Monday 21 September 2009

Night Plane from Addis Ababa 14th September 2009

Night Plane from Addis Ababa 14th September 2009

It's not the new languages, culture or people that makes travel difficult they're the exciting parts, it’s the flights - the queues or lack of, the security checks and the waiting. Flying from Addis Ababa to Accra was an endurance test which left me battered; queue for baggage scan to get into airport, queue to check in, queue for immigration, queue and scan of hand luggage before entry into departures and a final queue and scan before boarding. To make the whole process additionally tiresome the flight was at 1:40 am. I had been dreading this leg of my journey and it was not unfounded.

If you are one of the last to board there is the opportunity to check your seat and possibly change it with the gate staff, but being last on also runs the risk of not finding any baggage storage. I always run the risk in the hope that I can get a seat on an empty row at the back. This time I'm told there are loads of empty seats at the back but when I board I am confronted by a phalanx of sour faced stewardess who tell me that all the back rows are being used for storing bags of crisps. Please surely we can put them all on one area? I suggest as they are taking up about five rows but just scattered not stacked. No luck and I am forced to go to my ticketed seat leaving my baggage in with the crisps. Four hours later I go back to get a book from my bag as sleep hadn't caught the same flight as me and all the back rows had people stretched out asleep on them some of them the stewardesses. I am upset but a stewardess tells me to sit down - they need to sleep. As I have nothing else to do I go and find the burly chief steward named Darge and explain that I am not happy with the situation, the stewardess who told me to sit down comes up and talks in Amareic to him. He then gets nasty and starts shouting and goes to get my bags from the back of the plane, I appeal to him not to be so foolish and that I had come to him for assistance not grief. My new Ghandi approach to conflict was stretched to breaking point, violence did look like the only solution I was seeing red clouds at 33000ft but I managed to sit back down and simmer for the rest of the flight.

An hour later we land at Lagos and wait for an hour before flying on to Abidjan where I had to change flights. I hoped that I would simply go to transit and wait but no, I had to claim my baggage go out and re check in at the desks out front it's 6am but 8 am my time. Then of course it's another queue to check in, a rescan of my hand luggage where they remove my gaffer tape in case I decide to use it to take anyone hostage, one final bag and body search before boarding and there I am back on the same aircraft same seat I had just come from .We pay to do this!

An hour later and I'm in Accra with the journey from hell behind me but still have to deal with immigration and customs who are very excited about my camera and was I a journalist was I here to work? On mentioning I was visiting Bolgatonga in the north a customs lady said that was her town, when she learned I was going to see Afrikids she knew of them was pleased to let me know that and waived me through.

The final hurdle was emerging from arrivals and withstanding the onslaught of hustlers, taxi drivers, moneychangers and scallies that are always at airport arrivals anywhere in the world. They are like beachcombers scouring the shore for anything that may get washed up in their country, today that is I, as the hotel hasn’t sent anyone to meet me. I wait fending them refusing arguments of international reasoning until finally the bus arrives and takes me to the aptly named Hotel Shangri-La where I finally sink into bed 12 hours after departure for a two hour sleep.

Mind you I guess it's still quicker than walking

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