Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Day 7: getting out

Last day
Goodbyes all round, today – I’m quite sad to be leaving and looking forward to the next trip in September, though a lot of organising is going to be needed if it is all going to happen as planned. Lots of warn handshakes, a few hugs and smiles all round.
So not a long entry today, but a few travel tips from my experienced globetrotter colleague:

1.       Luggage weight.
Take it to the local butchers where they weigh the lambs and goats. Only a small tip is required (though if you’re not a local you may be asked for a large one. But resist.) The problem was that my big case was just under 30kg (with my secret purchase) and my borrowed case was nearly 20kg. And the baggage allowance is 35kg. And they charge about $25 per kilogram for excess. And if you can’t pay (probably in used cash plus easements), you have to ditch your stuff or miss the flight. Because at Kabul, nobody else is allowed in to see you off – so they couldn’t take it away for you. But in fact dear Yousuf DID manage to charm his way in, having correctly advised me on item 2, next.

2.       Hand baggage and laptops.
Put all the heavy stuff in your hand baggage (I expect you know that already) – and IN WITH YOUR LAPTOP. A separate laptop bag is always allowed – so use it! I was fortunate in having a large and floppy expandable laptop bag with me. So I ended up with one main bag checked in (34.8kg!), one small wheelie borrowed suitcase (about 12kg with all my clothes mercilessly stuffed in) and my ‘laptop bag’ (about 15kg and fit to burst). Luckily they didn’t spot me before I got away from the check-in desk. Apparently, they can even send you back from the gate to have them weighed (meant to be a maximum of 10kg, and they can charge ‘first class excess’ on anything over) – but they were too preoccupied with other things here, I think. Carting them round the airport was quite a pain, but less so than a whopping excess baggage charge. So far, so good.

3.       Travelling from Kabul airport.
Expect it to be quite a novel process, and look at it like you would an interesting cryptic puzzle. You know that you’re going to be on that plane in the end, so enjoy the struggle of getting there. And cherish the creative new ways they have found to put extra stages and steps into the process of getting on a plane. Keep smiling. I lost count after about seven, there of which happened before we even got the car parked. They did save the best one till last, though. You think it’s like one of those computer  games, as you keep getting onto the next level and thinking you’re winning – and surely you have finally got to safety when you find you’re in the departure lounge with all the planes visible out of the window? Well, no, not here.

In a strange airport where none of the officials speak English, how do you make sure where and when to get your plane? By checking the monitors, maybe? Well, normally yes. But they were all showing that ‘Windows isn’t working’ screen we’ve all seen. And even non-English speaking staff were nowhere to be found: they came and opened the glass doors for each flight, were completely busy with getting everybody through, then disappeared into thin air. But the answer to this level six challenge was the first class lounge, just tucked in behind the man with the prayer mats – where they had a large plasma screen display that you could see from just inside the entrance. Luckily, I soon discovered that the flight was an hour late, so didn’t need to fret while wondering if I’d missed the plane. And was that it? Well, no. There was the small matter of the corridor leading nowhere with no plane in sight and a broken lift. But when you found the staircase tucked away round the corner, it was like winning the jackpot. But when you got to the bottom of the stairs with two ridiculously heavy items of hand luggage, the bus doors were shutting… (to be continued)

No comments:

Post a Comment