In Dubai we had to catch a bus from the terminal and then wait by the plane while the bags were loaded. I was watching the loading and saw what looked like my bag but not my bike box. I crossed my fingers that it was already loaded. The short walk from the bus to the plane had me dripping with sweat – 37 degrees out on the Tarmac.
Onto the plane and the first problem: there was a man sitting in my seat! He had no plan of moving. It was sorted out by the flight attendant, he moved into the next seat. Although the air conditioning was on it was really hot. The seats seemed very narrow, and his arm was on the arm rest and dripping over into my seat. I decided to let it go at that stage.
Every time I turn left to look out the window the man is staring at me. I turn right and a woman is staring at me! I think I must be imagining it but every time I turn her way she is looking right at me. Finally after about 30 minutes of sitting on the tarmac we take off. Another 20 minutes and the seatbelt sign is off. I get up to go to the toilet, and what is it about airlines and the way they pack their planes! The front four rows we are jam packed 6 in each row, the rest of the plane there is one person in each of the three seats stretched out relaxed with their eyes shut!
Back to my seat and I have to wait whilst the woman from the aisle seat next to me has a fiery exchange with the man in the seat next to mine. The gist of it, from what I can work out, is she wants him to sit in her seat and she will sit in his. After a couple more minutes she goes back to her seat. I get back into my seat, and the glaring from both sides resumed. I concentrated on reading my book.
Food is served: a box full of snack bars, chocolate, and a potato cheese thing.
The next test is trying to eat whilst not being able to use my left arm, as the man’s arm is intruding into my seat so does not allow any room for movement and I don’t want my other elbow in the very narrow aisle.
No water is served. and coffee and tea has to be paid for. It was a nice cup of tea. After the meal the woman in aisle seat next to me got up and leaned over me, and started the exchange again.
After a few minutes she went back to her seat and the glaring resumed. After another 30 minutes, the man next to me indicates he wants to get up so I decided to take the chance to go to the toilet. When I get back I am waiting for him to come back, then I notice that the glaring woman is not in the aisle seat next to me any more, another man is. The glaring woman is seated two rows up. The man who was next to me – who knows.
All goes well for the next hour or so, until the person whose seat the glaring woman is sitting in, comes back from who knows where he was till then, and wants his seat back. Next thing I know the glaring woman is standing next to me. I have no intention of getting up and letting her into the middle seat, or moving over. Apart from the fact I am feeling a bit intimidated, she is huge!
I concentrate on looking totally engrossed in my book. After about 5 minutes – feels way longer – she goes to a seat two rows up and starts a heated exchange with the man whose seat she was sitting in. Eventually he gives up and goes back to wherever he has been for the past hour (I presume) and all is well again. Well, apart from every 5 minutes the huge glaring woman turns around and glares at me. Very weird. At least one consolation is that neither of them look like bike riders.
All things end – finally I arrive in Bosnia. It was a small terminal, and we are the only flight at this stage. Standing at the carousel waiting for my baggage, my bag arrives but every rider’s worst nightmare: no bike box! I wait until the carousel gets turned off, I pick up the phone by the lost baggage which rings and rings without reply. Then a woman arrives and ushers me and a couple whose bags have not arrived into customs. They wave me through. I am trying to explain I am missing a bike box, they are all nods and smiles as I am waved through.
Given transporting large bike boxes is not always easy, Rachel my excellent travel agent has arranged for transport from the airport to the hotel for me, and the man who is here to pick me up speaks good English.
We go to the baggage counter and wait for ages while he deals with the couple in front of me who don’t speak English or Bosnian. Finally my turn, thankfully I have my baggage tracking slips and boarding passes, after a few minutes he gives me a two sided picture and tells me to select what my luggage looks like. Hmmm, they have no bike boxes on either side. Thankfully my driver steps in at that point and explains it is a bike box and there is not a picture of it.
More delays, and then it looks like my bike is still in Dubai and won’t be here until the next plane arrives from Dubai which is Saturday! At 1pm which is after the bike ride starts!
The man behind the counter asks when I am leaving here and I reply before the next plane arrives, so he says “Ok we will send your bike back to the country you came from” !! Thankfully Gerre, who is taking me to the Hotel, intervenes at that stage and it is arranged I will be here to pick up the bike when it arrives on Saturday. He gives them his phone number to ring once the bike is located.
Interestingly unlike NZ where the bike would be delivered to you, here it’s up to you to be back at the airport to collect. So it is what it is, and I will just have to deal with it. I am tired and smelly and just want to get to the hotel and sleep.
It’s about 30 minutes from the airport to the hotel, I chat to Gerre. There are about 1 million people living in Sarajevo and 3 1/2 million in Bosnia, the national sport is football (which even I know is soccer).
I am staying at Hotel Michele, it is a very quaint, family run place. My room is huge and cool and is all to myself.
The whole way since just before boarding in Melbourne, I have been worrying that I will have to turn around and head back to NZ as my 19 year nephew was missing. He was working down south and had gone missing since the night before I went away. Initially when my daughter mentioned it to me I was not worried as he is a teenager and I thought “Yep out partying somewhere and overslept”. Then when it was upgraded to a missing persons case I started to really worry. I was torn about boarding in Melbourne but as my daughter Kelly said “by the time you get to Bosnia he will no doubt have turned up, and you will have missed starting your ride. If he hasn’t turned up you can turn around at that point”. Thankfully she was right when I got up to my room and checked my phone: yay he has been found safe and sound.
I was just about to jump in the shower when the room phone rings and reception advises Gerre is ringing to say my bike is actually here at the airport, and for 20€ he will deliver it to me. What a relief! Only problem I haven’t got any currency yet, so off down to the shops with a map of how to get there. I found the ATM, and first problem: it won’t accept my card pin! Try another couple, the same problem, so I decided the only option is to get the cash on my credit card, which of course comes out in marks. I worked out the exchange and headed back to the hotel, carefully following the map.
I thought about going out to get something to eat as the hotel only does breakfast, but don’t want to go out before the bike arrives. 2 hours later my bike arrives intact. Yay! I don’t have to sort the logistics of starting the ride late, getting to the airport then catching up with the riders 100k away, with the transportation of a large box to arrange.
At this point I thought ok time to go and find food, and !then thought actually I am just going to go to bed. Nephew is safe, bike arrived, all is well, time to sleep.