Sunday, 18 January 2009

Taking the long way

For a journey that involved travelling to and from the same time-zone, 38 hours is a rather long time. Yet that is what it took me to get from the boat offshore Angola to my apartment in Asker. And for good measure, it involved 5 different flights! Thank God for transit hotels though, otherwise things could have been a whole lot worse.

Has anyone ever heard of Soyo? It's a place. Mostly an oilfield operations base in the Northern part of Angola, right at the mouth of the mighty Congo river. Why I spent practically half a day there with absolutely nothing to do or see is beyond me. The principal thing I remember about the place is the dust. And the extremely high frequency of helicopter arrivals and departures!From there it was on to Luanda, and thereafter towards Gatwick on a flight where I proceeded to pass out as soon as I hit the seat. This Gatwick bit had caused me some concern right up to the day of crew change, seeing how I do not have a UK visa of any kind, and need a transit visa to even just pass through. Fortunately, there are provisions for us seafarer types. And I was able to obtain a 24 hour entry pass and with that, access to one of the airport transit hotels!

Most other days, other places, seeing how I landed there at 7 am, I would have just dumped my bags and headed out to the city. Unfortunately, I was already so washed out that even though the thought did occur to me, I wasn't awake long enough to properly consider it. Plus, it was still completely dark, and raining. At seven in the morning. The famed British weather I suppose. Plus, I'd made a 30 odd degree jump in temperature in under 12 hours. All in all, I think staying indoors was rather a good thing.
So it turned out that my 12 hour layover at Gatwick was quite profitably spent, and by early afternoon I was back at the airport, feeling considerably more human and less zombie. From there onwards everything more or less proceeded like clockwork. Immigration was no longer an incomprehensible or frightening process. I had to check out my bag everywhere, but I suppose that's a more sure way of avoiding loss of luggage than any other, so I wasn't really complaining. Seeing how I'm planning to go ahead and leave my bag here and henceforth travel check-in luggage-free, it would have been supremely ironic if I'd lost my bag on this one last trip :|.
One rather curious thing I noticed on the way into Amsterdam was the vast number of windmills set up in the ocean! After ambling rather aimlessly for a few hours at Schiphol (During which time I discovered and decided against buying an interesting variety of gadgets. Which actually led me to realise that half the things I have would probably never be part of my possessions but for long layovers! I also discovered a couple of paperbacks, Slam but Nick Hornby and a very very curious book by the name of The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. But these last two did not buy simply because if I had I'd have had to carry them in my hand. (I absolutely have to get myself a bigger back pack.) I promised myself I'll get them the very next time I see them.) I was finally on my way to Oslo.

It was snowing. A lot. Fortunately the temperature, while still on the wrong side of zero, was not too far from it. Even in the dark, the rolling fields, covered in the anonymity of white, gave the landscape a somewhat bizarre aspect as the train sped on towards Asker. My apprehension of disaster at this last hurdle began to grow. You see, I still had to pick up my apartment keys from the guard at the office reception. And my jacket!

Thankfully, there were several cabs at the train station, even at that hour and the keys I got after a somewhat protracted search. The jacket, however, that I'd left in my boss' care the last time, he had very inconveniently forgotten to leave at the front desk :|. Fortunately, the elderly guard was already expressing concern over my choice of attire (the really, very light jacket I travel with that some people would rather call a sweatshirt :|) and was more than happy to help me get access to more appropriate protection.

So it was a little past midnight that I finally managed to get here! I didn't wake up till very late in the morning obviously, but you couldn't tell. The sky was overcast and it was still snowing! The awesome thing about the apartment is that I don't really have to venture out for meals if I don't want to!! Unfortunately, I still had to go get the food first for that to be possible :|. Honestly, if I didn't know my way rather well, I could have gotten terribly lost! There are no roads, or side walks, or any other sort of demarcation! It's all uniformly fluffy white snow.
Looks quite nice though :). Plus, for the first time since July, I'm back at this apartment :).

Feeling: almost at home :)
Listening to: Eels - Flower


Anu said...

I really enjoyed that one :) Especially the fluffy snow pic.

kray said...

oh there seems to be no end to the snow actually!!! I only wish I'd made some good use of it :| one of these days...