On Safari To The Ends Of The Earth

We have just finished 7 flights in 5 days – and yes we are exhausted.

Here’s the lowdown on what it was like. Safari is the Kiswahili word for a trip, so we had a safari to New Zealand.

Pete with his first Burger King in 2 years.

Pete with his first Burger King in 2 years.

To get the cheapest flights we had to jump around the globe, travel on night flights and have a few layovers. First stop – Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is only an hours flight away, but unfortunately you still have to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight and you could get to the airport in an hour, or three hours. Because we had to be on there by 3am (yes, that’s in the wee hours of the morning), we had arranged for our taxi to pick us up at 2.15.

Dubai at night.

Dubai at night.

He didn’t come. Pete called Patrick who said it wasn’t Sunday morning, that was tomorrow. No matter what Pete said, Patrick was not getting out of bed. It’s not like you can ring up a taxi company and call one in. Thankfully our boarder, Racquel, had just got home with her friend and she called her taxi guy ‘Tim’. Tim came to the rescue.

JKIA (the airport) is pretty easy to get through, especially at 3am. No one is allowed in unless they have a ticket. Bags are scanned first thing, then through to the ticket pickup, just like at any other place.

Liz inside the mall, not really interested in the dinosaur.

Liz inside the mall, not really interested in the dinosaur.

Anything seems long when it’s early in the morning, especially waiting to get onto the plane.

Once up, it’s down again pretty fast.

Without sounding biased, our airport is way better than the one at Addis. Except for one thing – they have seats like sunbeds which you can stretch out on.

All of our flights were relatively short, we spent more time in airports than anything.

The flight to Dubai is only 5 hours and we went with Jet Airways (India). We were in Dubai for just under 24 hours. Normally we stay at our mates apartment which overlooks the Dubai Marina, but it wasn’t available this time. So we stayed at a super cheap (for Dubai) place called Eureka Hotel in Deira. I’d read the reviews and was expecting a dump, it is not too bad actually. However, I always find that there are hidden costs not shown on websites like booking.com. The good thing is that it was only one train stop from the Deira City Centre (mall).

Some of the light show in Dubai.

Some of the light show in Dubai.

We first went to the Dubai Mall at night to suss out the price of some camera gear and also see the outdoor light show. Last time we watched this Pete dropped his phone into the harbour, no such thing this time!

Before we caught the plane the next afternoon we visited for the first time the Deira City Centre. We use trains as much as possible in Dubai because they are super cheap and run every 3-5 minutes. The coolest thing about Dubai is that you can walk around freely at night, not something we get to do in Nairobi.

The next hop jump flights were through Mumbai (2 hours) with a 2 hour layover, before heading to Singapore. Finally all of the stores at Mumbai have been outfitted but beyond the good coffee at Costa, it’s just a pitstop. I still couldn’t see a Forex so we paid with US dollars so in your mind you have to know how much change you should be getting so you don’t get ripped off.

The sunrise coming into Melbourne.

The sunrise coming into Melbourne.

We tried as much as possible to sleep during the 5 hours to Singapore but it just didn’t happen for anyone except Liz. I was shattered by this point and so was Pete. What was meant to be a day of sightseeing didn’t happen for two reasons:

  1. We were stuffed.
  2. It was bucketing down with rain.

Instead we crashed at our cousins house for the afternoon and slept for 3 hours. It’s always nice to have a shower after all those hours and even better to sleep in a bed.

Back at Changi Airport we took Pete to the different sites in it. Of course there’s the mandatory visit to the Butterfly House and various rooftop gardens.

While we had booked with Emirates, they code share with Qantas. I’m not sure why they do it, but Emirates is WAY better than Qantas. Qantas always have the worst food for coeliacs but on the upside, I had two seats to myself.

We stopped in Melbourne long enough to get our bags, go through customs (Ebola free) and then line up for another 45 minutes to get back through security.

Pete showing James from Chicken Run in Dee Why photos on his phone.

Pete showing James from Chicken Run in Dee Why photos on his phone.

Getting on a plane was the last thing on our minds but in 2 days time, we did the last haul – to Auckland. This is what it was all about, getting to see our youngest daughter and be there for her wedding in a few weeks.

Now, the bags are packed away. No more need for the neck thingy that supports you when you sleep. No more lugging around heavy bags. No more declaration forms to complete. No more airport or plane hotels.

It’s over – for 7 weeks anyway!

The Trial of Getting a Visa

Pete puts it nicely – It’s not difficult to live in Kenya, it’s just complicated.

