We have found that traveling in Africa, whether it be by air or ground can be exciting, challenging, and downright harrowing at times, but almost always an adventure.
We recently returned from Lubumbashi and Likasi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Our flight to Lubumbashi was uneventful except when we arrived in Lubumbashi. When we were going through passport control, there was a 'problem' with Sharon's passport. They somehow got her passport mixed up with another passenger who is white but has dark hair. Their decision was to not let Sharon stay and started escorting her back to the airplane to send her back to Johannesburg. Flavian, who was there at the airport to pick us up took the matter into his hands and tried to convince the authorities that Sharon was not the same person that they were having the problem with. Sharon asked one of the authorities, to look at her hair, which is definitely not dark like the passport photo of the other passenger. FInally, with Flavians help, the authorities were convinced that our passports were in order and that we could legally enter the country.
Returning to Johannesburg was another story. We had to extend our stay to take care of some unexpected business. Because of our extended stay, some problems with booking our flight back arose, The travel department informed us that the best they could do on Friday was to put us on standby along with 7 other travelers, to get back on Friday or to catch another flight on Monday (no flights on Saturday or Sunday). Being on standby with 7 other travelers in Africa is like no chance of getting on that flight.
The senior missionary couple in the mission office offered to let us stay in a mission apartment over the weekend if we couldn't get out on Friday. We then turned to Kot Flavian, a local Congolese young man that had been our driver, secretary and interpreter for the past week while we were doing an investigative (forensic) audit, to help us. He took us to the Lubumbashi airport at about 10 AM. He worked through a travel agency at the airport to get us a flight on Zambezi Airlines. (rather than South African Airways, that we were previously trying to book a flight with).The flight would consist of three legs, which was fine with us as long as we could get home on Friday. Flavian was very effective in breaking through the red tape and language barrier. We definitely could not have done this by ourselves, because of our limited knowledge of French and local customs, etc. (French is the primary language spoken in the D.R.C.).
So, we were on our way, or at least we thought we were. Flavian told us that he would stay with us until we were on a plane, although we suggested that he didn't have to. We were scheduled to depart at about 3 PM (about a 5 hour wait). Finally, we saw our plane arrive. We waited for our boarding call for about a half hour. Finally Flavian asked one of the security employees why we were not boarding the airplane. He was told that the pilot was tired and needed to take a short nap. About an hour later he apparently was awake, alert and ready to fly. We had to pay an additional $50 each, which they call an 'airport tax' and then go through a last minute 'security check' out on the tarmac before they allowed us to board the plane. We said good bye to Flavian and were finally, really on our way. The first leg was from Lubumbashi to Lusaki, Zambia, which went well. When we were on the plane ready to take off on the next leg to Harare, Zimbabwe, a security employee came on board and told everyone to get off of the airplane. The reason was that they had found a hydraulic leak and it had to be repaired. They announced that it should only take a few minutes, but it was not fixed until 3 1/2 hours later. Then, hydraulic fluid that had leaked onto the tarmac had to be cleaned up, so the airport fire department had to wash down the area before we could re-board the airplane
By this time, some of the passengers were getting a little edgy and out of sorts. We were worried whether Abraham, our driver in Johannesburg would still be waiting for us after all of the delays and changes in expected arrival times. Finally we boarded the plane once again and were on our way to Harare, Zimbabwe. When we arrived in Harare, we had to get off the plane again and go to the terminal and get boarding passes for the last leg of our flight. At last we arrived in Joburg and Abraham was there to pick us up, after waiting for us for 3 hours. We finally arrived at our flat about 12:30 AM. This trip, which usually takes about 2 hours in the air, took us about 14 hours total including waiting and flying time. It was just another travel adventure in Africa