Saturday, 24 December 2011

It doesn't rain but it pours

In yesterday’s blog I opened by saying how distinctive Africa is, and how you are on the continent as soon as you land at the airport. Well scratch that. Flying into Johannesburg is just like flying into any other airport around the world. It doesn’t smell of Africa, it isn’t dusty, there are no crowds of people, and we didn’t even have to queue at emigration. Did I board the correct plane? Being white doesn’t make me stand out as a tourist, though I’m yet to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. One thing that’s the same though is that nobody knows when the buses leave, or in fact any are travelling today.

It turns out that the last bus from the airport to Potchefstroom (Potch) left at 1pm, and I need to take a taxi to the main station in Johannesburg and hopefully catch a bus from there. It turns out that I get the last available seat for 3 days! I joke that it’s the luck of the Irish – something that maybe I should learn to be less reliant on.

The trip to the bus station was something of a disappointment. Again, there is nothing of the sort of chaos that I would have associated with a major African city, especially not one as notorious as this. In fact, it seems quite a safe and inviting city. But perhaps there in lies the danger.

I can’t tell you much of my trip to Potch; I slept the whole way. And I arrived in a massive thunder storm. As with the rest of Africa; when it rains here, it sure knows how to rain. Familiarity at last!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Back in Africa

Just before 7am this morning (local time), I landed in Ethiopia. It’s strange how distinctive landing in Africa is. Airports the world over tend to have a similar feel and look to them, but somehow airports in this part of the world are different. Maybe it’s the mayhem, maybe it’s the people, but whatever it is you know that you have arrived on the Dark Continent.

It’s been just over a year since I was last in Addis, and I’d forgotten how beautiful it is. The sun rises early in Africa and even at that time in the morning the sun has already risen over the horizon, lighting the beautiful plateau to the south of the city, the hills on which the city is build, and the Mountain peaks which surround it. Although I’m curious to see if it has changed at all, and to see how much of what was countryside last time I was here has been developed. No time for that though, as I am on my way to Johannesburg.

I’ve just boarded the plane, and it would appear that after all these years of flying, I have finally got my first upgrade. Not that business class is any different to economy on Ethiopian Airlines, apart from the fact that both classes are separated by a set of toilets. It’s essentially the same as getting an upgrade on an AirLingus flight. You get to sit closer to the front of the plan, and can see into first class, and ‘what you could have won’. I won’t complain though, and either way there is more room than there was on the sardine tin in which we travelled from London.

The trip so far has been reasonably uneventful, though as usual I left most things until the last minute. I was almost at the station in Stratford when I realised I had left my passport in the office, and when I did get to Heathrow and make my way through security, it took me a while to work out that I was in fact sitting at the wrong gate. Apart from that, there’s been no major problems.

Actually, the longer I sit on this plane, the more I realise that this isn’t even business class – it’s economy class seats in the area of the plane where the business class seats would normally be. Maybe the flight upgrade gods will finally recognise my face and give me a seat with a bit more leg room for the flight from Ethiopia back to Heathrow.

But that’s a few weeks away still, and now I must put away the laptop so that we can fly to Johannesburg. South Africa here I come.