Sep 152015
 

When I was booking this trip, I debated for a long time the merits of getting a hotel in India. I would land in India just before 22:00 and depart the next morning at 06:00. Best case, after immigration, check-in, etc, I knew that meant I’d get four hours of sleep max in the hotel. Was it really worth it? Well, immigration ended up taking nearly an hour, and it was 11:15 by the time I got to the hotel, 11:30 by the time I checked in. I decided to push it as much as possible, and leave for the airport at 04:00, getting there just 90 minutes before an international flight. That meant…4.5 hours at the hotel. By the time you subtract showers, the half bottle of wine the hotel gave me (great sleep aid) I slept a grand total of 3:15.

It was worth every penny…and must have been the perfect long nap to reset my body clock, because I’ve been sleeping amazingly this entire trip. Not a single sign of jetlag. Money very well spent!

Hotel car took me to the airport, and check-in was pretty easy although they had a pretty hard time figuring out how to print my onward boarding pass to Cameroon. No line at immigration and security, and off to the lounge. Oh yes, the lounge. What was really strange at check-in is they had stacks of lounge invites to three different ones, and were just randomly handing them out. There were two colleagues in front of me at check-in who got invites to different lounges…and the check-in agent couldn’t figure out why this was a problem!

I ended up with an invite to the ITC Green Lounge, which was perfectly adequate at 04:30. Not crowded, plenty of power outlets, plentiful ice cold diet coke, and a variety of hot and cold snacks. I had a few samosas which were pretty tasty along with a few diet cokes, and I was ready to go. Off to the gate, and boarding was already underway.

Turkish Airlines flight 717
Delhi, India (DEL) to Istanbul Attaturk, Turkey (IST)
Depart 6:05, Arrive 10:25, Flight Time: 6:50
Airbus A330-300, Registration TC-JOB, Manufactured 2014, Seat 4D

Nice lay-flat seats on this bird, but odd that the foot rest/shelf had no separation from the seat next to it, meaning if you sleep at all angled you could be playing footsie with your seatmate. Awkward. Decided to go with the lemonade welcome aboard drink instead of my usual orange. Tasty!

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What’s for breakfast this morning?

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Champagne brunch. I figured since I was already disoriented timewise, and it was like 21:00 back home, it made perfect sense. Yes, this is how I rationalize things! Nice starter, and the cheeses were quite tasty.

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The “turkish pastry with cheese.” It was rather odd, and I think I might have finished half off it. Just strange, but wasn’t really super hungry anyways so it sufficed.

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Debated a small nap, but instead got sucked into a horrible movie. Something about people bending dimensions and traveling to other solar systems to colonize a new home for mankind. It was three plus hours of my life I’ll never get back, but it did make time go by quickly. Soon we were just an hour outside Istanbul and a small snack was served. I can’t escape the samosas!

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Landed right on time just about 10:00 and headed to the lounge to grab some water and check e-mail. After a detour to Starbucks, of course, to ingest large amounts of caffeine to get me moving. Mission accomplished, around 11:00 I decided it was a waste to sit around the lounge all day and decided to head into the city. The Turkish lounge has nice lockers where you can lock bags up, so I packed a daybag and headed out. Passport, wallet and cell phone and I was good to go.

Had to find my way back downstairs to arrivals, which I finally did, purchased a visa, and found the metro to the city. Decided I would go see the Blue Mosque, which would require a short ride on metro followed by a tram. Fortunately, I remembered how this worked from previous visits and it went off without a hitch. The walking around really helped, and maybe was another secret of why I avoided jetlag this trip. I tried to walk as much as possible and see as much daylight as possible to help my body realize just what time it was. The flight to India had moved me forward 9.5 hours, now I was back 2.5 hours, and the flight to Cameroon would go back another 2 hours. Regardless, it was a gorgeous day in Istanbul:

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Got back to the airport about two hours before the next flight, right after Ian’s flight from Munich had landed. Snacks in the lounge, a well-deserved shower to rinse off the sweat from a 90F sunny Istanbul day, and it was time to head to the final flight of the day…the never-ending 737 flight from hell…nearly seven hours to Yaoundé, Cameroon followed by another short hop on to Douala. Jordan’s insane flight from Houston had just landed and he met us at the gate. Hats off to him, there’s no way I could survive 20 hours in economy!

