Tuesday 26 January 2021

On the mind of travel

A leg to start off

My thoughts wander from arrival to departure in the things we control and the things we must consider for now and after. These were ruminations of the mind as I began my travel from South Africa back to the UK. There were three legs to my journey, from Cape Town to Johannesburg on a once rescheduled, then cancelled and then rebooked flight which was a British Airways flight managed by their partner and subsidiary Comair.

Arriving 3 hours early at the Cape Town International Airport, I was not allowed to check-in for another hour. A porter helped me from the Uber cab that got me to the airport and stayed with me through check-in to when I had to go through security. He was of a friendly disposition, a human resources manager before he retired and took on porterage to keep busy. Porters get by on tips, though licenced and uniformed, they are not salaried, hence, the jostling for custom. I was even asked if I needed a wheelchair; we laughed.

Let’s get ready to fly

The first leg was uneventful, nothing was served to us on that two-hour flight and my baggage was not checked through to Manchester. I had to collect my baggage and check-in at the AirFrance desk in Johannesburg for my flight to France. I had a 4-hour stopover in Johannesburg, much time to reminisce about the last 5 weeks and the thought that Brian still had another 3 nights in South Africa before returning home.

When the time came for boarding came for my long-haul flight second leg to Paris, by the time I arrived at the gate, I was unable to take advantage of priority boarding. I was in Zone 1 and Zone 4 & 5 were already boarding. The crowd as such that there it was unnecessary to claim that right, I settled into the queue as it took almost 15 minutes to board. I took my window seat beside an ageing couple in the middle aisle seats then made to the toilet to change into my pyjamas before handing my clothes to the air steward to be hung in the cupboard.

Miles and wiles

For a while now, I have taken no entertainment on the flight and concentrated more on the flight maps. We were to fly 5,530 miles or 8,900 kilometres over 10:17 hours to arrive at 05:35 hours local time in Paris. We took off on a Boeing 777-328(ER) at the speed of 210.6 mph (339 km/h) and soon reached cruising speed of 581 mph (935 km/h) and cruising height of 32,001 ft (9,753 m). We did after the Equator breach 10 kilometres, but I could not be bothered than much.

I maintain fascination with the place names I see on the flight map unsure of if I would ever visit, talk less of the logistics of getting there surrounded by my creature comforts. I am not one to countenance backpacking, a strain of colonial expectation greets my desire to have Sherpas and campaign furniture. If I deign to suffer such an experience.

Louis Trichardt, South Africa; Selebi-Phikwe, Maun, Mopipi all in Botswana, and Kuito (Silva Porto), Angola caught my attention before I fell asleep, tossing and turning, waking up 4 times to use the toilet. I had dinner but requested I be left alone at breakfast time which was to be around the unholy hour of 04:00 hours.

And then we land

After changing into my pyjamas, I was offered another window seat with presumably more space. We wore our masks throughout the flight except for when we had drinks and meals. At one point, the man sat in front of me acknowledged me. How uncanny, he was the same man who sat beside me on the first leg.

Arriving in Paris, I had a 7-hour stopover, I did not have to pass through immigration, but traversing Charles de Gaulle airport is never much a pleasure. I was soon through security and in the lounge that became quite busy by the time I left. The last leg was easy and after baggage reclaim clothed for the chill of winter, I was in a black cab, the window open and settled into what was supposed to be an imposed 10-day self-isolation. I look forward to another return journey that I so enjoy for the process and the purpose. One day, Brian will be by my side on the way to the land of happily ever after.

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