Over the past two weeks I have been busy relocating my life to France. With last year’s move to Holland under my belt things were going quite smoothly. I managed to pack up the house and get my life into a 23kg suitcase and, along with my bike, I was ready to go.
My itinerary was long: Cape Town to Johannesburg to Amsterdam to Lyon to Montelimar to Aubenas. No big deal, however, it would be a full 24 hours and I would be in my new house and reunited with Edward, who had gone ahead a few months ago to start racing with his new team. What actually lie ahead of me was a trip that went from bad to worse to downright awful.
When I arrived at the Cape Town airport my flight wasn’t on the departures board and that should have been my first clue. My flight to Johannesburg was delayed because of thunder storms which put me at risk, along with 70 other passengers, to miss my onwards connection to Amsterdam. Several hours and a million gate changes later, the 7:30pm flight finally left around 11pm, about 30minutes too late to make the next flight. When we landed in Joberg the 70 connecting passengers were advised to pick-up their baggage and eventually we were bussed to a hotel. I managed to get a seat on the third trip, since they sent a bus that could only transport 17 people at a time, and fell into bed at just after 3am.
Two Days in Joberg Airport
The next morning at the hotel I went down in search of information and was told to head back to the airport to be rebooked at the ticket office. At the airport I was met with a long queue, a long wait, and a lot of emotions but, after an hour in line, the ticket agent found me a seat via Frankfurt and I would be leaving that night. I felt like one of the lucky ones with a ticket but the 7 hour wait at the airport in front didn’t make me feel so lucky.
When I was finally able to check-in I got another piece of bad news: I was on stand-by. The ticket agent failed to mention this when she was “booking” my seat and I was number 24 on the waiting list. When it came time, I was simply told the flight was full. In disbelief at my second major delay, I trudged back to the ticket desk to be rebooked a second time, realizing my 10 hour day at the airport was for nothing. “Luckily,” however, I was put on flight the following evening, not on stand-by, through Paris. Ticket in hand, I was sent to another hotel, exhausted and frustrated.
After another full day of waiting at the airport, I went to check-in as soon as it opened. After encountering check-in problems with my bike bag, I walked to security a little teary eyed, sleep depravation and frustration were starting to get the better of me. Past security and customs, I felt a huge sense of relief knowing it was 12 hours until I landed in Paris and that all the drama was behind me…or so I thought.
The flight to Paris went as planned and within 2 hours I was on board a small plane to Lyon. I arrived in Lyon, exhausted but all smiles that I had finally arrived and Edward would be waiting at arrivals. But not everything arrived.
I eagerly picked up my suitcase and while I was waiting at oversized baggage for my bicycle, I realized the baggage hall was empty. Then the carosel stopped. As I filled out missing baggage forms I was informed delivery would only available the following week so it would be best to wait and see if it was on the next flight. I went through arrivals to find Edward and his face said it all when he didn’t see my bike bag.
My bag made the next flight and 2 hours later I was reuinted with my bike and Edward and I proceeded to the express trains. We had an hour and a half wait but, having not seen Edward in 3 months, I knew the time would pass quickly. Since Edward knew his way around, I started to finally relax but my bad luck wasn’t over yet.
The Curse Continues
“We’ll arrive in Montelimar in 55 minutes and you’ll be home 45 minutes later,” Edward reminded me once we were on board the train. Then the train stopped. In garbled speed-French, the conductor explained the situation and we pieced together there had been a suicide and we would be stopped until the police cleared the scene. Several announcements, a nap, and 2.5hrs later we finally started to move again. On the verge of an emotional meltdown from sleep depravation and frustration at my unbelievable bad luck, we began to laugh. “You’re travelling cursed,” Edward declared as he shook his head. We held thumbs the train made it to our station 2 stops away and, 3.5 hours after leaving Lyon, it did.
I had left Cape Town on Wednesday and it was Saturday afternoon when we stepped off the train. We made our way to the rider team vehicle Edward had borrowed: an old rusted Fiat Panda with a squeaky steering wheel and a questionable third gear. We chugged through the beautiful Ardeche country side to our new flat. I finally started to get excited when we arrived in Aubenas, the town Edward said we were moving to, but he drove right through it. Turns out, our new flat wasn’t in the town Edward said. It was in a small community outside a small town, outside Aubenas. I walked in and realized our in-the-middle-of-nowhere flat was an old converted stone cellar…but that’s a whole other story.