Monday, 26 March 2012

The thrills and spills of a first time traveler

There is a first time for everything in life and traveling is no exception. Not many would love to admit the drama that one is likely to face but none the less being a first timer is unavoidable; the key is being prepared for any eventualities. Do you remember the first time you travelled by air and all the hype and expectation you had prior to the journey? Such an expectation not to easily forget. To start with, after a long process of acquiring both passport and visa to your destination, your passport book is highly treasured and kept in a safer place than a land title. Some people make the trip a top secret save to a few family friends and trusted friends in the fear of being “bewitched” or the trip itself flopping. For others, travelling by air is a rare achievement and they make sure that every villager or clan member learns of it. They will always wish to have as many people as possible escorting them to the airport and waving them off as they board the plane.

On the eve of the trip they will not sleep because they are too excited. Dreams of arriving late at the airport and missing the flight obsess them. Then comes the D-day and they wear nice suits specifically bought for the trip, only to be disappointed on reaching the airport’s departure lounge, you appear to be the odd man out! Most passengers, you meet are dressed casually in jeans, t-shirts and sneakers.

Shockers that greet you

The whole drama and maalo starts when passengers are told to board the plane whose inside you eagerly await to see. While on board when everyone is advised to fasten their seat belts, a first time traveller, will look puzzled. During one of my early flights, I heard a fellow passenger requesting a hostess to open a window to his seat, saying he preferred travelling when it’s open in order to get enough fresh air like the case back home when travelling by matatu (Taxi). The hostess and fellow passengers could not help bursting into laughter, making the poor man look even more puzzled. And finally when you reach your destination, you cannot help staring at almost everything meeting your eyes, from skyscrapers, escalators to advanced road networks. You find garbage-free streets and wonder whether the residents are away on holiday or simply broke and starving not to litter anything. More puzzling is the fact that unlike on Kampala streets, abroad no one seems to pay attention to your well-polished shoes or hair style. Here everyone is minding his or her own business and you will hardly meet a group of people gazing at, let say a crane lifting heavy objects at a construction site, like its common in Kampala.

The missed flight
Perhaps among setbacks experienced by a first time traveler can be missing one’s flight. Personally I will never forget one sad moment in 1999 when the Entebbe-bound Sabena flight left me stranded at Brussels Airport. I wanted to make my last stay in Belgium a night to remember, that is the reason I spent the night with friends enjoying Belgian beer at a Grand Place pub only to retire to my hotel room at around 2am. This made me develop a hang-over and woke up a bit late to call a taxi to take me to the airport. By the way, I kept wondering why whereas in Uganda the Mercedes model cars are only a preserve of the rich, in Europe they were mainly being used as taxis!

It was while on the way to the airport, somewhere near the NATO headquarters that I realiSed I could arrive late and possibly miss my flight. So I ordered the taxi driver to increase speed. Instead the mzungu man barked at me, saying this could only be done in Africa and blamed me for calling him when it was already late. I looked around but could not spot any boda boda. For the first time I discovered this was one area where Kampala was far ahead of Brussels. Like expected, I ended up missing my flight and got booked on another one which was due for two days later. This was, however, after paying a fine of $100. That amount of money would make a big party with friends back home upon my return home.

On the other hand, one of my happiest moments of travelling happened at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi when an Amsterdam-bound KLM Airbus hostess mistook my boarding pass to belong to the business class and ordered me to go there. She realized her mistake after takeoff when it was already too late to rectify it. I thus ended up travelling eight hours of the business class comfort with among other offers, special meals designed by KLM master chefs and available at preferred times, extensive selection of award winning wines, beers and spirits readily on offer throughout the flight. Besides, the seats had aisle access and worktable which could convert into a fully flat bed.

While a first time air traveler is bound to meet many challenges, sometimes even a frequent flier can fall victim to travel glitches.

For your travel to Africa contact
Eco Culture Tours and Adventures

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