After a second very good night’s sleep, I’m feeling better. My normal driver, Mr. Sackey, was at the hotel about 20 minutes early. Very unusual for Ghanaian drivers, but standard for him! I appreciate his punctuality.
We left a few minutes early and began the drive up the coast to Accra. As always, I enjoyed talking with him, and we caught up on each other’s families. We discovered some time ago that we are within a few weeks of the same age, both have three children and so forth. Plus, I’ve been using his services for more than 10 years, so we have some history behind our friendship.
One thing he told me about is a new hotel that has just opened a few minutes west of Elmina. He pointed out the turnoff as we drove past. He said he would recommend I try it next time. Unfortunately, it is almost 15 minutes west of Elmina, so it would not be nearly as convenient for getting in and out of town for services, or for the brethren who wish to talk to come and visit me. But perhaps I’ll have the chance to visit it and perhaps stay there on a future trip. Either way, it is good information to have!
I learned some time back that the transportation company he runs is not Mr. Sackey’s main work. He is the head of the vehicle maintenance department for state vehicles in this region. His office is in Cape Coast, and he had to get back to work today. So he met his other driver in Cape Coast, a man named Isaac, and Isaac drove me the rest of the way to the airport.
I’ve ridden with Isaac before. He is younger, and while still a safe driver, he can be a bit more aggressive than I’ve ever seen Mr. Sackey, but nothing scary like with some drivers I’ve had! However, Isaac speaks almost no English. If I try to talk to him he smiles and nods, but doesn’t answer. So it was a quiet trip for the last 3 ½ hours. Well, so long as he is not uncomfortable with the silence, I’m not either. At least he isn’t one of those drivers who wants to play Ghanaian music at high volume…
When I arrived at the airport I discovered (along with some other passengers) that the Africa World Airlines counter people weren’t terribly worried about opening up to check us in! Several of us stood in front of the counter for nearly an hour before they were finally ready. Apparently “hurry up” is not something in the employee manual…
Check in and security went quickly then, and I had a little time in the lounge to get something to eat and check email before heading to my gate. We boarded on time with a partially full plane, and I ended up one of the first to board. Ought to be a good 1 hour flight over to Lagos.
It is always interesting to watch people, and the man who would end up sitting right across the aisle from me caught my attention when he came on. He was wearing a business suit, and an arrogant attitude, like he was someone important and everyone ought to know that. He had a rolling bag very similar to mine, and tried to haphazardly shove it in the overhead compartment before dropping into his seat. The man behind him told him he needed to fix his bag so the door would close, but he just shrugged and said it would be handled. Obviously he didn’t intend to fix anything!
We loaded quickly, and it appeared I would be without a seatmate. Since my rolling bag was overhead and my backpack was under the seat in front of me, I started to think I could move my backpack over and have a little more leg room! That’s when the very young flight attendant came by to fix the business man’s bag. He told her it won’t fit, and pointed to the floor next to me, saying the bag should go there. What about the floor in front of his own feet? Not wanting to make a scene, I let her put his bag over there, and just dealt with a little less foot room than I might have had. Meanwhile, he stretched out and dozed off.
When we landed and the fasten seat belt sign went off, everyone stands and the aisle gets crowded quickly. I had my backpack in hand, and got my rolling bag down, and by then the people behind me had crowded up right on my back as per normal. It would have been more difficult to get over and pull out the arrogant man’s bag with everyone up so tight, and so while perhaps I should have done so as an act of kindness, I just let the flow of traffic take me on off the plane. I’m sure after traffic thinned out a bit he could get his bag. Or perhaps he just ordered the young flight attendant to get it out for him.
The immigration process went very quickly, and I’d retrieved my luggage in a short time, heading out of the arrivals gate. I changed a little money at the airport forex bureau. There are “black market” traders out on the sidewalk that may give you a little better rate, but I feel uncomfortable changing money out where it is so exposed. For the small amount I’m changing a few percentage points one way or the other just won’t make that much difference anyway.
I’d arranged transportation with a company I’ve used before. Typically I get an email or a text telling me the driver and car that will come, but I had nothing. So I called and got a recording inviting me to leave a voicemail – that didn’t seem good… But within a couple of minutes I got a call back and a text with the number of the driver, Michael. He has picked me up before, and after about 15 minutes he pulled up at the pick-up area. In that 15 minutes I’d once again sweated through my shirt, so it felt good to get into his air-conditioned car!
The drive to my hotel in miles is perhaps 8 or 9, but with all the traffic, and this being the evening rush hour time, the drive took 2 ½ hours – most of it spent sitting still and everyone blowing their horns intermittently. There must be some sort of subconscious thought that if you blow your horn insistently enough, perhaps it will push the vehicles in front of you out of the way…and the fact that it never works doesn’t seem to deter anyone from trying again! Michael isn’t as bad as some drivers, and yet over the course of this 2 ½ hours he probably blew his horn as much as I’ve used a horn in over 43 years of driving!
There are hotels that are a little closer, or are in a direction that might have less traffic, but the Protea is, I believe, worth the extra effort. It is very comfortable, but more importantly it is very safe. The car is checked by mirror below and the boot (trunk) is inspected before any car is allowed through the gate. In a place like Lagos, things like that need to be a consideration. And as I arrived an airline flight crew was suited up waiting for their van back to the airport. If the airlines use the hotel to put up their crews, it is probably a good place for me to stay too, since they are also quite conscious of security.
I was able to have a nice call with my wife, and then went down for a late dinner. By the time I got back to my room the bed was calling loudly. Michael is to be back here between 9 and 10 in the morning, so I hope to get a full night’s sleep again tonight!