Our gate area was an interesting mix of folks, but very few from Cameroon. Lots of Ukrainian, American, and South African passports around us, many of whom we’d see the next day on our flight to CAR. Any bets what’s going on there?

Turkish Airlines flight 69
Istanbul Attaturk, Turkey (IST) to Yaoundé, Cameroon (NSI)
Depart 18:15, Arrive 23:05, Flight Time: 6:50
Airbus 737-900, Registration TC-JYE, Manufactured 2012, Seat 3F

Two pieces of good news on this flight. First, these were the longhaul 737 seats, which meant there was approximately 18 extra inches of legroom over a standard “domestic first” configration. Even better, business was only booked to 3 of 16 seats tonight, so we had tons of space to spread out. We must have been exhausted, because we were still both too exhausted to think about logically switching rows to have more space, and stayed in 3E and 3F. Switched from the lemonade to the orange juice this time for a welcome drink…and water.

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Takeoff from Istanbul at sunset…

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So, what’s for dinner tonight?

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This is where it got ridiculous. Turkish decided that since there were only three people in business class, they would order exactly one of each main course. One fish, one beef, and one vegetarian green beans. I was second to order, and got my request of beef. Ian, unfortunately, was asked if he “would mind having the green beans.” Ugh, yes, I’m pretty sure he minded. They promised they would find something else…

As usual, a fantastic starter from Turkish:

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The beef, however, was tough and pretty much inedible. They found Ian some other beef dish that looked much, much better. Was probably a crew meal…

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Passed the flight trying to nap unsuccessfully, and watching episode after episode of Scandal. About an hour before landing a small snack was served, including a delicious raspberry cake of some sort.

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This is what we call “avoiding Libyan airpace” and no-fly zones. It must have added at least an hour to the flight.

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Then, we noticed we appeared to be circling. Turned out the airport at Yaoundé was closed due to being fogged in and below minimums for landing. Um, after nearly seven hours in flight how much fuel can be left on a 737? After about 20 minutes circling, the captain announced we were landing. He didn’t, however, announce that minimums had been met. Entirely possible there wasn’t enough fuel for an alternate?

Turkish Airlines flight 69
Yaoundé, Cameroon (NSI) to Douala, Cameroon (DLA)
Depart 00:05, Arrive 01:05, Flight Time: 1:00
Airbus 737-900, Registration TC-JYE, Manufactured 2012, Seat 3F

After about 45 minutes on the ground, we took off for the 35 minute flight to Douala and arrived about an hour late at nearly 2am. Ugh! Fortunately, immigration was a breeze and we were out to find the hotel shuttle around 2:15. Except, the hotel shuttle was nowhere to be found, and the ATMs at the airport were all broken. The taxi mafia settled on 10 euros to drop Jordan at his hotel first, and then take Ian and I to our hotel. It was a ripoff, but at 230am there wasn’t much choice.

The hotel. Ugh. I’d stayed here about two years ago when it was the Le Meridien, and it was…adequate. Now it was the Pullman, and reviews online weren’t great. First off, I’d screwed up and booked a locals-only rate, so we ended up having to pay about 50% more than expected. Then, they couldn’t understand the concept of a room with two beds. Once that was finally sorted we got to the room…which was a sauna. The second room was marginally better, but not great. I left Ian to see if it would cool down, and I went and checked out another two rooms which were even worse.

Then, there was no water in the room. I went to the front desk three times to ask water to be brought up, but it never happened. Fortunately, I’d saved a bottle from the plane to brush my teeth, and Ian (being the fancy one he is) ended up using the minibar Perrier to brush his teeth. Finally, around 4am the room cooled down just enough to consider sleep, but I was thirsty and had to settle for the only option in the minibar…beer. I threw a bit of a fit at checkout the next morning about not being able to get water, and they did kindly comp the Perrier and beer. But ugh, this property has gone from adequate to dismal…and for the price recommend avoiding it at all costs.

We got up at a semi-reasonable hour, and decided to head out exploring just a bit to get some walking in before the adventure was to really begin!


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