Thursday, 11 August 2016

International AIDS Pre-conference weekend 2016: Friday July 15th, arriving in Durban.

Flying from the UK to South Africa takes more than a day so I won't  bore you with the details. I got there via Schipol, Cairo and Johannesburg on Friday 15th July. We landed at 10.15 am and it was a clear 30 degree day in Durban. My hint that this conference had taken over Durban were the conference banners and people waiting for delegates, also volunteers easy to spot in their bright t-shirts. The lovely helpful volunteers were able to put me on a shuttle and get me a return ticket for R160 which is about £8. I am happy I don't need to worry about getting back here for my flight home. Just seeing the volunteers made me happy too. My hotel wouldn't you know it is not on the designated route and the driver is keen to take me to the ICC (International Conference Centre) which I need to visit at some point today to register and  get my ID/lanyard for the week. I am fine with this but hope I don't have problems finding my guesthouse. I also get to wondering how and when I will meet up with my german colleague with whom I am sharing a room even though we have only corresponded online so far. She is Dr Rolande Hodel, founder of AIDSfreeAfrica and she does most of her work in Cameroon which she loves. I had hardly been here long already but enough locals had told me that this was their winter. I love all seasons but this is my kind of winter I think as its still warmer and sunnier than the UK in July. Once at the ICC, it didn't take me long get my photo ID and lanyard but then I had to join a long queue to get my conference materials, with my suitcase of course. As I queued and got closer to the desk I turned around and there behind me talking to a guy was Rolande! I made myself known and knew already that she had been here one night. We both laughed at the chances of this happening out of more than 18k delegates! She introduced me to the indian guy she was talking to whom she had met in our hotel at breakfast. His name is Prakash and the 3 of us would spend most of the pre-conference and conference together.  I am keen to get to hotel to check in and drop off suitcase, and have a shower as I have been on planes and in airports for over 24hours. Prakash very kindly phones a taxi for me and its a firm we end up using half the time with the name of Heavenly Shuttles.  He is a nice man. Another cab firm which tickles me  goes by the name of Mozzie Cabs lol. When my ride arrives Rolande hugs me even after I warn her I'm all sweaty. We tell each other we are happy to see each other. Cab to our lodge costs R80 which is approx. £5. Such lovely views here wherever you look, an ocean drive and palmtrees everwhere. Once at our lodge which up a hill, I shower, get to know my home for the next week and shower. Then its time to charge phone and Mac and sort out the usual tech probs which I can't seem to avoid when traveling.

view from room balcony

Another view from our room

Main entrance to venue

Rolande returns when I am sat emailing. We have an empty fridge in our room and decide to walk down the hill to a supermarket she discovered yesterday. I was amazed at how cheap everything is. I buy crisps, a yoghurt and a chicken salad sandwich. Wine is cheap and Rolande buys a carton for £1.50 but I am abstaining at the moment as part of my half marathon training, especially as I'm not running this week. The very nice and young guy on our hotel reception sells me a SIM card he had originally bought for himself to help me with my phone woes. Really appreciate that! Once in our room we spend evening  on our laptops and eating and drinking. I look at the pre-conference program deciding which events I want to see tomorrow. As we put out the lights I marvel at the fact that I am wide awake having just travelled 6,099 miles and I dont feel any jetlag just yet. Is it too early to tell? Also can't believe that all those miles and the time difference is just one hour ahead here in Durban. Weird but  

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