23:30 – Gate A3, OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg

Air France flight 997 is finishing boarding. The massive Boeing triple seven, first aircraft ever released with an initial ETOPS-180 rating*, is just about empty. I’ve once again scored an exit row seat with a full 2 meter legroom and 2 empty seats next to me. And I’m almost sure that the crying baby who just threw up on the mother in the center row will now be quiet for a few hours.

Almost a moth ago, I was flying into South Africa, same flight, same seat. So much has happened since then that I don’t really know where to begin. That was a typo, by the way, but I kept it because I was indeed like a moth, attracted by the brightest, warmest, prettiest light I had ever seen. The light didn’t burn me, though, and it forever keeps me warm and strong.

I will post – time allowing – a series of photo-based entries about the trip. They might not be chronological. They probably won’t be logical. They could be biased. They should be fun. Stay tuned.

But I’m bringing back four and a half DVD’s worth of RAW pictures, or something like 15+ Gigabytes of data. Most of that will be crap, as usual, and if I can salvage 20 or 30 good shots, I will be thrilled. But processing all this will take massive amounts of time, of which I have very little. Patience needed.

I’m afraid my pictures might not pay reality justice either. As always, our world is infinitely more subtle and so much more complex in its beauty than a camera could ever record it. And then, there were the people. I concentrated on scenery and landscapes, because that’s what I do best, but the memories of this trip will remain indissociable from the many faces and beautiful hearts that populated it.

And of course, at the heart of it all, is Marie. She has blogged extensively at 66 Square Feet – and will keep doing so – about our month down in South Africa. I don’t pretend to come even close. I’ll just try to complement her posts and maybe show a different angle. Because after all, no, I don’t always try to mimic penguins on a beach. Sometimes, I mimic ostriches too. ;-)

* Ok, maybe this was a little too technical. ETOPS stands for Extended Twin-engine Operation Performance Standards; it’s an ICAO rule that allows commercial twin-engine jets to follow routes that are further away then the basic "60 minutes flying time with one engine down from a diversion airport". ETOPS-180 means the aircraft is allowed to fly routes that go as far away as 3 hours flying time on one engine from the nearest diversion airport. It’s pretty darn cool.