on board

A reasonably early start and off to Málaga airport for the first leg of my journey, a 1 hour 45 minute flight to Barcelona. After nearly five hours in Barcelona airport – oh joy of joys – it was back on a plane for the four and a half hour second leg to Banjul in The Gambia.


on board

During the second leg of the journey I had ample time to ponder the question, “Are there any ways in which air travel could possibly be made even more uncomfortable?”. Minimal leg-room, sitting bolt upright and no little flaps on the headrests to stop the ‘nodder’ from either falling onto a fellow passenger or ending up with your head in the aisle where it is almost guaranteed that someone will knee you in the back of the head on their way past.

No wonder there are now all these weird and wonderful contraptions designed to assist the grabbing of forty winks. Not so bad in the window seat but anywhere else you can bet your bottom dollar that if you do manage to set up one of these devices or, by some miracle, finally just nod off then one of those on the inside will choose that exact moment to take a trip to the loo.

It is not only fellow passengers in the same row that can be problematic when it comes to trying to sleep, those directly in front and behind can have a drastic impact on your efforts to doze. Actually, they have the additional ability to affect your entire journey. I’m amazed how many people grab the seat in front when getting up and put their entire weight on it, the result being almost catapulted three rows forward when they let go.

Or the large guy in front who returns to his seat and just falls backwards into it, resulting in a crack on the head if you happen to be leaning forward at the time.

So, no sleep on this flight then.

Although the flight time was four and a half hours, no free snacks or drinks as most airlines are now discontinuing this service. With sleep out of the question, food and drink was in order. I had already heard the crew having problems with a few credit cards as they made their way down the aisle, telling people they were ‘declined’, presumably a connection issue as can happen sometimes. However, I decided to give it a whirl anyway, maybe it was just one card company.

‘Card declined’, he said immediately, and far too quickly. ‘Impossible’, I responded, ‘presume it is a connection problem’. I wasn’t bothered. The curt response was that ‘no-one else has had problems’ (I watched as his nose began to grow) and that my card was ‘no good’ (and grow). I think he was just having a bad day. Had he just been honest then it wouldn’t have been so bad, these things happen.

When he asked if I had another card I told my own porky and said ‘no’ and that I would pay cash, carefully selecting and proffering the largest denomination note in my possession. Felt good.

Banjul International Airport arrivals and immigration was, as usual, semi-chaotic but everyone smiles, is polite and it doesn’t actually take that long, even with just the one baggage scanner.

Into the waiting taxi and off to Footsteps Eco-Lodge in Gunjur, about forty minutes from the airport. I just dumped my things in my roundhouse and went for a well-earned drink before sorting anything out.

Returning to my accommodation I (unusually for me) decided to take everything out of my bags and hang them up/put them on shelves. Most unlike me as I normally use the suitcase/bag as an impromptu closet. For the first time ever I had brought two camera bodies and I began looking round for the one I had slung over my shoulder when I originally set off. Nowhere to be found.

I checked by the bar area in case I had put it there when I arrived. Nope. You then start wondering where you last remember having had it, and your mind begins to play tricks. I played back the chaotic scenes at the airport, wondering if I had put the camera case down when filling in the immigration form or had put it through the scanner and not picked it up.

I decided I was certain (almost) that I had it when I left the airport and certain (almost) that I had it over my shoulder when I got into the taxi. I had also been fairly certain I had it when I got out of the taxi, but that turned out to be a duff memory. All I thought was, what a great decision to bring two bodies if it didn’t turn up. More than annoying if it was lost, but no camera in a birding paradise is something not worth contemplating!

As it turned out, after a text to the taxi driver, it seems I had indeed left the camera in the front of his wagon and he said he would bring it in the morning. Panic over, time for a few (well-deserved) beers.