We meet downstairs at the hotel at 5:30AM Today is the day we get to visit the offshore installation. From my notes I have that there is a daily helicopter flight from Snake Island to the facility every day at 8:30AM.
Yes, Snake Island. I briefly wonder why they call it that.
The shuttle from the hotel makes its way thru Lagos as the city wakes up to start another day. Auto traffic is starting to pick up, but the foot traffic is already crowded some sidewalks, spilling into the streets. It's a long drive, at least with the slowdowns to accomodate traffic and severe potholes. The vehicles indicate that we are nearing a port, and we pass through some gates. We finally arrive facing the water and a pier. There is a ferry with the words
"Texas Express" painted across the side. Its font and paint make reminds me of signs of nostalgic Americana that I have seen in restaurants in Houston. Our caravan is one shuttle and one escort vehicle. There are three passengers, one shuttle driver and 2-3 security personnel in the escort vehicle. Security exit their vehicles and keep an eye on the situation as the light starts to reveal some details.
There is trash pooling up where at the triple intersection of the water, the concrete pier and the hard sand/rock surface. There is a large freighter not too far away. We are told to make two lines (queues, with the British influence). The lines grows. This is a commuter ferry that takes people; I know this from the people who make their way out of our ferry which has arrived and my fellow queue-mates.
We arrive at the other pier. Unlocked bicycles await many of the commuters as they exit, making room for other commuters and schoolchildren in uniform. I see a sign indicating where I should go. Another gate, another layer.
It's a long process of filling out forms, weighing self and luggae, inspection, immigration, etc. Then we watch a helicpoter safety video. After the video, there is an oral test. The young woman had warned us that there several individuals will be questioned. She asks 4 or 5 questions to different people, they pass, so we all pass.
We don our safety harnesses equipped with inflatable life jacket and light. They pass out ear protection equipment. We suit up, check straps, alcohol-clean the over-the-ear protectors. We approach the Eurocopter in a single file. There is no ambiguity on where we are to go and what we are to do. Crews are stationed at regular intervals and at critical junctions, stopping traffic as necessary. Our luggage is lined up and we are to pick up our luggage and hand deliver it to the crew loading in the back of the helicopter.
I am one of the last to board. The rotors pull down the warm air from the engine. The crew at the door instruct me to "go right, deep". I take the window on the last row. This is a large helicopter, able to accomodate ~20 passengers and 2 crew. I see that there are more ground crew than I had originally counted, including at least one individual behind what looks like a very large fire extinguisher. A crowd gathers around the fence. I hear the engines roar and there is dust and debris all around.
I look at my watch. With all the steps in the process and the waiting.... we do indeed take off right at 8:30 AM.