Thursday, July 17, 2008

Africa #2-#3: Still Getting There

Giraffe Crossing The Serengeti, Tanzania

The game-opener SFO to London flight was fine, especially as for three of the four main legs we are flying we were able to use miles to get into business class. I’d quite forgotten how infinitely more comfortable those seats are compared to the recycled deck-chairs they provide in economy, and in general how pleasant flying can be when you can board first and leave first,thereby skipping lines at both ends of the journey.

London was its usual damp, summer self and so rather than doing anything outdoors to while away the afternoon we decided instead to head to that old standby, the British Museum. Alas, we were about three weeks too early to see the soon-to-be-open exhibit on Emperor Hadrian but since there’s always something to be found there you somehow missed on previous visits there are few places I’d rather while away a few hours in.

Quick dinner at the Frontline and then back to the Paddington Hilton, where the air conditioning just wasn’t able to drop the room temperature down enough to make sleeping much of an option. Rabbit warren hotels don’t lend themselves to easy ventilation and cooling, it seems?

Yet another day, yet another flight: Heathrow to Nairobi on an aging 777. I couldn’t summon up any enthusiasm to watch the same films again so I ended up sleeping for three of the 8 + hours it took to get there. No complaints, though, as that was 3 hours more than I’d managed the night before.

When we landed, a helpful flight attendant came on and without a hint of irony said “those of you wanting to go on to Entebbe should see the transfer agent for a message, have a nice day”. I’ve got a message for them: didn’t you see the film? Turn around and go back. No good will come of it.

Hurdle number one on this trip, getting from Nairobi airport to the Hilton hotel. (And yes, there is a pattern here. I’m using BA air miles for the flights and Hilton Honours points for the in-transit hotels.) With great forethought and planning, I’d actually got round to calling the hotel ahead of time on the off-chance that the advertised transfer service needed a reservation. It did, so I made one. Perhaps even more remarkably, there actually was a man there clutching a board with our names on right as we exited the customers are. Bliss. Except … it turned out that they also had to wait for some other people who were now delayed, and though there was a bus leaving soon it was a crew bus and we couldn’t travel on it so would we mind taking a cab instead? Actually, that turned out to be a reasonable deal and we had the Hilton man negotiate the rate so it was cheaper than the hotel would have charged. (For those with inquiring minds, the cab fare was $22 US from the airport to downtown Nairobi where the Intercontinental and Hilton hotels live.) From touch-down to being in our room took under an hour which is a much better result than you’d find when exiting many major US airports.

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