Skip forward a few days and I am sitting on the ground, in the restaurant room in Laka Lodge. I have been on another two planes, in a van and even underwater. It feels as if I have not had a moment to think ; let alone sit down and write about the experience. Last time we left off checking whether I had lined up for the correct flight at the airport in Addis. Turns out, yes I was, and despite not having the sign, the plane was flying to Nosobi with a stopover in Moroni. Turns out, it was good I asked since when we landed in Moroni, an Italian couple disembarked thinking they had reached Madagascar. (Signage and explanations were noticeably absent at both the airports and flight itself.
When in doubt, ask someone, people will be able to give you the correct information about your flight.
When we were finally on route, a basic vegan meal placed in front of me, I was getting ancy to touch down. The Island of Grand Comoros loomed out from beneath the clouds, and from a bumpy plane, I managed to see a snippet of the overpoweringly green shape against a rainbow of blues.
However, since the Air Ethiopia flight was stopping in Moroni, and continueing to Nosybe there were some unfortunate non French speaking tourists which got out at Moroni, and therefore completely missed their flight to Madagascar
WARNING : Triple check where you are getting off. There is no clear instructions given anywhere.
Moroni, Grand Comoros
Half expecting a dinosaur head to pop out from amongst the greenery, the plane descended onto a runway just next to the beach. I had been warned that the island of Grand Comores would appear underwhelming with its half built structures and naked lava rocks. Maybe if I had been focusing on the piles of plastic on the side of the road, the ashened buildings and old cars I would have felt disheartened, however the greens of the forests and turquoise of the water filled me with a sense of excitement and calm. This is the country I would live in for the next 9 months, and it was beautiful.
Laka Lodge had ensured that someone would meet me at the airport, there was a guide waiting for me near customes and then Ibu the taxi driver was enthusiastic to welcome me to his country. I heard stories of the town, descriptions of buildings and was reassured several times that Comoros is undeniably safe.
“You can walk anywhere at 3am”
While I do not generally galavant through the streets in the early hours of the morning, partially because I enjoy my sleep but partially because I have been conditioned that it is probably not the smartest move as a young blonde, I was happy to hear the sentiment. I stayed in a gorgeous family house of a close friend of Laka Lodge who repeated the same thing.
“You can go anywhere, even at 3 am”
I vaguely wandered whether this was a line all of the Comorians repeated to themselves and the tourist. Although, even as verbal manifestations, I was looking forward to having them come true. The evening came too fast, and honestly after the two day transit I was excited to lie in a horizontal bed. I set an alarm clock for early in the morning; hoping that it would force me to get some things done.
There are several hotels to stay at, however WARNING : they do not have printers, and you NEED printed ticket to get from Grand Comores to Moheli.
Hotels in Moroni
You can stay in : Jardin de La Paix
One of the favourite recommended spots from Laka Lodge, as it’s always cheap and easy to get to.
Which is conveniently situated across the road from the airport, if you have a late evening flight into Moroni and an early departure to Moheli. However, they do not have an online page so you must either call before hand, or get someone else to organize it.
Otherwise there are several fancier options, and Moroni is definitely the most densely populated and ‘happening’ town in the Comoros. MAKE SURE to check that you are booking a hotel on the correct island, as there are three islands in the Comoros. Many tourists fall into the trap of booking on a completely different location or not booking anything at all and then not having anywhere to sleep.
Grand Comoros to Moheli Island
I slept through it, and the second one. My body telling me that 9h of sleep was not enough to catch up on the agony I had put it through in the last 48h. I dragged myself out of bed, to a bird-song filled breakfast, and before I knew it Ibu was whisking me back off to the airport.
I nervously looked at the piece of paper I clutched in my hand.
“Baggage allowance of 15kg”
As I glanced towards my two over stuffed bags. One of them was positively bursting at the seams (not using the figure of speech now). As we placed it on the scales, the numbers ticked over and stopped at “50.9”. (Mind you this is just twenty kg lighter than what I had moved to Australia with five years ago, and that included a guitar!) The locals looked at the numbers questioningly, but after a few phone calls and phones being passed from ear to ear, I was waved through. I think I was the only non Comorian sitting in the waiting room.
