A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about luggage

Anjouan Island tour

Lobsters and lemurs

We both slept reasonably well, considering the party right below us went on until 04:00 this morning.

Sunrise

I stay behind taking photos of the sunrise while David goes off with Patrice to collect our bags from the port.

large_Sunrise_ov..cky_beach_2.jpg

large_Sunrise_fr..r_Balcony_1.jpg
Sunrise from our balcony

large_Sunrise_ov..rocky_beach.jpg
Sunrise over the rocky beach

Picking up the luggage

Over at the quayside, David takes up the story:

”Arriving at the docks, we are faced with (what seems to be) a corrupt official, who insists we have to pay a 'port fee' just to go and collect the bags. They charge us per bag. It all seems like a total rip-off to me, and Patrice is furious.

large_The_Ferry_6.jpg

By the time we reach the ship, the crew are just starting to unload the bags, but ours are nowhere to be seen. Patrice arranges for me to be able to climb on board the ship to search for them rather than having to wait for every single case to be unloaded. Today there are not even any steps, nor gangplank, so I have to jump across the gap between the quayside and the ship.

large_Unloading_the_Luggage_1.jpg

On board the boat last night's crew are busy cleaning up sick from the seats and gangways - not a job I envy them. I thankfully spot our luggage almost immediately, sitting just behind the bulkhead, and as soon as I hand over the luggage tickets, I am free to take the bags; which then have to be manhandled across the same gap between the ship and the docks. Once we are off the boat, we still have to transport them the considerate distance between the mooring and the dock gate, and from there back to where the car is parked, a couple of streets away. Thank goodness for luggage on wheels”

Back at the hotel, after a decent breakfast we finally have our shower and change, before setting out on a tour of the island with Patrice as the guide and Khalid as the driver.

Anjouan

A bit of a rebel child, Anjouan has never really fitted in. Declaring its independence from Comoros back in 1997, then changing its mind and asking to be re-integrated into France. Not being welcomed by the French, Anjouan reluctantly re-joined Comoros in 2002, only to once again declare itself an independent nation in 2007, prompting military action from the Comoros. The island now has a semi-autonomous status.

Island tour

large_97F363DFF9060B318AA1C204EFAFEB80.jpg

Setting off in a clockwise direction, we initially skirt the coast, then head inland and up into the highlands.

Cloves

Our first stop is at Koki Village where we see cloves being dried by the side of the road.

large_Map_Anjouan_Koki.jpg

large_Cloves_7.jpg

Originally native to Indonesia, the Comoros is now one of the top exporters in the world of cloves. Patrice talks us through the whole process from harvesting through to bagging it up ready for export.

large_Clove_TRee_1.jpg

The clove tree is an evergreen that grows up to around ten metres high, with large leaves and crimson coloured buds growing in clusters, turning into white tufty flowers.

large_Cloves_12.jpg

When the flower buds have turned a bright red, they are ready to be harvested. Patrice gives us a raw clove to try – it is very strong and the taste lingers for a long time afterwards.

large_Cloves_10.jpg

At this stage they are 1.5-2.0 cm long with one end housing four outer petals and a central ball of four tight, unopened petals.

large_Cloves_11.jpg

The flower buds are then spread out on the ground to dry in the sun where they gradually turn brown, hard and slightly shrivelled up, just as you see them for sale in the west.

large_Cloves_4.jpg

large_Cloves_5.jpg

large_Cloves_6.jpg

large_Cloves_6A.jpg

Used in many culinary dishes as well as medicines and even cigarettes, cloves are also often used as a traditional treatment for toothache.

large_Cloves_1.jpg

large_Cloves_2.jpg

I love spices and find it interesting how various spices are produced from various parts of the plants they come from: cinnamon is the bark, ginger is a root, and cloves are the aromatic flower buds. The whole area where we are standing is filled with the aroma, and I am sure from now on the scent of cloves will always remind me of Anjouan.

large_Cloves_9.jpg
Cloves bagged ready for export.

