African Safari Misadventure /1

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African Safari Misadventure #1 Los Angeles Airport Shuttle

The time was at hand about 5 am in the morning. There we were in Safari Kay’s home waiting patiently for the airport shuttle. It was to be our own private ride to Los Angeles Airport. We were anxiously anticipating our upcoming African Safari back to Tanzania, Africa. It was essentially going to be a reunion safari for most of us.

We were going back to And Beyond’s Camp 1 in the Serengeti. They had setup a mobile luxury tented camp near the famous wildebeest/zebra migration. That’s the annual migration of wildebeest from Tanzania to Kenya and back.

Airport Shuttle
Wildebeest in the Serengeti in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania Africa 2008

All of us were veterans of African Safaris, except my wife, who was making this her first African safari.

Generally that huge wildebeest/zebra migration occurs every year. It’s because the wildebeest are following the water. It’s really an amazing sight to see. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and zebras spread out across the land. Sometimes as far as you can see.

But that’s not all. There are plenty of elephants, lions, deer, hyenas, hippos and other animals plus birds to see. If you’re not careful you might see a deadly Black Mamba.

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Safari Kay’s Prices for an African Safari are Now more Affordable

Personally, myself, I never had any inclinations to visit Africa, having always thought African safaris were only for the wealthy. But I was convinced two years ago by Safari Kay and now this was to be my second African Safari.

Surprisingly, the cost of our safari, although not really cheap, was no more than some of the trips often seen on TV game shows. Some of those trips, even in the USA or nearby, were more expensive than our African safari trip to Africa.

Nowadays, some years later Safari Kay has special safaris with far lower costs that most people can afford. Not only that, but she also has special very low cost shorter safaris. Those are geared to help young students while still enjoying the excitement of a real African Safari.

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We were all set for a Non-stop Trip to the Airport

We had to get to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) by 7:00 am. So to be sure we made it with no mishaps, Safari Kay had arranged for a Los Angeles airport shuttle. It was to pick us up at 5:15 am. It’s about 90 minutes to the airport from Kay’s home in Eastvale, California. It’s a newly incorporated city at the far northern edge of Norco. That’s next to Corona, near Ontario, California.

Safari Kay, had taking care of all the bases. She had made sure we would be getting an airport shuttle that would take us directly to the airport. No stopping to pick up other passengers since that would almost certainly delay us.

Airport Shuttle
Los Angeles Airport Shuttle – a necessity if you live in the Inland Empire region of Southern California like I do.

The shuttle was there promptly at the designated time and we loaded our luggage. I was there with my wife. All three of us were to meet the rest of the group at the airport. They all lived in different locations in Southern California closer to the airport than us.

Finally – Heading for the Airport

We left, heading for the freeway to take us to the airport. However, the LAX airport shuttle driver said he had to swing by Downey, some 30 miles away to pick up two other passengers. That couldn’t be. We had specified a direct route, non-stop, to the airport. The driver said he had to pick up these passengers so he headed there. Now it would be a really tight schedule. The chance of being late was now very high. There was nothing we could do but hope we made it in time. It was too late to make other arrangements.

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Los Angeles Airport Shuttle Unscheduled Stop

We arrived at the house in Downey California. The driver went up to the door and rang the bell. Nothing happened. He rang again and again. Still nothing happened. He went around the back to another house in the rear and knocked there. There was nothing, no response, no noise, no activity.

Los Angeles Airport Shuttle
Typical Los Angeles freeway traffic on Sunday morning, taken in 2004. It’s much worse now in late 2019

We were really upset because we could be late. That’s a disaster considering we had several planes on our agenda to reach Tanzania Africa. As a result of finding no one home the Los Angeles airport shuttle driver called his dispatch and told them of the situation.

He was instructed to wait some 25 minutes more as that was the time he was to pick them up, 6:30 AM. He told them we had to be at the airport at 7:00, but that didn’t change his instructions.

At that point we all knew we were screwed. All our Safari plans would probably go down the drain. Putting it mildly, we were really scared we would be late. We all waited and waited, with the LAX shuttle driver again trying both houses with no results. Ten minutes went by. Twenty minutes went by.

We were all very upset and in a near panic. Only a minute or two to go until the deadline was reached. That was when the driver could leave since the supposed passengers were nowhere to be seen.

Airport Shuttle

Saved in the Nick of Time

The Los Angeles airport shuttle driver started up the engine of the van and turned around to see if it was clear to backup. As he did, he noticed a car flying down the street toward us. The street was a dead end and we were at the very end where it was blocked off. The car quickly swerved in the driveway of the house we were at. Two people quickly got out and said they just made it in time.

Apparently there had been some mix-up in the time. That couple had not verified to the shuttle company they were still going. But the shuttle company’s policy had forced the driver to wait regardless. It turned out the couple didn’t even live there. It was the house of the man’s parents who were out of town.

Now it was only a half an hour to go before we had to be at the airport. It was fully rush-hour traffic by now. We were now relatively close to Los Angeles. We would probably feel the brunt of all the freeway traffic. It is like being in the worse traffic jam you can imagine, with nothing but stop and go traffic.

Los Angeles airport shuttle
We made it to LAX in time!

Airport Shuttle Here We Go – Hoping and Praying

The shuttle driver sped away, headed to the airport. We were very lucky. It was early Sunday morning and there was virtually no traffic. Honestly we all were very surprised at the light traffic so close to Los Angeles.

It seemed like for us further away from Los Angeles the freeways are always crowded, even on weekends. I remember a time long ago when only a few freeways were very crowded. But now I doubt any of the freeways in Southern California are spared the onslaught of cars most of the time even on weekends.

This was a first for me in recent years, seeing such a light amount of traffic, even on a Sunday. It was clear sailing as a result of virtually no traffic. It was almost a straight shot to the airport. The man who had just gotten in was very familiar with the area. Having been raised there, he told our driver a quick way to get to the 105 Freeway.

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Arriving at Los Angeles Airport(LAX) like Clockwork

The Los Angeles airport shuttle driver took our new passenger’s advice. Amazingly we arrived at the airport at two minutes to seven. All of us were very relieved, including the driver. We quickly departed into the airport after getting our luggage and tipping.

We realized the driver had no choice because he had to follow his instructions, even though he had wanted to leave when no one showed up. Had he done so against his orders he probably would have lost his job.

We were lucky we made it on time in spite of that big scare. We would soon be on our way. At least we thought so. But this was only the first of a series of misadventures of our African Safari.

Continued … Click here for misadventure #2 Passport Issues(coming soon)

 

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