This is the seventh report in a series covering my trip to Europe and Africa around New Year's. The trip involved three nested itineraries (which turned into four). A OneWorld roundtrip itinerary from the US to Milan, a Tunisair roundtrip itinerary from Milan to Tunis, Tunisia, and a Star Alliance roundtrip itinerary from Tunis to Windhoek, Namibia. The return portion of the Star Alliance itinerary would turn into a one-way itinerary on Qatar Airways due to South African Airways delays (hot weather), horrible customer service by South African Airways and United Airlines, and a cancellation of the remainder of the Star Alliance itinerary. I submitted a claim to World Nomads travel insurance for the Qatar Airways ticket I had to buy because I had faced a 24 hour delay by Star Alliance. World Nomads rejected the claim (as well as my appeal). According to them, they're off the hook unless the "common carrier" is completely shut down for 24 hours due to weather or a labor strike. The verbiage in the policy doesn't include "common carrier" though. It's ridiculous to think that if your airline operated any flight anywhere in the world during your 24 hour delay, World Nomads wouldn't have to honor the contract. I submitted a complaint to the California Department of Insurance, but they don't actually do anything besides forward the information to the insurance company, who had already ruled on it anyway. My only recourse left is a small claims lawsuit, which I'm considering. I can't recommend using World Nomads travel insurance. I've bought five travel insurance policies through them. This is the first time I made a claim and it was not a good process.
The OneWorld itinerary was an open jaw from Chicago to Milan in Economy, and Milan to San Diego in Business. The total cost was 63,000 AAdvantage miles and $84.10. Normal cost would be 70,000 miles (20,000 for the outbound in Economy and 50,000 for the inbound in Business). However, I was able to get 10% back thanks to my Citi AAdvantage MasterCard.
The roundtrip cost for the Tunisair ticket was $182.48, bought through Vayama.
The roundtrip cost for the business class Star Alliance ticket was 70,000 United MileagePlus miles and $135.00. On the surface, this is an incredible value. However, as I'll explain later, my faith in Star Alliance has been completely shattered and I don't think I'll ever take advantage of this intra-Africa MileagePlus fare again.
————— Tunis to Istanbul (Turkish Airlines Business): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13349.html ————— Istanbul to Kinshasa (Turkish Airlines Business): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13576.html ————— Kinshasa to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business): http://flight-report.com/en/report-13733.html ————— Johannesburg to Windhoek (South African Airways Business): You Are Here ————— Windhoek to Johannesburg (South African Airways Business) ————— Johannesburg to Lagos (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight ————— Lagos to Istanbul (South African Airways Business): Cancelled Flight ————— Istanbul to Tunis (Turkish Airlines Business): Cancelled Flight
———- Tunis to Milan Malpensa (Tunisair Economy): No Show
——————– Johannesburg to Doha (Qatar Airways Business) ——————– Doha to Milan Malpensa (Qatar Airways Business)
—– Milan Malpensa to Miami (American Airlines Business) —– Miami to Chicago O'Hare (American Airlines First) —– Chicago O'Hare to San Diego (American Airlines First)
After passing through the transit procedures, I headed to the Baobab lounge. The place was pretty empty since it was so early in the morning but they already had some breakfast food out. I set up camp at a giant conference table and had some eggs and baked beans and got a couple cans of lemonade from the bar. I had to scrape off the hollandaise sauce they put on the eggs, but this was a minor inconvenience. Any sort of hot breakfast food is a huge step up from most US lounges.
The lounge had a great shower facility. There was no check-in desk, but almost all the shower rooms were empty when I got there. So I grabbed a room down at the end. The shower itself had slate tile, a rain shower head, and nice hot water with good pressure.
After a great lounge experience I headed over to A24 for boarding. No jetbridge for us today, but the bus service to our parking spot was relatively painless. I waited back till nearly everyone else was onboard so I could grab as many random tarmac shots as I could.
We only had four pax in business class so I sat in the second row to make things easy on the flight attendants.
The meal was great for such a short flight.
We overflew the airport to get into the pattern for landing.
No bus necessary, we just walked straight into the terminal. I wish they had passed out landing cards onboard so I didn't have to scramble to fill out out inside while trying to beat everyone else.
I booked a Town Hoppers shuttle to get from the airport all the way to Walvis Bay on the coast. Someone picked me up individually at the airport, then dropped me off at the Hilton to get picked up for the combi that would take me all the way to Walvis Bay.
I booked a full day tour to go down the coast south of Walvis Bay and see one of the most unique areas of geography in the world. Along much of the coastline in Namibia, the desert extends all the way to the ocean, to the point that at high tide you have waves lapping up again giant sand dunes. We had great group with a mother and daughter from Australia and three Japanese guys. The first part of the drive was through this low lying area with tiny dunes and scrubby brush.
I wasn't expecting to see any wildlife in such a desolate area, but we were able to find a jackal and this little gecko. Our guide literally dug the gecko out of the sand where they spend all their time during the day. We could only look at him for a few minutes before coaxing him to burrow back in because they can die from even brief sun exposure.
About halfway through the tour we stopped in this area for lunch. You can barely make out our vehicle by the vegetation in the middle of the photo. We all went for a bit of exploring while our guide set up lunch.
This photo of one of the other people on the tour really shows the scale of these dunes.
These photos were taken on my iPhone (the prior three I took on my Sony) so the color is a little washed out.
Me at the top of one of the dunes.
Managed to spot a Springbok near the lunch area.
The tide was just barely low enough for us to sneak between the dunes and the surf as we continued on.
This massive dune was our final destination. Vehicles are not allowed south of this point on the coast.
Of course I had to climb to the top.
I could have sat up there for hours. I was looking forward to this experience for so long that it felt great to finally be sitting at the top of one of those dunes looking down the coast. But eventually I had to head back down so we could journey back.
Spotted one more jackal on the way.
We took a group photo at our last stop on the way back to Walvis Bay.
The day after the tour, I took Town Hoppers to get back to Windhoek from Walvis Bay. It went pretty smoothly except for getting tripped up at this checkpoint along the highway. Apparently there are separate types of registration for operating a tour company and operating a transportation company. Whichever one we were supposed to have, we didn't have it. The driver told me that the police officers were actually good guys who were correct in their assessment. I couldn't be upset at the driver over this because it wasn't his fault, but rather the company's management. We were delayed for about half an hour, but it could always be worse in these types of situations.
South African Airways Baobab Lounge
Johannesburg - JNB
Windhoek - WDH
The highlight of this flight was the Baobab lounge. Not only was it the best lounge I've been to in Africa, but it far exceeds even most US lounges. I was mostly just glad I made it to Windhoek and Walvis Bay on time after the weather debacle in Istanbul. Missing that fantastic tour would've ruined my trip. You can fly straight to Walvis Bay, but there weren't any awards available when I checked. The four to five hour trek from Windhoek to the coast isn't that bad though. There's some pretty good scenery, a lot of which reminded me of rural California.
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