Monday, March 3, 2008

Traveling On

Sunday, March 2nd I was supposed to fly from Johannesburg to Bujumbura (Burundi) and on to Kigali (Rwanda) for my next stop. But fate had other plans, and our first plane had to turn around and return to JNB for an emergency landing due to what the pilot called a "slight flight control problem". Which was OK by me because there was something moving in the oxygen mask compartment in the seat in front of me, and I think it was a snake (seriously), and I wasn't looking forward to four ours of wondering if it was going to come out.

Back at JNB I met some very interesting people - an army officer from Rwanda, a retired gentleman from Burundi, a former South Dakotan woman who now works for USAID in Kigali, a South African engineer working on power generation ideas for Rwanda, and a travel agent from Canada on a three month African vacation by herself. But I also learned that Rwanda Air (our airline) had not had a successful flight from JNB to KGL in over a week, and that the previous two attempts had been cancelled so many of the people I met had been in hotels around the airport for several days now. I began to get worried that this flght may not happen either, which would jeopradize my entire itinerary since the next scheduled flight was for Wednesday and by then I needed to be on my way to Egypt. Rwanda is the only non-business stop on my trip, and it was the stop I was looking forward to most, so I was worried I would miss it entirely. I was also concerned about what to do if I arrived late, since Kigali is not a 24-hour airport, and if we landed at 3am (instead of our planned 9pm) I wasn't sure I could get a taxi or a hotel room for that matter.

Eventually things worked out, at least for me. After many hours of excuses and waiting, Rwanda Air found another airplane (which I don't want to guess the age of) and we left Johannesburg around 1am and headed out over the jungle. We arrived in Kigali around 5am, much to the disappointment and concern of my new friends from Burundi since we skipped their stop entirely (and Rwanda Air did not help the situation by refusing to make allowances to put them in a hotel in Kigali or accomodate them on a flight back to Bujumbura - in case it's not clear from the rest of this post, I DO NOT recommend Rwanda Airways to anyone, anytime).

But for me, I was thrilled to see my dear friend Jean and his wife Janeen had in fact waited all night at the airport for me, and they were there to meet me when I landed. What a relief!

(Kigali International Airport, in the daytime)

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