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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Friday, 22 Feb 2008

Location: London, UK

MapPlanet Ranger Feb. 22nd
We had a hard time sleeping so were awake at 2:30 to catch our plane. Of course, despite constant reminders, our hotel didn’t arrange for our shuttle. This caused a hassle getting to the airport but we were finally on our way. We remarked on how smoothly the trip went, no one got really sick, we accomplished what we came for, and then we said it….we’d had no lost luggage.
Upon our arrival at Heathrow, we waited patiently by the carousal and soon realized that there we were waiting in vain. It turns out that our luggage was still sitting in Nairobi and would be in on the same flight tomorrow. Wendy was flying on to Toronto from here but MJ and I had planned on spending the weeked here in London. We didn’t have a stitch of clothing between us and because of the ‘carry-on’ restrictions, had no toiletries. The Airline was not all that sympathetic but told us we could purchase items and be reimbursed at a later date.
Two and half hours, multiple inquiries, two trains, a bus and a long walk later we finally located our “Hotel.” I was reminded of “Bates Motel” from “Psycho” as I looked up at the ancient, crumbling, building above us. We opened the creaky gate, looked at each other and ventured in. Up the first flight of stairs, we entered into a foyer, which had a pool table area off in a side room. There were scruffy looking men drinking beer, playing pool and eyeing us up. A haggard, worn looking woman took us up a couple floors and showed us a closet with two single beds; we were expected to use the bathroom in the hall. MJ sat down on the saggy mattress and we looked at each with horror. We asked about Internet and were told that it wasn’t working as the cable had been severed.
MJ and I discussed our situation alone and then tried to negotiate a room cancellation. She was adamant that we would be charged 80 pounds whether we stayed or not. We walked through the growing gauntlet of men on the stoop and went across the road for a beer to discuss our options. We decided to turn the keys in and take our chances finding somewhere else to sleep.
We got an offer from one friendly lady that we met on the street. She said that she had an empty loft a few blocks away and said we could sleep there for the night, (with the sleeping bags that we didn’t have.) I wondered if she was running a sex-slave operation, and if we would ever see our families again. We told her we would call her and let her know. I’m sure it would’ve been fine, she did seem really nice.
By now we were starting to feel the weight of our packs, it had been hours since we landed. We had looked forward to this night in London and had pictured it quite different from this. After wandering for another hour, questioning everyone we met on the road, we finally found the Internet and was able to let a few people know that we had arrived. While walking, we had noticed a Hilton Hotel along the way so checked to see if that was an option. We had already called the few places that were recommended by people we asked but we couldn’t find anything, Even using the payphones here was a challenge at this point. At 10pm we finally decided the Hilton was our best choice and headed back that way. We booked in to our very expensive room, (80 pounds from the first place plus 107 more.) and crawled into bed. We thought it was ironic that, here we were in London, in civilization, and had found ourselves dealing with worse accommodations than anything we had seen in Africa.