FolkestoneJack's Tracks

An unearthly hour in Asmara

Posted in Asmara, Eritrea by folkestonejack on October 21, 2018

A Sunday morning sleep-in is always a pleasure, but today it was a necessity. Most of our group had arrived on early morning flights from Cairo and Istanbul, followed by lengthy formalities to escape from the terminal. The only people who looked more exhausted than us by this unfriendly timing were our drivers and guides who had to meet each flight as it came in, losing a night of sleep in the process. It was hard to believe that at some point later in the day we would have to shake this off and get snapping!

The four year old Boeing 777-36N(ER) that brought me from London to Istanbul

My journey from London to Istanbul had been wonderfully smooth, with clear skies giving terrific views as we flew over the top of the pub at Harty Ferry (Isle of Sheppey) that my ancestors ran in the early 19th century (while running a sideline in tobacco smuggling), across western Europe, over the mountains of Bulgaria and into Istanbul. So smooth in fact that it made the absolute chaos of the next flight all the more unexpected…

Arriving at the gate for the Asmara flight we found a large crowd surrounding a couple of staffers behind their desk. Hundreds of bags were strewn across the floor around them. The extra bags and cases seemed to be at the heart of the problem – they had to bring a train of baggage carts down to the gate to help shift it all. The madness continued into the boarding process with passengers going through the gate and then coming back through a different doorway to help their friends! The staff tried their very best, but could not help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Our flight landed at Asmara airport at 12.30am but it was another two hours before I reached my room at the Savannah Hotel with a freshly stamped Eritrean visa in my passport. The drive didn’t take long at all as the airport is located on the edge of the city, roughly 3 miles from the city centre. It’s a relatively small airport dating back to the 1920s and can’t have seen much, if any, expansion since it was restored in the 1950s but then again I don’t think it sees that much air traffic.

The Savannah International Hotel in Asmara

My room in the hotel is relatively spartan, the handles are falling off just about everything and I can grout tiles better than they have managed here (which tells you just how bad they are). Nevertheless, the room is better than some I have experienced on my travels and I at least have a trickle of hot water each day. Right now though, I couldn’t really care less about any of these details. I just need sleep…

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