This was a different airport than the one I had landed in just yesterday, this was what appeared to be two rooms around 20m long and 5m wide each. The security checks included one x-ray machine and three people asking you to unzip your bags as they half hartedly pull a few things out of your suitcase. The top of my suitcase had fins and books in it, so they must have thought I was not a dangerous individual and let me continue through.
Top tip : Bring your own water and use the bathroom before hand. No commodities available.
After around 30 minutes ( in excrutiating heat) a couple of bright yellow jacketed men come through the door which prompts everyone around me to stand up and start shuffling towards the exit.I take this as my cue and head along with the crowd of people onto the tarmac. While a few men lead the procession, and several women exited the airport infront of me, somehow, potentially due to their high heels, I ended up one of the first entering the 30 seater plane.
By this point, I had already been repeating positive reinforcements to myself for the past hour, and tried not to think about how small, old or unstable this tiny propeller powered aircraft was going to be. As I walked towards the steps (which only one person at a time was allowed on) I noticed the cheerfully painted water and beach on the tail of the aircraft. Beyond my aircraft, stood two or three even smaller vehicles. The man next to me pointed out that, that was the rivalling airline, with their aircrafts ranging from 8-12 seaters. Having a flashback to June 2017 and me in a two seater Cessna, I mounted the stairs to AB Aviation whatever a little surer.
Unlike just about any aircraft I have ever been on, my paper printed boarding pass did not have a seat, so I sat myself down in the first single seat on the left hand side of the plane. Not only did I find out later that the right side was better for watching the landing, immediately as I sat down I noticed the 1m propeller was a mere 1m from my window. My thoughts immediately went to the increased vibrations, being the first to witness it stopping and the fact this propeller would now take up the majority of any photos I would take. Before I could stand up and relocate, the stream of people into the aircraft (and potentially my anxiety) had me firmly seated in my seat. Ready for take off.
I was thinking of the blue ocean, the fact the flight was only 20 minutes, that I had been told the airline pilots were extremely skilled. I could not help noticing the mildly peeling “Crew Only” stickers on one of the over head lockers, the faint yellowish colouring of older white plastic and the stewardness putting in ear plugs. These orange pieces of plastic taunted me from her ears, reminding me that I would definitely not be able to forget the fact I was on an airplane.
20 Minute Flight
The right propeller started up and a humming and faint vibration came from that side, the left one was still stationary. The pilots must be testing the gear. The left one whirred into action. Soon enough, we were rolling down the tarmac. From where the airport was situated, we had to roll all the way to the other side of the runway before taking off. It truly appeared as an extremely short runway, and I had to remind myself that due to physics this plane would not require a longer one. I braced myself as the motors kicked into action and the acceleration had me gently pushed against my seat. It took what felt as an eternity to lift off. The hum turned into a little bit more of a roar and the vibrations could almost be classified as shakes. The wheels separated from the ground and off we were flying towards Moheli. The plane rocked mildly with the ascent, but I tried to focus on the quickly diminishing towns below us.
The first few minutes of the flight are always the most dangerous (or so they say) and I tried not to think about whether the luggage had been properly attached in the undercarriage. Thanks to Kaya Bulbul and his helpful video of the crashing plane, I will never be able to get that thought out of my mind whenever I take off. The roar began to diminish as we started reaching cruising altitude. The earplugs came out, the clouds passed behind us, and water bottles and snacks were distributed. I managed to take a few photos, and maybe even a terrified video or two, but by the time I had began sipping on my water the tray for the rubbish was coming back around. (Watch the full video here)
The captains voice through the crackly speakers informed us that we had just began our descent to Moheli. I peered out the window. This was when it was apparent I had made the wrong choice to sit on the left side of the plane. While views of lush green forests expanded to the right, I saw a greyish looking ocean on the left. Clouds had begun to gather over the forest covered mountains blocking out the sun, so the previously shimmering water had turned a duller, darker blue. I could hardly contain my excitement : after four planes, three days, several cities I had finally made it to Moheli.