, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 25 – The plane carrying Pope Francis landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at exactly 4.30pm, half an hour before the Expected Time of Arrival.
The journey from Rome to Nairobi was smooth, apart from some minor turbulence while flying over Kenya’s Rift Valley.
The Pope received a rousing welcome when the Alitalia plane came to a complete stop near the presidential pavilion.
But let me take you back to Rome at dawn on Wednesday.
Our journey began at about 3.30am when we left the Vatican headed for Fiumicino Airport some 45 minutes away.
We checked in and waited to board the aircraft which we did promptly at 6.45am, Rome time.
Departure time was slated for 7.45am and right on schedule, the plane began taxiing, ready for takeoff.
After clearance by air traffic control, the Alitalia flight AZ4000 was airborne at about 8am for the 5,706 kilometre journey that was estimated to take seven hours and fifteen minutes to Nairobi’s JKIA.
After achieving cruising altitude, we were served breakfast – ham from Parma, some fresh cheese, a bowl of fruits, croissants, yoghurt, and a choice of tea or coffee.
At 9.30am, just as we finished the crossing the Mediterranean Sea, there was a flurry of activity in the cabin, giving indication that Pope Francis was about to come round for a chat with those accompanying him.
I had my moment to exchange pleasantries and got him to bless some rosaries I was carrying at about 10am.
As he left to return to his seat, that’s when he was asked if he had any security concerns and his answer was; the only thing he was worried about were mosquitoes.
There are indications he will forge ahead with his visit to the Central African Republic despite concerns about safety there.
We then got down to work with video editors piecing together clips; I could see colleagues conducting interviews, some doing pieces to camera while others banged away copy – in newsroom parlance.
At some minutes after 3pm Kenyan time we had lunch comprising salmon with potatoes, some pasta with pumpkin, butter, and herbs. We also had a fillet of veal with bread crusts, asparagus, little potatoes, with rosemary, and a salad on the side.
It was then a relaxed journey as we approached Kenyan airspace in time for touchdown ahead of schedule.
Looking back, I realised this was the first time I had travelled from Europe and didn’t bother at all to check what movies were available on the in-flight entertainment.