March 24, 25, 26: JNB -> ZRH -> EWR -> SFO

After the usual morning routine, we went to the Swiss Air desk at 3:00 pm to check in. When the lady scanned our passports, she scowled, asked where we were going after Zurich, checked the computer again, and told us of a new rule for Switzerland: no transit passengers could stay in Zurich longer than two hours; our layover was 11 hours. She called her supervisor, who was going to talk with others, then called her back. After a brief conversation, she frowned at us, waved her hand, and said “Not possible!” We all groaned, asking what we could do. Anna almost had a heart attack. Then she smiled and said “Just kidding!” Everything was OK. We got the boarding passes, but then the next complication was our luggage, which SAA had placed in a warehouse pending a new flight, together with innumerable others. We gave her the tags, and she called SAA, who would then search for them, hopefully finding them before our flight departed.

We checked out of the hotel and returned to the Swiss transit desk, but they still hadn’t found our bags, so the lady said she would personally go to the warehouse to look for herself, and would meet us at the gate. We finally got a beer at our favorite restaurant, the Mugg & Bean, and said good-bye to our friends we had come to know,  and then went to the gate. At first we didn’t see the Swiss lady, but she finally appeared and assured us that she had found the bags, and they were checked through to Newark. Whew! We gave her a good tip, and boarded. On each flight we wiped down the surfaces of our seating area with disinfectant, hoping that and our paranoia would keep us safe. Few people were on board; a couple sitting near me had on full hazmat suits, with industrial respirators. The champagne offered in business class was most welcome. We all breathed a sigh of relief upon takeoff. After a G&T, dinner,  and the latest Star Wars movie, I got some sleep.

We arrived in Zurich after a flight of eight and a half hours, early in the morning on the 25th. After we landed, we had 11 hours to kill, so we checked into the very clean, modern, well-designed transit hotel there, getting a triple room. After a little sleep, a shower, some snacks, we were off to the boarding gate in the evening.

After a 10 hour flight, we landed at Newark late in the evening, retrieved our bags, went through customs/immigration, and rechecked the bags to SFO. With a layover of about six hours, we dozed in uncomfortable chairs. Anna bought some food for a pregnant homeless woman at the Dunkin’ Donuts; I had a banana. The gates/shops/restaurant area was equipped with many (hundreds) of iPads on which customers could order food and other stuff, if they were open.

Early in the morning we boarded the flight to SFO for another six hour flight – the total journey was about 46 hours. Again, there weren’t many passengers.  I arrived at SFO and met Lexi, who conveyed me to Westbrook in her car after elaborate isolation precautions. I greeted Nanette from a distance and drove to Watsonville with some food and supplies, to stay alone at Mom’s house for a 14 day self-quarantine. I had evidently escaped the novel coronavirus.

Summary

Overall, the first three weeks of the journey were great, an adventure I’ll never forget,  and the last week was a nightmare.

9 March
Peter at Makgadikgadi Pans National Park

March 21, 22, 23: JNB

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