Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stranded in the Middle East: Thanks, Royal Jordanian

Her backpack is welded to her torso and she has a doona made of money wallets. She once entered the Eurovision song contest and her favourite colour is infra-red. Our fave intrepid traveller Cat tells us about her unintentional extended holiday at Queen Alia Airport, Jordan...

You know how it is. You’re away overseas, having the time of your life on the trip of a lifetime and something, somewhere, somehow, goes wrong. You don’t anticipate something going wrong of course; you factor in steps to avoid it at all costs. If you’re anything like me you make 10 copies of all your documents, register with Smart Traveller, tell every soul that’s living and known to mankind where your going, how long you’ll be and what to expect, invest in the latest cutting edge technology money wallet that bulges out under your top and just screams “Yes I’m a feckin tourist!” and fix 6-digit coded padlocks to your luggage in case some muppet thinks “ooh that looks like a nice bag to stick 10 kilos of ecstasy in…” (or whatever the drug lingo is)…or actions to that effect. Ok maybe the 10 copies and six digit codes are a bit of a stretch but you get the picture. So I’m going to share something with you that you may or may not identify with; just remember none of us are immune but it could always be worse!

I had been in Jordan, a wickedly fun and gorgeous country in the Middle East and I was nearing the end of my visit. After seeing some awesome, awesome sites and having a brilliant old ham of a time, I was off to Turkey to meet up with my friend who’d been in Oman for 3 weeks. We planned to tear around as much of the country as we could in 10 days before, sniff, sigh, sniff, heading home. So the travel buddy’s and I said our goodbyes and left on our respected flights, to our respected destinations each and every one of us, no worries at all

Picking me up at 7 that morning, I had a smooth ride out of Amman with my transfer, who also acted as my interpreter. Pulling into Queen Alia Airport, I felt a bit of anticipation build knowing it would be a mere 4 hours til I met my friend at the airport in Istanbul. Two days previously I’d phoned the airline (which, for the record, was Royal Jordanian) to confirm my booking, “yes your seat is booked, please check in two hours prior to your flight…” blah blah blah. So I confess to some confusion when Mohammed (the interpreter, yes I know every man and his camel are called Mohammed in the Middle East so I’m not joking) turned to me, after a lengthy conversation with the chiseled Jordanian at check in and said “Cet there is slight problem with check in, take seat and I fix.” So, I did what the man said and took a seat. An hour later I was getting concerned. Mohammed came and sat down next to me and me, bored to snorts and starting to get a little irritated at the delay, asked what was wrong. He said they had overbooked the plane, and were trying to fit me on. “Well for f*@k’s sake a*!@hole,” I wanted to say, what’s the biggie? I confirmed, I even have a seat number, so what the feck’s the hold up? Where’s my goddamn seat gone? I started to think about my friend and the possibility that I may not get this flight because for all intents and purposes check in had now closed and there were about half a dozen of us standing there twittering in different languages that we needed, had to be on that plane. My friend did not have her phone on her and basically I had no way of contacting her to let her know that I wouldn’t be meeting her at Attaturk Airport in 4 hours. Bollocks!

I didn’t get my flight, and there was not another one to Istanbul until 4am the following morning. Fifteen hours I waited to fly out of Amman, fifteen hours. Admittedly they put us up at the airport hotel but we were all pretty raw. As it turned out they had let a corporate party, who turned up 10 minutes before us, take our seats and it took them 3 hours to tell us. I distinctly remember marching up to the chiseled Jordanian and his mates and bellowing the words “piss up in a brewery,” and “couldn’t organise,” with reckless abandon. In the end though, I made it to Istanbul. Exhausted but elated that I was finally there I found my friend in our hotel and there commenced our Turkish Christmas adventure. Its funny how when you’re faced with adversity, don’t speak the language, are on your own, its Christmas and you’re a million miles from family and friends, you cope because you have to. And hey, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, the hotel was really nice…

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