The day had come for us to return home. Everyone had to arise very early, the time depending on the number of persons sharing a bathroom. In my case it was 3:30 am. By 4:30 am everyone was at the car park waiting on the bus. Some of us had a distance to go to the place where we would meet the bus, but fortunately we still had our miracle vehicle in which to drive our luggage to the pickup point. Charlotte Airport is a busy international airport, even early on a Sunday morning, and our departure time from Belmont was clearly a miscalculation for our 7 am flight. This miscalculation was no doubt based on the assumption that our flight to New York was a domestic flight. That is in fact the way it was booked. It was however to our advantage that the flight was treated as an international flight by the airline, because that meant that our buggage could be booked to Port Elizabeth without the need to collect it at JFK. A further advantage was that it turned out that the airline charges an additional fare for baggage booked in on domestic flights. One of us ended having to pay this charge. Three others also had to pay for overweight baggage because the airline refused to treat us as a group. The sad part about this payment was that there appeared to be no consistency as to how this charge was calculated, with either 50 or 150 USD being charged. For the record, I saw the person charging 50 USD consulting a tarriff. The problem with treating our flight as an international flight was that the procedure was longer and the flight therefore had to be delayed. Time was however made up in the air and we arrived at JFK on time.
The flight to New York gave us time to catch up on much needed sleep, but we also suffered the misfortune of having two of our instruments, which we were not allowed to take onto the plane with us, damaged in transit. This refusal of certain items on smaller planes is not uncommon, but then they are normally held in safe custody, which clearly was not the case this time. We were met by Carol and Olivia at the airport. They brought us two instruments which we had deliberately left in New York earlier. The group took leave of Tyrone and Alex, who stayed behind to attend a family reunion in Washington. The fact that they did not have any baggage to check in gave them enough time to buy some breakfast before boarding their fight. After an exhausting, but enjoyable three weeks travelling through five states, it was a long flight home with plenty of time to sleep.