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Travel Day

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Today was my travel day. And probably in the worst sense of the word. It started off early with myself getting up shortly after four o’clock, so I’d have enough time to get up, get showered, get my luggage packed again, check about 1000 times whether I hadn’t forgotten my passport or ticket, re-program the heating in my parents’ house, turn off the water and lock all the doors properly before catching a bus and tram to the airport around half past five.

It was around freezing point with some watery snow coming down at the time. So I was happy to vanish into the airport. The people who checked in before me had a little cherry tree as part of their luggage. That was quite funny. As we were on a small Fokker 50 for the short trip to Amsterdam, there was a bus bringing us to the plane – which, was at most 100m away from the building. A bit absurd, I thought. And then the fun started. The plane had to be de-iced before it could take off, which gave us a little delay to begin with. While I’ve used planes in winter before, I can’t recall any situation where this has been necessary.

The flight to Amsterdam had exactly one exciting point – the one when there was a turbulence half way through. Naturally this was about half a minute after coffee had been served, confirming the serving coffee on airplanes causes turbulence theory once again. In Amsterdam I had about an hour. It remains my favourite big airport because it’s nice and spacious with an easy to understand layout. It’s quite big, though with walking distances being quite long. (While it may look a bit dated by now, the old terminal of Charles de Gaulle has fascinated me for keeping distances relatively short by using a round design.)

Getting on the plane was surprisingly painless as there were no queues. It seems they opened the gate quite early so people could trickle in. A good idea I guess, to avoid the rush. And while it looked like all the passengers were there on time, we started being delayed at that stage as the plane had to be de-iced as well. And there seemed to be a queue for de-icing. We were told this would give us a delay of an hour. After an hour, another hour was added…

Not only did this mean that we would actually arrive in Johannesburg with a significant delay, it was also extremely frustrating. Airline seating seems even less comfortable when a plane isn’t moving.

But this flight wasn’t there for enjoyment anyway. I find sitting in a plane for twelve daytime hours quite frustrating. Most airlines fly the Europe ↔ South Africa route during the night which means you can sleep a bit. But KLM now seems to have figured that they can go both back and forth on one day, thus getting a much better deal out of their planes. That does make sense, albeit being a bit annoying. On the good side, I could get some of the sleep I didn’t get at night, do some extensive news reading and see many parts of Africa from above.

Looking at countries from above is amazing. Even in Europe you can see differences between the countries, just by considering the different shapes of agricultural areas. And then there are of course the Alps and other mountains, the Sahara and cities which will be particularly visible when it’s dark. Nice sights included what must have been a massive thunderstorm somewhere around the equator – with the clouds could be seen lighting up brightly and frequently when looking out of the window.

To finish this off nicely, the very last bit of the flight took us right over downtown Pretoria and around Johannesburg giving a very good view of both towns. Luckily Henno who picked me up at the airport had seen the delay on the web beforehand and hadn’t been waiting at the airport for me for 90 minutes. We then made a quick ride to their house which reminded me of the days when we lived in Pretoria.

February 24, 2005, 23:59

Tagged as travel.

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