Chasing sleep around the skies is not really something I am accustomed to. More usually the fidgeting and preparation on a day of travel and the intense amount of control I like to have over my actions when travelling alone wears me out enough to be snoring at take off.
A combination of getting lots of work done and trying to understand where I was headed while packing for all sorts of possibilities left me a bit wired before I got to the airport in the evening.
I like to fly. I live a highly wired life, continually checking in to here and there, constantly following news updates from people all over the world and ticking over how to translate this. On a plane, there’s nothing. It’s a bit like going deaf and blind – in relation to communications at least. It’s peaceful for a moment and I have to hand over that control for many hours.
On take off and arrival, Etihad airways has take-over function on all of the seat back terminals. All screens show a feed from the camera that appears to be in the nose of the plane. It’s a little odd, you can’t see the horizon but the lights and lines of the runway. Upon lift off, the view was astonishing. Orion and the big dipper appeared above the lights of London. As a lover of lay-girl’s astronomy I was spell bound. Eventually that view closed and the usual reel of limited cinema.
This time for some reason I could not sleep. 17 hours of travel ahead of me and a night flight. I watched movies, Fair Game – the Valerie Plame story and followed that with All the Presidents Men – a favourite that almost makes me wish I worked back in news papers, typing on dead trees in an office where people smoked.
Outside the window, above the clouds the sky blushed in high hues as we caught up with the dawn.
Still sleep did not come and before I knew it, I was landing in Abu Dhabi, somewhat delirious.
There are works happening at the airport, I bought overly milky tea and tried not to fall asleep before my connection.
Flying out toward Kathmandu was not such a long flight, but it was bright outside the windows. I slept intermittently through bad movies, wondering as usual if I had been snoring. the flight was full of immigrant workers with unusual luggage and great energy.
Tribhuvan International Airport is very small. It was hot on arrival and fast through customs. I was relived to see my rucksack on the luggage conveyor belt and happy to be outside again breathing air that was not recycled on the plane.
Avoiding the scrum of taxi drivers looking for passengers I tucked myself out of the way to watch and have a cigarette while waiting for Jo. She texted to let me know she had been in a cab with a puncture. Not a problem, the weather was warm and the parking habits, punctuated by loud and continual honking of horns kept me amused. Now and again a cab driver would approach, compliment my hat and ask where I was going. They all told me to ask them personally for the best prices to wherever I needed to be and all seemed somewhat disappointed that I was meeting a friend instead. It was good to talk to people after the silence of the plane.
The journey had served as a cold turkey disconnect. No longer able to access my usual digital places, I was relieved and entertained to be talking to strangers face to face. All the better for learning about a new location.