Travelling to Spain: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Living in South Africa, there’s nothing for it but to make peace with the fact that anywhere we want to go is at least a 10-hour flight away. So we grin and bear it, knowing that the destination will be worth the journey. Sometimes the journey turns out a little more interesting than we thought it would be.

At 22:10 this past Friday, Gareth and I got onto the plane that would take us to Madrid for our Spain 2010 holiday. As soon as we had sat down, we knew that this would be an uncomfortable 10 hours. The seats were tiny and the legroom practically non-existent. Having just walked past Business Class, the fully-reclining seats and self-satisfied smirks of the people in them were still fresh in our memories. We sat down and tried to think thin thoughts.

The woman behind us snorted – one of those disgusting, loud snorts that only a half-hour spent blowing your nose would alleviate. “Oh no,” I thought. “I can’t possibly listen to that all the way to Europe.” She did it again. And again. By then I was on the point of asking the flight attendant if we could sit somewhere else. Luckily, someone else shifted into the seat next to the snorter and possibly offered her a tissue, because she kept the nose hacking to a minimum after that.

As the plane took off, Gareth pointed out a man a few seats down from us. He was fast asleep already. “Lucky guy,” I thought. The flight attendants going through the motions of the safety briefing were rudely interrupted by someone suddenly yelling “F**k you!” Startled, we all looked around to see what was happening. Just as loudly, the man who seemed to be sleeping yelled some more expletives out loud. A fit of giggling from all those around him didn’t wake him and he proceeded to try and get comfy in the lap of the bewildered man sitting next to him. His neighbour, who wasn’t going to take any nonsense from a sleep-talking Tourette’s sufferer, pushed him off without a fuss and continued reading his book. Every now and then, the man would yell out some more profanity while fast asleep, blissfully unaware of anything or anyone around him. We later got so used to this that it hardly bothered us anymore.

They served dinner at half past midnight, after which I managed to get a few hours of sleep in. I woke up as breakfast was being served at 5:00. We landed at Madrid not long after.

“Our next flight leaves in 26 minutes,” Gareth said, looking at the flight schedule. “Gate H33.”

I pointed at the sign: gate H33 was an estimated 26 minutes away. We set off at a run. Up escalators and down escalators, through scanners, through customs, a short train ride later followed by some more escalators. We arrived at the gate two minutes after boarding was due to start, only to hear that the flight had been delayed for an hour due to the rainy weather. So we sat down and waited. After a while they let us board the plane to wait in there instead. Luckily, it didn’t take too long and we took off only about half an hour later than we were supposed to.

The flight was short, barely an hour, and we landed at Malaga at 11:00, exactly when we were due to collect our rental car. After waiting and waiting for our luggage at what turned out to be the wrong carousel, we picked up our two shrink-wrapped suitcases, ignoring the odd looks from Europeans who didn’t understand why our luggage was wrapped up in layers of cellophane. The customs officers also didn’t understand, and we had to have our suitcases scanned to make sure they weren’t containing illegal items.

We were met by a representative of the car rental company in the arrivals lounge. He gave us directions to the pickup point outside the airport, where we got into a minibus that took us to their offices a few kilometres from the airport. Thirty minutes later, I was let loose upon the traffic of Malaga, driving on the wrong side of the road in a vehicle of which the driver’s seat, the gearbox , the handbrake and the rear view mirror was on the wrong side! By the time we arrived in Fuengirola my nerves were shattered, my patience was wearing thin and my navigator had managed to get us lost somewhere in town with a polite English woman’s voice repeatedly telling us to “turn around, when possible”. Somehow, Gareth managed to sort the GPS out and we eventually arrived at our hotel.

The room wasn’t ready yet, but the receptionist took pity on us and gave us a complimentary drinks voucher at the local restaurant. When we finally got settled in our room, the pair of us were so exhausted that we crashed on the bed and only woke up much later. It had been a long day.

But it was totally worth it. The next morning, we woke up to the beautiful sunrise below.

For more posts in the Spain 2010 series, click here.

What was the longest distance you’ve travelled? Any incidents worth mentioning?

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