Crazy Town, Crazy Island – Keeping ahead of the storm

I was back in Haiti only a couple of months later.  Jean Luc had secured us rooms at the Kinam Hotel in the heart of Petionville at one side of the main town square.  Again I could not reach there in one day from UK so had to overnight this time at Orly Airport in Paris.  Once more I got the “wood between the world’s” feel of a clean functioning Hilton hotel in the airport grounds with all the buffet, housekeeping and well stocked bars that any European traveller expects.  My route was even more complicated this time as it involved another stop off – in Guadeloupe.  For all my travelling up and down the Caribbean Islands over the previous 15 years, I hopped over all the French territories except St Martin.  So although I only had a few hours to kill in the airport it was worth it just to say I had been.

We were now in mid August and the hurricane season had got close to its peak.  As I had arrived in Orly from London City the night before an Air France official had been waiting for me at the baggage reclaim.  I expected her news – the flight to Guadeloupe would leave one hour earlier in the morning.  A large storm had brewed in the Atlantic was heading straight to Guadeloupe.  It would be named Hurricane Isaac before it reached.  I was OK about the arrangements at Orly – my hotel was a five minute drive from the terminal and I ensured I got back to the terminal early.  What concerned me more was that I was due to stay in Guadeloupe for five hours before heading onwards to Port Au Prince.  Would the storm have reached before I was able to take off?

Flights from Paris to Guadeloupe, Martinique and St Martin, or to indeed any of France’s overseas territories, are counted as internal.  That means you have the odd sensation of flying for 8 hours without having to go through all the immigration and customs rigmarole.  As a transit passenger in Guadeloupe,  I simply walked up a gangway from the plane, peeled off from the holidaymakers and returnees who went to grab their bags, and within a few moments was sitting in the roomy departure lounge.

There was not a lot to do but read my book and watch the airport activity.  A couple of other flights left.  I looked out over the runway.  It was already raining heavily and frequently; the tarmac and concrete looked soggy and sad.  There was some bustle over by the hangers – doors being secured, windows boarded up.  As I looked up in the sky the clouds were tightly packed against each other and moving briskly in one direction.  But the wind speed was not too much yet.  I looked at the departures board; my flight to Port Au Prince was the last live flight showing – the others were all cancelled.  It was a Saturday – a popular day for the large charter flights to come in with holiday makers.  As well as another Air France flight, a CONDOR jumbo jet came in, discharged its load and sucked the departure lounge almost empty before scurrying back to France ahead of the storm.

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