Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Nervous" Traveller

A few years ago our inhouse travel agent called me a "nervous traveller". This only because I wanted to know that everything was confirmed and right before I stepped onto the plane; my tickets, my visas, my accommodation, everything. I just wanted to avoid any problems down the line and didn't want to leave anything to chance. Tonight I travelled to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia for the first time. I didn't know where I was going to sleep and wasn't sure if I needed a visa either. I wasn't even sure if I was in transit. I have never stayed over for a night while being in transit and wasn't sure if one can call it in transit if your flight is only leaving the next day. All I knew was that I was already booked in for the next flight and that I had some cash and a credit card on me. Can you imagine how "nervous" I was supposed to be according to the travel agent's definition...?

Check-in in Johannesburg went smooth with Ethiopian Airlines. The only problem which I only discovered too late was that my luggage was booked in straight to N'Djamena and I was supposed to stay over in Addis Ababa. No way to change that, but there was still hope that I might locate it in Addis Ababa on my arrival. The flight left on time and I was rather impressed with the service as well as the friendliness of the crew. Even the food was very similar to what you would get on any SAA flight and I opted for the chicken this time. Turned out to be a good choice. I tried not to think about what was lying ahead, seeing that I was on the plane and that worry wouldn't change a thing until we arrive at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. The flight was not full and I even got an aisle seat with an empty seat next to me. The inflight movie was the latest release of The Fockers but I didn't feel like watching, I read a book about a guy circling the Karoo on his motorcycle instead.

When we arrived I just decided to follow the other passengers and see where they take me. When we entered the building I heard people shouting out destinations; London, Khartoum, Dar Es Salaam, Jerusalem... I asked one of the ground staff about N'Djamena and she told me to keep on walking. Fortunately the people in Addis speaks English very well, so at no point was I feeling lost like I normally feel when I am in one of those Francophonic African countries. Eventually I reached a nice lady shouting "overnight transit". I asked and was informed that I am indeed in transit and that I need to queue with the rest of the passengers who are staying over for the night. I was issued a transit visa at no cost, even though I overheard someone saying that a transit visa is 70 USD. Then I went through immigration, received a hotel voucher and was met by another nice lady who took us to a bus waiting outside. I was taken to the Intercontinental Hotel, and booked into a very nice room. We also received a free meal voucher which I made good use of. If everything else falls into place then tomorrow morning after breakfast a bus will take us back to the airport. My luggage unfortunately I could not retrieve and is hopefully waiting for me at the airport. Fortunately I am not on some chronic medication, except for my malaria tablets I have to take. It is the first time in about 5 years that I am taking malaria tablets, so I hope one missing tablet won't make a huge difference.

So, after having a delicious Indian curry my stomach is full and I have a place to sleep. The 5-star hotel provides toothbrushes and toothpaste. Unfortunately tomorrow I will have to get into the same clothes I was wearing today. But this is Africa and sometimes you just have to adapt. After being received so well a day without clean underpants is a small price to pay.

(I just heard that there are strikes in Kome and that my scheduled flight to Kome has been postponed until further notice. I hope the natives will calm down and allow me to complete my trip as planned. I will probably have more information by tomorrow evening when I reach N'Djamena.)

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