While traveling in the United States is challenging, it is nothing compared to getting around Eastern Africa. Dave’s first trip out of Djibouti was to Uganda, a trip for which he needed his body armor. Next time you complain about one 50 –pound suitcase and a personal item, think about lugging another 50-pound case just for body armor through the airports.
“Our luggage was so heavy, I remember the TSA-equivalent had each of us open our bags. Satisfied when the armor fell out, we then repacked our bags,” Dave said.
Having someone other than security handle the bags was also different. At the Djibouti Airport, men stood at the end of the conveyor belt waiting to carry the bags to the airline counter, about 20 yards away. “Once they touched your bag, you were ‘obligated’ to pay them a tip,” Dave said. Only Navy Religious Professional Chief Petty Officer Antoine Roach had trouble getting through security once he refused to pay a tip. Coincidence? No one knows, but Dave recommended Chief Roach just pay the tip from then on.
Travel started at 10 a.m. Nov. 30, 2010 at the Djibouti Airport. First stop – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he stayed on the airplane. Second stop – Nairobi, Kenya. “We had a six-hour layover so I had lots of time to claim my first time south of the equator!” Dave said. He said the airport had lots of shopping, making for a potentially expensive return trip.
The next stop was Entebbe, Uganda, where two cars and drivers waited to take the team to Kampala to spend the night at the Sheraton Inn. The team was the last of a crowd to clear customs, making for a late night start to the 45-minute drive. Finally, they arrived at the hotel at 2 a.m. on Dec. 1 to find no rooms available.
“They had our reservations, but they told us there were no rooms available at that time,” Dave said. The team never learned what happened to their rooms. “Of our party of five, one got a room right away, two in our party received a two-room apartment across the street, and Chief Roach and I waited for 30 minutes until the hotel opened another section for us.”
Dave and Chief got to their rooms about 3:15 a.m. and after showering, Dave fell asleep about 4:30 a.m. He was able to sleep in until about 10 a.m. and made it to the breakfast buffet before being shuffled off to the Kampala Aero Club for yet another flight, this time on a small airplane to Moroto, Uganda and the Civil Affairs safe house in which they would stay.