My nightmare trip to Malabo

2015-01-18 15:00

Three time zones, six cities and three Ebola screening shots. This was what I had to endure when I travelled to Equatorial Guinea this week.

Thirty-six hours later, I made it to my final destination in Mongomo ahead of Bafana Bafana’s opening Africa Cup of Nations fixture against Algeria tomorrow.

To say I was exhausted would be an understatement. I was a dead man walking and could hardly keep my eyes open.

Travelling in Africa is not for sissies and I can say this without any fear of contradiction – the trip was a nightmare from the start.

What should last at most, about eight hours, ended up taking a day- and-a-half.

But with no direct flights to Malabo, it was always going to be a mission to get to my final destination.

My trip started on Wednesday at 2pm. Six hours later we landed in Entebbe, Uganda, which is an hour ahead of South Africa.

For the next six hours, I wandered around the airport trying to buy time before my next flight.

I finally got on to the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa.

Little did I know it had a stopover in Kigali, Rwanda, until I heard the captain announcing that we were descending.

I checked my boarding pass to make sure I wasn’t on the wrong flight – and I wasn’t.

After what seemed like an hour, we were back in the air and heading to Addis Ababa where we landed at about 6am and were subjected to Ebola screening.

My face lightened up when I saw the familiar face of Sydney Mahlangu of Backpagepix.

He told me he had been forced to sleep at the airport to guard his cameras after he was told to leave them locked there.

I saw more familiar faces in the form of sports writers Gavin Barker, Jonty Mark and John Goliath.

Three hours later, I was back in the air and heading to Malabo. But first we had to stop in Doula, Cameroon, for yet another stopover which lasted fewer than 30 minutes.

Then, 24 hours after leaving home, we finally got to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

One of the first things I did was to turn back the time on my watch because the country is an hour behind South Africa. Confused as I was, I had to double-check if I had adjusted the time properly.

However, any thoughts of this being the end of the nightmare were dashed when we were told the flights to Bata were fully booked.

We finally found a flight and left for Bata at 6pm. Before we could even say a word, we were back on the ground just before 7pm.

A three-hour road trip on a 4x4 organised by the South African embassy to Mongomo awaited us, but we had to first make sure we received our press accreditation.

Fortunately, the accreditation centre was open until 9pm and we quickly dashed there.

All the while, we kept in touch with our embassy and the ambassador and his ground staff were very helpful.

The ambassador even invited us to have dinner with him before we hit the road to Mongomo.

It was lights off all the way as we drove to Mongomo and we were occasionally awoken by AK-47-wielding policemen on the road.

After what seemed like a never-ending trip, we saw Mongomo and our nightmare finally came to an end at 3am on Friday.


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