large_Young_Girl..i_Village_1.jpg
Some of the local workers

Village of Bazimini

Further along the road, we look down on the village of Bazimini, which has been built inside the basin of an old volcanic crater.

large_Map_Anjouan_Bazimini.jpg

large_Village_of_Bazimiwi_1.jpg

large_Village_of_Bazimiwi_2.jpg

large_Village_of_Bazimiwi_3.jpg

Sisal

Introduced to Africa from its native Mexico in the 19th century, the fibrous leaves of this spiky plant are stripped and dried to produce fibres used in rope, twine and sack production as well as mattresses, carpets and handicrafts.

large_AE68F18BC2E4EBE2C384D3D228AB65DF.jpg

Pigeon Peas

Patrice calls them “petit pois model Comorione”: pigeon peas are very popular here, and are often served cooked in coconut milk.

large_Pigeon_Peas_2.jpg

large_Pigeon_Peas_3.jpg

We try them raw and they are very pleasant.

large_Pigeon_Peas_4.jpg

large_Pigeon_Peas_5.jpg

Tratringa Falls

Featuring on the 100FC and 125FC stamps, this waterfall is popular for more than one reason. and the natural beauty of these cascades is obvious.

large_Map_Anjoua..ringa_Falls.jpg

large_Tratringa_Falls_7.jpg

Unfortunately, the tranquil charm is ruined by heaps of trash floating in the water and blighting the side of the falls.

large_Tratringa_Falls_4.jpg

The falls are wide (at least during the rainy season, today the water does not extend across the whole width of the falls) and tumble into a small pool before making their way under the road into another narrower chasm the other side.

large_Tratringa_Falls_5.jpg

large_Tratringa_Falls_6.jpg

Being a Saturday, the area around the falls is quite crowded, and Patrice explain that they have mostly come up from Mutsamudu. The reason this place is so popular does not just have to do with the beauty of the place (although we do see a car full of locals pull up, get out, snap a few pictures with their mobiles and drive on); it is a much more practical and mundane explanation: People from the capital come here to do their laundry in the river.

large_Tratringa_Falls_3.jpg

large_Tratringa_Falls_2.jpg

large_Laundry_4.jpg

The paradox of someone driving here in a large, fancy, 4x4 or gleaming pick-up truck to wash their clothes in the river by the side of the road completely blows me away.

large_Laundry_1.jpg

large_Laundry_2.jpg

large_Laundry_3.jpg

large_Tratringa_Falls_8.jpg

Ylang ylang

Anjouan is affectionately known as the ‘Perfumed Isle’ as a result of its bountiful flora whose aroma often wafts with the wind and hangs in the air as we found earlier with the cloves.

The most prominent of those aromas, however, is arguably the ylang ylang, an ingredient found in many of the world’s most popular perfumes (including Chanel N°5, my mum’s favourite perfume). The ylang ylang, a tropical tree producing yellow flowers, is highly valued for its essential oil, of which Comoros is the world’s largest producer, exporting some 50 tonnes each year.

large_Map_Anjoua.._distillery.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_1.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_2.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_3.jpg

The process is a fairly simple operation in this basic and somewhat primitive set up. But it works, and the surrounding area is enveloped in a glorious aroma.

large_Ylang_Ylan..ery_Process.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_Distillery_4.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_Distillery_5.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_Distillery_6.jpg

The aroma is slightly floral, so it is primarily used in women’s perfumes and other cosmetics, but it can also work as a middle note in fragrances and products for men.

large_Ylang_Ylang_4.jpg

large_Ylang_Ylang_Distillery_7.jpg

This aromatic oil is not just used for perfumes; however, it is also popular in aromatherapy. It is also said to increase libido, help fight depression, lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system. Maybe I should try some to get mine back up to scratch after all the illnesses and antibiotics I have had this year! It is also said to be extremely effective in calming and bringing about a sense of relaxation, and is thought to help with releasing feelings of anger, tension, and irritability. David says I definitely need some!

