Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Trip back from Gondar

We left the brand new shiny Florida Hotel and stepped into a grungy minivan at 10 am on Monday for the flight back to Addis with a stopover in Lalibela, which should take about three hours. We checked in and hung around, as the flight was delayed about an hour by mechanical problems. Eventually about a dozen of us got on the plane and did the short hop to Lalibela, where the flight filled up completely. They served us a drink while we were still on the ground, which was the first clue things were a little off.

Eventually they explained that the airport was designed for take off in one direction only, and that as there was too strong a tail wind to take off at present, we would wait for the wind to die down. Ethiopia is very hilly, so it is hard to find enough flat ground with no mountains in the way to build an airport. By now it was about 4 pm and one rumour was that we would not be able to take off after dark, as the runway had no lights, which gave us at best two hours and thirty minutes for the weather to improve. We were asked to leave the plane, and hung around in the lobby and on the edge of the tarmac, which was not too unpleasant, admiring the view and watching the sun set. Eventually the leader of a large Swiss party was told that if his group would agree to have their bags unloaded and sent on the next day, the plane would be light enough to take off. He co-operated, but then they decided to remove all the luggage and hurry the passengers back onto the plane. By the time we all got back on board it was 6:15 pm and they decided it was too dark, so we all got off again. Eventually they told us we would be staying in a hotel for the night.

After that thing looked up. Two coaches arrived, luggage was tied to the roofs, and we spent 45 mins on the long and winding road into Lalibela. Room keys were assigned with no formalities at all, and I quickly got one single and one twin room for our group. Having found our chalets in the dark, I went to the attractive circular restaurant and ordered a beer. I was told the buffet would be open in five minutes, and it was. Two types of soup, bread roles, rice, a slightly spicy meat stew two vegetables and potatoes, with papaya for dessert. The group of travellers was very interesting, almost all white, mostly doing some kind of aid work in Africa. We got on very well and exchanged traveller’s tales. Early to bed, as the rumour was we were leaving at 5:30 am. This turned out to be true, and we were back in Addis before 9 am. By now we were working on our sheep brains, so when the bus from the plane stopped at a terminal building we got off, only to find we were headed for international arrivals and immigration!. We were rounded up, put back on the bus and processed through domestic arrivals. We took a cab back to our apartment pretty hungry as we had been up since 5 am and had been served one glass of Coke all morning. We showered, put on clean clothes, had a quick lunch and went to work.

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