“Another bloody day in Paradise” – White Mischief
Seems I’ve been this way before. Sure I have, as I love these countries - people, culture and, of course, the game. This time, I’m traveling alone... no boyfriend, gal friend, business associate... just moi! It’ll be different, but there are so many friends to see once I’m in-country and this time, I’ve actually made appointments; hope to be able to keep all and everyone shows up.
I actually started planning in late-Nov/early-Dec ’06, but as usual things (work) get in the way. Final itinerary wasn’t confirmed until about one-month before leaving at which time I bought my airline ticket... rather late for me.
Having previously flown KLM from JFK (via AMS) to JRO or NBO, this time, I decided to go with Emirates as they were offering the best fare. When I first checked KLM fares into JRO (Tanzania was to be my first stop), the price was just ridiculously high, lots high. Even the KLM/NBO price was high and I wasn’t even traveling in peak-season. In years earlier I noticed that Emirates fare was about $100 higher than KLM to NBO... no more, it seems. When I first checked in March, Emirates was $1,387 to NBO; when I later checked, as itinerary was pretty much confirmed, the fare was down to $1,187 including taxes. I was surprised, shocked actually, but it didn’t take but a second for me to purchase the ticket. The $200 difference would cover for my flight to JRO. This would also be the first time that I'd be departing early in the day, arriving NBO mid-afternoon. Wondered how the body would handle this, especially with the first leg being 12-hours. Not since trips to Thailand or South Africa had I had that long a single flight segment.
With itinerary confirmed (kind of), air tickets purchased, it was now time to pack. This is usually a non-event as the same things go with me year-in/year-out... not much to change when it comes to tan, khaki or brown, whether pants, shirts or shoes. But, I had requests for goodies from the States, all of which would only add to my limited allowance. There was clothing for lots of children, magazines, cinnamon raisin bread, NY bagels/bialys, body gel/lotion, and other stuff, adding about 4-5/kgs, bringing me over. Oh, no big deal departing the States, and once in-country and having distributed everything, I’d be good to fly below the 15Kg limit! Or so I thought. Didn’t expect, that I’d have as much, if not more with which I returned home... between gifts and stuff! Can’t win! So my tales begin.......
Thursday, May 24, 2007
With an 11:30am departure from JFK on Emirates, I left for the airport at 8:30am, having been told that Emirates recommended 3/hrs prior departure for international check-in. I don’t think so, 2/hrs will be more than enough. There was no NYC rush hour traffic (even in reverse of traffic into the City) so I was at the airport in just short of half-hour. Check-in was quick, but almost fainted when I saw exactly how much my bag weighed - 20Kgs exactly! Oh well, I wouldn’t be carrying it. Boarding pass in hand, I headed to the gate, but was early so wasted time in one of the shops. Eventually headed to Security, which was a joke. It’s more make-busy work for the TSA agents, rather than serious evaluation of passengers - who they are, where they’re going, where they came from, if they have packages to take from others - as El Al does. Oh, guess we’ll never get it right, considering how many sharp objects – knives, saws, ice pics, even weapons still manage to get thru.
While the line wasn’t long, in wound around in so many directions, one got dizzy. It was all too funny watching everyone removing their little ziplock bags we all had to have to show those 100/ml (3.2/oz.) bottles of liquid... me included, though I never opened my zippy on either of the two flights. This took barely 40-minutes and onto the gate. Here, of course, the wait till your row is called for boarding, only to realize I was almost in Business Class; a row in the forward section of “last class.” How exciting!
I have to admit that this was the slowest boarding procedure I’ve experienced in all my years of flying. Emirates has a 15/lb limit for carryon... another joke. Travelers had bags as large as 26” all of which I can assure you were over the limit. When I finally reached my aisle seat, the flight attendant looked at me and asked, “are you ok?” Well, “of course, just wondering why this boarding was taking so long?” to which she replied (rather her eyes spoke) - looking at the overheads!!! I got it! And, there’s me with my small carryon that was underweight!
We pushed back 5-minutes late and airborne at exactly 12N, which is pretty darn good for JFK. In front of me was 12-hrs of flying. It had been years since I’ve flown East straight out that long – wondering what I’ll look and feel like on the other end. I’m fortunate though to be able to sleep and probably got 6-hrs of sleep on/off during the flight, between beverage service, lunch, snack and breakfast, I did good.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Landing in Dubai on time, deplaned and sure enough, a long, long walk (not a moving sidewalk to be found) to either Immigration for those heading into Dubai or for transiting passengers. The Dubai airport was rather disappointing, reminding me of Denver International, one long terminal. Hey, they didn’t ask me regarding the design; maybe I’m just spoiled often flying thru Schipol/Amsterdam, which is just so civilized.