large_Ylang_Ylang_Distillery_3.jpg

Mango

As it is my favourite fruit, I am disappointed when I find out that this is not the mango season.

large_Unripe_Mango_1.jpg

Patrice, however, picks an unripe fruit from the tree, and eats it like he would an apple, skin and all. I remember having a salad in Laos some years ago made from green mangoes, and try the hard fruit when offered.

large_Unripe_Mango_3.jpg

After finding the skin a little tough and difficult to bite through, the fruit is tart and quite refreshing inside, like a cross between an apple and a pear.

large_Unripe_Mango_2.jpg

Once I have finished the whole fruit, I recollect the old adage about eating fruits and vegetables ‘abroad’: “Peel it, wash it or forget it”, and my mind goes back to eating an apple bought from a market in Ghana and the subsequent dreadful sickness that I suffered as a result. Oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t have eaten this mango… only time will tell.

Mausoleum of Abdallah

Continuing south, we reach the town of Domoni and the revered resting place of Abdallah. The first president of Independent Comoros in 1978, the late Ahmed Abdallah Abdermane is considered to be the ‘Father of Independence’ and very much a national hero. He was assassinated by a military guard during a coup d’état in 1989, allegedly on the order of the French.

large_Map_Anjoua..of_Abdallah.jpg

large_Abdallah_Mausoleum_2.jpg

large_Abdallah_Mausoleum_1.jpg

large_Abdallah_Mausoleum_4.jpg

large_Abdallah_Mausoleum_3.jpg

Turning inland and climbing higher, we can get a good look back on the town on Domoni.

large_Map_Anjouan_Domoney.jpg

large_Domoney_1.jpg
The town of Domoni

Sales people line the road side.

large_Comorian_Woman_1.jpg

large_Comorian_Woman_3.jpg

large_Comorian_Children_1.jpg

large_Comorian_Woman_2.jpg

As we turn inland, both he road conditions and the weather deteriorate, with a thick mist enveloping everything in its wake.

large_Potholed_Road_1.jpg

large_676314C5916883DC098904D2B96241D1.jpg

The road snakes its way down from the highlands towards the south-west coast in a number of spectacular switchbacks

large_Mist_3.jpg

large_Switchback_Road_1.jpg

Men and women climb the steep road, carrying firewood and animal fodder.

large_Mist_4.jpg

large_679D2AB1E31E620A9FB0A91021B8E96A.jpg

large_67C3B3A30D7032A4EE2C5374040DCB83.jpg

Sometimes the road disappears into oblivion, as we can barely see more than a few feet in front of us.

large_Mist_5.jpg

As we descend, however, the mist gradually lifts, and we can start to make out the beautiful coastline below.

large_Coastline_1.jpg

Moya

The road leading into the small town of Moya is particularly bad, with more potholes than actual road.

large_Map_Anjouan_Moya.jpg

large_The_Road_to_Moya_1.jpg

large_The_Road_to_Moya_2.jpg

Lunch at Moya Plage Hotel

After climbing down a number of pedestrian switchbacks and steep paths, we reach the Moya Plage hotel, perched on a ledge overlooking the ocean.

The table is bulging with seafood: lobster, tiger prawns, octopus curry, and tuna fish; plus a number of accompaniments such as fried bananas, taro, salad, mataba (cassava leaves) and rice.

large_Moya_Plage_Hotel_Lunch_4A.jpg

large_Moya_Plage..l_Crevettes.jpg

large_Moya_Plage_Hotel_Lunch_2.jpg

large_Moya_Plage_Hotel_Lunch_3.jpg

It is all absolutely delicious, and I gorge myself full of lobster, one of my favourite foods! (I eat three of them, but don’t tell anyone. Shhhh)

large_Moya_Plage_Hotel_Lobsters.jpg

Maki

Being very disappointed that I am not going to get to Mohéli Island on this trip to see the whales, dolphins, turtles, bats and lemurs, I am overjoyed when I spot a baby maki (AKA mongoose lemur) on the restaurant terrace. Never mind stuffing myself on lobsters… I am off to photograph the lemur!

