‘Have you seen the news?’ my phone told me in txt form,rudely one Thursday morning.No i hadn’t. I hadn’t even seen sunlight yet or if I’d pissed the bed (neither being that common these days). Has Alex Reid chinned Jordan? The England football bus been fired at in Congo? Madeline Mcann found peeling tatties on a pirate ship? Not quite.However what did greet me was the news of a VOLCANIC ASH CLOUD the size of the whole country had shut down the majority of Europe’s airspace.
Now i would say i live in a fantasy world at the best of times but even this was a stretch for my imagination(however i was in Australia when the dust storm hit and turned Brisbane red. I remember how unbelievable i thought that was at the time). Hailstones the size of basketballs? Sure.A meteor shower? I guess.. Even if cats and dogs rained on me due to a Hurricane in a Chinese Food Market,id accept. But for as much disbelief i was in,sadly it was true.
I had booked a flight to visit Petra in Germany and for as much good luck I’d had on my travels i knew a bit of the other stuff would catch up with me eventually. Trashing the moped in Thailand wasn’t bad luck. It was stupid.Running out of money wasn’t unlucky.It was reckless. And with all the caution i had thrown to the wind,i knew my time was due for a dance with lady luck.And this was her treading on my toes.
I called her to break the news that it didn’t look likely I’d be getting to Germany anytime soon.She was upset. I watched the news all day for updates on the situation and as the hours ticked by,the situation looked even more dyer! Great. I was going mad and getting very demoralised sitting indoors.As my chances of a normal trip diminished and diminished,i made a decision not to bother going to the airport in the morning.I went out for a few drinks. The volcanic ASS cloud (chuckle chuckle) was 1-0 up. For now.
For as down as i was it was a case of ‘Every ash cloud having a silver lining’ as on the Friday i got to attend Clappy’s leaving night which was good banter. I had rescheduled my flight for the Monday morning. I had hoped that it would all be last weeks news by then.It wasn’t. Mondays flights we’re also cancelled. Gutted. What could i do was now the question and not when i can fly? I couldn’t answer the latter. But i could certainly do something about the first.
After work on Saturday night i made the decision to leave for Germany early in the morning,by any means possible. Amazingly i had most of my journey booked within an hour.It went something like this -
* 7am – *Mega bus from Aberdeen to London arriving at 9pm.
*1opm – *National Express from London to Portsmouth arriving at Midnight.
Midnight – Get picked up from ‘Heff‘(girl i met in New Zealand and crash at hers).
*8:30am – Ferry from Portsmouth to Le havre,France arriving at midday.
*4:30pm – Train from Le Havre to Paris arriving at 6:30pm.
*10pm – Overnight bus from Paris to Augsberg Germany,arriving at 9:30 am.
*9:30am – Get picked up from Petra and drive a couple of hours to her hometown.
The mega bus was to be expected. Hellish! However i had a great feeling of adventure run through me as i soon as i stepped off. It was exciting. I was going to be in Paris the next day. I was going to see ‘Heff‘ again(albeit briefly). And i was on the road to seeing my girlfriend.
After rushing in a quick hello and how you’ve been,i got dropped off to the Ferry Terminal. I had time. Or so i thought! I wasn’t sure where to check in and the clock was ticking. I madly rushed around trying to find the desk. In true traveler style i just made it and was the last person on board. I could relax. I was going to be in France in a few hours. I wanted someone to talk too to see if anyone else was going on any epic journeys due to the Ash. No one fitted the criteria.
I drank coffee and watched ‘Cheaper by the dozen’ one and two ( by the way – waste of time. Watch me try to bowl instead.You’d get a better laugh).
As the Ferry Docked in at Le Havre i did the generic tourist action of running to the railings to catch a glimpse.It was hot! Off came the hoodie (which im sure in some way held up my jeans,as strangely i went the rest of the day with them half way down my arse and a wedgie). As i stepped off the boat the media we’re waiting to interview and film the hoards of travellers. I walked along looking like i was lost,tired and confused when in reality i was only two of those things. I had hoped to get interviewed but instead the media had chose to interview an American instead. I overheard him say he was trying to get back to LA and heard the airports in France were open.
Le Havre is Beautiful and i wish i could have spent more time there.Had enough for a cheeky pint or two and a plate of ‘whatever that guy has’ as the waiter spoke no English and then i was off to Paris. Again – Beautiful. But sadly no time.
The big stress of the journey was yet to come.
After a mad rush around Paris trying to find an Internet cafe (to print off a boarding pass) i flagged a taxi down and headed to the bus terminal. When i arrived i had an hour to kill. With a can of pringles,bottle of water and a printed boarding pass in hand i took a seat.Downstairs was chaotic. Hundreds of people were trying to get home. The cues were crazy. There was no one around to answer questions and the terminal staff were not only stretched to their limits but stressed and had lost control.
I went to get on the bus for the driver to shun me. I tried again only to be ignored. I was confused. He didn’t speak English. I went up and downstairs a couple of times and stared blankly at the boards, trying to figure out why i wasn’t aloud on. The bus was full and ready to go. I started to panic. The driver had had enough of me. I ran downstairs and found the f
irst person that spoke English and waved my ticket at her reaching out for any help (just like everyone I’d seen an hour before). It suddenly dawned on me that i had to exchange my printed ticket for a plastic boarding card. The woman advised i ran to the front of the cue immediately. I did. Everyone seemed to understand. It must of been a regular occurrence. The ticket guy looked at me in disbelief and quickly did the exchange and told me to hurry. I ran upstairs as fast as i could and just caught the bus before it pulled off. I had made it.
After an overnight journey consisting of many stops,due to the drivers smoking habit and the need to clean his windows with soapy water at four in the morning i had made it to Germany!
But no Petra. Half an hour later – still no Petra,and no battery on my phone to call her.
I lumped a rock around and stretched my legs. I knew she would find me. She did and it was amazing to see her. She had driven up with her mum and i was greeted with a cup of coffee.
There was no time to waste and by the end of the day i had seen Petra’s home town and met her family. We drove to her town of work and the trip was finally over!For me and Petra – it was just beginning.
So to conclude – I’d say i beat the volcanic GASH cloud. How? Well getting to Germany equaled up the scores I’d say (despite the cost). And the fact it didn’t ruin my holiday tipped the scales in my direction. So pipe down smokey. I don’t give a shit anymore.
So there’s my story. And with religious news watching i heard many more. Despite the inconvenience the cloud didn’t take away from my holiday. In fact i would say it added to it. Can’t say I’m up for going it again anytime soon! I’ll take the plane thank you. However the long hours spent on buses and trains and the countless wasted hours spent hanging around on my travels definitely kept me in good stead.
For as stress full as it was at the time i laugh about it now. But it’s a bit to early for jokes. I should probably wait for the dust to settle…..