Flying to Pemba, Mozambique

Flying to Mozambique was non-trivial. In the end, I chose to fly Delta into Johannesburg, overnight in the Johannesburg airport, and then continue you on with a separate ticket on LAM Mozambique Airlines (LAM). For the most part, it went relatively smoothly but there were a few complications. Firstly, I was carrying a Leatherman to Sergio for his birthday, which meant that even though it is against my religion to check bags, my desire to give him the gift was stronger than my religion and I ended up having to check a bag.

Packaging - Tanya Kornikova - Visual Designer
This gift forced me to check my luggage… what a pain!

The specific complication was that my flight Delta codeshare with KLM so when I arrived at the airport at 5 AM to check-in (I was accompanying my uncle whose flight was 8 hours earlier), Delta informed me that I had to check my bag with KLM at the international terminal and they wouldn’t be there until 11 AM at the soonest. Well, stink. How was I going to go to a lounge inside security if I couldn’t check my bag? Fortunately, a Delta baggage attendant agreed to hold my bag. Pheww! I passed through security in Terminal A and walked to the International D terminal to find an airport lounge for my now less than 8 hour layover. And, around noon when my work calls were over, I left my bags in the lounge and went outside security, found my (to-be) checked bag after a struggle, and checked it through with KLM. I’m guessing it wasted 1-2 hours, so I sure hope Sergio appreciates it. 😊 Unfortunately, the challenges didn’t stop there.

I knew that Delta and LAM are not partners. What I didn’t realize, what that I could only check the bag as far Delta (or their partners) went – Johannesburg, South Africa. Therefore, while I could stay overnight in the international transfers rather than enter Johannesburg all I wanted, picking up my checked bag required me to go through immigration into South Africa. Arghh!!!  (What do people do when they don’t have the requisite passport or visa to enter South Africa?)  All I wanted to do was pick up my bag. Why force me to go through immigration. Oh well! I decided to delay till morning. Perhaps I would just abandon the bag.

The night in the international transfer area was rough to say the least. I was prepared to sleep in the airport and even brought a sleeping pad with me. However, what I was not prepared for was the automated announcement blasting every 15 minutes detailing COVID procedures or baggage security protocols. I tried the noise-canceling headphones and loud music approach, but it wasn’t sufficient. I barely slept. And when I was fed up and went to look for a hotel that was supposedly inside the international transfers station, I discovered it was closed. Supposedly misery loves company, but I felt bad for the 5-10 other passengers suffering the same lot (including a family). And, regardless of what the announcement protocol detailed, I wasn’t gathering up all my luggage every time I went to the bathroom or a stretch – even in Johannesburg.

t around 6 AM I decided to go look for my checked bag. I verified there was no other way and passed through immigration. Not surprisingly, my little bag was nowhere to be found in baggage claim. I asked around and discovered the was a lost and found outside the airport somewhere. Upon reaching the location, I asked, and low and behold, they had my bag. 😊  Now I had to figure out how to find LAM airlines and check the bag. I, on the other hand, didn’t need a boarding pass because I had already checked in online. No such luck! Checking in I was informed that firstly, my COVID test didn’t have a QR code on it making it suspect. And secondly, my passport didn’t have the requisite visa. Sergio had assured me this would not be a problem when I arrived in Pemba because he knew all the officials there and was sure any issues could be worked out. Of course, I wasn’t in Pemba yet and now it was questionable whether I would ever arrive there. I shuttled around to various LAM desks and eventually, using the right passport and yesses and no’s, they checked my bag.  Phew!!

The next challenge occurred when I landed in Maputo. They insisted I have an invitation letter and a hotel reservation. Furthermore, I no longer had Internet so I couldn’t make a hotel reservation or even pull up my return flight that showed I wasn’t permanently moving to Mozambique. (Why would I, why wouldn’t they love it if I did (from an economic perspective, and why would a return flight mean anything, especially in a time when I can cancel and change flights?) To make matters worse, communication at this point was in my broken Portuguese or their, even worse, rudimentary English. Fortunately, my flight to Pemba was delayed by 3 hours as I would never have made the 45-minute connection that was scheduled. They set up a hotspot from one of their personal phones, which allowed me to connect with Sergio. They talked with him over the phone and he sent over an ID document of some kind. Finally, after I got to know them all just by hanging out with the immigration folks waiting for things to get settled, they issued me a visa and I was allowed in. I even had time to go get a bite to eat and connect to the Wifi and re-establish communication with the outside world. The final flight into Pemba was eventless and it was wonderful to give Sergio a hug.  It made the ~30 hours trip all worth it and water under the bridge. I had really missed him and it was fantastic to meet his future bride, Zita, as well. The challenges of getting home given that Europe had already shut down their border to Subsaharan Africa, I was already convinced that this trip was well worth it.

Finally on the ground in Pemba, Mozambique

One Response to Flying to Pemba, Mozambique

  1. Anthea Michaelis says:

    You amaze me every time you travel (other times as well) I loved reading your story. Continue……

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