Sunday, 7 June 2009

Flight to Singapore - 2008

I had plenty of time to get across London and hang around Heathrow, not my favourite of airports but I’m an inveterate people-watcher (well, mainly women), so the hours flew by. I didn't register much until the plane crossed the Black Sea, when city names began to get more exotic. We had been in darkness for ages and only the seat-back map gave any clues to the lights passing below. They thinned the further east we flew, Romania seeming like the last outpost of civilisation.

I was sneaking glimpses under the window shutter, down as usual for the benefit of sleeping passengers. I had grabbed a couple of fitful hours of wine-induced doze but couldn't manage any more.

We may have passed the Crimea and crossed Georgia and Azerbaijan. The names on the map weren't helping much. The Caspian Sea was obvious as we flew to meet the sun, then Turkmenistan, dusty mountains and not much else, which carried on into Afghanistan. Why fight over these arid landscapes? Surely no one could want, or be able, to live there? I could trace the possible courses of rivers but all seemed devoid of the slightest moisture, even any hints of growth along their banks. 35,000 feet may not be the ideal vantage point for such detail.

The country prefigured parts of the coming Australian experience. Its camels and riders opened up the similarly desolate outback and part of the name lives on in the train from Adelaide to Darwin.

Kabul passed, hidden, under our port wing and the bleak, unforgiving terrain continued into Pakistan. Finally, Lahore, with the obvious concentric, spoked arrangement of Model Town, showed signs of life. The mountains slid away to the north, gained snow-capped peaks as the Hindu Kush became the Himalayas, which accompanied us over the plains of northern India. One of the summits must have been Annapurna, another Everest but I knew not which.

Burma came and went without a trace of the fires that had dotted it on my flight west in 2003. Had they finally razed the entire jungle or had economic activity ceased with the suppression of the Saffron Revolution?

Thailand slipped by and we found ourselves over its Gulf and heading into cloud. The captain announced monsoonal rain in Singapore. We juddered down through one layer to come at the airport in a spiral from east to south to west to landing in a zero-visibility downpour. I reflected that it was at least warm rain and certainly beat the snow that was likely back home.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License

This work by Andy Gibb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. It also uses Google Analytics and so creates tracking cookies and collects non-identifiable data about you.