To Fly or not to Fly, that is the Question. | Sense Africa

Jenny's Blog

To Fly or not to Fly, that is the Question.10th March '20

I have just an hour by the pool at Tambankula Country Club in Eswatini, it was 30C, so rather hot but I am not complaining at all, I was the only person there so had the whole club to myself. I think I might have burnt the soles of my feet as I walked from my lounger to the pool. And I had not thought once about the coronavirus once.

Four days ago I was wondering if I should fly to Eswatini for the meetings I had set up with the communities that I am working with and supporting. This year I have 60 students travelling to Eswatini to support 4 very different projects. And I needed to meet up with the committees in person to make sure everything is on track for July, a simple call does not work in these instances, I needed to physically be there to go through the plan.

With COVID-19 currently being the centre of media attention I was dithering as to whether I should go or not. Is it wise to travel during these times? Is it fair on others if I travel from the UK where there were 119 cases at my time of departure? What could I do to protect myself? Could I catch it on the plane? It was a minefield to sort through and over 48 hrs my decision fluctuated back and forth – should I stay or should I go? I researched the virus and its stats, listened to the news, spoke to a few friends and family, and still I could not make a decision. To be honest, I was also needing an Africa fix, I do have an addiction to being on the dark continent and the added extra to feel the sun on my face was also a draw.

Last Thursday I decided that I should go; I paid for my ticket on Friday and left on Saturday. As soon as I had paid I was sure I had made the right decision, it felt right. However, I did have a little niggle on the bus to the airport – all those people there, could I catch coronavirus from another traveller?

Hindsight. I wish I had not worried so much. I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 to a rather empty bus station, which I was rather surprised about. I then walked along the connecting pass to the terminal where there was a couple of other travellers – it was a ghost town.

The check-in desk was not exactly heaving and neither was immigration.

And as for the actual terminal, hardly anyone was there – these photos were not orchestrated to look empty, it really was like this.

I’ve had more contact with people in my local supermarket than in Heathrow.

My flight was not very full, I had 2 seats to myself, and it was a great flight.

On arrival in South Africa there were more people, but still nowhere near what it is normally like. At immigration they were taking temperatures of every person and some of the officers had face masks on. It was still pretty quiet in baggage reclaim.

Outside the airport there was the lack of chaos that normally assails me as I wait for my transfer; no cars trying to drop off and pick up passengers, none asking me if I needed a taxi or any help, no car horns or radios blaring, a lack of fumes and noise. It was nearly a sea of tranquillity, not quite, but nearly.

At the border between South Africa and Eswatini I had to fill out a form as I had come from the UK (one of the countries on the list to be checked) and had my temperature taken again, and then I was welcomed into Eswatini. The whole trip was rather surreal.

I have been mindful about washing my hands and I have hand gel on me at all times. This trip has made me acutely aware of my surroundings and made me think about what I was touching – luggage trollies, escalator handrails, touch screens (booking in and also my in-flight entertainment), those grey trays used for checking your hand luggage, fold down tray tables, door handles, lift buttons, we touch so much in the course of a day.

Looking back I have also been very stressed as I was far too immersed into the media projections and updates of the population of the world, I was thinking about the ripple effect it would have on tourism as a whole in the world and also the potential impact it would have on lodges, community projects and also my business. This past 48 hrs has forced me to step back from this constant bombardment of information and allowed me to get perspective. To be realistic, not fatalistic.

I am now going to have a beer, listen to the elephants trumpeting nearby and catch up with my friends – with my hand gel in my bag.

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