There was no posting for the ongoing NBO flight, so had a cup of coffee, a sip of coffee actually. Starbucks was all that I could find, and I hate their coffee, tasting bitter and burnt. So tossed that cup and decided to see what the excitement was about these airport shops. Nothing to write home about; all pretty much the same as other airports and I certainly didn’t have to be adding more weight to my already bursting bags.
Still no posting of my flight, so while standing facing the direction of Gates #1-12, I asked at the Transit Desk agent from where the NBO flight would be departing. He checked and announced “Gate #42.” I stared at him and slowly did an about face and looked and looked and looked... finally turning back to the agent and asked, “is that gate still in Dubai?” He laughed and replied, “yes, madam it is.” Oh well, might as well start walking. And I walked and walked between three moving sidewalks to the farthest end of the terminal, where an arrow pointed left towards additional gates. I turned and thankfully, there were only three or four more gates before reaching #42. Handing the agent my boarding pass, I took a seat to wait for the boarding announcement.
Didn’t have to wait long, to head down a sloping walkway, much like at many new airports, however, at the end, instead of into a jetway, we boarded air-conditioned buses. Now, this isn’t new, but surprising for a new modern airport. It was obvious as I boarded the bus that it was really hot outside... kind of Las Vegas in the summer hot... over 110-degrees. A short ride and we arrive at our Airbus where the agent allowed a few people out at a time to climb the stairs, as no one in their right mind would want to be out in the hot air any longer than necessary.
Once on board, it’s a full plane with few empty seats. Take-off was on schedule and again I managed to sleep between beverage and meal services. We actually landed at NBO 20-minutes early and our gate (with jetway) was right at the ramp down to Immigration. I was the first at the “need to buy Visa” desk, which took less than a minute. Luggage though, did take 20-30/minutes before I exited to find my friend David with a big smile. Out i the parking lot Lawrence waited for my short drive to the Panari Hotel.
I selected the Panari, as I originally thought to make the connection to JRO that evening (maybe) more likely early the next morning and being only 10-minutes from the airport, would allow me to sleep a bit longer. Plans changed when I arranged to have dinner with a friend and catch up with a few people the next morning... wouldn’t be flying to JRO till 1pm. So I didn’t bother to change to a hotel in downtown NBO; all I needed was a decent sized room with clean linens, hot water, a tub and hair dryer. The Panari rates itself a 5-star hotel... believe me, it’s not! But, it is new, with decent sized rooms, a mini-bar, a more than ample bathroom, with commode, bidet, large tub and shower, plenty of towels; a queen sized bed with down comforter and air conditioning/heating unit that worked perfectly. I’m easy. It’s a 10-story hotel, with reception on the 3rd floor which is big and sparse, lots of marble, little furniture, but a bar, a few restaurants and that’s about it. The lower floors contain shops, the ice-skating rink, restaurants – the Pampas Restaurant, much like the Carnivore is on the first floor and where I later had dinner.
I did ask at Reception whether they had a nail salon and to my disappointment, the answer was no. Oh, I forgot to mention about the crisis… my right-hand thumb nail just kept popping off; I’d fix it, it would pop “what’s a gal to do, what price beauty?” Only to later learn that one of the private shops on the lower levels probably could have repaired my nail... next time, I’ll know.
There was a message waiting for me from Joyce saying she’d meet me for dinner at 7pm. Goodie, goodie, I can take a bath and a nap. Yup, I knew I needed a nap. Better than having my head fall into my plate during dinner. And so I did.
Met Joyce in the lobby at 7pm and almost didn’t recognize her... to my surprise she had a preggy bump. How wonderful. She looked great and is due in September. Note: It’s a girl, both doing well. We found our way to Pampas where we had so much to catch up with, we had to be reminded to eat. First on the menu was soup, which I usually forego, till the waiter said “pumpkin” (the magic word) and I said “yes, yes, yes” What is Africa without pumpkins and as soup, no less… it was delicious. Between jibber-jabber, we managed to eat. I then asked Joyce whether she drove herself or took a taxi, only to have her mention that Lawrence drove her and was waiting in the lot. Oh my goodness, it was after 9pm and they both she had work the next day. I paid the bill and with kiss-kiss, we bid each other “lala salama.”
... to be continued
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“Another bloody day in Paradise” – White Mischief