Monday, October 24, 2011

We woke up early again, this time to catch a 7:30 taxi for the airport. We still weren't use to it being dark this late into the morning - that would make getting up for work an even more dificult task. On the bright side, we'd see more sunrises. On the way to the airport, we went past Arc de Triomphe again - thankfully traffic was not bad yet, and we didn't have any near-death experiences. We got on what we think was a highway around the Hotel Concorde. Here there was horrific traffic, but luckily on other side of highway. The sun was peeking out over the horizon just as we were getting to the airport.

At the airport, there was a long like for Gulf Air, but not for Air France. At the Air France windows, though, we saw there were a couple windows for flights to Jeddah for a Mecca pilgramage (perhaps the same reason the Gulf Air line was so long) - seeing flights for a Mecca pilgramage is not something we see every day. The terminal we were in was comprised of a very eclectic group of people - the flights nearby were for the Caribbean, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Republic of the Congo and Madagascar. When they called our flight, people just lined up in one long line, no group boarding for this. For a plane as large as ours (another 777) it was a bit of a Charlie Foxtrot, but we got on without hassles. The flight was scheduled to be 10 hours and 15 minutes, and even though it was the middle of the day, we tried to get some sleep just to make the flight shorter. Crystal slept a couple times for a total of about 3 hours, and Justin got about 4 hours.

There wasn't much to see out the windows, especially since we were asleep over most of Europe. Crystal saw what she assumed were some of the Greek islands, which surprised her by being so dry. Our flight path took us over the Adriatic coast, across the Mediterranean, and then over Africa near some of the larger cities - Alexandria, Cairo, Khartoum, Zanzibar. It was dark by the time we flew over Mount Kilimanjaro, which is too bad because we would have liked to have seen that. The plane was chock full of crying babies of all backgrounds. Justin thought of the scene from "Best in Show" where the TV announcer asks his co-host if dogs bark in different languages - babies do not seem to cry in different languages, they all seem more or less the same.

Once we got over Madagascar, it was a bit odd because there were few if any lights. We actually saw more lights flying over Moroni (capital of Comoros, a very small island nation). We can only assume that the areas northwest of Antananarivo are sparsely populated or have little electricity. The only bright lights we saw were, unfortunately, large fires that had deliberately been set to clear forest. The clearing of forest is actually why we scheduled this trip when we did, as Madagascar and Borneo (where we are going next year) are two of the places most likely to be radically different in 5-10 years.

We actually didn't see any lights even as we came in for our approach, at least from our side of the plane (looking out to the East). We could not have been more than a minute from landing when the pilot gunned the engines and we ascended again. We circled back, and about 10 minutes later we were safely on the ground. For those 10 minutes, however, we were wondering what was going on and why we needed to circle around. The weather seemed fine, and there weren't any other planes around, so nothing made much sense.

On the ground, we got through immigration quickly, thanks to having had our Visa prepared in advance. Most people did not seem to grasp the difference between the "Visa" and "No visa" lines, and a lot of people got in the Visa line because it was shorter, only to be ushered away in a language they didn't understand. Our quick trip through immigration was of little use, though, since again the bags took forever to come out. One of our bags came out after about 15 minutes, but the other was another 30-45 minutes after that. We got out of the airport just before midnight.

It was a 5 minute drive to our hotel. At the hotel, there was some confusion as initially we were told we would be leaving at 3:45am for our flight, only to be told a couple minutes later that we'd be leaving at 8am. This didn't really put our minds at ease, especially after traveling all day and not having many resources available in the country. Our room was nice, but smelled a bit like smoke, sort of like cigarette smoke but different. We flipped on the TV and on the first channel there was a naked lady pleasuring herself - not exactly what we were anticipating on Malagasy TV. Maybe it was just a French channel.