Reading Michelle Faul's article "Comoros crash spotlights 3rd-world travel risk" earlier today made me thinking about my own flying experiences in Africa. Well, most of my flights in Africa were in Southern Africa, but there is one flight I will never forget.
It must have been in 1998, I think, when I was in Harare the very first time. I came down from Tanzania via Zambia (yep, the good old TAZARA train), took part in a voluntary workcamp in Gokwe, travelled a bit in Zim and SA and was supposed to fly from Harare back to Dar to join another workcamp in Tanzania. It was an early afternoon flight with Air Zimbabwe I was booked on, flighttime roughly 2,5hrs. Adding the flighttime to the departure time told me that I would be in Dar way before sunset - enough time to catch up with my friends at UVIKIUTA. I went quite early to the aiport on that day. Why? Well, I don't remember - probably because I had to check out in the backpackers early or so. Don't remember. Anyway - flying to Dar sounded like a decent plan to me, but, hey, never trust in plans sounding too good.
Grace Mugabe, Bob Mugabe's new wife by that time, decided on that particular day that she wanted to fly to somewhere in Europe (London, I guess) for a shopping trip... Said & done she came to the airport escorted by loads of security (the airport was literally full of security!). We were just before boarding as we got the info that "due to some technical problems" our flight got at least delayed by 2hrs. For some sort of "unknown" reasons all other flights also got "technical probs" at the same time. Within seconds all flights on the departures boards were tagged as delayed. Strange, isn't it? But there was one rather new airplane that was ready to start - but it didn't. I don't know what Grace Mugabe did or why they were blocking the airport for at least 2hrs, but it was shut down and nothing happend. After a little more than 2hrs the presidential plane was finally ready to start and left the airport. A couple of minutes later were again ready to board our plane and to fly to Dar. Well, again we got told that our airplane had some technical problems and that we had to wait for min. another 2hrs. Patient as we were, all passengers went back to their seats and kept on waiting. Finally, after 4hrs of waiting and waiting, we got the ok and flew to Dar. It was pitch dark in Dar as we arrived. No taxi driver wanted to drive me to my friends place in Chamazi, located in the outskirts (acutally quite a drive... not too far, but no chance of any customers for the way back to Dar in that part of the city) of Dar Es Salaam. It took me somet time but then I found one who was willing to drive me there (funny enough he was driving an old BMW 3 Series with a German number plate...). After like 5min in the taxt it broke down the first time, 20min later a 2nd time etc.... I finally arrived in Chamazi way after midnight. Tired, but happy that I finally made it.