large_Maki_1.jpg

large_Maki_4.jpg

large_Maki_5.jpg

I don’t know what it is about feet / shoes and lemurs; I remember the ring-tails in Madagascar licking our feet. It must be something to do with the salt in the sweat, but why feet in particular?

large_Maki_28.jpg

large_Maki_32.jpg

large_Maki_2.jpg

large_Maki_6.jpg

Although it seems my fingers don't taste too bad either.

large_Maki_23.jpg

large_Maki_24.jpg

large_Maki_26.jpg

Despite not quite understanding my excitement about seeing a maki (“but they are always here…”), the kitchen let us have some fruit to entice the young animal with.

large_Maki_8.jpg

Comoros is the only place outside Madagascar where you can find a population of wild lemurs. This little guy, although still quite young, is obviously used to people and is quite content to clamber over anyone who sits still long enough and happy let you stroke his back.

large_Maki_11.jpg

large_Maki_30.jpg

large_Maki_27.jpg

large_Maki_34.jpg

large_Maki_37.jpg

large_Maki_38.jpg

In fact, he is rather partial to having his ears scratched.

large_Maki_15.jpg

large_Maki_21.jpg

When Patrice informs us it is time to leave, I reluctantly tear myself away from my newfound friend.

William Sunley

In the 19th century, there was great rivalry between Britain and France in the Indian Ocean, prompting the British to establish a consul on Anjouan. The man appointed was a retired naval officer, William Sunley, who was later invited by the local Sultan to establish sugar plantations. As a result of using slaves provided by the Sultan, he was forced to resign as consul (slavery was by that time abolished in the British Empire). Concentrating on his export business, his holdings expanded and at one stage he controlled around half the arable land on Anjouan.

large_Map_Anjoua..liam_Sunley.jpg

large_William_Su..s_Warehouse.jpg
What remains of William Sunley's warehouse

With a widespread rebellion among the slaves in 1889, the French took the opportunity to intervene and conquer the island. Thus started the French sovereignty in Comoros. Despite being implicated in the slavery trade, William Sunley appears to be some sort of hero on the island.

large_Tomb_of_William_Sunlie.jpg
The tomb of William Sunley

Coastal Road

Patrice gives us the option to travel back the way we came, or go along the coast, but “the road is bad, very bad” he says. We are OK with that; I would rather see something new.

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_2.jpg

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_5.jpg

As we travel along the south west coast, we see glimpses of sandy beaches and rocky promontories with surf spraying up over the built-up road.

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_1.jpg

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_6.jpg

Seeing those waves crashing in, I am glad I am not on that inter-island ferry today; yesterday was bad enough. Patrice tells us that the ferry is actually cancelled today and tomorrow because of bad weather.

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_4.jpg

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_8.jpg

Small communities cling to whatever flat land can be found, eking a living from the sea.

large_Coastal_Scenes__Anjouan_7.jpg

large_Coastal_Sc.._Anjouan_11.jpg

On this narrow country lane we meet a cavalcade of flash looking black cars with blackened windows and headlight on full beam. “It’s the Vice President” explains Patrice.

large_Narrow_Country_Lane.jpg

Breakdown

We also come across a friend of Patrice’s, whose car has broken down. His battery is flat because the alternator is not working. We swap batteries so that he has a good battery, while we take the flat one and hopefully our (good) alternator will recharge his duff one by the time we get to the next village.

large_Patrice_s_..oken_Down_1.jpg

Naturally we have to jump-start his car, but after that everything goes well all the way up a long hill to the village where we yet again swap over to the original battery.

large_Spanner_2.jpg
Another spanner in a trip full of spanners.

