Having had a wonderful holiday in Morocco with my mom and gran from Fish Hoek and my brother currently studying in the USA,I arrived at Madrid airport feeling a bit rushed as I had to catch my connecting flight to England with only half an hour to spare until take-off. As I was waiting for my luggage I received an sms from a friend to say that there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland. On hearing this, I thought it was a pretty bad prank, but reality set in once I went upstairs to catch my flight! Luckily I met two well travelled English guys, now also stranded in Madrid… much better than being stranded on my own!
Things were very stressful until Iberia Airlines sorted us out with another flight and also booked us into a 5 star hotel. At that stage I felt happy that I would be getting an extra week of holiday with accommodation and food all paid for.
After 3 days of living in utmost luxury, Iberia Airlines informed told us that they would not be paying for our accommodation anymore. We could not blame them – they had been very helpful and were only trying their best with limited funds. We found a cheap youth hostel in a different and interesting part of the city.
We sought many solutions to get back to England, from catching trains to St. Pancreas to catching buses, to catching a ferry and hitchhiking. Our plan of getting to Paris and catching a ferry fell away once our airticket to Paris was cancelled. In a way we were lucky as we would have been stranded there with a great number of other people who had had the same idea.
Eventually we decided to take the safe option and to just chill out to relieve the mountain of stress built up inside us.
The British government decided to step in and provide buses and navy boat trips across the Channel. After many trips to the airport to find out what our options were, I was told that because I am not a British citizen I was not entitled to these alternative ways to get to England.
I am so tired of standing in queues of anxious and bewildered travellers … for hours!
I am now just holding thumbs that my flight will be able to leave this coming Saturday but in the meantime I will enjoy my time in Madrid, a very beautiful city.
Karl von der Heyden, GAPping for the year in the UK