What can happen next...?
This isn’t a question that I often have to ask when I’m setting off on holiday because I pride myself on planning well (see separate experience) and setting off nice and early to allow for all contingencies.
We knew that they had started work on the widening of part of the route to the airport and that would certainly create some delays but what I hadn’t realised was that a large rock festival was opening the evening of our travel. There we long tail backs of traffic stretching for almost 10 miles. Just as we thought we’d cleared them the traffic again came to a grinding halt. In front of the queue was a police motorcyclist who was slowing the speed down to a mere 5 miles an hour and then stopping it for minutes at a time. Apparently this was part of their traffic control strategy. By the time we arrived at the airport we only had minutes to go to our clock in time (three hours before scheduled take-off time).
We found the car-park with no trouble whatsoever. The problem is that it was full and we were being directed to another one which was also extremely overcrowded, but after a few minutes riding around we found two empty places and managed to manoeuvre into the less tight of the two. I was less than happy with the car parking company that had over-subscribed its spaces and vowed to let them know about my experience as soon as I got back in to the UK.
However, it wasn’t long before I was walking in to yet another complication. Despite the problems on route we’d still reached the check-in desk in reasonable time. There was no queue so we presumed that others were experiencing the same problems on the route and we speculated how much more congested the road would become as the day progressed. We exchanged cheery pleasantries with the young woman at the check-in desk and as our bags were being weighed (only 16kgs and we could have had anything up to 22kgs) she told us that the flight would be delayed due to a French air traffic control dispute. Typical, we shrugged and asked for an expected time of departure, but that, she explained, would depend on when the plane arrived in the UK. Possibly 3 – 4 hours was her best guess.
We decided, once checked in that we’d make our way to departures and then we could grab a seat and settle down for our long wait for boarding. As usual there was a long queue to enter the departure lounge, but we weren’t in a rush as we were going nowhere quickly. Finally we’re through but rather than being a choice of seats we were going to struggle to find one. The area was rammed with patient and impatient passengers all waiting for their delayed take-off. So when the departure of an internal flight was announced we pounced on a couple of seats that were vacated. These were going to be ours for the duration and because there seemed a distinct lack of seats, we weren’t going to move away from them until our flight was announced.
So rather than a wander around the airport duty free we went separately to investigate the joys of duty free shopping. To be honest there weren’t many bargains to be had it was really an excuse to stretch our legs in preparation of our flight to Dubrovnik. At one point the airline offered us cash tokens to get some refreshments and they were sufficient to get a couple of "meal deals" from one of the chain stores in the airport. A sandwich, dessert and a drink that would keep us going until the flight took off.
Finally after a 3 hour delay we boarded the plane and were soon heading off to our destination. The service on the plane seemed a little chaotic, but as we weren’t too bothered about extra food or duty free we contented ourselves with reading off our Kindles and listening to music on the i-pod. Isn’t technology great? The flight progressed well and with a decent wind helping to push us forward we reached Dubrovnik ahead of schedule. Great! But remember this is a review of a bad day and it was not about to get better....
For readers of a nervous disposition I suggest that you stop reading at this point......
Dubrovnik, apparently is well known for its heavy cross winds and, as a consequence, its difficult landings. Well no-one told us that and so when the pilot announced that we were to land in 10 minutes we didn’t think too much about the bit of turbulence that we were experiencing. Turbulence, even heavy, is part and parcel of the flying experience and we built ourselves up for a bumpy ride. However, never before have experience such movement on the horizontal and the wings were tipping from side to side as the plane bumped along.
Now it was getting a wee bit frightening and as I saw the wings tip towards the runway I was convinced that our card was marked. There was a sense of the inevitable amongst the passengers as we all gulped in unison. The plane continued to twist and turn and as the wheels touched down I really felt that the wing tip was going to scrape along the runway, but suddenly we were airborne again and twisting and rolling as we climbed somewhat awkwardly away from Dubrovnik’s runway. A calm voice came over the speaker system "we have rejected our landing" said the chief stewardess. Seconds later the plane had moved out of the turbulence and the pilot announced that we would resume our descent. He explained that the "rejected landing" was not uncommon at Dubrovnik and although the landing would be bumpy we’d be touching down in 10 minutes time to warm temperatures but a "stiff breeze".
Needless to say we made it second time round, but if you are a bit squeamish I’d recommend a flight in to Split and the road trip down to Dubrovnik. It may be a little bit less stressful! I guessed, as we picked our luggage up from the carousel that the lift we’d arranged to take us to the B&B would probably not be there. After all everything else had gone badly wrong, but as we entered the arrival area there was a guy holding up our names. All was well and now our holiday could start, hopefully trouble free.
The holiday then progressed exceptionally well (see my other Croatian journals). OK, sometimes we had a little difficulty finding the actual accommodation that we were staying but nothing that a quick phone call or a discreet enquiry couldn’t sort out. We made it back to the airport a little ahead of our schedule but found a decent quiet area on the first floor of the airport lounge where I could power up my laptop and catch up on some of my travel writing. We were loaded onto the buses to take us to the plane and then....
.... the doors on the buses remained closed and they then completed the circuit and we all disembarked back into the airport lounge. The plane had a technical problem and we were looking at an hours delay, then a 5-hour delay and then a cancelled flight. We were to be accommodated in a hotel overnight and would, fingers crossed fly out of Dubrovnik at 13.30hrs. So back through customs – passports stamped; collect luggage off carousel, pile on a bus, herded off bus into a hotel (not my choice, but it was a bed for the night), directed to bedroom and dining area for a cold buffet. The Epidaurus is a 312 bedded all-inclusive 3-star hotel in..... and looked in need of an up-lift and some serious renovation. But we slept well and got up to a reasonable buffet style breakfast before travelling back the short distance to the airport.
Hopefully our journey home will now be trouble free!