Malagasy Pirates

Comoros was a favourite haunt for Malagasy pirates in their quest to capture slaves they could sell on to Europeans. Patrice points out the headland where the buccaneers used to hang out and congregate before raiding the capital Mutsamudu.

large_Map_Anjoua..gsy_Pirates.jpg

large_Headland_w..g_Mutsamudu.jpg

Abandoned ship

It seems that it is not just cars that are abandoned where they die; we see this rusting hulk beached just outside Mutsamudu.

large_Abandoned_Hull_1.jpg

large_Abandoned_Hull_2.jpg

Hotel Al Amal

Yesterday the reception hinted that they may move us from Room 121, so when we arrive back at the hotel today, we ask “which room”. "121" the receptionist confirms, the same one as yesterday. As we are not particularly bothered whether we change rooms or not, we go and start to undress ready for a shower.

Looking forward to relaxing in the cool air-conditioned room, we are dismayed to find the remote control for the A/C is missing. With no other way of turning it on or off, we put our clothes back on again and go back down to reception.

”Oh, we have moved you,” says the same receptionist who a mere five minutes earlier told us we were in Room 121.

We pick up the key for Room 112, one floor down, and move all our stuff over. Yet again I take my shoes and trousers off and slump down on the bed and try to switch on the A/C. However much I try, and whichever button I press, the remote does not work. Clothes back on and back to reception. They agree to send an engineer up to look at it. He arrives around ten minutes later and after fiddling for some ten minutes more, concedes that the A/C is not working. Yes, we know.

Change rooms. Again. Clothes back on. Again. Move stuff over. Again.

Room 114 does have a working A/C! Hurrah! “No TV” reveals the engineer. “No problem” we assure him, but is it safe to get undress (again) yet? We check the bathroom. There is only one towel, which is wet. We still have the key for Room 112, so collect the one and only towel from there. That is also damp. I cannot work out whether they are leftover from the last occupant or just haven’t dried from being laundered, but as I’d rather not risk it, mausoleum I use the towel I brought from home.

The bathroom is somewhat shabby to say the least, with a shelf that looks like it is just about to disintegrate any minute. As for the bath mat – it is dirtier than the cloth I wash my floor with at home! Thank goodness for flip flops.

large_Al_Amal_Ho..hroom_Shelf.jpg

large_Al_Amal_Hotel_-_Bath_Mat.jpg

Time for a shower. As there is no shower curtain,, it’s a sit-down job. I didn’t realise how much dirt was on that road today – the water that is coming out of my hair is the colour of mud!

Feeling much more refreshed after the shower, we go to change into something cool before going for dinner. “Where are the shorts?” Both David’s and mine are missing, and I know I packed them in Grand Comore. We wore them on the last night there and I distinctly remember asking David: “Is it OK if I put these in your bag as I have already done mine up?” I placed them on top of the other clothes in his bag and zipped it up. Oh dear. Somehow they have gone ‘missing’ between packing the bags before going for breakfast in Moroni and looking for them this evening in Anjouan. Hmm.

Dinner

One saving grace about this hotel is that they do serve a very good pizza! I have mine topped with lobster, while David chooses a pizza called Oslo, with meat and vegetables.

large_Pizza_-_lo..at_and_veg_.jpg

What they don’t have, however, is stocked up on beer after David drank the last one yesterday. Another dry evening.

After dinner I look for stars. Last night the skies were full of them, but my tripod was in the luggage that was still on the boat. Tonight I have a tripod, but no stars. Oh well. Time for bed then I guess. There is a party on again this evening; in the sports stadium right next to the hotel.

