Tag Archives: Flights

Vancouver to Amsterdam to Bonn to Abidjan

On June 8th I left Vancouver to begin my first contract with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF aka Doctors Without Borders), in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. As usual, I didn’t take the most direct route. Before starting work, I had to attend a ten day introduction to MSF, which was held in Bonn, Germany. Another guy from Vancouver, John, was on the same flight, which had a six hour stopover in Amsterdam, so when we landed on June 9th the two of us left the airport to see my old friend Pieter in town.

Clocktower, central Amsterdam

The three of us visited the MSF office, walked around a bit, talked a lot, and had strange but tasty Dutch sandwiches before John and I caught our train back to the airport. There, we met up with a few others heading to the induction, flew to Köln together, and figured out the buses to get from the airport to the outskirts of Bonn for the induction.

I can’t really say anything about the MSF induction itself, just that it was a lot of fun, with some really cool participants and organisers, rather bad (and I suspect perhaps decaffeinated) coffee, and no fresh vegetables for the first few days because of the big E. coli outbreak in Europe at the time. A few pics of Bonn:

Bonn Münster:

Bonn Münster, central Bonn, Germany

Bonn’s historic Town Hall:

Bonn's historic Town Hall

Bonn’s most famous citizen, Beethoven:

Beethoven statue, Bonn, Germany

Street art in Bonn: an East German soldier jumping over the line:

East German soldier skip rope street art, Bonn, Germany

After ten days, all the other participants left Bonn, except for me and one other guy. I stayed part of an extra night in the hostel, caught a taxi to the Bonn Hauptbahnhof in the middle of the night, and a little after 5am on June 19th I was zooming along the Rhine River watching the castles glide by around me en route to Frankfurt by train:

Castle on the Rhine, Germany
Castle on the Rhine, Germany
Castle on the Rhine, Germany

From Frankfurt it was a quick hop through the sky to Brussels:

Flying from Frankfurt to Brussels

From Brussels, the plane passed over the Mediterranean with its pretty islands and coastline:

Islands in the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Africa
The northern coast of Africa

By 515pm I was on the ground in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s biggest city, to start a six month contract.

Sunset in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

Flyga från Kindu till Kanada

(I put the title in Swedish so I could justifiably spell Canada with a K, because alliteration is awesome)

On the evening of June 28th, I landed in Vancouver without telling anyone but my family. Getting there, from my current home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was a rather long process. If you add up all the time I spent in the air to get from Kindu, Maniema Province, DRC to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada it’s a short little 22 hours spent airborne spread over three short hops within DRC and three longer leaps from Rwanda to Kenya to the Netherlands to Canada.

First, I had to fly domestically from Kindu to Goma. I caught a ride on June 23rd on Busy Bee, a great little charter airline we often use. That flight touched down in Punia, then Lubutu, then landed in Goma.

En route from Kindu to Punia, one of many tributaries of the mighty Congo River:

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The pilot and co-pilot gave me permission to take this photograph on the ground in Punia:

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Just before landing in Lubutu:

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En route to Goma, North Kivu Province:

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Some of the wealthier residences in Goma are waterfront properties on Lake Kivu:

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After a few days in Goma, I caught a bus from the border to Kigali in Rwanda and a taxi from downtown to the Kigali airport, where I watched the World Cup football match in which Germany destroyed England. Rooney wasn’t very happy with his team’s lack of success:

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From Kigali I flew to Nairobi on Kenya Airways, which actually provides a small hot meal on this short (just over one hour) flight, much better than Canadian airlines such as Air Canada and Westjet who don’t give a meal on a four and a half hour flight from Vancouver to Toronto. Kenya Airways planes at the gates:

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I spent the night in Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) – many people tell horror stories that remind of trying to sleep in Stansted airport, but in JKIA if you head toward Gate 3, down some stairs from Gate 4, you’ll find the sleep n’ shower facilities which were very useful for me. Also, at Gate 14 there’s a coffee shop called Java House with very tasty espressos. Gaining altitude outside Nairobi:

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Nearly nine hours later, I landed in sunny Amsterdam, where I boarded a KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) flight for Vancouver. KLM planes on the tarmac:

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Direct flights from Europe to Vancouver always fly over the Arctic, as it’s the shortest route, so we got to see some white scenery over Greenland and northern Canada:

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Finally, we passed just to the south of Bowen Island and came in for the usual east-facing landing at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, with UBC on our left:

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On July 13th I left Vancouver to do the exact opposite flight route, which was much more tiring because of the lack of sleep, and when I arrived in Kindu yesterday (July 17th) I slept from 1:30pm until 9:30pm and from midnight to 6:00am today.

