After all the build up and all the anticipation the team (except Jimmy, Rea and Kirsty - who hooked up with us at Heathrow) assembled at Oakmead and then sorted out the final position with our endless luggage. The coach drivers were a little dismayed when they saw the sheer scale of what we were trying to move but hey ho, they applied themselves to the task and soon, after much weep a wailing and, I'm sure I saw some cheering from the parents, we were underway. A speedy and event free journey got us to Heathrow in double quick time and we met up with the other three - tee-shirts on and after a temporary release for the chicken it was the whole hassle of check-in and getting through security. After a surprisingly painless transition we were airside in Terminal 3 and with a bit of time to get a last sample of English food before the off. 8pm soon arrived and then it was final checks and through the gate to Ethiopian Airlines flight ET701 for Addis Ababa. The engines roared, Becca and Charlie buried their heads and with rumble we were up in the air with the lights of London disappearing below us. Next stop Ethiopia...
Sunday 21st October 2012
Well the day started very early for us all, in fact for some I'm not sure that Saturday really ended properly as the combination of excitement and not very comfortable seats meant an all night vigil. So as the lights of the aeroplane raised us from the little sleep we had snatched the day began. So it was sunrise over Africa, yes it kind of made you feel like you were actually there that the 3,600 odd miles had made a difference, had transported us to genuinely different place. So with a few white knuckles and a few dazed, tired looks we touched tarmac at Addis Ababa airport. Then we prepared ourselves for the drudgery of the normal airport clearance processes. Immigration first - where are you staying? We've never heard of the Lido Hotel. Well that hurdle cleared we took on the challenge of baggage claim for 60 pieces of luggage - not as bad as we thought because of the red and yellow ties on every bag. We were on a roll now, trolleys laden and performing their own version of the trolley sideways-slide, we steeled ourselves for the trauma that is clearing security and customs. But wonder of wonders, after a few quick questions between us and the customs official he just waved us through - not a bag scanned, not a case opened and embarrassing questions about why we had oh so many cans of shaving foam! The chicken even made it through unscathed. Then it was onto the challenge of how you get those 60 bags, 30 people and all that hand luggage (including said chicken) into three normal mini-buses. Challenge? Not for our trusty drivers and their enthusiastic porters (enthusiasm driven by a tip of a few hundred Birr). Soon we were all loaded up for the steely progress into Addis and to our hotel. The Lido welcomed us once more with smiley faces and lots of rushing around to finish preparing our rooms - so bags unpacked, rooms allocated it was time for a quick forty-winks to refresh us for the rest of the day. Soon it was lunch and then it was time to deal with all those resources that we had brought - a BIG thank you to any of you who so generously contributed to it - seeing it spread out all over the courtyard and the teams sorting like loonies was a sight to behold. The sun shone down and in the beauty of classic ethiopian afternoon it was sorted and stashed back ready for action. Then time for a bit of relaxation and to take in the wonderful city of Addis Ababa. We set of for the top of one of the hills overlooking the city to have better view of our home for the week. This trip was not quite as straight forward as we anticipated, if travelling in Addis is ever straight forward! First off as we were observing the sprawling show of world power that is the US Embassy one of our buses got pulled over by a rather officious gate guard who accused someone on the buss of having the cheek to photograph the rather imposing outside wall. After about 30 minutes of debate with the over zealous guard we were on our way up the hill again. But then double disaster for Dera's bus, it had a bit of an overheating problem (perhaps from being sprayed with all the hot air by the friend of the US Embassy!) so without really getting to the top of the hill we descended at a leisurely pace, keeping eyes front on the way past our special friends from across the pond's palace and off to dinner at, somewhat ironically New York, New York an american diner! Then with full stomachs and weary heads we returned the the homely Lido for a well deserved nights sleep…..zzzzzzz
PS - Shout out to St. Aldhelms BTEC Performing Arts - Yo! I hope you are being good for Steve! Miss you!