We left home around 11:30 on Saturday, January 10th. Three hours later we arrived at the airport and without any difficulties or excitement checked our five totes and four big suitcases, said good-bye to our family and headed to our gate.
Everything went smoothly and on time and we were happily boarded on our second plane at around 7:45 that night. The flight from JFK to Accra, Ghana, was supposed to be nine hours, and with the five hour time difference we were supposed to land in Africa at around 10:00 am, Sunday morning.
Only, instead of taking off after everyone was boarded, we just sat in the plane. Then the crew came through the cabin, looking for a couple of passengers. And we continued sitting there. Finally they announced over the loud-speaker that one of the passengers hadn’t shown up and according to federal regulations we weren’t allowed to take off until the passenger’s luggage was unloaded from the cargo hold. It was 9:15 when we finally took off.
When our flight tracker said we were eight minutes away from Accra, I felt our plane lowering and beginning to circle. Only, every time I tried to get a glimpse of the land from out the window, all I could see was a redish-brown fog. This went on… and on… and on until I began to get perplexed. Something was not right. And, our flight tracker continued to say we were eight minutes away. A few scenarios about what could be happening to make landing impossible flashed through my brain and I began praying that everything would be ok. It was about this time that the plane turned and headed back the way we had come. Turning to Aubrey, I gestured at the screen in front of me, “Hey, we’re going home!” We’d been circling the airport for around 30-60 minutes.
After a few minutes of wondering what in the world was happening, they announced over the loudspeaker that due to the high dust and low visibility we were unable to land in Accra and were heading to Abidjan to wait. We girls could hardly believe our eyes when we zoomed up on the map and discovered that Abidjan was in Ivory Coast. It was crazy because I didn’t recall ever hearing of that country before, and now we were about ready to land in it.
Then came the waiting. We borrowed a cell phone from one of the other passengers and let our friend who was going to pick us up at the airport know what was going on. A lot of the people got out of their seats and went around the plane visiting. The people right behind us said that the day before a cargo plane had tried to land in Accra and because of the low visibility had overshot the runway and crashed. Thankfully no one was seriously harmed. After a while I leaned down on the tray table and was finally able to get a nice couple hours of sleep in.
Every 30 minutes or so we’d get an update over the loudspeakers. We were in a race against time, pretty much, because the pilots are only allowed to be on flight duty for a certain amount of time before they have to take a long break. So, if we weren’t able to fly back to Accra within a certain period of time, then their on-flight duty time would run out and they would just have to fly us to another city (which was actually in yet another country, but I can’t remember which) and we would spend the night there while waiting for new pilots to be flown in to take us to Accra.
At last the dust had settled enough in Accra for us to land, but then we ran into another snag. We had to be fueled up before we could take off, and there were other planes ahead of us in the fueling up process. Finally we got fueled up, but there was a disagreement between Abidjan and the Delta headquarters about how they were going to pay for the services. Then that got worked out, but the pilots on-duty time was going to run out before we reached Accra.
At last (happy day!) the pilots got an extension, the payment service was satisfactory on all sides and all we had to do was get pushed out by the ground crew and we’d be on our way. Then the ground crew decided it didn’t want to help us out without some added incentive, so we had to wait for the pilots, the Delta airlines and the ground crew to reach an agreement and finally we were in the air again!
All in all we were only in Abidjan for four or so hours, but following the long journey we’d already had and mixed with all the uncertainty about what was going to happen next, it was a rather long detour.
Our whole plane erupted in cheers when we finally landed safely in Accra, nineteen hours after we boarded the plane for a nine hour flight, and around twenty-five hours since we girls had left home.
By the time we collected our luggage, went through customs and had completed all of our needed paperwork, it was dark outside and our first day in Africa was almost over. Leaving the airport we were so happy to see our friend waiting to take us to their house. After a happy hour-ish ride, dodging in and out off traffic, we arrived at our destination and through our exhaustion ate a wonderful meal.
After eating, we unpacked about half of our luggage because we were leaving several totes worth of stuff in Accra with our friends. Next, we condensed and repacked everything else then fell into bed for several hours of sleep before leaving for the bus station at 4:00 the next morning.