Goodbye, Dubai - Hello, Durban

A very crowded shuttle bus brought us from the Copthorne Hotel back to Dubai International Airport. There wasn't much to see en route, squashed midst other passengers. We cleared through Immigration and Security quickly and had a couple of hours to wait for our flight. A little internet, a cup of coffee and a walkabout and the on-time flight was ready to board. dubai airport

As we departed Dubai, I couldn't help notice the brown cloud that hung over the city. It's not just LA  that sports a brown haze.

brown cloud over dubai

The flight was eight more hours of movies, iPad games, meals and naps and finally we were back in Durban. We could see the sweeping curve of the Durban shoreline as we made our approach at King Shaka Airport.

durban shoreline

About 40 hours after leaving LAX, we stepped off the plane in Durban. It was warm and windy. The shuttle ride back to the marina was an interminable 2-1/2 hour circuitous ordeal in an overcrowded van filled with lots of grumpy, tired passengers. This seems to be a recurrent theme lately.

Finally back at the Durban Marina, we toted our luggage down the long dock and there was Nine of Cups waiting patiently for us, apparently no worse for the wear. In the dark, we didn't notice the Durban grime nor the bird poop on the decks. She looked great. We climbed below, got all the luggage emptied and stowed, cobbled together a dinner of sorts and signed in relief. Home at last!

Los Angeles to Dubai

the long way to Durban

We stayed overnight at the LAX TraveLodge to avoid the hassle of an early morning 4-6 hour drive and car return in favor of a leisurely dinner, a good night's sleep and a no-stress shuttle ride to LAX's international departures terminal. It's a budget hotel and it suits our needs.  LAX is the second busiest airport in the USA, our shuttle driver informed us. Chicago O'Hare is #1 and Atlanta is #3. LAX always seems to be “under construction” and traffic is crazy like most airports.

lax construction

The Theme Building is an iconic landmark of the airport. I remember having dinner at The Encounter Restaurant a couple of decades ago. It's got that spaceship look to it which makes it very noticeable and it revolved. Unfortunately, it closed in 2013. According to Wiki,  the building opened in 1961 and is an example of the Mid-Century modern-influenced design school known as "Googie" or "Populuxe." More info you couldn't live without.

theme building at lax

We had checked in on-line and after showing our passports and checking our baggage, we were through Security in a matter of minutes. We wandered around the airport for awhile, taking advantage of the exercise while we could. The flight was on-time and we got a great view of Marina del Rey on departure.

marina del rey from the plane

We're pretty good travelers. We don't particularly enjoy long flights, but we tolerate them well. We can appreciate the inherent adventure in them. The 16-hour flight from LAX to Dubai can get pretty tiresome. You can only watch so many movies. My limit is about three. David tops out at five or so. He doesn't usually sleep. I doze. We read a bit; play a few games on our iPads. We were served several meals and snacks en route and the wine flowed freely enough. We're both usually “stove-up”, sore and lame, after being captive in our seats for so long, but we recover quickly. After 16 hours of captivity, walking through the airport and stretching is a pleasure.

dubai airport

When I traveled through Dubai on my way home from Boston last December, I took advantage of Emirate Airline's Dubai Connect option. We had a similar 14-hour layover in Dubai on our way from LAX and we took advantage of this option once again which allowed us a free hotel night including meals and shuttle transportation to and from the airport in Dubai. This time I had my captain with me to enjoy the amenities of the Copthorne Hotel which made it an even better respite. Heading to the hotel for a hot shower, dinner and a good night's sleep was like manna from heaven.

copthorne hotel lobby

Last time through, my flight arrived late and Dubai was foggy. There wasn't much to see. This time, we actually had a couple of hours to spare and we briefly considered a possible night tour of the city. We talked ourselves out of it when we thought about sitting for another two hours in a van for the tour. We contented ourselves with looking at the hotel lobby shops … gold, camels and sand art.

sand art

Had we not been so keen on getting back to Nine of Cups, we might have opted for a couple days to explore Dubai, but that'll have to wait for another time. The best we got were views of the city from our 8th floor dirty hotel window the morning we departed.

dubai from the hotel room

Over the Top of the World

We booked on Emirates Air for our flight from Durban to Los Angeles via Dubai. The flight plan called for 24.5 hours of actual flying time plus a three hour layover in Dubai. We would be traveling a total of  14,700 air miles… half way around the world. From Durban to Dubai, we'd fly on a Boeing 777-300ER, a big plane. On the non-stop leg from Dubai to LAX, however, we'd be flying on an Airbus 380, the world's largest passenger jet at close to the speed of sound (.8 of Mach 1). a380

The flight to Dubai was uneventful… the best kind. I'd stopped in Dubai on my way to and from Boston in December, but David had never been. Like me, he was impressed with the opulence and class of the airport. We particularly like the back-projected “tourist guide” in flowing white desert garb offering information to airport visitors. He was a bit unnerving as his eyes seemed to follow our every move as we passed.

animated tour guide

After a coffee and croissant at Starbucks which put us back about $16 US and a stroll around the airport shops to stretch our legs, we headed to our departure gate. I got a kick when we got our seat assignments to Los Angeles. We were in seats 84H and 84K. Who knew any plane had that many rows? Talk about being in the back of the bus!

boarding passes

We left on time and had a chance to view Dubai from our 84K window seat. It looks to be a lovely city and we're hoping to have a little extra time on our return leg to explore, though a 14 hour layover from 8PM to 10AM doesn't afford the best touring times of the city.

view of dubai from plane

We wondered what our flight path would be … east to west or west to east. Well, it was neither. It was over the top, flying the Great Circle Route. Take a piece of string and a globe, and place one end on Dubai and the other end at Los Angeles. The quickest, most direct route is over the North Pole and that's just what we did.

great circle route

We watched several of the 400 movies offered aboard. We played games on our iPads. We dozed fitfully. We read. We noshed. Every meal and snack served was gobbled up. After what seemed like an eternity, I checked the time to destination … only 11 hours left. Time was flying … literally. When we neared the North Pole, we kept an eye on the flight map. We tried to get our iPad GPS to locate us, but to no avail. We had to rely on the flight map. By the way, there was no sign of Santa at the North Pole. We're thinking he might have been vacationing in the Carib somewhere.

over the north pole

We arrived in Los Angeles right on time. Waiting to debark the plane from our hinterland seats took awhile. All our luggage arrived with us and Immigration and Customs were a breeze. We still had a 4 hour drive to Las Vegas ahead of us. We knew we'd be tired and had booked a room in Barstow, California, about half way to Vegas. We picked up the rental car and headed out into the cool, brown haze of an LA afternoon.