I am fogbound in Tashkent airport (at least I am at the moment I am writing this, when and if I finally post it I won’t be, because there is no internet here at the airport, so it will have to actually go up later)
Last night I left the hotel here at 1.30 and got to the airport in good time. After various bureaucratic procedures (Uzbekistan is very bureaucratic as that’s as good a way as any to control people), I made it to the departures lounge and sat down to sort of doze and wait. After an hour or so, a Turkish Airlines man showed up to inform us that the plane would be a little late (the actual phrase he used was “a little untimely” which was, I thought, a nicely euphemistic phrase for “late”). When pressed he confessed that he didn’t know how untimely it would be because the plane was circling above us, hoping that the fog would lift enough to let it land.
Obviously it didn’t because an hour later he appeared again, looking stressed (or perhaps “a little untranquil”) to inform us that we should all return to our hotels because the plane would not actually arrive that night and had been diverted to Ashkabad (for those unfamiliar with Central Asian geography, that’s the capital of Turkmenistan). We should come back to the airport at noon. First of all we had to retrace our steps through the bureaucracy, since when we showed up again later (feels like the next day, but technically it isn’t) we’d need to hand over all the various forms we’d presented just then – so it would be necessary to reclaim the forms (the hotel registration card, the customs declaration and various other ridiculous bits of paper). That took a while, and eventually I ended up at the Turkish Airlines office to work out what my options would be regarding onward connections from Istanbul – obviously the plane to Bucharest I was supposed to catch was out of the question, but it also turned out that by the time we eventually get to Istanbul (fingers crossed) I’ll have missed every feasible connection for the day, and I’ll have to spend the night there.
After reconnecting with two Iranian colleagues who were fogbound with me, we got back to the hotel (after taxi haggling, and the realisation, upon emerging from the terminal, that the fog was in fact very very thick – somehow that was a piece of good news, since it meant that we weren’t being dicked around for no actual reason) , had a short argument with the hotel regarding the fact that we knew the rooms had been paid for for the whole night, and yes, while we had actually checked out, that they could put us back there for a few hours, so we could have a kip (by this time it was well after 5, so everyone was a little frazzled and not really in the mood to deal with the problems caused by Uzbek bureaucracy – once you’ve checked out, you’ve checked out). They relented eventually, and I was able to sleep for about 3 hours, before getting up at 9 to sort out various problems caused by this unscheduled extra half day in Tashkent (and consequent 24 hour delay in my eventual arrival home). So, here I am, back at the airport, knackered and hoping that the plane eventually comes (the fog has lifted mostly), and that I will be able to catch a few more hours sleep on board (unlikely, I fear).
I appreciate that these destinations may sound evocatively exotic to many people (Tashkent, Ashkabad, Istanbul), but you’ll have to trust me that spending three hours at Tashkent airport in the wee hours is not in any way glamorous. However, to try and find a silver lining, there are people in this story worse off than us – the plane load of passengers who after circling Tashkent for 2 hours, were directed back to spend the night in Ashkabad (and I’m having a guess that Ashkabad airport makes Tashkent look like a comfortable and uncomplicated haven of tranquility).
In theory we take off in one more hour from now, but I’m not holding my breath.
[Update: Am now finally in Istanbul, after 5 more unexplained hours at the airport today. Rather intriguingly when they fed us at about 5.30pm local time, they decided to stick with the plan and give us breakfast, which was somewhat taking-the-piss I felt. It's not often I have breakfast with red wine]