Africa to Europe, Days 364-365

Last night in Africa

It is remarkable to think that Christi and I have slept our last night in Africa; that our Year of Wonder is, to all intents and purposes, over. All that is left is the return journey. We are homeward bound and I fervently hope that there will be no adventures on the way to Barnstaple, my sleepy hometown in the southwest of England. Our last morning at the Backpackers hostel in Kampala is spent packing and repacking our bags. Even though we have been very judicious in the choice of souvenirs we purchased our bags are still full to bursting. Indeed, Christi’s red Roll Away has earned the title, The Beast, because it is so damn heavy. Fortunately she does not need to heave it onto her shoulders unlike my backpack. We taxi to Entebbe international airport. Security is tight after the recent terrorist attacks in Kampala and even before we enter the airport itself  our papers are checked, our luggage inspected, and even the taxi is scrutinized. I have to admit that prior to coming to Uganda, I had no idea that Entebbe was a town / airport on Lake Victoria to the southwest of Kampala. I knew the phrase ‘Raid on Entebbe’, but it was our very beaten up Lonely Planet Guide to Africa that connected the dots. An Air-France flight originating in Tel Aviv in July 1976 was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists and ultimately taken to Entebbe airport in Uganda. The terrorists were welcomed by the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Obviously, the Israeli security forces were not going to stand for this and on 4th July 1976 (America’s bicentennial) 100 Israeli commandos flew 2,500 miles from their base to effect a rescue. 102 Israeli hostages were saved, while 3 lost their lives. All the hijackers and 45 Ugandan soldiers were also killed. The only casualty among the commandos was Yonatan Netanyahu, older brother of current Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Somber stuff, but our flight today is reassuringly dull.

We enjoy a wonderful sunset, our last in Africa, aboard Ethiopian Airways flight 810 to Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia). There are no direct flights to London and it seems fitting that our last stop should be in Ethiopia, our most favorite country in Africa. We eat a final meal of injera and wat talapia while we wait for our connection. Injera is the national dish in Ethiopia and something of an acquired taste. It is a sourdough risen flatbread, grayish in color and rather spongy. The texture of injera reminds me of carpet underlay – but much tastier. 

Our overnight flight from Addis Ababa to London lands on time. On arrival, I had hoped for serene scenes of calm organization. However, aside from the fact that the majority of faces are now white rather than black (which takes a bit of getting used to), the chaos is reminiscent of, dare I say it, Arua Park in Kampala. As a British citizen I slip into the country fairly easily, but poor Christi is at the end of a long line that barely moves and the passengers are becoming very frustrated. The Beast is then the last bag off the conveyor belt and from customs and immigration, Christi and I dash over to the National Express bus office to purchase tickets for Barnstaple. Unfortunately, the office is in absolute chaos. Typical of the British there are several queues, but no one is quite sure what they are queuing for (ticket sales and changing ticket details are separate lines). And then it transpires there are automatic machines available, but not all of them are working. I’m finally issued two tickets and we collapse tired and dirty into our seats literally one minute before the scheduled departure time. And unlike Africa, buses in the UK leave on time. The bus in general and our seats in particular are actually clean (very definitely unlike African buses) and there is a toilet onboard. Irony of ironies the main road to the southwest of England, the M4, is closed due to construction (I wonder if the Chinese are involved?) and we are forced to follow a more scenic, less efficient route. Seriously, did we ever leave Africa? 

The bus driver does at least follow the rules of the road and with little danger of a major accident, both Christi and I nod off. Twenty-four hours after leaving the Backpackers hostel in Kampala we arrive in the sleepy town of Barnstaple. It is all so surreal, so difficult to take in. Our taxi driver at Barnstaple bus station asks if we had a good vacation.”Yeah, not bad,” I reply.

As Christi and I walk in the front door of my family home, I can hear the kettle whistling and my brother asks if we want a cup of tea. Silly question, don’t you think.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of love and test tubes.

 

 

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