Oct 172017
 

So, figured I’d do something different since I’m all caught up on my last trip and have…oh, 48 hours until my next trip. I haven’t decided if y’all need to see yet another Lufthansa and South Africa report, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it (and run short of material).

For now, I figured I’d do a throwback to a trip that I did before this blog started – maybe give me a few ideas for future trips. This was a January, 2009 to Gibraltar, Morocco, and Ceuta. I’m not going to go too into detail lest I get something wrong eight years later, but happy to answer questions best I remember.

I was splitting time between DC and London back then, usually two weekends a month in each minimum, and decided this would be a great one to head down to Gibraltar and environs, since I had a four or five day weekend. (See, don’t remember everything.) It was my first, and so far last, experience with EasyJet and honestly…for a 2.5 hour flight…it wasn’t awful. I think I paid extra for the first/bulkhead row and early boarding, and despite Gatwick being a nightmare, it really could have been worse…they could have strapped me to the wing.

Oh yeah…I forgot…back in 2009 I was already logging flights, so have at it:

EasyJet flight 8905 
London, Gatwick (LGW) to Gibraltar (GIB)
Depart 14:55, Arrive 18:45, Flight Time: 2:50
Airbus A320, Registration G-TTOI, Manufactured 2003, Seat 1C

Oh…and according to my spreadsheet looks like it was a four night trip. Right, on to what I remember without help.

I remember Gibraltar feeling old. Lots of blue hair retiree mainland tourists from England off to see the sights.

Sights? Yeah, like that big rock Gibraltar is famous for:

There were monkeys everywhere:

Trying to decide who’s funnier looking:

One of the coolest parts of Gibraltar, for me, was the airport. You can walk right across the runway. Note, walk quickly, or else…

Nope, no planes coming…as opposed to Tuvalu which only has two flights a week, Gibraltar is a bit more active, so definitely more scope for accidents.

Walked across the border (a novelty for anyone into country counting) into Spain and took the ferry to Tangiers, Morocco. Passport control (at least then) was done on the boat. You had to stop by a desk staffed with Moroccan immigration officers, and get your passport stamped. Then, when getting off the boat, you had to show the stamp to another officer to prove you were legal.

Stayed at a riad in Tangier, and I have to say my memories include a few amazing meals, more touts than I’ve ever encountered anywhere in the world, and a relatively cool old town. At least this cool cat thought it was cool:

In the old town…vegetable shopping….

After a night in Tangier, the owner of the riad had a brother who was happy to drive us to Ceuta for a reasonable price since he had a visa for Spain. Right up to the border, and we walked into Spain. Fourth border crossing of the trip so far, if you count Gibraltar separate from England:

Cueta! Bienvenidos!

After a great lunch in Cueta, caught the ferry back to Spain…and then walked back into Gibraltar. First, however, an amazing sunset approaching the mainland Spanish coast:

One more shot of the rock, with the airport below:

Time to go home…but there was a problem. After waiting at the airport for nearly two hours, they announced our flight had been diverted…to Malaga, Spain. No worry, they would take us on a two hour bus ride there.

But first…everyone had to leave the airport…and walk to Spanish immigration and get the bus on the other side of the border! That’s how close the airport is to the Spanish border. Couple hours later, we were at the Malaga Airport, and finally ready to fly home. Kudos to EasyJet, they really handled this well. Apparently this isn’t an uncommon issue for Gibraltar, as crosswinds cause relatively frequent diversions. Years later, with the St. Helena experience, you’d think the Brits would figure out how to deal with crosswinds…anyways.

Hope this was still interesting. If you’d like to see some more throwbacks, be sure to leave a comment.

Jul 252014
 

Woke up a bit before seven after more than nine hours of glorious sleep, despite the fact the room was slightly on the warm side – it never got much below 71/72 in the room despite the air being on full blast. Just cool enough to be sleepable, but barely. Headed straight out the hotel and down the main road to grab coffee and breakfast at Rituals Coffee Shop right when they opened at 7am. Rituals is a caribbean chain, and sort of like the starbucks of the Caribbean. Nothing fantastic, but a good reliable source of caffeine, which is just what I needed. They had no trouble making a triple shot over ice, and also got a ham, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on the bagel.

