Singapore to Kigali, Rwanda

Trip Start Jun 06, 2008
Trip End Jun 24, 2008

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Let the Vagabonding Begin

Singapore to Johannesburg Flight SQ478,  June 6th, 2am Singapore time (11hrs)
Johannesburg to Entebbe Flight SA160, June 6th, 2pm Jo'burg time (4hrs)
Entebbe to Kigali Flight WB106, June 6th, 9:30pm Entebbe time (1hr)

It about 10hrs flying time to Johannesburg but I was lucky enough to be able to have enough points and book far enough in advance for us to fly business class. I would never pay for business class, but with frequent flyer miles it makes all the difference. Rina had never flown Business Class before (except for a domestic flight in Malaysia) so it was particularly nice to treat her to her first long flight up the front of the bus. One crappy thing about the flight though - 2am kick off! That's a killer to wait around for, but you do end up sleeping as soon as you get on board and settled.

Flying, movies, talking, sleeping, eating, bla, bla. 

About an hour before we landed in Jo'burg Rina realised she had forgotten the little yellow book you get when you get all your injections for travel to these places. The only part that really mattered was the Yellow Fever certificate because it was the only place we had a record of it and without that record we may have problems getting back into Singapore. Of course Rina spent the rest of the flight and most of the day worrying about it - but more on that a little later.

We landed in Jo'burg at 7am and got through immigration, etc without a hitch. As we walked out to the meeting hall, there was our guide/driver for the day - John Tennant, a really nice septuagenarian of Pretorian origins with the obligatory love for rugby. Of course I broke the ice with talk of the Super 14 and the upcoming tests with the Northern Hemisphere teams.

The day was supposed to be pretty full and long but due to a pretty late change in flight schedules from SAA it turned out we now had to fly to Entebbe to get to Kigali, which also meant departing almost 3hrs earlier from Jo'burg. Which basically left us with about 4 hours to do anything in Sth Africa. Top of the list for us was the Apartheid Museum so off we headed with the plan of spending most of our short time in Sth Africa there. We got to the car park at 8:30am to find it basically deserted....something was not right. John was sure everything would be open at the crack of dawn, but I wondered how much of that was the septuagenarian talking who gets up before dawn every day and thinks the rest of the world does too (he had already told me peak hour is 6:30-8am in Jo'burg which sounded bloody early to me). Turns out the museum would not be open until 10am which meant sitting around for an hour waiting for it to open, then rushing through a museum that should be savoured and then rushing back out the airport (almost an hour away) by midday. Not ideal.

Add to this cock up the back ground and deepening sense of panic from Rina as she played out every possible disaster in her head due to her lack of a Yellow Fever certificate. By the time we worked it all out I am sure she thought she had Yellow Fever and had to work out how to sneak through border controls without them knowing.
We thought we could fill in some time at the Mine Tour in the same compound as the Apartheid Museum, then head back out to the airport by about 11am and call Jo'burg a day. Of course the Mine Tour was not open for another 30mins so we skipped that and decided to head to the nearest Harley Davidson dealership to buy the Harley equivalent of the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and then just pack it in and head to the airport where there was a full clinic that offered the relevant injection and could hopefully help us out with our Yellow Fever dilemma.

Once at the airport we settled Rina's nerves in a heartbeat as the clinic boss told us to get the Singapore Dr to fax the certificate to them and if we had any problems coming back into Sth Africa they would be able to vouch for us now that they had a true copy of the certificate, etc, etc. I doubt Rina has any idea what we did for the day as she spent the whole day worrying herself closer to an early grave but I was laughing on the inside all day long :)
So with the change in flight schedules, mess up with museum opening hours and Rina's Yellow Fever Dilemma it was a surprisingly unproductive yet entertaining day in Sth Africa. Now on to East Africa.

From the clinic it was time for flight #2 of the day (and country #2 of the day) - Jo'burg to Entebbe, Uganda. Transit for a bit over an hour and then on to country #3 of the day via a Rwanda Air Express flight from Entebbe to Kigali, Rwanda. I hope you spotted that the flight was with Rwanda Air Express, or Plummet Air as one of my encouraging friends decided to call them. I actually researched them before accepting this re-route but the airline is only 5 years old so they don't have enough track record to go by. At least they haven't had any major issues in those 5 years so as I write this on the SAA flight to Entebbe and think about the Plummet Air flight to come I still have my doubts.

One positive outcome to Rina's Yellow Fever Dilemma - she hasn't been panicking about the Rwanda Air Express flight to finish the day's vagabonding.
A nice added stress for the roughly 30hour journey to our hotel bed in Kigali was that during the nearly 3 hour transit in Entebbe Rina was allocated a seat on the Plummet Air flight while I was told I was on stand-by (with no real explanation given). Rina started stressing again but was too tired to be overly concerned. Just in time for the first boarding call came the airport steward with my passport and boa rding pass. I got a seat but its nowhere near Rina. I still don't know why we got checked-in separately but This Is Africa.

Walking out on the tarmac to the plane and we were in for a bit of a surprise. The plane was tiny - well compared to the passenger jets we are used to. As you walk on board the steward tells you its free seating so the allocated seat problem went away but then everyone else started haggling over seats. We just sat down next to each other and pretended these were our seats. The flights wasn't terribly eventful but because it was Plummet Air and a very small plane both of us were on a knife's edge anyway. Rina's hands were the hottest and sweatiest I have ever felt them when we landed - but they have been her Yellow Fever playing up.

We did the old queue here then queue there then back to the original queue then back to the other queue to get through immigration. Its a tiny airport and there were only about 20 of us on the plane but it still took us 45mins to get through immigration. And to top it all off the Rwandan stamp in the passport is so small you have to look hard to find it. Travel Nazis that spend years collecting passport stamps be warned, the reward for this trip is not so great.

African Travellers Tip #7346: One thing I noticed when checking in in Jo'burg was that all the locals (all races and fiscal backgrounds) were using the local service to wrap their bags in glad wrap. I knew there must be something to it but I really couldn't be bothered with it. It turns out we would broke even if we did it. The baggage handlers broke the zip on one of our bags and stuck their hands in and stole 3 Cliff Bars (about US$3ea). The cost of wrapping the bags would have been about US$10 total so in fact we came out $1 up! But now I have to work out a way to lock the the tip is, make sure the valuable stuff in your bag is hard to get at and stick in a couple of unsheathed knives just to mess with the baggage handlers with sticky fingers.

The day was drawing to an end but we were both over this day hours ago. I was in a daze and Rina was still troubled with her psychosomatic-Yellow Fever so meeting Martin (or guide for the next 2 weeks) and the really confusing drive to the Serena Inn Hotel was all too confusing. We arrived at a hotel that looked like it was in the middle of a big European city...but this was Rwanda. Checked-in, got a beautiful room, ordered room service, watched rubbish TV and collapsed in a pile of exhaustion.

Day One finished.....the next 18 day's entries couldn't possibly be this long because I worked it out from the time I got up on Thursday until the time I got to bed in Rwanda was 48hrs in total. What a day!
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Michael on

Should have flown Singapore to Bangkok to Addis to Kigali

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