pilgrims inside caves, Lalibela
September 30 5pm: Off to Brisbane International Airport. Stuck in peak hour traffic but arrived in plenty of time. No line up at the Emirates desk and even managed to score emergency exit seats. Doing well. Boarded out flight to Dubai, with a small stop in Singapore to refuel. Loved the leg room in the emergency row, and even managed to catch some of that important commodity when travelling - sleep! Arrived at Dubai International Airport and was pleased to note that the horror stories about retinal scans and 2hrs though security weren't true. Our bags were x-rayed, though the person supposed to be screening them wasn't even looking. A disinterested veiled arab woman stamped our passports (in her own sweet time, in between cackling with her mate at the next counter).
St George church, Lalibela
And out we were in amongst arabs in long robes, and women completely veiled except for kohled eyes peeking out through a narrow slit in the black fabric. Out the doors of the airport and whoah! The temperature felt like 40 degrees and the smell..... a mix of musty sea and something else I couldn't put my finger on. Off came the jumper that had kept me warm in the freezing plane. Here we were in Dubai and not knowing where to go. Dubai is a huge transit stop. Most people are travelling on, and were therefore inside in the airconditioning with all the glitzy shops, or making there way into town for a shopping holiday We were catching another flight with Ethiopian airlines in 14 hours times, but we didn't have an onward boarding pass. So we had to exit completely and then re check in.
Where was departures in relation to arrivals?? (we got a few bad directions). Even if we found it, the airline desk wouldn't open for another 12hours so we couldn't get a boarding pass and go through to wait. The foyer of the airport with it's infrequent plastic chairs didn't exactly look inviting for a that kind of wait. We rung up a hotel near the airport and got a room for 'day use' which is half the normal tariff. In a taxi and 5 minutes later we were there. It was a very luxurious 5 star hotel, but then again, no other sort seems to exist in Dubai (especially near the airport), so there really wasn't any choice anyway. Cameron was most impressed with the complimentary dates and fruit platter, and I was impressed with the hot shower and all the sleep I got.
One of the priests of the rock hewn churches, Lalibela
It made such a long trip bearable. 6pm and back to the airport. Dubai was still baking outside. Our bags were again x-rayed but again the screen wasn't being watched. Lined up for an hour at the Ethiopian Airlines counter without moving in the line at all. It seems that Addis Ababa
is a transit stop on the way to Nigeria. Most of the other passengers were Nigerian and each person seemed to have around three huge suitcases and/or massive boxes taped up and filled with goodness knows what goodies. Unfortunately for them (and us) the usual 20kg baggage limit applied. They were obviously trying to get away with much much more, and the staff weren't having a bar of it.
But they kept at it, arguing incessantly (with no luck) and therefore holding up the line. We almost didn't get on the flight as when we finally go to the desk and handed over our tickets, the lady said, "You have no reservation". Apparently we needed to reconfirm our seats, which, since most airlines don't require that anymore, had not even entered our minds. There was a moment of dread but luckily she managed to find us two seat. Although they weren't together, at least we were on the flight. It took 4 hours to reach the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa (or Addis if you're cool). There was major pushing and jostling on the part of the Nigerians to get off, and luckily they were in transit, so the line for passport control and the outside wasn't as manic.
Huts around Lalibela
We arrived at 11:30pm and the airport was pretty deserted and no frills. But we had finally arrived! We had decided to stay at the Sheraton the first night as we would soon be taking 6 intenal flights (the first one being the following day), and try as they did, Flight Centre could not isse tickets or allow us to pay for them in Australia. We had to organise it from Ethiopia which sounded potentially problematic. The Sheraton had an Ethiopian Airlines office in the hotel and also, it was the only hotel where our email enquiries about a room for the night didn't bounce back. It was extremely, extremely plush. The most luxurious hotel in Africa, and one of the most luxurious in the world. Ours was only a standard room, but decorately very nicely indeed. The lobby had fountains, marble galore, and 24k gold plated fittings.
Anybody that entered the hotel was subjected to airport style security. It turned out that staying there for the advantage of the Ethiopian airlines office was not an advantage after all as it was sunday and shut. So we had to taxi it into the centre of Addis Ababa to the head office and organise all our tickets. By this stage it was 11am, there was a huge line up, and we were due on our first flight which was taking off at 2pm (let alone having to check in at 12). Anyway, in the nick of time we had a fist full of airline tickets, made a quick dash back to the hotel for our bags, and then straight to the airport. It was all good. We wanted to get some money out at the airport, but the bank was shut (damn sunday). Though we later realised that almost all offices in the country are closed daily from 12-2pm. It was 1pm at this stage. This was a pivotal moment that would come back to haunt us later. We boarded our 50 seater, propeller driven Fokker 50, and passing the strewn wreckage of a similar plane of the side of the runway, we were off to the town of Lalibela