Sitting here at Kotoka Airport in Accra. Just been worked over as usual. Travelling as a photographer, airport travel is one of the more unenjoyable challenges. You're loaded up to the hilt so you know you're going to get hit with excess luggage. It's just a matter of limiting the damage.
Today, not too bad only to be told once I got upstairs that they'd botched it up and my luggage bill was nearly doubling. I had 57 kilos checked in I think. That's not including the 30 or so kilos that I'm sneaking onboard with me. Then, when I got upstairs, through customs and screening I was told that one of my bags had been detained by security and that I had to go all the way back downstairs again and go through the same rigmorole (spell?) again. Got downstairs only to be told that everything was okay and that I could go back upstairs again: through customs, through security and screening, etc.
So now not a happy camper. My video guy back in late 2010 got detained in Dubai for nearly 30 hours because they thought his gyro-stabiliser was in fact a bomb. He ended up having to can his flight and re-route through Addis Abiba in Ethiopia. Just hope this bloody plane takes off and we don't need to get out and push it. Asky is the airline. Don't like flying these airlines I've never heard of but that's part and parcel of travelling in Africa. You just put your life into the luck of the draw. But life's a lottery whichever way you look at it.
Nearly got bowled over at a zebra crossing this morning crossing one of Accra's busiest roads. My fault. Was looking one way and then this taxi driver just came charging through. I don't subscribe to this trying to make the world perfectly safe back home. Keeping safe over here brings a healthy level of awareness in my view that benefits one in other ways. It keeps you alive, pardon the pun.
Things a shambles here on the tarmac in Lome: the capital of the West African country of Togo. We've been delayed an hour at least already.
Story appears to be this. Lady travelling from Addis Ababa in Ethiopa to Bamako is sitting with two other friends. Only trouble is that she has been allocated a different seat for the sector from Lome to Bamako. Poor old Charlie Chinaman gets onto plane to find his seat is taken by the lady. Lady is asked by cabin staff to move but won't. A fight erupts and there's punches and whatever else flying around.
That's about when I started to try and work out what was going on. So security/ police get on board to take her off. But now she's built a bit of a following among the Africans onboard, which is about 80% of the plane, and the police are reluctant to remove her because they fear that the rest of the passengers will turn violent against them. So police leave the plane.
At this point, pretty much two thirds of the flight are standing up and watching what's going on or actively participating. It's the Malians against the Chinese bloke. Poor old Charlie Chen (I don't think that's his name by the way) is stuck in the middle. He wants his seat but is now pitted against most of a West African country. All the discussion is in French being a Francophone country. Probably a bit of Chinese from the Chinese bloke but no- one can understand him so he's better off saying nothing.
Now the discussions/ altercation have moved into my part of the plane. People yelling and shouting. Couple of us laughing. One passenger going ballistic because the plane is late. Woman now standing next to me. I'm in the middle of it. As a French bloke just said to me, just as well not happening in Mali where we are bound. Plane could be broken into north and south parts and then it could really be on. Country is in a middle of a coup.
Passengers now yelling at each other. Quite humorous though need to keep head down which is what I'm doing. Heat continues to rise here. Keep head down. Typing this is helping. TIA. This is Africa. Woman going ballistic now. Blokes yelling back trying to assuage her. Chinese bloke sitting next to me - they're everywhere on this plane - has no idea. Chinese is his language. French has him buggered.
That said, if they band together this could turn into an international conflict. The world's largest country against a West African country. Could be here for hours at this rate. This could erupt into an all-in in which case I will have to down my computer...If I join it becomes a world conflict rather than just an inter-country conflict.
Airports and air travel interesting in Africa. Whenever cabin crew tell you to be seated in the departure lounge you do the opposite. Today's discussion was typical. Walk up to the departure gate when a few started the stampede. "Please Sir be seated" I was told with the others. I start to do what they request and then a bloke says: "Please, Sir. Your boarding pass", after which I presented it to him. "Okay, you can go", he said. All in the space of 30 seconds.
20 minutes later. Things have quietened a fair bit. Plane still shows no sign of moving.
1910. So have just arrived at the hotel in Bamako. One of President Gadafi's hotels I think. Long day. Left hotel at 0845 and have only just lobbed. Particularly long given that it's only about a 90 minute flight from Accra. But you get that. TIA.
So eventually the altercation on the plane settled and we left about two hours after the listed departure time. Not sure what ended up happening with Charlie Chen and the African woman but the rest of the plane settled and we were able to take off. Mind you, when it landed the smoke hadn't finished coming off the tyres as we skidded down the runway and everyone was up on their feet pulling out their bags from the overheads. The hosties gave up trying to tell everyone to sit down and by the time we hit the taxi-way pretty much everyone had got their bags from the overheads. Again, TIA. But there's something about it that you have to laugh at and love.