The very very loooooong trek home

Our trip back started at 4:30PM local time by waiting for the taxi that never showed up and then just dragging our 2 suitcases (the other 2, much bigger ones, we had sent to the airport via currier service the day before) to the train station.

After 3 different trains (and the fun that is changing at Shinjuku station) we arrived at the airport just after 7PM. We were surprised to see the airport fairly empty, so check-in was a breeze and I scored again an exit row seat, which came in very handy for a 13h flight.

I noticed that our flight at 10PM was the last one out, which might explain why we saw shops already closing at 9PM. Which was somewhat weird, I usually know Narita as a crazy hustle and bustle.

Boarding went smoothly, nice new plane with this great ICE entertainment system, which kept Julius from sleeping all night.

As much as I enjoyed the extra leg-space I got, unfortunately there was a pretty large German lady right next to me, who on occasion would use my arm as her armrest. But at least I got to sleep some.

The food was again not the strongest point of this airline and the drink service felt stingy. I remember the days when there was one round each, before and with / after the meal. But now they only come with the meal.

We arrived on time (something 4AM local) in Dubai, and that airport was the complete opposite of Narita. Masses of people, long lines everywhere (including the bathrooms), we could not really buy anything because we had no local money (well, duty free with credit card works, and for a little snack Ritsu had some US dollars). I saw people sleeping everywhere, some camped out like pros with inflatable mattresses. For smokers this airport is a nightmare. The airport is very long … it takes probably 45 minutes to walk from one and the the other. And this is where the only smoking rooms are located. In terminal 1 these are very small rooms / cages and badly ventilated. In T2 it is only in the Hub Bar, where they obviously tolerate that people come in just to smoke without buying a drink.

Anyways, since Julius did not sleep at all, he was kinda grumpy and the loud / hectic atmosphere did not really help any of us. But then it was finally time to get to our gate at 7:30, flight leaving at 8:25.

This time boarding was way more annoying … first you wait in an extra waiting room, then you are loaded into busses by group numbers (zones), then you stand in that bus for 15 minutes waiting for it to be loaded, then another 15 minutes driving to the plane … then the chaos of getting on the plane … I still do not understand why they put the first batch of people through the middle door and then later the next through the back door. They ended up meeting in the middle and chaos ensued.

Compared to a 13h flight with mainly Japanese and western people, this flight to 2 destinations in Africa felt like a chaotic cattle drive. I could not understand why so many people had trouble finding their seats, taking wrong seats, I was asked twice ‘you are sitting in my seat’ … until they checked their stub again and realized that 36 and 33 are 2 different numbers.

With an aisle seat, I also got plenty of backpacks and butts crammed into my face. It was a very different experience. People were louder and disrespectful, the guy next to me had BO, the food was again only so so, my TV did not work for most of the time (but I was sleepy anyways. At least, at take off, we got a fairly good view of the skyline of Dubai, and far away, through the haze/smog, I got to see the Burj Khalifa.

We landed in Addis around 11:30AM local time and all our luggage was there, immigration was easier than I had thought, for one, we could take the diplomatic lane, and it was enough to show our foreign ministry affairs IDs … Same worked at the exit. They usually have every passenger roll their luggage through another screener, to see if i.e. some brings more than one laptop. From stories I hear they are very picky about all kinds off electronic devices. So, buy just saying ‘diplomats’ and showing the same IDs we could just walk through.

Last step was the beloved negotiation with the cab drivers. But there was not much wiggle room. The yellow taxis have a monopoly at the airport, and I have to admit, we did indeed have a lot of luggage … 3 of the bigger suitcases were tied to the roof rack of the car :)

But finally we arrived home (easy traffic on sundays) and found everything in order. But those were some very tough 30+ hours.

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