This trip was booked through Undiscovered Destinations, an excellent tour operator who specialise in adventure tours to unusual destinations. Such as Comoros.

large_7E25BCD8F069161EE9D90EFC52ECAE83.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 01:45 Archived in Comoros Tagged hotel surf waves ship river sunrise fruit waterfall africa dinner lobster lunch mist docks pirates ferry trash pizza bags mango breakdown swimming_pool luggage aroma fragrance indian_ocean octopus chasm laundry lemur abandoned towel distillery smell a/c perfume spray ylang_ylang comoros cloves malagasy_pirates anjouan al_amal_hotel quayside luggage_on_wheels maki photograhy bazimi sisal pigeon_peas tratringa_falls runnish unripe_mango green_mango moya moya_plage hotel_moya_plage ahmed_addallah_abdermane mausoleum_of_abdallah domoney switchbacks bad_road mataba tuna_fish william_sunley coastal_road car_battery alternator jump_start abandoned_ship room_121 air_conditioning Comments (3)

London Heathrow - Atlanta - Port au Prince, Haiti

We've arrived, with even more goodies than we set out with.


View Fet Gede - Haiti's Day of the Dead 2016 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Never before have we travelled with so much luggage! Normally when we travel, we park at an off-airport long-term car park and take advantage of their valet parking deal, where we just drive up to the terminal, jump out of the car with our luggage, and someone else takes the car away to park it. This time we decided to get a hotel the night before as the flight departs so early. We stumbled across a great deal with a 'mystery' hotel and parking for the week for less than we normally pay for just the parking. The 'mystery' hotel turned out to be the Hilton at Terminal 5 (and very nice it was too), but as we are flying from Terminal 3, it means getting the Hotel Hoppa bus from the hotel to T5, then the Heathrow Express train to T3. With four large bags, two rucksacks and a camera bag. At 05:00 in the morning.

large_Hilton_Heathrow_T5___11.jpg

The check-in girl at Virgin Atlantic Airways is delightful, and when we tell her all about the donations we have received to take over to Haiti with us for the victims of Hurricane Matthew, she waves the fee for checking in an extra bag each. Well done Virgin!

The flight is not full, so we are able to spread out and have a row of seats each.

large_Approaching_Atlanta_1.jpg
Approaching Atlanta

We chat to the crew on board, and tell them about the good deed their colleagues on the ground did this morning by allowing us to carry the disaster relief for free, and amazingly they return with a large bag of goodies for us to take: blankets and toothbrushes/paste. Virgin Atlantic really does rock!

large_Virgin_Goodie_bag.jpg

large_7B1B4846A59D28A512BC8BFFDD835A52.jpg

The US is the only place in the world that I know of where you have to collect your luggage and re-check it even if you are on a connecting international flight. The customs officer brusquely asks: “What is all this?” pointing at our four large suitcases. “Clothes” I reply. After ascertaining that we are not carrying any food, he lets us pass and we can get rid of the main bags again.

The full body scan turns into a bit of a palaver, as even my silk scarf and empty money belt show up and I am asked to remove both. When trying to get it off, the money belt gets tangled up in my bra and they reluctantly allow me to just hold it to one side and do the scan again. I then get a full pat down and with all the distraction and fluster, I leave my scarf behind. I don't discover it until we get to the gate, and it's a long way back via the inter-terminal train and in through a NO ENTRY sign. David really is a star for going back to collect it for me!

While waiting at the gate, our name is called and we discover that we have had our seats re-allocated on the next flight – we again have a row to ourselves! Well done Delta!

large_ATL-PAP.jpg

large_7BA0CA61F49FEB4D7FE1D7F6BCE5B291.jpg

Pouchon, our driver, waits for us by the luggage carousel at Port au Prince, and whisks us through the dark streets of the capital to our hotel.

large_Hurricane_Relief_1.jpg

Thanks to my Facebook friends' generosity, over a thousand items of clothing (from babies, toddlers, children, teens to adults) came over with us to help out the victims of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

We also took some shoes and hats, toiletries, feminine products, space blankets and enough water purification tablets to make 20,000 litres of clean water.

Our friend Jacqui in Haiti (who runs the local tour agency Voyages Lumiere) agreed to take in the collection, so we leave the bags in the car for Pouchon to take to her house.

large_Donations_in_Car_2.jpg

Through one of her contacts who runs a bus service, Jacqui has been able to get free transport for the bags to the severely affected areas in the south.

