Amman - Bahrain 4 November
We had a long flight ahead of us so we rose early again and took a taxi to the airport.
The landing fee was similar to that in Aqaba, US$ 72, but at least they didn't make us pay a handling fee this time. Customs took some time, while the customs officials kept checking and re-checking our passports. When we went through the security check, they found Ray's Swiss army knife and we had to reassure them that we were only three on board and trusted him implicitly.
Right now we are cruising at FL150 (15'000 feet) over Saudi Arabia on our way to Bahrain. This is the minimum flight level authorized. We were heavy with 3 on board and more than 10 hours of fuel on board. The high outside air temperature of +4 degrees results in a density altitude of FL171, but thanks to all the speed kits Honey Mooney just made it with only +150 feet/minute climb rate the last couple of thousands of feet.
We are all using cannula oxygen feeds which are more economical on the oxygen than the traditional masks. They also have the advantage of allowing us to eat, as the feeds consist of just a couple of tubes up one's nose. Outside the window is a desolate landscape of desert and more desert, occasionally punctuated by hills and a small town. We often see green circles of irrigated land, presumably that shape because the irrigation is done with a circular spray.
We have had a slight headwind in the beginning so estimated flight time to Bahrain looks like being about 7 hours (half an hour extra). Writing this has helped pass the time, although it is a little cramped, with the laptop on my lap and mouse balanced on a book that just fits between the computer and the wall of the plane.
Many times since we left Geneva, we heard aircrafts on the control frequencies with call sign 'REACH' followed by a flight code. Their crew always had an American accent so we suspected that they were US Air Force planes associated with the Afghanistan war operations. Shortly after entering Bahrain FIR (Flight Information Region) we lost radio contact with Jeddah control. A friendly American on board 'REACH0906Y' successfully relayed our position information to both Jeddah and Bahrain control.
After writing the last paragraph, it was time to start the descent to Bahrain which was in a haze at sunset. Bahrain airport was just as opulent as I had expected. We were met by an efficient handling agent who drove us to the terminal and took us through customs formalities. Flemming and Ray were wearing their captain's shirts and, as crew, didn't need the visa that Ray had acquired for us all in Geneva. Only I, as passenger, needed mine. I was carrying the Tupperware container that I use as a potty on board and was unable to access a toilet to empty the contents before the security check. I was reluctant to place it on the conveyor belt in case it turned over and leaked. The security guard asked to view the contents and I asked him if he was sure as I didn't think he would appreciate the smell. He didn't insist after that!
Formalities over, we were shown to a desk where they make hotel bookings. We didn't have a Lonely Planet guide to cover Bahrain, so I just said we wanted a mid-range hotel. The hotel had its own shuttle service, but it was apparently busy so they paid for a taxi. All seemed well until the taxi driver shook his head en route and murmured about what a bad hotel we were going to. He pointed out a much better alternative, according to him. We reckoned that this hotel paid him a commission so didn't believe him. I thought we could always decide on arrival at the hotel.
At reception, I gradually took in the shabbiness of the furnishings, but the men were already filling out the forms and the hotel desk manager had already paid off the taxi driver. We were all tired from our long flight, so I shrugged my shoulders thinking "it's only for one night". We took the lift up to our floor and as we stepped out, our nostrils were greeted by a sickly smell of disinfectant. The smell in our room was different, but no better. We tried opening the window, but that only contributed cooking smells from some cheap eatery. The bathroom was no better. The towels were grey and the one large towel was in tatters. And the bath was dirty. I decided that I would skip a shower and just freshen up using the loo paper as a towel. Our bedroom had two single beds. We checked the sheets. One of them had a stain on it, so we preferred to share the other one and just pray there would be no bed bugs.
Of course, all this time I was wishing I had insisted on changing hotels. Ray, on the other hand, was delighted with his room. It had a huge circular bed! In a good mood, he invited us for a beer at the pub next door and we downed some good Aussie Fosters beer. We repeated the order when we were told it was Happy Hour.
Ray decided to skip dinner, so Flemming and I went in search of somewhere nice to make up for the ghastly dive we'd found ourselves in. (We didn't think the hotel receptionist could be relied upon to give us a good recommendation.). Safe bets seemed to be either MacDonalds (which I tend to boycott) or the Intercontinental Hotel. We chose the latter. The buffet meal wasn't brilliant, considering the price, but we were entertained from our window seats by the activity in the huge lobby below. Apart from some oriental (Thai?) air hostesses in red uniform, the lobby seemed to be a hive of activity for business men - some dressed in suits, others in immaculate long white robes and white headdress. The men kissed each other on the cheek 4 or 5 times - cheeky sheiks, as Flemming calls them! Then we spotted a gracious young couple, walking up and down the stairs several times, for God knows what reason. He was in Jordanian attire with a red striped headdress. She was dressed in black from head to foot with just two slits to see out from.
After the meal we walked back to the hotel and went to bed. We slept well until we were woken at 2 am by the phone ringing. I answered the phone, but there was no one at the other end. I just heard someone replace the receiver. This morning Ray told us he not only got mysterious phone calls - he was also visited in the night. When he heard knocking on the door, his first thought was "What the hell does Flemming want at this hour?'". He rushed out of bed stark naked to answer the door, thinking it must be an emergency. Fortunately for his innocence, although he had forgotten to lock the door, he had closed the latch, so the door only opened slightly. Enough to see that there were several young ladies trying to gain access to his room. No doubt they wanted to "try out" his circular bed!
Adhari is the name of the hotel we stayed in, to be avoided if you ever happen to pass through Bahrain. I was relieved to get shot of the place as we drove to the airport Monday morning.
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Departure from Amman Marka
Angela at FL150 with oxygen, working on this web page!
Sheikh Trevor al Raymond bin Sherwood enjoying his circular bed in Bahrain