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2. The Bag Saga, 8/21/2018

Our luggage when we departed from JFK airport on Thursday morning:

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One rolly, one small backpack, and one instrument each.


Our luggage when we arrived at Johannesburg at 3:30 Friday afternoon:

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Notice one rolly is missing...


The missing luggage counter:

Fortunately, when we got to the counter to ask about the missing bag, there was already a form filled out as Qatar Airways knew that the bag was still in Doha. The bag was scheduled to fly to Johannesburg the next day. The only glitch was that early the next morning we were taking a six hour shuttle ride to our final destination at Klaserie, a small crossroads near the town of Hoedspruit. "No problem" we were told, they would deliver the bag the next day - they deliver bags all the time to the Hoedspruit area.

So, I gave them our hosts Jan and Nyeleti's address, and, Jan informed me to make sure they had his phone number as there are many places called Klaserie and the driver would need to call for directions.

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From my email with Jan's phone number.


Fortunately, Jan warned me that the bag was unlikely to arrive on Saturday, so, I wasn't too worried or disappointed when I went to bed Saturday night with no luggage. However, this email on Sunday morning concerned me since my bag was nowhere to be seen:

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After informing the airline that the bag was not delivered, I was told that it was on its way:

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OK, no problem, I can live with that. The bag will arrive sometime on Sunday. But as the Sunday hours passed away with no phone call, no email, no sign of luggage delivery, I began to wonder if I would ever see my clothes and supplies for the year. Though I tried calling Qatar Airways, I could not get through. So, when Monday morning arrived, I decided it was time for further action, including some firm phone calls and emails.

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Part of my email requesing more information, please...


Fortunately, Riana at Qatar Airways was able to track down my bag. It was at the main gate:

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I wonder how many "main gates" there are in the greater Hoedspruit area.


Which main gate?!!! Why didn't the driver call for directions?

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A subset of all the reserves and lodges in the Hoedspruit area with "Klaserie" in the name.


At least we were given a contact number for the "main gate." Jan and Nyeleti took on the task of figuring out where the bag was and driving us to fetch it. We learned the bag was at the office next to the Incheni Gate for the Klaserie Lodge, though of course, there are many Klaserie lodges. So Monday afternoon we set out to retrieve the bag.

In order to get to the Incheni Gate, we had to enter a private reserve complex which typically involves a fee to enter through this main gate:

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Nyeleti told the guard that we simply needed to fetch a bag, so the entry fee was waived. She also asked for directions and how many kilometers to the Incheni Gate. She had previously been told over the phone to be patient, it takes a while to get there, and, there's no cell phone service. The guard said it wasn't far, but didn't know exactly how many kilometers. So, we set off down the road.

The bonus was that now we were in an African game reserve! And, we soon were seeing all sorts of wildlife, including giraffes, wildebeest, cape buffalo, Bea-eaters, Hornbills, and much more, including the impala you can see on the right side of this picture:

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The African "bush" near Kruger National Park - impalala on the right.


And, we continued on down the road for who knows how much further with no cell reception.

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We stopped at each sign looking for the Incheni Gate, but no luck . . .

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No worries, we continued to spot some pretty amazing wildlife:

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Finally we got cell reception, so Nyeleti called for directions.

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Really glad someone among us knew the Shangaan language.


phoning for directions


Amazingly, we learned that the Incheni gate was ~30 km back near the main gate, so we turned around and backtracked. Eventually we found this really well signed gate (believe it or not, behind the vegetation, it does say "Incheni Gate") on a side road about 2 km from the main gate.

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There actually is a sign saying Incheni, it's just hidden by vegetation.


And there's my bag!

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Since there were some valuable items in my luggage, I had been concerned about whether everything was intact. The good news - the courier service had locked the luggage. And, I was eager to open the bag and do a quick check to make sure everything was ok. And, I did bring a knife to South Africa - but - the knife was in the bag.

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Would love to open this, but, my knife is in the bag.


Jan managed to open the plastic lock with his nail clippers, I did a quick check and things looked ok, and, we were on our way.

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There was also a receipt with the luggage which partially explained why we never got a phone call for directions - someone at the airline wrote down the contact number incorrectly!

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My phone number, with one digit filled in incorrectly.


Of course, to get out of the reserve area, we had to pass back through the main gate. The guard had other plans. Since we had driven so far into the park, he decided to confront us and ask us to pay. Again, Nyeleti to the rescue - she explained that had he given us good directions, we would have been in and out quickly, and, we had no intention of paying for his mistake!

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The guard wanted us to pay since we had driven so far into the park.


On the way out, we got a wonderful view of the Drakensburg Mountains which are right in the backyard of Jan and Nyeleti's house.

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All in all, though I missed having clean clothes, I'm kind of glad my luggage got delayed - I'm happy to trade a few days of clean clothes for an experience like this!


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