14th-15th October 2016 – An eventful journey home for Antoinette, Hilary and Peter
Our long 37 hour journey started at 10am when we said goodbye to Lira and set off with Arnold our driver, plus two teenage friends of his who were hitching a lift to Kampala with us.
We had intended walking to Karuma falls on our way back but disappointingly to road was closed so we continued on our very hot journey to Kampala, arriving on the outskirts around 4pm; Peter’s trainers spent the journey tied outside to the roof out of courtesy to his travelling companions, while he wafted his socks outside the window deterring hawkers and vagrants!
The 30 mile journey through Kampala and onto Entebbe was very long, very slow and very busy. The roads were jammed with vans, boda bodas and pedestrians all intent on getting to their destinations as fast and as dangerously as possible. We were amazed at the driving skills of Arnold who got us safely (after a pizza stop) to Entebbe airport at around 9.30pm. He then faced the long journey back to his home in Kampala.
So we settled for a long wait at the airport until we reached our gate for our 5am take off, not directly to Nairobi as booked but stopping via Kigale in Rwanda (in the wrong direction!)….going through a total of five security checks at the airport including one where Hilary had to explain why she was taking 37 lots of beads with her. I think there was a suspicion they contained drugs, but the explanation that they were for our choir who were singing African songs at our next concert seemed to satisfy the curious customs officer.
We eventually boarded our plane to find that we had lost our allocated seats as the plane had been overbooked by the carrier to accommodate those on the cancelled Kigale flight.
This resulted in a huge delay while those who didn’t have seats (including us) were told we couldn’t fly. Hilary decided enough was enough as the crew appeared unable to manage the situation and went to the flight deck door and demanded to speak to the Captain who was hiding away. After some assertive advice on negotiation on Hilary’s part they acted on her suggestion to ask for volunteers to leave the plane with promises of use of the Business class lounge and onwards Business class flights and compensation. This eventually resolved the situation and ten people left the plane.
We were further delayed as the paper work hadn’t been prepared for the Ugandan and Rwandan authorities and eventually landed in Nairobi at 9am, the time our Heathrow flight was due to take off. As we landed we learnt that we had been booked on the next flight as we had missed ours, however as we descended the steps to the runway a fellow passenger pointed out the London plane about 200 yards across the tarmac and not yet fully boarded!
Antoinette took to her heels as if in the Poole Park run, hotly pursued by security guards, threatening to arrest her. Peter followed at the same speed but a security guard had attached himself to Peter’s left wrist and wouldn’t let go, fortunately Peter was a lot taller and faster than him and they appeared to do a sort of dance along the tarmac which would have been funny in different circumstances. Another guard chased after Hilary who was attempting to catch up with her colleagues but he probably gave up as she looked about to have a respiratory arrest!!
Reaching the plane a helpful attendant suddenly appeared and directed us into the main building where we ran quickly through the security hall, bumping into Jamie Pride (who had missed his connection to Entebbe due to the delay of the arrival of the London flight).
With no time (or breath) to chat we were issued with new boarding cards, our original seats having been reallocated, and boarded the plane, which eventually took off at 10.15, one and a quarter hours late. If the various agencies at Kenya airways had managed to talk to each other we could easily have been fast tracked onto the plane without going to the extreme lengths we did.
So we arrived back at Heathrow about 5pm, minus our hold baggage which didn’t get transferred but are hoping for its arrival on Monday…maybe?
An eventful end to a very productive trip!!!