Our Honeymoon Part I: A Rough Start
Most honeymoons start out a day or two after the wedding. The couple hops on a plane and heads off to their romantic destination of choice. But heavens knows we couldn’t have done that, way too simple. We had to make things a little more complicated.
Ours was about five months after the wedding. We got to the airport hours early on our departure date, grabbed a bite to eat, and then arrived at the gate even before the gate agents did. We went to have our passports checked, and they me I couldn’t board the flight. I didn’t have enough pages in my passport to go.
Granted I travel often enough to check for the visa requirements before I travel. The website I checked stated we needed a blank passport page. And I had two whole empty pages and a few pages that could take extra stamps. Later I found out that at the very bottom of that web page, they specified that it has to be a blank visa page (even though we were just getting a stamp), and the endorsement pages did not count.
At this point, my husband all but cussed me out. He was pissed. And well I couldn’t really blame him. But of course I tried. “Well you didn’t see it either that it needs to be an empty visa page!”… “You were the one making all the arrangements”…
Now I had to get another passport ASAP. And now we had to travel the next day standby and the flight was oversold. I tried to tell him to go without me, that at least one of us would get there when planned. But he was not having it. As far as he was concerned we had to leave on our honeymoon together.
We booked a room for the night. I got my brand new passport the following day. And then we tracked our behinds back to the airport to see if we would get on. Fortunately thanks to a miracle of God, we made it on the flight the next day.
Originally we were planning on spending two days in Johannesburg before calmly driving the 5 hours to our hotel near Kruger. That would have given us time to recover for the 14 hour flight.
Obviously that’s not what happened, but I figured we could stay there for one night and then head out. My husband was not liking that idea. He wanted to drive to Dullstroom which was half way between both cities and spend the night there. Since he had to drive and since I had already caused a enough damage the day before, I decided to go along with his wishes.
We picked up our rental car and very very very slowly drove off the rental car lot. The hubby had never driven on the left side of the road. He was getting used to that. I was working on the TomTom.
No more than a minute after we pulled off of the rental car lot, we were stopped by a cop!
“Ahhhhh!” I’m thinking “Really! Really!”
The cop said we didn’t stop at a stop sign.
I was thinking, “Did we stop? I remember we stopped when the lanes merged. Was there a stop sign there? Even if we didn’t stop really, we couldn’t possibly have been traveling at more than 10 miles an hour. Should I get out of the car and check to see if there was a stop sign… Are they usually super visible? Maybe not, maybe that will just make him upset… Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to pay this damn ticket”.
So we told the office… “Ok. Where do we go to pay for the ticket?’
At which point he started to say “Well you know the police station is far from here. And it’s getting dark. You all will probably get loss…”
Again I’m thinking “Really! Is this really happening? Is this guy coming up with excuses? Does he want to be paid off? I can’t believe this is happening.”
The cop continued “If not you could just pay the fine after you drop off the car…”
So the hubby said “Fine, we’ll do that”
The crooked cop continued “Well you know but that can be a hassle, and if you are running late for your flight… You should really just give me money. You know, if I write you this ticket, it will cost you guys R700. But if we resolve it between us then it can cost you guys less. How much do you want to give me?”
I’m still thinking “I can’t believe this is happening”. In Italian I’m translating and explaining it all to my hubby so we are on the same page, and so the guy does not understand what I’m saying. I’m telling him that the cop wants to be paid off. He said that he had grasped that much.
He rightfully asked if we should give this guy a dime. In my mind there is no way the police don’t know this man is here stopping tourists. WE ARE STILL IN THE COVERED PART OF THE AIRPORT!!! I’m wondering if the guys in the car rental are in on it too. Tipping him off when foreigners are going to drive by … what they look like.
Ultimately we decide that we don’t have much option than to pay him… The hubby offered him R100. He asked for R300. We give him the money.
Before we even drive off, still wondering what’s going on, he stops another unsuspecting traveler. From the rear-view mirror, the hubby see the cop take this guy’s driver’s license. He hands it back to him and waves him off. I’m guessing that one said South Africa, and he knew the couldn’t get away with his scam.
So we continue on our trip. Now I’m freaking out about how much driving up to our hotel is going to cost us. Are we going to get stopped by more crocked cops along the way? My job then becomes Stop Sign Investigator / Speed Limit Monitor / do everything possible to not give the cops a reason to stop us person…
We continued to Dullstroom with little to no ado. I consult our guide book and reserved a room at “Duck and Trout” during the drive. We arrived about 20 minutes later than our scheduled arrival, thanks to some thick fog that had set in on the later part of the drive.
Much to our surprise ALL of the staff was driving off just as we pulled up! One minute later and we would have missed them altogether!
They didn’t even show us to our rooms. The guy asked for our payment, pointed us to the road that would lead us to the rooms around the back. We asked if there was anything to eat. The guy replied no, that all the restaurants in Dullstroom stop serving food at 9pm…
Once again I find myself thinking “Really!?! WTF!!!”
We dropped our things in the room and head off right away in search of food. We stopped at another restaurant that was still open, but the barman there also confirmed that they stopped serving food at 9pm. The only thing he could serve was alcohol. We asked if there was anywhere is town where we could find something to eat. He suggested the “garage”, which we eventually figured out is their word for the “gas station”.
The only hot meal at the gas station were these meat pies. We picked up two, a bottle of water, some chips, and toilet paper. Once back in the hotel we ate it with some of the other things I always travel with for emergencies just like this. (For once my husband was not laughing at the fact that I had insisted on packing tuna!).
As we sat in the cold room, eating tuna, crackers and chips (as far as I was concerned the meat pies tasted like dog food, so I refused to have more than the initial bite). My husband managed to get the fireplace started, so I wasn’t as cold. All the while kept on saying “How romantic. We’ve started our honeymoon!” All I could do is roll my eyes.
Subconsciously I must have know things were going to get worse before they got better.
I pulled back the sheets on the bed only to discover DEAD FLIES!! The hubby said at least they weren’t alive. He kept on bringing up stories of his last trip to Morocco where he had slept on the floor in a field (or something like that) … How there were roaches crawling all over the ground. Disgusted, I pulled back the sheet to expose a corner of the mattress cover. There were other dirty ugly things hiding there. I slept with all of my clothes on that night.
The next morning, in full day light I noticed that the tiles shower tiles were filled with mold. Perhaps still looking for the bright side of the matter, the hubby insisted that the tub looked clean. That room probably had just grown mold since the last time someone had cleaned it…
Evidently it was too much to have someone clean it, since they had guests coming. Or maybe they were planning on just driving off before or arrival anyways.
I ultimately decided to shower in Duck and Trout’s disgusting bathroom, only because between the early wake up to get the new passport, the 14 hour flight, and sleeping in the dirty bed with all my clothes on… I was approaching 2 days since my last shower. I knew I would feel too uncomfortable interacting with people in that state.
I was however ecstatically looking forward to leaving!