Not the worst, but friends’ travel ordeal nears extreme

airplane

Up, up and away doesn’t quite describe my friends’ vacation saga.

Pat and Sandy much enjoyed their recent cruise, and then began their problems.  They didn’t suffer a hijacking or a deadly crash, but suffer they did on their way home to Australia from the Baltic states and the final leg of their cruise.

On their cruise to Amsterdam from Norway, the weather was bad and the sea so rough that the ship had to divert to Rotterdam.  So far, not so bad.  So far.
 
Wth minimal editing on my part, Pat gives the following account in a jet-lagged e-mail written in the middle of the night of one disastrous event after another, thankfully none involving violence:
 
Luckily, the ship supplied buses to the terminal in Amsterdam, but we lost nearly a whole day in Amsterdam.

holland flagWe left Amsterdam via Hong Kong for a stopover before flying direct to Adelaide.  But four hours into the flight, the captain announced there was a problem with the  plane and we would be making an emergency landing at nearest airport, which happened to be Minsk in Belarus (Russia).  He then said not to worry if we saw what looked like steam coming out of each side of plane as he was going to be dumping fuel in preparation to land and this would take 30 minutes.
 
We then proceeded to sit in our seats and wait not knowing what was going on.  Eventually we were prepared for a landing.   All went well and we landed with one engine, greeted by two fire trucks and one ambulance on the tarmac  (probably all they have in Minsk maybe????).
 
So, pleased to be on land, but the euphoria quickly faded when we were told that our plane could not be flown, another plane would have to be flown from London to rescue us and this would take approximately eight hours.  During this time we were not allowed off the aircraft.  Great!
 
The air hostesses from Hong Kong region were all very excited and said this had never happened to them before.  They had to become passengers when new plane arrived as they had worked more than 14 hours.
 
Aircraft finally arrived from London and passengers were eventually transferred under the watchful eye of a couple of machine guns and some important looking people in suits.
 
 russia flag 2We then sat on that plane for a further two hours whilst it was loaded with baggage, food and so forth which would not all fit in — an engineers nightmare trying to get everything into a ‘smaller’ plane.   Eventually after 11 hours we left Minsk and endured another 9 hours to Hong Kong.
 
All in all sitting in an aircraft for 24 hrs straight.
 
Sandy had hurt her foot (had an infection) whilst on ship and had been to ship doctor and prescribed antibiotics.  She slept a lot of those 24 hours and, without movement, her injured leg and ankle looked twice the size of her other foot.  Since I too had swollen feet and fingers, we decided to stay in Hong Kong an extra day to allow our bodies to recover.
 
Flag_of_Hong_KongHowever, when we arrived at our hotel in HK, our room looked like a couple of matchboxes joined together and nothing like the pictures on the internet that I had seen. It also smelled of dampness and the odor was so stale that, coupled with the humidity, was unbearable.
 
So began the negotiations, arguments and finally anger — eventually  we were given another bit larger room (at a cost which smelled just as bad).  However, they did give us some deodorizer to spray; with the door left open and the widows up, we finally fell into bed.  Next day discovered the hotel next door had the same name (only “Delux” after it), and that was the one we saw on the  internet.  Consequent change of hotels left us feeling happier.
 
Hooray!!  It was hot and steamy in Hong Kong but we managed to take a trip to Macau one day which was interesting as we had to catch train, catch ferry and go through customs rigmarole once more.  But the rest of the two days were taken up changing flights, changing pickup times at airports, letting relatives know, changing hotels, sleeping, eating and generally recovering.
 
images
 With the changing of flights, we could not, go direct to Adelaide (where Sandy had bought things duty free) and so had to fly home via Melbourne and go through customs there. When we arrived in Melbourne we thought, great, no more problems.
 
Not to be, though. The Melbourne to Adelaide flight was delayed.  We finally boarded and were sitting ready for take off only to have the captain announce there would be a further delay as the baggage train had run into the door and it was damaged — they were repairing it.  Oh NO.
 
Then in Adelaide another delay trying to get Sandy’s goods out of customs duty free.   It was so good to see a little man in a suit with a sign and our names on it and a ride home in a BMW.  At last some style!!!

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E-mail: malcolmncarter@gmail.com
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