Adventures in Flight III

Trip Start Jun 17, 2008
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12
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Trip End Jul 05, 2008


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Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Waiting...We were told to be at the Lalibela airport 2 hours before our flight, only to find that it was delayed 1/2 hr.  Since this is the only flight of the day, there's no reason to rush, right?  More realistically, it was delayed 45 min or an hour. 

This was to be the start of a series of 3 short little flights to bring us back to Addis Ababa ( Lalibela to Gonder, Gonder to Bahir Dar, and Bahir Dar to Addis).  In between flights we are having a lot of time sitting on the tarmac - who knows why?  Since the flights are soo short, we are not even receiving a snack on the flights and are starting to get hungry. 

On the ground in Bahir Dar we're asked to disembark the plane.  Upon entering the airport we're confronted by an irate white man desperately trying to figure out what is wrong with the plane and ranting about his hour and a half wait when no one is telling him anything.  The first of our correct suspicions that this was going to be a fun day...

Sitting and waiting, we are now back-logged with our flight, and the crazy white-guys' flight.  Where will they put us all when the plane is finally running again?  We hear a little announcement stating that our flight has been delayed (surprise) and that the new departure time will be announced (thank you for the information!). 

Moved to the restaurant for some refreshment, which equals 1 pop each.  Still no food even though it's 4:30pm, and we've been sitting in airports since 10am this morning.  Funny all this time to travel when the distance is not that great. 

Gathering information from the other travelers and descriptive announcements, we understand that they are in need of a part which is now being flown from Addis.  I wonder if the delivery plane will head back to Addis while the passengers wait for the original plane to be fixed...Now our estimated departure time is pegged at 6:30pm.  Thank goodness the white-man is keeping us all entertained!

On a side note, Krista is getting quite upset.  Today's originally itinerary involved returning to Addis and going to the transition house to meet her son for the first time.  Even if we do fly tonight, it will be too late to go.  With no way to contact the staff at the house, we are wondering what will happen.  Our guest house is also expecting us to check in this evening.  What a mess this is turning out to be!  We had heard some stories about African travel, but so far had not experienced any hiccups. 

6:15pm and back in the boarding lounge.  Still no sight of the delivery plane from Addis, and we are watching staff unloading our luggage from the plane - always a good sign!  Now in this same lounge is the 3rd load of passengers who were scheduled for a flight to Addis that day.  An announcement tells them that their flight has been re-scheduled for tomorrow morning.  How far can this delay push passengers to future flights?

We hear a plane, passes are taken, and luggage is carted out.  Everyone is on pins and needles waiting to board when another announcement tells us that we will not be flying this evening because of 'sunset time'.  What the hell does that mean?  Can't they fly in the dark?

And that's all the announcement says!  Everyone is mingling around - lost, confused, scared.  The white-man is running and ranting at anyone he can find.  Totally perplexed, we're trying to communicate with airline staff who don't speak English.  We're told that we need to speak to an 'agent in green', but he is conveniently no where to be found!  We start scouting around looking for some comfy benches to sleep on like when we were in Nairobi. 

Lights around us start flicking off and staff are looking pissed at staying later than their shift dictated.  Apparently this in NOT a 24 hour airport.  Never have we felt quite so 'lost in another country' as we're feeling right now!  Sleeping here is obviously not an option.  Almost as if cued in a Hollywood movie, the sky lights up, and thunderous crack is heard, and the heavens dump oceans of rain upon the earth. 

Outside a mini-bus pulls up and the crowds part as the flight crew marches through pulling their little wheelie-suitcases, impressive in their matching uniforms.  They're being taken to a hotel for the evening.  So much for taking care of the needs of the passengers!

Our white friend continues to cause a stir, and is effectively stirring up a crowd around the mini-bus.  Shouting and banging on the vehicle is heard and people are blocking it's progress in front and behind with their bodies.  Apparently the idea of being delayed and stranded, and deserted by the airline staff does not appeal to anyone, and not just us!

Eventually, more buses and taxi's begin to pull in and load as many passengers in as possible.  We defiantly don't want to be separated as we have no idea where we are going, and don't want to be left behind.  A driver asks us which hotel we're going to.  You mean we have a choice?  He names 2 to us, and neither sounds familiar, so we repeat one back to him and cram ourselves into a seat. 

Now driving through Ethiopian streets is a combination of Nascar Racing, Donkey Kong, and Frogger at the best of times; but in the dark (no street lights) with rain coming down in sheets you cannot see through - it's an entirely different story!  Apparently our flight was canceled due to risky weather conditions and not 'sunset time'.  Weaving our way around vehicles and drenched pedestrians, the driver wipes the fog off the windshield so he can see, and we work to console ourselves that we are going to be OK. 

Finally we pull up to a hotel with a lobby crammed with wet people trying to get keys to their rooms.  One of the first things I notice is the decaying ceiling with more holes than plaster.  The second was the lovely decorative snake skins draped around adding to the decor.  The third was the wall clock with a cigarette advertisement on the face. 

We're split up in the complex of sprawling strip rooms along jungle-like pathways.  I wonder if I can remember my way through this labyrinth to find Krista and Grant's room again.  Unable to negotiate the lock, the staff showing me to the room finally opens the door for me, but then I am left alone to go on a lengthy hunt for the light switch.  Every other evening our rooms have been next to each other inside one building.  Nearing the end of a hectic day I am feeling very 'alone'.

Grant works to contact our tour company, guest house, and transition house to let them know of our delay, but they already had a pretty good idea of that!  I work on convincing Krista to eat something so that we won't make this evening any more uncomfortable than it already is!

Sitting on an outdoor veranda in musty smelling goat skin chairs, listening to bad Amharic music re-mixes, we had the best Ethiopian food of our trip yet!  They brought us their specialty fish dish, and things started to look up.  Although all around us the accommodations seem shabby to North American standards we are warm, dry, safe, well-fed, and have a more interesting travel story to boot! 
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