8:46 sunday, july 15

The lovely Abuja departure hall
We left our house at 1 pm Saturday for our 3:40 flight to Lagos; it left at 6:45.  We spent the five hours in a room with metal chairs, white walls lined with black grease at head level and an intense smell of feet.  No shops, no restaurants - just one small cooler with water for sale and a dirty bathroom.

After a nail-biting flight to Lagos, we were escorted by bus from the domestic terminal to the international terminal -a half hour ride on bumpy roads in jammed traffic - the last ten minutes stuck behind a military vehicle with strobes instead of brake lights.  By the time we'd finally checked in and made it through security, we'd been hassled for bribes by the airline attendant who met us at the domestic gate, the driver who took us between, the ticketing agent and two other random men.  Since we hadn't eaten for 9 hours at this point, we tried to stop at the only restaurant in the international terminal, but they weren't cooking anymore so dinner consisted of Clif Bars and peanut M&Ms and Pringles purchased for way too much money at the "Duty Free" shop.

We waited under the low, kelly-green aluminum ceiling in the dark, dusty, dirty and dingy airport while our flight time came and went - a que formed but no one seemed to be going anywhere.  After a muffled announcement over the broken intercom, we thought we'd been moved to a different gate.  All of a sudden three hundred people bolted full-speed ahead as they realized the gate change.  L&O and I were caught in the melee and ran with the crowd, backpacks bouncing and flip-flops clacking; Joey jumped the rail of the moving walkway and ran backward to reach us.

Once we reached the line at the new gate, our bags were searched and we were informed the airline has a strict policy against any liquids in hand baggage.  After a brief argument and an attempt to retain our beef jerky ("Why don't you leave a taste for me?"), we finally boarded the plane, liquids in tact, to learn the Nigerian Aviation Authority had declared our seats in the exit row unsafe on a full flight.  Fifteen minutes of O flirting with the stewardess later, she flipped our seat cushions were to the right side and we buckled in for our flight.

We managed to make up some of the delay in the air to Johannesburg, giving us enough time this morning for a hot breakfast.  Now we just got on an unmarked white plane named the Model T en route to Maputo, Mozambique, where we'll clear the second set of customs and immigration, reboard the reassuringly named plane and fly to Pemba.  From there we have one more flight from Pemba, on a "light aircraft" to a "grass airstrip."  We'll have traveled for almost 25 hours and taken five flights by the time we reach our destination - this is the most complicated itinerary we've ever taken.  I sure hope it's worth it all when we get to Ibo Island.  I'm pretty sure Joey and L&O are plotting to kill me if it's not...