Posted by: Tommy | December 3, 2010

What’s worse than an 11 hour busride?

Seriously, I know our luck is going to turn at some point with regard to transportation.  But not yet.

We were scheduled to fly out of Cairo on Nov. 28, at 2:20 in the morning.  That’s already a bad flight.  Our flight path was to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by 7:30, then we had an hour and a half layover until the 8:50 flight to Johannesburg.  Johnson, my best friend since high school, was to pick us up at the Johannesburg airport (he lives in Jo’burg) and he and his wife Anita had already started preparing a Thanksgiving-esque feast to celebrate our arrival.

Which would have been great – if not for the freak fog storm that kept us in the plane but on the tarmac in Cairo for an extra 2.5 hours.  The plane took off about about 5am, instead of the scheduled 2:20 and made up a good amount of time in the air.  And so it arrived in Addis Ababa at 9am.  We probably passed our Johannesburg flight as it was taxiing to takeoff.

No big deal, they’ll rebook us on the next one.  Which they did.

Unfortunately,”the next one” was the same time the next day.  There is only 1 flight to Johannesburg each day, at the same time.  We were lucky in one regard – Ethiopian Airways put us up in a hotel with meals included and an international phone call so we could let Johnson know not to drive out to the airport.  We were granted free transit visas and loaded on a bus.

We were pretty beat from the overnight travel and the hotel was easily the most luxurious place we’d stayed so far (it’s easy to top hostels for luxury), so we took a nap.  Anita lived in Addis Ababa for 2 years, so we’d gotten the scoop from her during our phone call – don’t bother, there’s not much going on.  We heard pretty much the same story from the locals – it’s an important African commercial center but not really a tourist destination.

So this was already the worst travel experience yet – a 2.5 hour delay, then a one-day delay, then missing Ducksgiving (the Thanksgiving feast was featuring duck, since there were only 4 of us).  And we had to get up at 4am the next day to take the bus back to the airport to get the Johannesburg flight.  So now we’re at 2 nights in a row with a screwy/insufficient sleep schedule.

Which may have led to the worst part.  Pretty much as soon as we boarded the 6 hour flight, I started shivering and feeling achy.  2 hours in, I was pretty miserable.  But we eventually landed.  I managed to sleep for an hour or so toward the end, which helped.  We had carried on all of our bags, so we just waited for everyone else to get off the plane, then I took my backpack and Anna took hers and the carry-on and we headed for the exit.  We were moving right along, until we got to the passport control station.

There, they have a really cool piece of technology, called the Fev-IR-Scan.  It’s a detector that reads the temperature of your face, as far as I could tell.  We passed through it and were getting our passports stamped, when I was pulled out of line by an agent.  He asked me if I was hot.  I truthfully said no (I was still shivering).  He was walking us back to get scanned again, when he said, “But you feel ok, right?”.  To which I replied – No, I do not feel ok.

So we took an immediate detour to the medical office inside the airport.  It turns out that South Africa is VERY paranoid about letting people into the country that have malaria.  So they took my temperature – 39.4 C (103) and gave me some pulls for the fever.  There hasn’t been a reported case of malaria in Egypt in 14 years, so they figured I had something else but told me I had to go to a doctor and take a malaria test, just in case.

Johnson was waiting at the airport and drove us to his doctor, where (since this isn’t the American healthcare system) I was able to get checked out by a doctor, get a malaria test, get prescribed 4 sets of meds and fill them – for a total cost of $72.  I was sick as a dog for the rest of the day, but a long night of heavy sleep combined with the drugs had me back on my feet the next day.

From the 20 hour busride to the even-worse 11 hour train ride to the worst flying experience of my life, we seem to be going downhill.  I’m not sure things are going to get better soon – we’ve decided the rent-a-car for 2.5 months in Africa doesn’t fit in our budget (since we want airbags… we could do it if we were willing to drive a deathtrap with no airbags and no power steering).

So we’ll be taking notoriously unreliable African trains and buses for the next bit of the trip, then taking an incredible 3 day flight path (through Qatar) to India, followed by Indian trains and buses.  So hey, its good that we’re getting used to patience in our travel.  Anyway, for all our moms and aunts, I’m fine and no one else seems to have contracted my illness.  But I’m glad it happened in the only country where we know someone that has a doctor to recommend.



  1. Poor Tommy! Get well soon, can’t wait to see South Africa!

  2. I am going to get my mommy comments out of the way. I am so glad you got a phone and so glad you are not driving. But I will pray for improved traveling conditions. Tommy you seem to have gotten sick alot — I hope that changes. I know Africa will be amazing.

  3. Personally I like to think you guys are getting the bad travel experiences out of the way before I meet up with you in India. 🙂 Hope you feel better soon!

  4. I, too, am glad that you are feeling better and I’m glad that you got in to see a doctor. Please thank Johnson for me!

    I’m also glad that you are not driving around Africa. I know that your “travel” times have been hard and something that we, as American’s, are not used to — but isn’t that all part of traveling the world? You are traveling just like the locals — can you imagine their headaches they have to face every day? You both are so lucky to be able to do what you are doing and so thoughtful to let all of us “walk” with you and “see” what you see and experience. Always remember — everything happens for a reason. Be patient, trust in God, be safe, enjoy, love, live – oh, and don’t forget my coffee mug(s). I love you both and can’t wait for your next update on your experience.

    Anna, take care of my son! I know you are and will, but the mom in me just had to say it again! I love you young lady, very, very much.

    As always — with all my heart —


  5. I just hate that you got sick & I worry a bit about all this couch-surffing. Guess I’ve seen too many scary movies about friendly,nice,normal looking CRAZIES!!!!! PAY the money for a flight to your next destination for Jimminy-Christmas!!!! This is suppossed to be a FUN experience! I’ll send funds,if need be!!!!! BE SAFE; first & formost…BE SAFE!!!!!!!!! xoxox, kita ( i just re-read this…is it SOOOOOO kita!?)

    • I’d say this response was semi-Denny Greenish.

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