I left Britain on an overcast rainy day on BA flight 81 on Nov 10th. The flight was full and despite the Ghanaian man next to me being ill and a bit of turbulence sending t my first coffee flying over my tray and clothes, the flight was uneventful. Luckily though, I had a seat right at the back of the aircraft and the back door was opened up. I was one of the first off the flight despite almost being mowed down in the stampede to get off. I made a mental note to myself to check in online a full 24 hours before the next time in order to get a better seat.
A short bus ride later we arrived at the Arrivals building. ‘Great!’ I thought, I’m going to be one of the first through. I drifted into roughly the middle of a queue. Once through the bottleneck at the entrance, I managed to choose the slowest ‘non-national’ queue. I was intrigued to see people in other queues way behind me suddenly arrive merrily at a desk and being waved through. This gave me plenty of time to read the Public Notice message board flashing up important information. It warned visitors of fraudulent attempts to take their money in exchanges and that all trolleys were free - no money should be spent.
I’m not sure how it happened but I was almost one of the last from the Arrivals Hall to be processed. For the first time in my life and after many travels, I was fingerprinted at the airport and it was made sure that all ten digits were perfectly scanned lest I get into any misdemeanours. I was getting slightly worried at this point at the length of the wait my companions were having for me in arrivals since the flight landed. The time was now about 22.30 and I was originally due in at 20.30. When I finally retrieved my ‘extra heavy’ baggage (26kg due to all the paperwork I had in it) and fended off requests to push my trolley, I joined another bottleneck to push it through the exit. I had had an email from the School of Tropical Medicine Secretary to inform me that Juliet from our hotel would be waiting for me and another volunteer, Jecko from Manchester, who had arrived one hour earlier to take us back to the Forte Royal ‘hotel’.
‘Great!’ I thought. It’s only seconds before I see my name, as I pushed my trolley down the waiting line of people, but I did not. As I got to the outside, a friendly security man asked me where I was going as he could tell that I was looking to meet someone. Grateful to be ‘taken care of’, I obliged in giving him my hotel number to call but before I knew it, two other ‘friendly men’ had joined us and I was informed I had ‘ the best security’ man to help me. Feeling a bit disorientated at this point I was grateful that I was being ‘helped’. The hotel phone numbers I had been given, retrieved from my bag and given to the security man, were not being answered (I realise now it was a mobile number). I was starting to feel a bit apprehensive at this point as I had no plan B but it was suggested I go in a taxi to another hotel and they would take me to my hotel tomorrow. Thinking this would not be a good idea, I was asked what currency I had as I told them I had no local currency. ‘Dollars’, I said. That seemed fine! Then, like an angel, Juliet appeared and I was very grateful to see her. At this point, one of the men told me ‘give him some tip’ by rubbing his thumb and forefinger together and pointing towards the ‘friendly’ security guard. Juliet looked at me and said ‘I’ll take care of this’. How relieved I was to have a local with me. Jecko told me that while he was queuing at the airport, the lights had gone off. I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.
A 20 minute ride later, we arrived at the ‘hotel’ behind security gates. We had to sign a registration book with our passport details etc. which said we wouldn’t be given our keys until full payment had been made. Jecko was asked how was he going to pay but we were told the bill had been settled beforehand. However, we were still given our keys, so I’m not quite sure what that was all about.
The room was very basic and a Policy Statement sellotaped to the desk in the room had a list of rules to abide by, including another reiteration that full payment must be made before keys are handed over to the guests.
‘Payment is made in CASH only credit cards are NOT ACCEPTABLE.’ Huge sums of money (I wish) were to be declared at the front desk for safekeeping. Late check-out attracts 50% or full rate at management’s discretion. Guests were responsible for any damage done in their rooms TV, air conditioner or remote. All payments for the mini-bar room service should be made at front desk.
I then opened the fridge
in the room to discover it was completely empty, so luckily for me there was going to be no temptation or mini-bar bill.
Last but not least, the statement suggested ‘ENJOY YOUR STAY!’
Jecko and I had brief chat about our journey and retired despite the barking dog and crowing cockerel. In the end, I still managed to grab a few hours sleep.