The man who could stop planes

The man who could stop planes
PHOTO: Reuters

For three trying days I had been traversing Africa, trying to get from Niger to Kenya. The bulk of my time had been spent dealing with sour officials, hopelessly battling malarial mosquitoes and sitting wretchedly in filthy, stinking-hot airports. I had come from three tough but rewarding weeks in the Sahara, and the great beauty and monstrous insouciance of the desert had left me with a feeling of serene detachment.

By the time I arrived in Johannesburg to catch my fourth and final flight to Nairobi - 19 hours behind schedule - that hard-earned peaceful detachment had gone. All tolerance had fled. I had 25 minutes to catch my flight, and I was faced with an obscenely lengthy queue snaking towards a line of passport control booths.

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