9.19.2010

Getting From A to B

The worst thing about traveling is getting from point A to point B. If we could just have Scotty “beam me up” to our grandma’s house or Mt. Everest (not to say I wouldn’t hike the mountain, but how about just getting me from Africa to Nepal in 2.54 seconds) it would be a lot easier. In fact, I know many people who don’t go places because of the anxiety of getting there.

My aunt hates to fly; she had a bad experience when her kids were both young and there was a snowstorm, making her miss her connection and she had to spend the night in some god-awful Midwest airport with two small children. She lives on the East Coast. We barely get to see her unless we go there. My mother is the same. She can’t smoke on the plane, she gets airsick and she has a bad back. If only there really was a Scotty, she would be a lot happier. She loves to visit friends and family, but doesn’t love the pain of getting there. And I understand her pain.

I have spent a lot of time on busses and trains, cars and airplanes. Most of the time it is fine (for me) but it is that one time that is not fine that sometimes makes you wonder if it is all worth it. Generally I decide it is, but sometimes….

Getting to India was one of those times. Luckily we are not on a time crunch. Knowing someone is waiting to pick you up and you are already inconveniencing them and now are going to have to do it even more because your flight is delayed sucks. Luckily, we are on our own. However, our flight to India went like this.

We started in South Africa. On a Wednesday. Around 10 am. After turning in our rental car, we learned that the airport did not have a bus into town, which is where we would need to catch another bus. We asked about a shuttle and were told that we could get one but it would be 50 dollars each. Unfortunately, we barely had any SA currency left as we were trying not to have any left at the end (which is another puzzle in itself). We finally found a nice set of businessmen who gave us a ride into town, but this was after quizzing everyone as to where they were going and practically begging for a ride (done by big K, he is much more brave than I). From where they dropped us off, we hiked with our backpacks (mine by the way must weigh about 50 lbs -- how did it get so heavy?) for about 15 minutes to the minibus station.

At the minibus station we found a bus going to Maputo, which is where our flight was (Maputo is in Mozambique). However, it cost more than we had left, so we tried to bargain, but the guy wouldn’t budge, so we worked out a deal. He would take us to the border, then we could use Metacais (Moz money, which I had some of) to get a ride from the border to Maputo. Fine. By this time it was about 1 pm and our flight was not until 11:30 pm, so we had plenty of time, but we were also happy to get our journey started.

All went well until we reached the border. Everyone else passed through like a breeze. Let me preface this by saying that we had been to/through Mozambique twice already: once when we had first arrived, by plane, where we had to pay 27 dollars for a 30 day visa and once when we transited through from Zimbabwe to Malawi, where we had to pay 10 dollars for a transit visa (good for 24 hrs). So, we thought (and why not) we could get another transit visa. Unfortunately, two days after we arrived in Mozambique and bought our original 30 day visa, things changed. So now there is no transit visa. There is only a 60 day, SEVENTY EIGHT dollar (USD) visa. We tried to explain, we are on our way to the airport as soon as we cross the border, but they would not budge. Where was this visa 7 weeks ago!!???? I was not happy. However, we had no other choice. We had a flight to catch.

To top it all off, the process (them typing it up or whatnot) took about 45 minutes and THEN the guy said he didn’t have change for my 80 dollars. Yeah, I know, its only two dollars but I was fuming. You know they could give it to me in Metacais, but by now the WHOLE bus is waiting on us and the driver keeps popping his head around the corner asking if we are almost finished and there is a long line behind us and this guy is speaking Portuguese to me like he doesn’t understand, he is so innocent, even though I heard him speak English a minute ago…..so now I am out 80 bucks and I am going to be in Mozambique for about 8 hours.

We get into town and then have to get a cab to the airport, where we sit and wait for the next 4 hours for our flight. You thought getting there was hard, but the flight is even worse. It is a one hour flight at 11:30 pm, with a  45 minute layover, then another 3 hour flight after that. We arrive in Kenya around 5:30 am with about an hour of sleep under our belts. Next, we have a 13 hour layover before getting back on a plane at 6:45 pm. I thought I would sleep a little in the airport, but it wasn’t possible. Back on the plane at 6:45, and then a 5 hour flight (and another 2 hours of sleep) to Mumbai, where it is 3:30 am.

The good thing is that there are tons of people at the airport and it is no problem getting a taxi. The bad thing is that even though we used points to get a nice hotel near the airport, the driver has no idea where it is, nor does he speak any English. So we spend the next hour or so driving around Mumbai asking anyone who is awake where the hotel is. People keep telling the driver where it is and then he must keep passing it, and then he asks someone else and they tell him where it is and then he passes it… I was so cracked out from being awake so much over the last couple of days that at the time it was actually funny. Really funny. The driver was pissed off at us because we totally were not understanding each other and I was laughing every time he stopped to ask for directions.

The best thing is that when we get to the hotel at 5 am, they let us check in early (normal check in is at 3 pm) and we sleep, finally.

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