Addis Ababa to Toronto to Vancouver to Victoria

We had plenty of time in Addis to catch our breath after barely making our flight from Kigali… or so we thought. Just as we were heading for the security line, a huge line of people materialized which wouldn’t have been a big deal if a) two of our travellers weren’t pulled for “random” pull your entire bag apart security searches and b) the airline didn’t change the gate assignment mid-process stranding half of our travellers on one side of a now closed door and the other at the security screening table. It all worked out fine and the Ethiopian Airlines staff were as accommodating and helpful as they could be under the circumstances but it did make for a much hairier boarding experience than we’d been expecting. And the plane was almost an hour late taking off as a result of the ensuing chaos (we thought we were going to be near the last to board but that did not turn out to be the case at all as many more people got caught up in even more chaos than us…). Leaving an hour late was cause for some concern as we only have 90 minutes to catch our connecting flight in Toronto and we need to clear customs and security because of the way Pearson handles connecting flights… but we’d worry about that 15 hours later… for now, we just needed to get through another insanely long plane ride. It actually turned out to be not that bad. Ethiopian’s food is never going to win any awards but they sure kept it coming and they were around frequently to water us… Their cabin attendants were friendly and helpful and all in all, the flight passed as pleasantly as one could hope for. Except for the turbulence for the first hour and half which had Marie checking for barf bags big time. Thankfully she was able to get some sleep and let the gravol kick in and when she woke, felt much better for the remainder of the ride. Unlike our flight from Toronto to Addis which was a straight 13 hour shot, this flight was broken up by a one hour stop in Dublin after 7.5 hours of flight time so they could change the crew and refuel. Then we were back in the air for another 6.5 hours to Toronto… Both of the flight times ended up being shorter than anticipated which meant we landed in Toronto with the full 90 minutes to get our connecting flight despite leaving Addis an hour later than planned… we were split on this format versus the longer straight shot – some of us preferred the longer single flight while others preferred the two shorter flights even if we weren’t able to get off the plane in Dublin…

We landed in Toronto and arrived at the terminal at exactly 8:25 as scheduled (pretty impressive when you consider we’d flown for almost 15 hours) and were able to get off the plane fairly quickly… only to be held up briefly by the new document check Border Services seems to be doing quite often right in the gangway… when you have a 787 Dreamliner (one of the larger planes out there) unloading a full complement of passengers and have 2 agents checking passports you’re going to create a bottleneck… thankfully it didn’t hold us up for long and we were soon making our way to customs. We caught a huge break here as there was absolutely no lineup… something we’ve never seen before at Pearson and we all breezed through despite most of us declaring plant products (coffee), wood products (masks, drums and other souvenirs) and whatnot… they didn’t seem too concerned. After customs we made our way to baggage claim to pick up our checked bags (something we have only ever had to do at Pearson). We were delayed a bit here as Marie and Noah’s bags must have been first to be loaded on the plane in Addis because they were pretty close to the last ones off in Toronto… from there we made our way back through customs (where none of us were selected for further inspection) and then we said goodbye to Noah who lives in Toronto and was able to head home to his bed while the rest of prepared for another 5 hour flight. After Customs 2.0 you go to Customs 3.0 where you are either sent for more screening and inspection (none of us were selected thankfully) or you’re sent to a conveyor belt to load your checked bags back into the system… I’m sure there’s a good reason for it all and that it keeps us safe or something, but it’s never really made much sense every time we’ve had to do it…

After dropping our bags off, we headed for security (because Pearson puts the exit from the airport in too close proximity to the passageway to the connecting customs bag drop) where my camera caused them a bit of grief because it was kind of big – their words – and where I was told that I should take it out of my bag next time… despite the fact that my camera has been through over 50 security screenings in the exact same bag in at least 20 different airports and not once has anyone ever said it needs to be taken out of the bag. Marie’s pack also caused them some grief because she had forgotten to take the small can of ginger ale the airline gave her when she wasn’t feeling too hot out of her bag… Thankfully the extra scrutiny and swabbing and whatnot didn’t hold us up too long and we were soon making our way to the gate (which was, of course, different than the one printed on 5 of our 6 boarding passes…). Once at the gate, we had maybe 6 minutes to buy some snacks for the flight (because Air Canada doesn’t provide meals on domestic flights unless you’re willing to part with an arm or leg… which seems doubly chintzy when you consider that Ethiopian provides a full hot meal even on 2 hour flights) and to fill out water bottles with blessedly cold tap water and send a couple of short “we’re alive and made our flight” messages to various people and then it was final boarding call time so we hustled our butts onto the plane.

We’re now just over 2 hours into our flight which means we’ve got another 3 hours of flying, a bus ride to the ferry, a 1.5 hour ferry ride and a half hour drive into Victoria before we’ll be stepping through our door. That’s a full 36 hours since we left our guesthouse in Kigali on Thursday… if you’ve never done one of these epic flying adventures where you have no idea what day or time it is and your body doesn’t know whether it should be eating breakfast or dinner have you really travelled. I can’t help imagining what it must have been like before Airlines starting flying to Africa regularly and before the advent of passenger jets that can cruise at 40,000 feet doing almost 900 km per hour. As hard as this trip is on the mind and body, there was a time not so long ago when flying to and from Africa was a literal test of one’s spirit so we won’t complain too much…



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s