Another friend of hers is a doctor who spends a couple of days a week treating the poor for free; and he has agreed to be the co-ordinator and distributor in the stricken area, making sure the items go to the most needy.

Many of my friends also gave us money to help out the victims; and I am delighted to say that with the addition of funds we would otherwise have spent on the two extra bags, we collected $750. In Haiti we received a refund from our tour operator for unused services (after an itinerary change) that we added to it, and after topping it up with some extra, we have made it a grand total of $1000!

The aforementioned doctor is also currently administrating a project to fit new roofs to houses damaged by the hurricane, which is where we decided to direct the money we collected.

So thanks to my very generous Facebook friends, at least TEN families will received a roof over their heads; as well as hundreds of people getting new clothes! I am absolutely humbled and extremely grateful to be able to organise this. Well done the power of Facebook!

large_facebook_like_logo_1.jpg

Our bags are now looking decidedly empty, so I guess I shall have to do some shopping while we are here in Haiti.

large_Not_much_luggage_left.jpg

We just dump the luggage in the room and head for the bar for a cold, refreshing Prestige Beer and a light dinner.

large_Prestige_Beer_2.jpg

large_Prestige_Beer_3.jpg

large_Meatlovers_Pizza.jpg
Meatlover's pizza

large_Terrace_Burger.jpg
Terrace burger

What's a girl gotta do when she asks for a cappuccino after her meal, but they have run out? Order a Piña Colada of course!

large_7C8B1D90D601A92DED48E9924629BF81.jpg

Before signing off for today there are a lot of people I have to say a “Thank You” to:

Voyages Lumiere for arranging this trip

Jacqui for agreeing to be our local coordinator for the aid we brought over

Dr Robert for helping to distribute the goods in the south as well as arranging the new roofs

My Facebook friends for their generous donations

Virgin Atlantic for allowing free passage of the suitcases as well as the large goodie bag

The world truly is full of beautiful people.

large_Voyages_Lumiere.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 07:52 Archived in Haiti Tagged beer travel us usa hurricane pizza aid atlanta luggage heathrow delta burger virgin_atlantic facebook haiti piña_colada port_au_prince #selfieless selfieless hurricane_matthew hurricane_relief voyages_lumiere haiti_relief hurricane_mathew aid_work aid_relief hotel_le_plaza le_plaza hilton_terminal_5 atlanta_airport us_customs body_scanner prestige_beer Comments (0)

Port au Prince - Atlanta - London - Bristol

Homeward bound


View It's the Caribbean, but not as you know it - Haiti for Jacmel Carnival 2016 on Grete Howard's travel map.

05:00 is way too early for my liking, but I prefer to have plenty of time to get ready. Today is departure day and Geffrard is picking us up at 06:15. He is early and we make it to the airport in no time.

The whole airport experience is a bit of a palaver. Uncharacteristically, we allow a porter to take out bags from the car to check in, and tip him accordingly. He lingers, consistently demanding a “tip for my supervisor” Really?

Suspecting previous experience is to blame for the pre-check-in checks in the departure hall, we are not surprised when a Haitian couple are unable to produce a green card or visa for the US, pretending not to understand the questions posed to them and thus holding up the queue.

In the queue for security, I chat to the Canadian UN security worker in front of me, whose alcohol-breath poses a real fire risk. She gets stopped by the officials – I wonder why...

I am not sure whether it is the Haitian authorities or Delta Airlines whose paranoia leads to the sheer number of checks:

Pre-check in checks: US visa / ESTA / Green Card
Check in – tickets / pre-printed boarding cards / passport
Bag drop – boarding cards
Security – boarding cards, shoes off, x-ray
Immigration – passports, boarding cards
Another check – boarding cards scanned
Second security – boarding cards check, manual bag check, body pat down
Boarding gate – boarding cards and passports
On entering the plane – boarding cards

Finally we board our Atlanta bound plane, and find ourselves surrounded by a large group of Pennsylvania Dutch. Are they Amish? Mennonites? Quakers? I admit my ignorance at not knowing the difference. They are all in plain dress, with the women wearing mostly matching pale blue gingham-checked floor-length dresses, a white bonnet covering their hair and make-up less faces devoid of any smile or outward sign of joy. The men – mostly young lads – nearly all look alike which makes me think they are possibly brothers or even one large family. They speak some variation of German amongst themselves, and English to the crew. As the plane starts to taxi, the sound of two dozen passengers quietly singing hymns emits from all around us in the cabin. In all the 650 or so flights we have taken, this is a first!

