The trip back to civilization was not overly civilized.
It began at an ungodly hour, but because I was anxious about missing our bus, I was awake about an hour before the alarm. It turned out that Gawan was awake too, but we were both trying to sleep, and trying to let the other sleep. We had done most of our packing the night before and, once mobile, were able to slip out quickly, latching the door quietly in the echoing gloom so as not to disturb the other guests.
Downstairs, a single bulb struggled – and failed – to light the whole of the main floor. We were met by one of the staff but there was little enough for him to do, since all financial matters had been settled in advance. Gawan handed him our one key card. He might have checked us off a list. The lobby was so shadowed that I didn’t immediately see the cook and the waitress silently and sleepily sharing a couch near the door. I’ve no idea why they were even there.
We were the airport bus’s very first stop, so when it finally rolled up about 30 minutes late I was feeling somewhat resentful about lost sleep. The hotel man helped us shift our luggage out onto the sidewalk in the humid darkness. It was too early for speech louder than a murmur, and the rumbling of the engine offended against the night. We loaded up and then rumbled off into the abandoned streets.
The bus route took over two hours. I think I managed to doze off briefly, lulled by the silent highway in the grey dawn. When we reached the countryside, lush greenery butted up to the edge of the road. From time to time we passed groups of optimistic locals waiting at the side of the road, hoping for a lift, but the bus never slowed down.
At one of our stops, there was a bit of a hassle. We were waiting for someone. Waiting a good while, actually. The traveller in question finally appeared in a T-shirt and shorts, but notably without any luggage, and got into a discussion with the travel company rep. His flight didn’t leave for hours, he said, and he didn’t want to go on the bus, it was too early. (Mhmm.) He’d find his own way there. (Assuming he could scare up a cab.) So that issue was resolved, and yet we waited.
It wasn’t long before a dishevelled woman scrambled up the steps and issued a general apology to the passengers – she had been told that she’d be picked up hours hence and, when the knock came on her door, had to dash about in a frenzy of packing. When we were on the road and the rep asked her if she had her passport, she said, “I think so. But you rushed me so much I don’t know where it is.” Ma’am, I’m afraid that argument is not going to get you on a plane. But hey, not my circus and not my monkeys.
We made it to the airport before the plane left, so that was a success. Having been up so early and missing out on a proper breakfast, I was desperate to find some food. What we found was uninspiring but did the job and consumed most of our remaining shekels. Then we sat listlessly but companionably on a metal bench awaiting the plane.
Eventually we were shoehorned into cramped seats once again, and the only thing missing to complete the ambiance was a few tethered and bleating goats and some squawking chickens in cages on people’s laps.
The place we were leaving was a vacation destination, and most of the travellers had just gotten their fill of sun and sand and bottomless watery cocktails at the all-inclusive resorts. Many were in high spirits and travelling in groups rather than pairs or singles. Hence loud. I’m sure there were at least a few shambling hangovers, not to mention some who were still drunk. Or drunk again, this time on miniature airplane booze. It was the sort of flight where you start imagining popping loudmouths on the nose. Or at least I do.
Because I have blood sugar issues and because getting regular meals while travelling is a challenge, it’s my habit to eat whatever is put in front of me. The in-flight food options were announced over the PA system, with one option being described as bruschetta with tomato or some such. When the flight attendant came around, she called it “cheese pizza”. I took it. I had one bite, and regretfully dismissed it as inedible. At least the flight wasn’t too long, and I had eaten well enough on the ground to last me a while.
Back in civilization, that tightly packed plane finally belched us into the terminal, and Gawan and I would soon part ways. But not just yet. I had 7 hours between the arrival of the one flight and the departure of the next. Lots of time to kill. Gawan was staying in the city overnight then flying out for another short adventure the next day. What to do?