Sunday, 19 August 2007

The wonderful world of travelling

Ok, so now I am on Saba "The Unspoiled Queen" in the Caribbean. I've been here 18 hours and am currently in the outskirts of a tropical storm. Fantastic. So far, it's not as bad as the typhoon last December in the Philippines, but then again the worst is yet to come…..

My new adventure had a rather bad start. Getting a coach at 1:35 in the morning simply cannot be a good start. People who have known me a bit longer will be startled to hear that I decided to arrive at the airport quite early - mainly because Air France had advised me to check in no later than 2 hours before departure due to the extensive security checks. And since my flight was leaving at 6:40, I found myself at the airport already at 4:10 (it was either that or 5:40).

I had weighed my suitcases to being approx. 45 kg in total, which coincided with my maximum baggage allowance and had double-checked that I could bring my laptop case in addition to my daypack as hand luggage and packed my BO repellent and tooth paste in a separate 1-liter re-sealable transparent plastic bag from Tesco's, so I was actually quite optimistic. At least for a little while….

See, what Air France failed to mention were two important issues that were to have some consequences:

a) They do not actually open the check-in counters until 1,5 hours before the flight
b) THEY may allow two pieces of hand luggage, but British airports don't allow more than one handbag through security check

Issue a) meant that I passed through security check just as speakers announced my gate was closing - so my brilliant plan to buy shampoo, flip flops and some good books, before going to this tiny island where you cannot really buy anything except groceries and local rum, went down the drain (so to speak). I was still left with 1,5 hours in Paris CdG (my least favourite airport in the whole world), which kept my optimism going. Right until the point when the captain announced a 1-hour delay due to heavy air traffic. Fantastic: rather than a relaxed shopping spree I'd now have to rush to make it to my terminal, which was of course the one at the exact opposite end of the airport.

Issue b) meant that I had to re-pack in the airport: my two over-filled suitcases got a bit more stuffed with everything that didn't fit in my daypack - including my rather sturdy (thus heavy) laptop bag. And the girl at baggage drop, who was definitely a closet blonde, got all confused about the extra allowance for dive gear, which I had booked and just needed to pay for. Oh, and of course my baggage was now above 45 kg, so I needed to pay overweight charges (8 GBP per kilo!!!!) - and I had to go to the end of Heathrow airport, the second-worst airport in the world, to hand my dive suitcase in, because it was now 28 kg and thus one kilo too heavy to be handled in the normal way. And then my flight was already boarding and I still had to go through security check and and and….

What do we learn? I was spot-on with my old habits: it doesn't pay off to be early and when I'm late I at least anticipate a lot of stress and am not caught emotionally unprepared for it ;)

To those of you, who start singing "things can only get better, can only get better…..", just wait a little: one of my suitcases didn't make it - the one with all the dive gear and power cable for my laptop and cell phone charger etc. Normally, it would arrive the next day, but of course a storm like this prevents airplanes to land on a little strip of quite flat land with water on three sides and a mountain on the fourth, optimistically named a runway. So nobody knows when I can get my things…..

I don't miss my dive gear yet, because all boats have been brought to St. Maarten where they are safer and there is no diving going on here. But alas I'll soon not be able to email or text anyone.

To make sure there is a bit of a happy end to this tragically entertaining true story, I can at least tell you that I got both shampoo and flip flops in St Maarten airport, because the plane to Saba was conveniently delayed. And that I have a very big apartment with a fantastic view here. End September (just before Simon joins me here), I am moving into a house with a little garden and phone (thus internet). Luxury, hey?

I had a great dinner with one of the owners, Lynn: fantastic food and good company. Two colleagues joined us for a drink later, both really nice "girls" (are women in their thirties still girls??). Everyone seems very keen on helping and making me feel at home here.

Nature here is absolutely stunning; I cannot wait to start hiking. Impressive, dramatic topography thanks to the hills / mountains and everything covered in lush green. Hopefully, the weather clears a bit the coming days so that I can have a couple of walks before I start working - which will be Monday-ish depending on the waves.

So I'll leave you now to go and try to post this and then of course I'll come back with many more details on diving, hiking and living here….

Take care you all

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