Leaving Haiti we head due north, initially over the mountainous interior, then later we have great views of Turks and Caicos islands from the plane.

large_Leaving_Haiti_3.jpg

large_Leaving_Ha.._Cat_Island.jpg

After a beautiful start, we soon hit clouds and experience some pretty severe turbulence, eliciting loud gasps and even screams from the passengers.

Atlanta

More officialdom on our arrival in the US of A. The self serve immigration desks scan our passports and take our fingerprints, giving me a green light and the go-ahead to enter the country, but David gets a cross and a referral again. They obviously don't like his passport, as the same thing happened on the way out.

The guy in front of us at the queue for the manual immigration also has problems, and requires a Creole translator. We swap queues and are in luck: an immigration official with a sense of humour, joking that David Howard is a common name. "Less of the common please, I like to think it is popular" quips David.

In most other countries when you are in transit, you literally arrive in the departure hall and remain there until your flight is called and you go to the gate. Not so the US. The hand luggage goes through an X-ray while we have to remove our shoes and go through the complete body scanners, followed by a manual pat down.

We collect the luggage and exit through a security check where we hand in the print out from the self check-in in Port au Prince. The luggage then has to be re-checked-in at the desk. Fortunately there is no queue here, and the lady behind the counter takes a shine to my accent, making me repeat the short sentence “It is” again and again. OK......

One more check of the boarding card and passport, then through another body scanner, then we are back in the departure lounge. We check the information board for details of our next flight – I never get used to the unique way flights are displayed in the US – in alphabetical order rather than chronological like in the rest of the world.

large_Atlanta_Airport_9.jpg

Ecco Restaurant
Having five hours to kill, we want to sit down for a proper meal, being served by a waiter (or waitress), rather than grab a quick bite to eat at a fast food place. The general manager shows us to our table, and starts chatting. Finding that we are on the same wavelength, we and up talking to him for half an hour or more, covering a number of subjects, including politics, travel, culture and languages.

large_Crispin_Cider.jpg
David is delighted to find they serve cider

The pizzas are very nice, but nothing exceptional and the wine is expensive even though we choose the second cheapest on the menu. . After a couple of desserts and two coffees each, we are totally shocked to find the bill comes to $160! That is by far the most expensive pizza I have ever had. I check and re-check the bill against the menu, but find it is correct, and leave the restaurant with a sour taste in my mouth (and it wasn't the wine).

large_27FC17DCBCF38D361F2C9559C9726B66.jpg

The setting sun is just above the horizon as we taxi out to the runway at Atlanta for our flight back to London Heathrow.

large_Atlanta_Airport_11.jpg

large_Atlanta_Airport_13.jpg

large_Atlanta_Airport_15.jpg

large_Flying_out_of_Atlanta_4.jpg

large_Atlanta.jpg

The rest of the journey home is totally uneventful, and in the car on the way back from the airport in the UK, I reflect on airline security checks. On our journey from Haiti to the UK, my passport was checked nine times, boarding card eleven times. My hand luggage went through three x-rays and one manual check. I had two X-rays, two full body scans and two manual pat downs, as well as having to take my shoes off twice. It's good to know we are safe.

Welcome home.

Posted by Grete Howard 02:58 Archived in USA Tagged sunset travel flight usa security pizza expensive virgin airline passport atlanta luggage heathrow aiport delta immigration haiti rip_off ecco security_check ecco_restaurant Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]