I've been scurrying about on the ground for the last 6 months. What has been strange (and welcome) is that since returning from a mid-year trip to the Baltics last year July, I hadn't flown anywhere. My work, for the first time in years, was driving distance from home.
On Wednesday last week I boarded my first flight to Johannesburg for 2007 and, apart from the continuing parking shambles at Cape Town airport which adds another 15 minutes to the trip, the experience in general started out pretty much as I remembered it. I did think that the demographics of the flights are getting more diverse in terms of race and gender, and I did forget how small the space was that you are given on a plane, but otherwise it was a question of settling into a routine.
The plane took off in the Durbanville direction and it was then that the big difference struck me. Scurrying about on the ground in between roadworks and new developments and veld fires and traffic jams and malls for half a year, meant that I had a distinct view of the rhythms of the city, but all of these experiences were incidental - one thing happens, you move on and see something else, around the corner is a new development...
From the plane, I suddenly got perspective again, which was exhilarating. I could see the traffic patterns and where the worst bottlenecks in afternoon rush hour was (many because of poorly placed traffic lights). I realised how big the Century City development was by seeing the layout of roads and water and the blocks of ugly ugly flats that so offended me when I drove past them. I noticed Woodbridge Island doesn't really look cut-off from the air due to sand banks in the water. Robben Island is far to swim to. The sprawl is... well, sprawling.
I usually pre-book window seats to be able to sleep against the sidewall, but for the first time in a long while, I was watching the scenery pass by. Which was good. And fun. And enlightening.