I flew home (as in the motherland) today, but via Palma de Mallorca. Mallorca is often regarded as Germany’s 17th county and it shows. There were more Germans here than at Frankfurt airport. All food menus were in German and you could eat at ‘Warsteiner’, a snack bar named after the beer brand that is served along with German food. A happy meal consists of Bratwurst and a beer. Welcome home.
Peoplewatching was spectacular. And the decoration on tables consisted of a huge sangria bucket complete with long straws. After the plane landed the passengers were clapping. At least it wasn’t the funny party plane atmosphere that I had expected.
Did I mention that Germany is cold?
My flight to Casablanca wasn’t scheduled until 3.30pm and I had no intentions to do anything in the morning. I snooped around the bakery but saw nothing of interest and after I got another 50 pounds out of the bank to make sure I could pay for my taxi I hung around the hotel for a bit and eventually left early in anticipation of traffic. Of course there was none being that it was Friday, only Tahrir Square was heating up a bit with demonstrators blocking the way of cars and yelling slogans with megaphones.
My cab only cost 30 pounds, that’s $5 – bargain! I didn’t need the additional money in the end.
Before I could check in I had to go through a security check with my luggage. The classic African scenario; there were four of them and only one was crowded, the others were letting people in from all sides and the whole scene was utter chaos. I couldn’t believe the amount and sizes of bags the passengers were piling onto the x-ray belt, no security person would ever be able to see anything on a screen. Sure enough I made it through with a big unopened bottle of water.
I then stood at the counter for an hour only to be told that there would be a three hour delay for boarding. Great stuff, now I still had 5 hours to kill.
With that in mind I set out to spend my last few shackles on food. Unfortunately the airport is as Western as they come, not a single healthy food option here, 90% is sweet stuff (Cinnabon, Starbucks…) and everything is totally overpriced. I sat down at the English pub but fled when the waiter told me that from the food menu they did not have burgers, salads, sandwiches or soups right now. This left…a croissant and an onion pie. It would have been quicker had he said that first instead of listing what wasn’t available and hoping I wouldn’t pick something he had forgotten to name.
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf supposedly had paninis but when I ordered one they neither had the ingredients nor the right bread. So after an intense moment of self loathing I finally ended up at Mc Donald’s, shoot me now.
Another reason to hate the place, they never get anything right. I ordered the chicken filet menu and they charged me for a chicken filet, large fries and a large drink claiming that it is the 10% tax that made the difference in the amount paid to the price listed. It was really hard to bring the message across that 10% of 28 is not 12, or that I didn’t order this stuff in the first place. This scene killed 15 minutes at least.
The second Xray at the gate also didn’t reveal my large bottle of water. The flight was fine apart from the small Moroccan man who thought he was three times his actual size and insisted on sitting on half of my seat.
We arrived with enough time for me to make the last shuttle train to town but then I almost missed it because my luggage didn’t show for ages. I ran onto the platform and jumped on the train without a ticket or a clue whether it was in fact going to Casablanca station. It was.
At the Casablanca airport the taxi vultures didn’t bother me but at the train station they swarmed in and made me flee down the road to a gas station to buy some water first. Then I took a petit red taxi to the hotel – it’s midnight now, I gained two hours.
The last official tour route
Doha airport in Qatar seemed pretty well organized, yet inefficient. To get to and from the plane to the terminal you have to take shuttle buses and they appear to be driving all around the entire huge airport every time. There is a terminal for arrivals and a separate one for transfers. You get a color coded boarding pass wallet but the principle is also explained no less than 17 times in two languages via intercom. Pretty much everyone had a connecting flight so we all got off at the next terminal (12 more announcements), went through security again and ended up on yet another shuttle bus back around the entire airport only to get on the plane right next to the one we just left…
We boarded from the back without groups which proved to be chaotic as well. But Qatar Airlines as such was great and the flights went by fast.
I arrived at 9am local time in Johannesburg. It’s 76 degrees here, blue sky, and everything is green. I am instantly in a better mood. The newly renovated airport is modern and plays good tunes over the speaker system, unusual but fitting. Not one slimy cab or limousine driver crossed my path. I always thought that all airports around the world had that in common. I arranged for a free hotel pickup (screw the roaming charges) and Thomas, the hotel receptionist and driver showed up quickly. The hotel is 10km from the airport but 30 minutes outside of Johannesburg, and it is beautiful. I decided to chill on my first day and this place is perfect for it. Right now I’m in a hammock, occasionally flirting with some ostriches nearby. There are other animals as well, guinea fowl, springboks and geese. I also have my first dog friend – Nibbles…a mix of some kind with wiry hair and incredibly bad breath. once you’ve pet him he will keep pawing you for more. There are 7 dogs on the fenced in area next door and all of them wanted to say hi to me. There has got to be a job for me I can use this skill for…
I met one of my tourmates already. She’s from England and this first leg of my trip is her last leg after traveling through the US, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia for 6 months. She says she’s not ready to go home yet although living out of a backpack for months can have so many ups and downs.
I also know Thomas’s lifestory now. He gave me a lift to the gas station where the ATM is and we ended up driving to the airport again to pick up a Dutch couple who was living in Johannesburg 36 years ago. Thomas is from Zimbabwe but after he lost his job at the Sheraton in Harare he had to come here for work. His wife and two kids are still in Zimbabwe and can’t get visas to join him. He sees them every two years as it is too expensive for him to travel back. When he does he takes a bus that needs 12 hours and is cheaper than the 2 hour flight which would cost him $220 roundtrip.
Thomas said that when last year’s World Cup tickets were first available nobody wanted them here. It took a while to build some momentum for them. For South Africans the tickets went for $18 – the foreigners paid $80. Pretty quickly though they were no longer available for the locals.
It is now 6pm and I’ve been to a shop to buy some fruit and veggies, I’ve booked a city tour for tomorrow and I’ve taken a dip in the pool (the ostriches were all watching, perverts). I can see a minor tan on my left arm and I’ve already showered twice because of sun lotion and pool water. I discovered small bottles of champagne in a vending machine (!) and I think I may have scared off a young geeky guy who is on my trip. Tonight is going to be a quiet night. I am no longer tired but I’m sure I will sleep well in one of my queen sized beds in the ginormous room that was given to me for some reason.
Wow, a cool brand new airport it seems, but you must take a transfer bus everywhere. They announce the correct terminal 12 times in English and Arabic while you pass desert and fancy Middle Eastern looking buildings (it’s dark, I can’t tell what they are) and you can see an impressive skyline.
9 more hours…
…and has checked in to her flight at Frankfurt airport. Her luggage still weighs exactly 20kg – the same as when she left New York with some winter clothes in the bag that are no longer there.
It’s Saturday and I am at my parents place in Germany. I arrived yesterday at 1.30pm after an unnecessary (except for the ticket price) layover in London. Everything went according to plan. One screaming kid per flight. I caught up on the Facebook movie and 30 Rock reruns, ate chicken or beef, didn’t sleep and breathed in too much recycled air. Nobody went through my luggage or carry on which I was very pleased about as it was packed so tightly I could not have opened again, zipping it up had already been a challenge. No delays, no lines at immigration, no free wi-fi.
At “home” not much had changed. We spent the afternoon catching up, and at 6pm a bottle of bubbly was added to our conversation. At 6.45pm I was fast asleep until early this morning.
I get carsick from air freshener and the ongoing phone conversations of the driver and I get seasick from people who pace in small circles in front of me during their Bluetooth conversations.
Fat, trashy white kids should not be named Usher.
And George Clooney contracted malaria in the Sudan.
Posted in USA
Tagged on the road, USA