Doha International Airport - Qatar
It is the norm rather than the exception. I need to be at an airport in plenty of time for screw-ups - my own and other people's. Remember my last hop over to Tanzania when the guy at the Finnair checkin desk decided not to allow me to board because I didn't have an onward bus ticket from Nairobi to Arusha?
That little hiccup got resolved (
) with a clear 5 minutes before the checkin desk closed as my heart that was trying to escape the confines of my rib cage . On this flight though to Kathmandu I had poured over the documentation a dozen times looking for the hidden catch - didn't find any - and enjoyed our ride out to Vantaa with Philippe, Tuula, and Jooel with hours to spare and that feeling of relaxed tension that a frog on a lily pad has waiting for a fly to pass by.
I didn't expect the 'These tickets aren't valid' to be the first sentence uttered by the woman at checkin. The record locator at the self service box had suggested we seek assistance - and as if that wasn't a sign of things to come I really couldn't see where the problem was.
I took the paper back from the girl - scoured the details - payment summary - payment date - confirmation of payment - detailed itinerary - and finally handed it back. This is not my problem - I thought to myself. Eeva started in on her own creative interpretation of where the problem could have occurred - and as these ideas seemed to be picked at random from remote places in her head I said nothing. There was nothing to say. If there was a glitch - it wasn't a glitch I was going to assume ownership of, and I waited for the girl behind the desk to solve it.
Glitch solved itself - at least when the problem occurs in an airline booking system one can assume that the words 'These tickets aren't valid' are soon forgotten and one doesn't need to rub salt into the wound. I'm not quite sure what would have happened if I had taken the woman's word for it and said - 'Well these things happen - so lets book and pay for some new ones shall we?'
Issued with valid boarding passes and the luggage checked through to Kathmandu we took a coffee with the Gueissaz's and boarded the plane.
Long haul flights are special. They require that you stay awake for long periods of time, find your way through airport mazes and security checks and indulge in sporadic snacking. Its fun of course; people watching, clock watching, luxury car watching, exploring public toilets and of course the main reason for airports being there in the first place - the Duty Free boutiques. It always amazes me how people end up buying stuff at these places as they seem to be Duty Inflated-beyond-belief-prices shops. Do people completely abandon their sense of thrift when they stroll through these temples of commerce - or is there that slight feeling that flying always feels like a holiday and therefore normal behaviour doesn't apply?
I'm usually resembling my usual self by the time the plane has started taxiing. I love the feeling that there is no turning back - and perhaps I should do more things in life which demand the 'no turning back option'.
No pain - no gain.... Qatar Airways
We departed on Monday 12th of November and arrived around noon on the 13th. Kathmandu is everything I expected and more; the noise, the people, the pollution, the gentle feeling of local communities, and of course the visual ambiance which is a mix of extremely drab and very colourfull. Off the plane and through the luggage collection I discover my slightly smashed suitcase - wheel broken and the side of the case ripped open - and inevitably my Giotto tripod also invalided through rough treatment. Well - it could always have been worse. Arriving safe and sound in body and mind having been hurled through space at speed is always worth noting as something of a miracle and in the days to come there will be plenty more opportunities to marvel at just how much of a cultural leap we have taken.