Interlude in Zaire
1982 Delayed en route
StartOne could call this a holiday inside a holiday. This holiday was totally unexpected and occurred as a result of buying a bucket shop ticket and flying with a less well known airline to get to South Africa. It happened at a time when my life was an upheaval and someone had paid for my holiday but on a budget. The cheapest ticket I could find was Sabena to Brussels, Air Zaire to Kinshasa and TAP to Jo'burg.
Delays The journey started well enough with the flight arriving in Brussels on time. However, thisis when it all goes slightly astray. No Air Zaire plane and no information. Eventuall y anannoincement is made. The Lockheed Tristar has lost a wing engine en route to Brussels and it wil be delayed. Also the Air Line will have to fit another before take off can be attempted resulting in further delay.
Take off Eventually we get boarded and it is very obviuos that I have missed my connection at Kinshasa so I have to sit back and enjoy the flight. I sit in my window seat watching the airport activity. The aisles are blocked with car engines and large sack style bags but who cares, that is until we roll back of from the gate. At the end of the main runway the pilot opens the throttle and as we gain speed down the runway the overhead luggage rack in the centre of the cabin totally falls down on to the headrests of the seat pining the passengers underneath. It was so lucky that no one was hurt.
Flight The flight proceeds with out any further incident ad as we come over Kinshasa the size of the Congo River is overwhelming and then as we overfly the airport there down below us is the TAP flight taking off -- but more is to come.
Arrival Kinshasa We de-embarked and all transit passengers were directed tot he transit lounge, if that is wahrt yo can call it. It was a room about 30feet by 30 feet and not what one would expect but this is central Africa. Since we have missed our flight we discovered tha tthenext TAP flight was not for 4 days. Thi sroom had no catering facilities let alone toilets. What next we cant stay here for 4 days but as we had no visas for entry we were not officially allowed toleave the transit lounge. A solution was too quickly found we were all placed under arrest a s illegal immigrnats, passports confiscated and taken with a military escort to a hotel about 30 minutes away by coach.
The Hotel Before we set off we were advised not to photograph anything along the route. When we arrived at the hotel it looked very reasonable from the outside. We duly checked in to discover that the rooms were more like motel ground flor all adjacent. The rooms were ensuite clean and well lit looking out onto a grass lawn populated by several Snowy Egrets. The Hotel had a sizable swimming pool with a small diving board complex. We had been advised not to leave the hotel under pain of death and to reinforce this there was a military escort at the front gate. What was so disarming about the whole situation was the fact that we had had our passports confiscated and they were not going to be returned until we departed Zaire.
My Stay It took us 2 days to get through to the British Embassy, who were not even aware that we were there. It was only because 4 of the party spoke French and that the back of the hotel was not covered by Police or Troops that they persuaded some of the locals to take them to the Embassy that our plight was even known about.

We were there another 2 days before we were let out but this was with conditions that we paid the bill. I could not believe my eyes when my bill came to 5000 and seeing as all I had been drinking was coke and eating the set menu. I signed my bill commenting that Air Zaire would pay as it was their fault we were there in the first place. Reluctantly I was given my passport back as did everyone else and under guard we were escorted back to Kinshasa Airport to continue our journey to Johannesburg.

Arrival Wondering what to do about my baggage that had arrive 4 days earlier there it was, my orange Comex bag, lying on the floor at the side of the arrival luggage travelator untouched and unscathed by the experience.
Events at Home Unbeknown to me the events at home were causing concern as the only person that knew about my trip was my Brother as it was supposed to be a surprise to my Parents to arrive for their Wedding Anniversary. My Brother had gone to the airport, taking my niece, to meet me but when the plane arrived and I was on it but my name was on the passenger list but no one at TAP knew where I was as I had not boarded at Kinshasa.

On returning home my niece, in her innocence and not understanding the situation, run up to my parents saying they had been to the airport and not found Uncle Len. Since my Father was also Len they let it pass as a mistake the children make.

My Brother was getting concerned since he was not getting a reply from my home phone. He persisted with contacting TAP until he was rewarded by his persistance and met meat the Jan Smuts with my Niece.

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