3 weeks in Lubutu

After spending the first two months of my humanitarian logistics field placement with Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin) in Kindu, I was invited to fly north up to Lubutu to act as the interim logistician while the usual guy was on vacation. On May 19th, I flew up on a little Busy Bee Congo Let L-410A, which landed at Tingi-Tingi airport just outside the town of Lubutu. Tingi-Tingi is not much of an airport… although it has an official ICAO airport code, it’s actually just a straight section of the road that links Lubutu to Walikale. Merlin staff block both ends a few minutes before the plane lands so there aren’t any people or vehicles on it.

Takeoff after my arrival in Lubutu:

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This is the market on Lubutu’s main street, the same road as in the first photo but a few kilometres from the airport:

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Merlin’s Lubutu base supports 27 health centres in the Obokote and Lubutu health zones. During my first week there, I got to visit several of them. On the way to one such centre, this was the view of an MSF vehicle in the driver-side rear-view mirror of our LandCruiser:

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Inside one of the health centres:

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We also visited a few water sources that Merlin had rehabilitated to provide safe drinking water to local communities:

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One Sunday, a couple of us went to the Lac Vert (Green Lake) which is located 8km along a muddy old track through the jungle. It’s not the easiest road, as this very sketchy bridge demonstrates:

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There wasn’t really anything to do at the Green Lake other than swim and take photos of strange insects. I’m saving the bug pics for another post though.

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Lubutu is a 4 hour drive from Kisangani, the 3rd largest city in the DR Congo, so getting peanut butter, Dairymilk chocolate bars, and biscuits is pretty easy. Put these three together and you have a Lubutu Manwich. Try it sometime, it’s delicious:

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Of course, no blog post about a town is complete without a sunset photo or two. This one was taken looking directly West while driving home from the office:

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This was taken looking North-West through the wire mesh covering the window of the office which I called my own for 3 weeks:

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Cyclists, or tolékistes as they’re known in the DRC, frequently transport either goods or people from place to place. This guy seems to have decided he could make more money with a bench full of passengers than a single one on his rear rack:

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At the house, Mike (the boss) had 5 cute puppies which liked to run up and play with anyone’s ankles, regardless of whether said person was moving or not. One day I heard a loud squeal and looked down to see an airborne puppy, flying a few feet through the air ahead of my moving leg – it had been scooped up by my foot as I was walking full speed.

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One of the puppies was promised to Pam, the boss at our Punia base. June 11th, the day I finished my three week stint in Lubutu, I was flying to Goma with stops in Punia, Kindu, and Kampene on the way, so I was assigned to take the puppy to Pam in Punia. Mike and Okame (one of our drivers) boxed her up in an old inverter box with holes cut in the side, and off we went to the office for a few hours of morning work before the plane’s arrival:

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At the office the puppy ate some food and napped. Then, when it came time to head to the airport, she was put into a bigger box with holes cut in the sides and the seams taped shut. On the drive from the office to the airport she peed in the box (luckily we had put some plastic sheeting in the bottom) and then proceeded to lick up her own urine. In the small plane, I had to keep her on the seat beside me to make sure she wouldn’t break out of the box and run amok in the plane. About midway through the luckily short (15 minute) flight to Punia, she vomited inside the box and then for the next five minutes proceeded to lick that up too. As we descended for landing, she spent the final 3-4 minutes trying to break out of the box while I made sure she didn’t. She may look cute, and it was quite funny in many ways, but I think next time we should find someone with a tranquiliser dart before flying a puppy anywhere.

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After spending the weekend in Goma, I returned to Kindu along with a bunch of other staff members, where I spent the next week as interim logistician there before making another trip back to Goma on June 23rd.