Walked the half mile or so back to the hotel, and packed up the dive gear, since the dive shop was picking me up at 8am sharp for a morning of diving. While waiting in the lobby I spotted another person with diving gear, and we started chatting, and turned out he was there with the family and lived just a few miles away in Virginia. Small world indeed – and lucky for me because he helped me remember I’d forgotten my dive computer in the room so I ran up and grabbed it quickly.

We were picked up just a few minutes late by Dive St Kitts, which operates complimentary transfers for their divers between hotel and the the dive shop. Nice added bonus! They do a two-tank boat dive every morning, and I’d signed up for just one day to start since I figured I might want to use the second day to play tourist. The ride to the shop was maybe 15 minutes, and when we got there we sorted out paperwork while the crew prepared the boat. This was a full service operation, with them doing all the work for you. They hooked up BCDs, regs, and tanks, and all you had to worry about was diving – quite nice!

We did a very thorough dive briefing in the shop before heading out – and it was definitely the most comprehensive briefing I’ve had anywhere. Details about the dive sites we’d be doing, details on the boat including entry and exit to the water, etc. Although the shop is basically a older one-room seaside building, the quality of the crew was definitely amazing to see. Our divemaster for the day was also fantastic, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their infamous boat captain, known as Captain Crabby. We got him to crack several smiles, however, so I’m pretty sure there’s a softy under that sarcastic exterior!

One more note…Jeff, the guy I’d met earlier in the lobby, turned out to be a fantastic photographer. I’d decided to dive without a camera since it had been nearly 18 months since I’d been diving, and I really just wanted to focus on enjoying it as opposed to fussing about pictures all the time. Turned out to be the right call, because Jeff was an amazing photographer and more than willing to share photos…so thanks to Jeff, I got these great shots from the first day of diving:

Wreck of the MV Corinthian:

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Turtle just hanging out:

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Marine life on the wreck:

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Staring contest with the world’s laziest turtle:

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Jan 172014
 

CAUTION:  This post contains nearly 40 pictures, many of which are of extreme poverty and a few are of monkeys…well, being monkeys.  You’ve been warned!  

Yeah, I know it had only been two days since the coup attempt where over 100 people were killed trying to overthrow the government, but I’d spent so much effort planning this trip, and so much money getting close, I was determined to try and at least make it to DRC for a daytrip…in daylight. Fortunately, Jordan was just as insane and was game for it. We started by grabbing a taxi over to the boat docks, and after fending off several touts, we finally found the place to buy tickets on the “fast” boat and clear immigration. It involved about 10 different stops for different papers, taxes, stamps, etc etc etc, most of which seemed above ground, but I’m sure a few of the “fees” went straight into the pockets of corrupt officials. No matter…we avoided as much as we could, and even the fees we paid were no more than $3-4 each. Eventually we were crammed onto the boat with 15 of our new best friends for the 15 minute trek across the river:

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On the other side, things got a little uglier.  Lots of people doing the “wait here” and “this fee” and “that fee.”  We argued several of them, paid a few, and eventually got out the other side about $20 poorer in total.  It took about 20-30 minutes, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but once they have your passport they kind of have you by the balls.  Plus, we were in a bit of a hurry without much time, so we were kind of stuck. We’d hired a driver in advance for the day, and finally found him outside immigration.  Turns out we’d thought he was another tout trying to get money from us on the inside and brushed him off, lol.  Would have helped if he had a sign!  He drove us first to the travel agency he worked for, where we paid the agreed upon $250 for a day’s rental of car and driver.  The agency’s building:

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After that, it was time to go.  We were driving about 30 miles outside the city first, to the Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary for Bonobos monkeys.  On the way, we passed the stadium:

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Continuing the drive, we went through some quite poor parts of Kinshasa:

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