Monday, April 26, 2010

This turned out to be a very long day, starting with a train ride from Dortmund to Frankfurt airport. Luckily, I had used the online check in and only had to drop off my bag instead of having to wait in the long line. Despite being at the airport over 1 1/2 hours before the flight, I still didn't have much time due to the very long lines at passport control and a long walk to the end of the new terminal extension for Condor airlines.
Despite the fact that all passengers arrive at the same time, everyone crowded to the stairs and bus when the flight departure was announced, I decided to wait in the comfort of the lounge until the last call was made. Because of the outbreak of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland the previous week's flight had been cancelled and my flight was booked out to the last seat and I'm very happy that I opted to pay the surcharge for a premium seat on the outbound flight.
We departed on time and I was lucky enough to be in the front of the line at Antigua & Barbuda customs and immigration, another first, the baggage arrived very quickly and within 15 minutes of arriving I was at the LIAT airline check in counter with just a St. Lucian family of 4 in front of me. My luck was not to last, though, as all 4 pieces of baggage were overweight and they also seemed to have problems with their tickets. There was only one check in line open, but 2 tickets sales counters were occupied and not doing any business, the employees were sitting chatting on the phone and reading a book, respectively. By the time the problems with the family ahead of me had cleared up the line behind me was rather long but, in typical West Indies fashion, the employees made no motion to assist their solo colleague. It was certainly a typical reminder of being back on “Island Time”.
The last LIAT flight from Antigua to the British Virgin Islands departed almost on time, but it took over 2 hours to cover the 180 miles or so because the flight stopped at St. Kitts and St. Martin for lengthy de- and embarkations. Although we were given customs and immigration forms in Antigua and my fellow passengers diligently filled them out, I recalled that the BVI has had new forms for a bout a year and those we were given were obsolete. As expected, there was a collective groan when we were informed (while standing in line at immigration) that we would have to do the whole thing again. These forms are bureaucratic things of beauty, asking obscure and numerous questions that bear little relation to anything an immigration officer needs to know. And why, of all things, does one need to repeat one's passport number and date of issue 4 times on 2 documents? I gave them a spurious e-mail address on one of the forms as my form of token revenge, but I'll probably be denied entry some time in the future because of my futile resistance.
The most powerful single group of voters in the BVI are the taxi drivers, who have, despite many attempts, effectively prevented any form of buses or cheaper taxi fares (for tourists). My trip was to Nanny Cay, about 15 miles from the airport, and the listed price is US$36 for me - it would be the same fare for 3 people. I joined up with two Germans on the flight who were going three-quarters of the way and the taxi driver offered a discount down to $30 while still charging them their full fare. I certainly hope that someone manages to break their government lobby, since I find that taking 2 people 10 miles and another person an additional 5 miles should not net the driver $60. Last time, after I had gotten tanned and hitched rids on taxis used by 'locals' the trip from Road Town to the airport was $5 but at the airport the drivers know they can get away with demanding 'tourist' rates.
Finally, after 21 hours of travel, I arrived at Nanny Cay to find that they'd just closed the restaurant but at least the beach bar was still open and I had a couple of drinks before falling asleep at the hotel.

Boarding in Germany Lining up to board the Condor airlines flight from Frankfurt to Antigua
Boarding in Germany
Condor shuttle bus line Lining up to get into the shuttle bus that would take us to our Condor flight heading for Antigua (then Punta Carna).
Condor shuttle bus line

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