On a recent trip to Londolozi, I was reminded of how grateful I am for their Creative Hub. The facility offers you the opportunity to edit pictures, print canvases and hire photographic equipment – a godsend when you’re packing for a trip and have a restricted weight limit. As I made full use of the Hub’s facilities, I was reminded of a time when we weren’t quite so spoiled…
Somewhere in Africa…
Light aircraft. On the one hand, wonderful things that hop and skip across the sky, bridging would-take-forever-to-drive distances in less than an hour. On the other, nastily restrictive little machines that absolutely do not have the capacity to carry four pro camera bodies, two 200-400mm lenses, a 600mm lens (in a special, padded bag of its own, testament to its precision engineering, expensiveness and sheer, undeniable weight), several smaller lenses, laptops, chargers, tripods, bean bags, filters, batteries and memory cards, you and your travelling companion. Oh, and the occasional piece of clothing.
You see, light aircrafts have a luggage weight limit. It’s usually around 15 kilograms. This single piece of information (never mind the single piece of luggage) is enough to make most photographers cry. Africa is full of amazing sights. Sights you want not only to experience, but to photograph. Ideally, sights so amazing and photographed so well that they will allow you to win some prestigious international competition (Wildlife Photographer of the Year, I’m looking at you…), make oodles of money and never have to pay for your own travel again.
Except, 15 kilograms. Only. That means making a series of choices, usually beginning with ‘do I actually need clothes for this trip?’ and ending with ‘do I absolutely, definitely, undoubtedly have to have that neutral density filter?’ via a series of mental bargains that would put EU negotiators to shame. If, say, packing your luggage were actually anything important.
There is another choice, however. I’m not proud of it. It’s not ethical. It’s not fair. It’s definitely not right. But it is effective. It works like this…
You march up to the check in, carrying everything and doing a good impression of a pack horse. Straps, handles and bags are hanging off every available appendage. You wave your plainly ridiculous amount of luggage around your head, to demonstrate its lightness. Muscles you haven’t used in years creak audibly. You suppress the rictus of pain that is trying to crawl onto your face and hand over your passport. After a tense wait, you are waved through for your first flight. The pilot gives you a distinctly funny look as you drag yourself and your bags into the tiny tube of a plane, but you’re clear.
Three days later, second flight. By this time, you’re in the system. No problems.
Another three days; Third flight. Blasé now; this is simple. Apart from the woman who buried your stuff underneath what was possibly the world’s biggest wooden giraffe. Completely encased in bubble wrap. On a light aircraft. Its legs were practically sticking out of the windows. Although it did led to the immortal question from my generally invariably well-mannered travelling companion – ‘Is she getting off here? Her giraffe crap is all over our stuff.’ Now there’s an image to treasure.
Three more days – fourth and final flight. Walking across the tarmac, surrounded by small, buzzing aircrafts. Up the steps (only slightly praying that they don’t give under the combined weight of self and cameras). Bags deposited at rear (cargo holds are a bit beyond most of these planes). Crawl into seat, leaving the aisle space for slightly air sick companion. Said companion is still on the ground, talking to someone. Straining my ears, I catch the words ‘luggage’, ‘too much’ and ‘…paid for that?’ Oops. Fallen at the last hurdle.
I wait for the bomb to drop and for us to be told we’re off the flight. Or, more likely around here, for the palm to be held out facing expectantly – and emptily – skywards. Nothing. Odd. I begin the process of extracting my six feet from the approximately two feet of space allowed per passenger, heading outside to confess all, then stop as I hear feet on the ladder. Travelling companion is half way up, head turned back to a worried-looking official on the ground, free hand (who knows how he managed that) waving nonchalantly in the air.
‘It’s fine.’ he says. ‘All sorted. Check with the office.’
The pilot is right behind him, raising the ladder and flipping the door shut. The worried official doesn’t get a look in. Five minutes later, the wheels roll, the wings shudder and we’re airborne for the last time, on this trip at least. We’ve got away with it.
And to think I was going to tell them everything.
Written by Rebecca Green, Londolozi Guest