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Excess Baggage

sunny 30 °C

Five o'clock. am.

Before the muezzin could even start the morning call to prayer at the nearby Vuga mosque, I was awake; staring at the figure of the impish gecko pottering about the roof.

Bleary eyed and annoyed with myself for booking a morning flight, I tumbled out of bed to finish packing for my flight to Entebbe, Uganda.

After a despicably lazy week on Zanzibar, I was in need of a
change...and ready to bid the "papasi" (touts) brigade good riddance, so was glad to finally board my flight to Entebbe via Dar es Salaam.

So after the quick hop to Dar, and a breakfast of a stodgy croissant and flavourless espresso (Liffey water perhaps?), I made my way out to the tarmac to board the plane. As I neared the plane, I was surprised to find a pile of baggage next to the plane. In the hundred or so flights I've taken, this was only the second time I'd been asked to identify my baggage
on the tarmac. So I sauntered over to identify my iridescent blue
backpack.

Yet it wasn't to be seen. "Ah sure", I thought, there is another baggage truck to come. So I waited...

And I waited...

And I waited, til there was no more luggage there, and the flight attendant was asking me if there was a problem.

"Hmmm, yes, my backpack isn't here!"

"Oh", he said, "Did you come off another flight?"

"Yes, from Zanzibar. So why isn't it here?"

"Maybe it's still in Zanzibar, or maybe, they sent it to Johannesburg by mistake. I think people on your flight were mostly going to Johannesburg"

"Yes but not me, my bag was checked through to Entebbe!"

So next a few phonecalls, a little banter, my increasing despondency and no sign of my backpack, I was ushered reluctantly onto the plane, all the time being reassured that my backpack was either a) already on the plane (it may have been boarded early), b) in Zanzibar, or c) en route to Jo'burg.

By this time, I was a little upset and extremely exasperated...I audaciously plonked myself in first class (not the best way to get upgraded, I have to say) and proceeded to list the contents of my backpack, before whipping out my insurance policy to study it in detail (always a fascinating activity).

Furiously crossing my fingers and toes as I trundled off the plane in Entebbe, I made my way to the baggage carousel...but to no avail...for it wasn't to be seen...it was gone...

And so it was...just me, one set of clothes and a modest
daypack....alone in a country where I knew not a soul... liberating?

Perhaps...though that I failed to see.

Didah, at Air Tanzania made a few phone calls and tracked my bag to Dar Es Salaam, before giving a somewhat more relaxed Belinda a ride into Kampala, a charming green city with friendly faces, the buzz of boda bodas(motorbikes), "Jesus shops" (e.g. the "God is Able Shop" and the "Jesus Cares Supermarket") and the stern maribou storks roosting atop the trees. I was pleased to learn that my bag would be on its way to Entebbe the following day.

Determined not to let the lack of my entire backpack deter me, the next day I set about to explore Kampala, first heading out to the Kasubi tombs (where Bugandan [a major Ugandan people] kings lay after "disappearing"), and then to the National Museum, with its interesting exhibition on African Rock Art (did you know that there were once lions strutting their stuff
in today's Sahara Desert region?). Then it was back to Air Tanzania to get my bag...but no, it wasn't to be, for my bag had not been in Dar, nor was it thought to be in Zanzibar. The truth was, noone quite knew where it was.

They suspected it to be somewhere on the continent, but couldn't quite guesstimate within a 5000km radius. Moses from Air Tanzania, then proceeded to part the waters of the Nile River.....actually no, but he kindly took me to some nearby shops in search of some clothes! Yippee!

The following day I headed out to Entebbe to visit the Ugandan
Wildlife Education Centre. I wasn't quite sure where the rest of my trip would take me so thought it a good oppportunity to see some white rhinos and chimpanzees. Of course, the entire high school population of Uganda was there oohing and aahing at the wildlife....not to mention making jokes about the mzungu (Swahili for "white person", a most annoying phrase used by anyone and everyone), for it seemed I was about the only one there!

Catching a matatu (essentially a "people mover" taxi) back into town I headed back to the airline office to get an update on the whereabouts of my baggage....hmm....nope, still not sure whereabouts it is....but don't worry...not sounding too good hey?

Trying to remain positive after this was a little difficult. I know it sounds cynical but by this stage I was thinking of the worst-case scenario - it was gone...at least then I could be pyschologically prepared for what now seemed a harsh probablity.

I guess things could have been worse...I could have lost all of my luggage! I could have lost all of my luggage and been attacked by a rabid dog in the sticks. Or worse still, I could have been stuck on a rabid dog infested island with monobrowed boy band singers and nothing to eat but papaya, spicy sour virgin pork uterus and stodgy white bread!

So what's a girl to do when she gets a little down...of course,
Belinda went shopping! And would you believe, another local (Rosemary) volunteered to guide me through the labyrinthine Owino market, a market stocked with 2nd hand clothes from around the globe... It was a little manic in there. I
think locals found it hard to believe that a mzungu would be
op-shopping for second-hand clothes in Kampala, consequently every taffeta frock, polka dot skirt and polyester shirt was being enthusiastically passed to me......

That night, in spite of my new basic wardrobe, I was in that horrible rut of self-sorrow and took hours to get to sleep....When I eventually did drift off into cloud-cuckoo land, I was deliriously happy to find myself at the airport carousel in Entebbe, plucking my backpack off it and cruising
on into town....before I suddenly awoke, flicked on the dim light and looked around my dank hostel chamber, only to discern that the nightmare was ongoing....for all that lay on the floor of my modest room was a small day pack, with its contents strewn across the floor (some things never change mum).

Getting a little annoyed with the airline's lack of ability to locate my baggage, the following morning I got my mum in Australia to phone South African Airlines in Australia (SAA own Air Tanzania) and see if she couldn't speed up the bastards....within an hour I got a reply. Yes, my bag had been traced to Johannesburg and would be delivered to me the
following day....turned out the airline had been looking for a blue backpack that had gone missing on an entirely different day...hence their inability to extricate it from the rainforest of lost luggage

Not wanting to build up my hopes of a long overdue reunion, only to be bitterly disappointed, I tried to maintain my cynical
disposition...and upon rocking up to Air Tanzania's head office on Tuesday afternoon (5 days later), was unsurprised to learn that no, it had not yet arrived.....4 o'clock...nada....5 o'clock....nope...5.30...still no....and finally 5.45....in walks a rotund gentlemen with a backpack! Only it was the
wrong one!!

Ok...so I tell a lie...it was mine! Finally, after 5 (long) days in Kampala, my backpack and I were reunited...all its contents were there, intact...and it was finally time to move on...to where...I didn't quite know, for I had begun to become quite fond of Kampala...

Bel x
Oct 2005

Posted by Backpasher 12:30 Archived in Uganda Tagged air_travel

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