I recently went on a trip to the jungles of East Java to cover an event called the Surfing Doctors Conference 2023. So it was half work and half play. The waves in Java, at Grajagan, are otherworldly – some of the best waves in the world breaking over a barely concealed coral reef in warm water. Still, some perspective is needed. The return from a place like Java can be tiresome. Let’s unpack.

Step 1:

A 3-hour speedboat ride across the channel between Java and Bali. Not a massive speed boat, with ten people onboard along with surfboards. The speedboat was pushing straight into a solid 6-foot of swell and fresh southeast trade winds. We bounced all the way. some people fell ill.

Total: 3 hours

Step 2. 

A quick ride to Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, check-in, and flight delayed by 1 hour.

Total: 2 hours.

Step 3.

A 3-hour flight to Changi Airport, Singapore

Total: 3 hours

Step 4. 

Arrival at Changi airport. 

A 20-minute bus ride from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3. 

A train ride from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2. 

A 3-hour wait for my Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Ababa. 

Total: 4 hours

Step 5

A 10h30 min flight to Addis Ababa. Screaming children, turbulence, and quite a bit of vomit around the toilet areas.

Total: 10h30

Step 6

A 3-hour transit at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport for a flight to Jozi.

Total: 3 hours

Step 7 

A 5-hour 30min flight to OR Tambo.

Total: 5 30

Step 8 

One hour to disembark, go through customs, and check in at domestic.

A 2-hour wait in the slow lounge.

Total: 3 hours

Step 9 

One hour 30 flight to Chief Dawid Stuurman airport in Gqeberha,

Total: 1 h 30

Step 10. 

A pick up by a local transport company, and then a 2-hour ride back to St Francis. There was a stop-go, and we dropped off a few people.

Total: 2 hours

So a total of about 39 hours and 30 minutes of travel time. The itinerary included some long waits, but it was via Ethiopia, so some time was needed to move around airports, get to various Gates, etc. No complaints. It was a work trip, but fairly gruelling, sweaty and stinky, to be honest. 

Worst moments

  1. A child was vomiting over the toilet door while I was inside, having a morning movement.
  2. The queue for the men’s toilets in Addis Ababa was 20 people long for a number 2! They are upgrading the airport soon.

Best moments

  1. Changi Terminal 4. It’s the most modern, automated, friendly and forward-thinking airport I have ever seen. Simple to use technology, assistants watching, and they only come and help should you be struggling. 
  2. Ngurah Rai International Airport – that warm mash of Indonesian humidity and the smell of cloves as you enter their climate.  

Travelling is amazing, and interacting with other people and cultures is something that we should all do at some time, but the reality is that sometimes travel can be quite hard as well.