One of those longest days...
Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
17Trip End May 01, 2011
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I left the hotel 3 hours before my flight, normally plenty of time to make the 40 minute drive to the airport. But there was a light rain falling, which snarled traffic quite effectively. It took me nearly half an hour to go the mile or so to the motorway (British English for highway). I wasted no time on the drive to the south tip of the island where the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (try pronouncing that a few times…) International Airport is located. I wasn't going to arrive very late, but as a precaution, as I drove in I phoned the rental car company attendant to come pick up the vehicle at the departure unloading zone.
I cleared departure formalities quickly and spent a short hour waiting in the departure lounge for the Air Madagascar flight to Tana. It was a prop-plane and fairly full, but we left and arrived on time, 90 minutes later at 12:30. Then I had to cool my heels in the rather bare departure lounge, where the snack bar didn’t open until 2:00 pm. It only offered sandwiches and chips to eat…. My connecting flight on an ATR smallish jet left at 16:30, arriving in Nairobi three hours later. The Nairobi airport is not especially user friendly, it’s quite old and wasn’t designed with its current traffic load in mind, but it is certainly exotic.
This is where I waited and started writing of this account, until just before midnight, when we were finally allowed to pull our luggage out across the tarmac to the Kenya Airways 737. The night was pleasantly cool and I could smell the nearby savannah (when the jet fuel wasn’t too overpowering) that brings back so many pleasant memories of rural Kenya and photo safaris. We flew 90 minutes across Lake Victoria to Kigali, waited nearly an hour on the ground and then made the short hop to Bujumbura, arriving at about 02:00 (with a time change). I took advantage of knowing my way around and filled out my arrival form as I was walking, so I was first in line to clear immigration. Suitcases, and taped up boxed and mail pouches and various other items rolled out on the conveyor belt. My suitcase did not. As I was waiting a uniformed gendarme walked up to me and held out a paper with my name on it. "Oui, c’est moi" I said. He continued in French “there is a driver waiting for you, I will take you to him when you have your suitcase.” I thanked him, knowing that if I let him lead me outside to the driver who would be openly holding up a paper with my name on it (impossible to miss) he would expect a “tip” for his invaluable service.
While we waited, an official came to the belt, stuck her head through the small door to look behind the scenes and then announced “that’s it, all the suitcases have come.” The belt stopped moving, Mine bag hadn’t come, so I walked over to the lost luggage desk and started giving my information to report lost suitcase. About halfway through the process, the conveyor belt fired up again and there came my suitcase.
I slipped quickly out before the gendarme could “help” me, and sure enough the driver from the hotel was there. We drove through the dark quiet streets of Bujumbura to the hotel where, due the late (actually early) hour they simply handed me a key and let me go to my room. I’ll worry about all the formalities tomorrow.