conversationalists, and have a set-up that’s perfect for late-night arrivals. There’s coffee, snacks, stocked food, a wonderful bath, and a very comfortable bed. We’re tired but completely at ease.

We’re tired, but we need to move around before we can sleep. Time to walk to the nearby neighborhood, where we find a vibrant restaurant with a huge opening to the sidewalk. It’s Craft, at 33 4th Avenue, ParkhurstJohannesburg 2193. We feel drawn in by the friendly, comfortable atmosphere.

It’s immediately clear to both of us that this was a very good find.

The automotive metaphor for a complete success is “firing on all cylinders”. Craft is firing on all cylinders.

From the table density to the décor, from the open pizza oven to the dense but approachable spacing of the tables, it’s clear the locals are feeling cared for by the friendly hospitality and wide menu.

Besides the usual veg, chicken, seafood, and beef, there’s marrow, lamb, and even ostrich on the menu. Seven varieties of sharing plates. Even a good selection of desserts.

We were so tired and jet-lagged that my recollection as to what we ordered is fuzzy, but I suspect it was the lamb burger for me and the salmon for her. Several coffees seem to have been inevitable.

What I do remember, unmistakably, is how satisfied I was, and what a great conversation we had with the owner about all topics ranging from the choice of restaurant name to the choices and challenges of delivering such quality and variety in a small kitchen. (This Craft has no relation to Chef Tom Colicchio, although they’d been made aware of its existence.)

The staff was way past pleasant, to the point of being welcoming in a “family you’ve not seen in a while” sort of way. My grasp on the Rand was a bit shaky but I’m pretty sure that we were pleased with the value-for-money proposition.

We arrived late and have told our hosts that we must leave very early in the morning. We’re completely gobsmacked by the huge take-away spread our hosts have prepared for us, a surprise that includes wonderfully seasoned chicken legs and huge, HUGE scotch eggs! I’m in keto heaven as we drive eastwards out of Jo’berg…

Before we move on, a couple of notes:

  • The word safari, which will be used frequently in the next dozen pages or so, appears in the late 19th century, coming from the Arabic safara through Kiswahili, meaning “to travel.” It currently means “an expedition to observe and photograph or hunt native animals in their natural habitat”
  • I provide links to many of the places we visited. You’ll notice the Internet domain for South Africa is .za; why? It’s from the Dutch Zuid-Afrika; Dutch was an official country language until Afrikaans took over. Suid-Afrika is the country spelling in Afrikaans but the .sa domain is used by Saudi Arabia.

Next, Elephants in the Olifants River.

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