African Safari Misadventure #1 Los Angeles Airport Shuttle
Anxiously we were anticipating our upcoming African Safari back to Tanzania, Africa. It was essentially going to be a reunion safari, going back to And Beyond’s Camp 1 in the Serengeti. They setup mobile luxury tented camps near the famous wildebeest/zebra migration from Tanzania to Kenya and back.
All of us were veterans of African Safaris, except my wife, who was making this her first safari.
Personally, myself, I had never had any inclinations to visit Africa, having always thought safaris were 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 safari trip to Africa.
Generally that huge wildebeest/zebra migration occurs every year, the wildebeest following the water. It’s an amazing sight to see – hundreds of thousands of wildebeests and zebras spread out across the land, sometimes as far as you can see.
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 to pick us up at 5:15 am. It’s about 90 minutes to the airport from Kay’s home in Eastvale, a new city at the far north of Corona, near Ontario, California.
Safari Kay, taking care of all the bases, had made sure we would be getting a shuttle that would take us directly to the airport instead of picking up other passengers.
The shuttle was there promptly at the designated time and we loaded our luggage. I was there with my wife Laureta and 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 real tight schedule and we might be late. There was nothing we could do but hope we made it in time. It was too late to make other arrangements.
Los Angeles airport shuttle unscheduled stop
We arrived at the house in Downey California and 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.
We were really upset because we could be late and that’s a disaster when we had several planes on our agenda to reach Tanzania Africa. 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.
Now 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 and we were all very upset and in a near panic. Only a minute or two to go until the deadline was reached when the driver could leave since the supposed passengers were nowhere to be seen.
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. When 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 and that couple had not verified to the shuttle company they were still going. But that company policy forced the driver to wait regardless. It turned out the couple didn’t even live there, but 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 and relatively close to Los Angeles where we would probably feel the full force of the freeways being a huge parking lot with nothing but stop and go traffic.
To the airport we go
The shuttle driver sped away, headed to the airport. We were very lucky it was early Sunday morning and there was virtually no traffic. We 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 seeing such a light amount of traffic in recent years, even on a Sunday. It was clear sailing almost a straight shot to the airport. The man who had just gotten in was very familiar with the area, having been raised there, and told our driver a quick way to get to the 105 Freeway.
Arriving at LAX like clockwork
The Los Angeles airport shuttle driver took our new passenger’s advice and amazingly we arrived at the airport at two minutes to seven. We were all very relieved, including the driver, and we quickly departed into the airport after getting our luggage and tipping. We realized the driver had no choice but 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 be on our way soon …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