With 5 days out before we started out 52 journey home I remembered I didn’t have a visa for our 15 hour stay in Mumbai, India. Great for someone who has put together a 7 week itinerary through a few countries, schools, churches, clubs and business meetings – I totally forgot  about this.

No worries, after a couple of phone calls and checking out the website which stated that a transit visa could be done in one day and only $27 each. It’s kind of weird, India just announced that you can finally get a visa at the airport, just not a transit one. Liz has travelled through Mumbai airport a few times, me I haven’t been there for over 20 years. Most people say to stay clear of this airport but we had no choice. BeyondWater generously paid for my ticket but Liz was a different story. She has to be back in Aussie anyway as part of her pension agreement and she had no spare money.

So the trip has ended up Nairobi to Dubai, to Mumbai, to Singapore to Sydney. Sure it is painfully long but cut the price down by $1,000, so it will be worth it.

I convinced Joy, one of my co-workers to take Liz and I into town on a matatu as he was taking the car out to the farm. His motorbike won’t be ready for a few more days. Joy says she will be at our place the next morning at 6.30am, as she says, it’s better to be there early than to wait forever, and you never know what the traffic will be like.

First though we had to get new passport photos as the India visa requires a different size. Pete’s out late working so we walk up to the mall (only 15 minutes) and get our new photos at a price of $10. They look good, but we also had some normal size ones sitting in our draw at home.

Joy arrives on time as promised. She had to convince her parents that she wasn’t chucking a sickie from work and walks a distance to our apartment. Pete drops us off at Lavington, a 10 minute drive away and we manage to get straight into a matatu, which is rare. It’s normal practise to wait until the matatu fills up before it leaves and we filled the last seats.

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This is what a matatu may look like.

 

Now this is not a nice flash new 10 seater van. This is a beatup looking thing with Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie blaring out over the speakers. The great thing about catching a matatu is that they go where no one else dares and at a speed that is crazy for around here. If I were to drive not only would the parking be a nightmare, it would take 2 hours in the morning. We were moving along nicely until all of a sudden the traffic came to a standstill. This didn’t deter our thrifty driver, he swerved to the right and headed on the wrong side of the road, side swiping a cyclist with a passenger (they were fine) and he headed to the front of the line. While there is an insane driver there is also the conductor who collects the money (50 cents for a one way ride). He may or may not have a seat and when someone wants to get off he whacks the side of the van to tell the driver to pull over. He is also happy to yell out the one window that work ‘’Town, town’ in case someone needs a lift.

All is well until we near the CBD where we don’t move for 20 minutes. We decide to walk, a much better option. As soon as we get out a drunk elderly man walks past Liz and says ‘Nice hat’ – she wasn’t wearing one.

Right on 8.30 we get to a building that a security officer says is the high commission office. No signs, just another guard who tells us to leave our bag at the entrance. As in every other public place the security wand is waved over us. We proceed to a room that looks like an ancient library. Still no signs, no staff, just a couple of people who tell us that the line is the seating. So we sit for an hour. Slowly the crowd builds up, but no staff.

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A view of the Nairobi CBD

 

Dead on 9.30am a man walks in with his stamp, get’s it on the correct date and yells ‘next’. That my friend is but step one in the process. This nice gentleman says to go to the opposite room (no signs yet) where we take a seat. Our number (3) is called. The lady goes through the stamped papers and tells us we need to see her manager – the man seated next to her. We return to our seats to see the manager telling a woman that he ‘won’t process her visa and why did she leave it till now to get it’. No worries I thought, we’ve called, checked out the website. Liz and I approach the desk. He asks if these are the tickets (they say they are), we give all the forms. He knows what date we fly out, he knows we need a transit visa. He brings out another form which we duly fill in. He gets out his receipt book and starts with adding about another $15 to the fee.

At this point, I ask again for the umpteenth time ‘So, we will get a visa by the time we fly out on Friday’. He stops, puts his pen down and asks what time our flight is. His simple answer is ‘No, it won’t happen’. No, you can pay more and get it done faster, no reason why, just that he won’t do it. He’s the manager and it was his choice.

Stuff it I think to myself. How many times do you have to ask about time frames, will something get done, is it possible? I’m not asking to be in the country forever, just 15 hours.

‘I will have to withdraw my application’ I say. No reaction from him except ‘That’s your choice’.

What a dude.

So after a drink we catch an even more dodgy matatu back to work. Liz, she loses her phone.

No visa = changing tickets to be in India for only 6 hours + $100USD. I think it was worth it.

Today at 11.35pm we head for home.