Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Mysterious Terminal 4 and Accompanying Adventures

Alright! I’ve made it!
I’m in the suburbs of Kampala, Uganda with Phil’s sister Brenda, her husband Fred and their son William. They also have a daughter named Zoe, but I’ve yet to meet her. It was a late night; I wasn’t in bed until past 1am local time. Both Fred and Brenda came to pick me up from the airport and I’m very thankful that they did, it was a long drive and finding a cab didn’t look like it was particularly easy. I slept like a log, and woke up this morning to breakfast in the kitchen. Wow, I have not had a breakfast like this in… a very long time. Two eggs on a gigantic piece of toast, a great big spatula full of fried potatoes and onion, a split hotdog and a mug of tea. I don’t know that I’ll be hungry for lunch.
Anyway, getting here was a bit of an adventure. I did manage to find the Antigallican and tag up with Chris and Greg for a few hours. Chris was asleep most of the time I was there, but Greg and I wandered the area and had dinner. Sleep was short, 3 hours and then I was up to catch the bus to Heathrow for a 6:30am departure. There was a transfer between the two busses, and I’m glad that London is still fairly populated at 3am because I think I asked directions from just about every person I met. Caught the second bus, was confused as to why so many drunk people were getting on the bus, then realized it was a Friday night.
Got to Heathrow and discovered that the bus didn’t go to the only one of the five terminals I needed to get to. The bus runs to terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5, but not 4. Very silly. So I wandered the airport and found a train that ran to terminal 4, but didn’t open to the public until 5am. Hm… not great. There were two other backpackers from the Czech republic waiting by the doors who had never flown before, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take us to get through security being as I’ve only ever heard horror stories of Heathrow. We tagged up and decided to see if we could find some other way to get to the mysterious terminal 4. We headed up to terminal 2, as apparently they’d been told they could take taxi to terminal 4 but couldn’t afford one between the two of them with the number of pounds they had left (and in all fairness, I couldn’t either). Up at terminal 2 we found more people trying to get to terminal 4! There was a British couple, and all of us were on the same flight to Amsterdam.
We did catch a taxi, and the British couple paid the 15 pound fee. Glad that we’d arrived at terminal 4 we hurried down to the check in. It wasn’t as slow as we’d thought it would be, but just the number of people being processed made it slow. The luggage was loaded and we walked the two Czech backpackers through check in and getting their luggage on the plane. I was confused when I turned around in line and they’d pulled out a beer. No, really. So in line they happily gulped down the beer (to some very disapproving looks from the airport staff) and we handed over our luggage.
The first flight to Amsterdam was short, but I was so tired I slept through the whole thing. Even after breakfast at this great little café called Costa. Oh man, the muffins… they had all the normal muffin-ish flavours, and then there were two Epic Muffins. Epic Muffin #1 was an orange and lemon muffin with lemon icing. More like a dessert, but deliciously citrus. Then there was Epic Muffin #2. If I were a muffin, I would be this muffin. It was blackcurrent and white chocolate with macadamia bits. Oh… glorious muffin… we will meet again upon my return to Heathrow. So yeah… Breakfast was good, then I slept. Amsterdam was busy and stuffed full of people, which was frustrating. I’m sure if I’d had more sleep I would have liked it better. They have everything in that airport! Not just your standard duty free shopping, but a museum, a few kids play places, restaurant chains, I may have even seen a sign for some sort of water feature or wading pool. Crazy. They put some sort of effort into that.
At the gate there was a group of high schoolers with Canadian flags scattered across their carry on bags. Turns out they’re a group with Save the Children going to build a school in Kenya. Chatted with them for a bit, they were from all over; a few from Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary (of course) and then a smattering of kids from the States. Then I slept for almost the whole flight to Nairobi, and kept waking up to food in front of me. I think I might have been fed three times on that flight, it was very odd, but all acceptably tasty. The layover in Nairobi was longer than I thought it would be, but I snoozed through most of that too. The last flight was with Kenya Air down to Entebbe. I have to say, even though KLM has all sorts of entertainment and seatback screens, their seats are really, really uncomfortable. Kenya Air totally wins that encounter.
Anyway, I’m here now and it’s a nice spot. The drive back was interesting in that I got a more local view of Kampala. So… for example things that we would normally close roads for in Canada - like huge holes - are referred to as speed bumps, or potholes. There’s also a big cement wall around the house that serves as a fence. On top of the wall is a layer of broken glass, electric wire, and razor wire for extra-deterrence. There are windows all over, and on the inside are bars. Nice bars, but bars.
I think it will take a day or so to get used to how things are done here.
Jambo to Africa!

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