The sun was just about to dip below the horizon as we exited the plane at Valencia airport in Spain. The plane had parked just a short distance from the terminal, so close in fact that the bus took longer to load with passengers than it did to drive the 60 seconds to the terminal. Once inside we strolled through passport control, which nobody was manning, and saw only one very bored looking official sitting at the 'something to declare' customs point.
We grabbed two trolleys ready to finally reconnect with our 87.4 kilos of hold luggage. For me there's always a feeling of concern as I watch the baggage carousel go around and wait to see my bags, hoping that they too have completed the long journey. When I saw our first two bags come through I said to Aannsha "If two have made it, the other two should as well." I was totally wrong. Other people grabbed their bags and wandered off and eventually the carousel stopped and a Spanish lady announced that was everything from that flight. For the first time in my travelling life I had missing luggage and I had to find out where it was by remembering my Spanish from 20 years ago.
With what bags we had Aannsha and I headed past the bored customs guy and went to the missing baggage counter, there were several people in front of me so I used the opportunity to listen to the questions they were being asked and translating it as best I could in my head and then formulating my responses in Spanish. My turn came and the nice young lady explained that our missing bags were still in Paris, there had not been enough room in the hold to include them.
She also said we could either pick them up at Valencia airport mid morning tomorrow or they could be delivered to us in Javea. I opted for delivery because it would have meant a 4 hour round trip for us to collect them. With all of our contact details filled in and clutching the lost luggage receipt Aannsha and I exited the airport into a now quickly darkening night and boarded the shuttle bus that would take us to the car rental place.
It was a quick 5 minute trip, but it was long enough to be reminded of how the Spanish like to drive. Fast and unforgiving are two words that came to mind. The check in guy at the car rental spoke some basic English so between that and my fast returning Spanish language skills we got all the paperwork sorted and he handed me the keys and said I'd find the vehicle in bay 17. Maybe it's just me but don't they normally walk with you to the vehicle and give you a quick briefing on where everything is! All I got was a friendly 'hasta luego'.
Not deterred we loaded our bags into the back and then I got a bit religious as I prayed that one of the two bags that had arrived was the one which contained our sat nav which I'd loaded up with a complete set of Europe road maps. There were mixed feelings of elation and disappointment when all I saw in my bag was my scuba diving equipment and a few items of clothing. The sat nav was still in Paris and we had no data allowance on our phones.
Let me paint a picture. It's now night time, it's peak hour traffic, I have never visited Valencia, I'm driving a mid-sized manual gearbox vehicle, on the opposite side of the road than I'm used to and all I know is I have to head South in the direction of Alicante. But with no map, sat nav or smart phone app which way was South?
Taking the bull by the horns I figured that if I stuck to main roads there would eventually be a sign post which would say either AP7 to Barcelona or AP7 to Alicante. So we just drove, Aannsha looking out for road signs and me looking out for Spanish drivers rushing to get home from work.
At one point we both looked at each other and Aannsha asked if I was OK. I grinned crazily and said "I guess so. This is it, it's all part of our adventure! We're missing two suitcases, we don't know where we are, we don't know which direction we're headed, but we do know we'll get somewhere eventually." And eventually we did. I was exhilarated by the feeling of once again living life on the edge.
More out of luck than good judgement, after we'd been driving for 20 minutes, Aannsha excitedly announced "There it is, there's the sign for AP 7 Alicante." We had been going the right direction after all and it was with some relief that we entered the motorway and headed South. Driving on the motorway was a breeze after the Valencia peak hour traffic and 1 hour and 30 minutes later we took the turn off for Javea.
Figuring that there would be no supplies at my brother Phil's place we stopped off at a big supermarket and bought some basics. Tea, milk, local red wine and bacon flavoured chips, a radical change from the cuisine we'd enjoyed on yesterday's Etihad flight.
We had a rough idea of where Phil's place was, we'd seen it on Google Earth and Google maps and we also had the address stored on our phones. My plan was to find Javea port/marina and work backwards from there. What I hadn't counted on was that Javea is, until you get used to it, a maze of one way streets. After driving around for 20 minutes, I eventually stopped at another late opening big supermarket and once again using my rapidly returning Spanish language skills I emerged with a mud map. Phil's place was a 3 minute drive and once we got there we realised that we had actually driven past it twice in the dark.
The keys to the apartment are kept locked away in a coded lock box near to the front door and I eagerly put in the code. It didn't unlock! I swirled the numbers around a few times and tried the code again. Nothing! By now I was having visions of Aannsha and I spending the night sleeping in the car as the temperature slowly descended to the predicted low of 4 degrees Celsius.
I called my brother Phil in the UK and was greeted by his message service. As I later found out, he wasn't feeling too well that day and had turned his phone off and gone to bed early. One last chance was to phone my other brother in the UK. Thankfully Steve answered after a couple of rings and was as perplexed as I was that the code didn't work. He said he'd make some enquiries and call me straight back. I hoped that he wasn't relying on a phone call to Phil to get it sorted. Eventually Steve came back with a new code, which to my great relief was correct and the box popped open spilling the keys into my welcoming hand.
So here we are 18,600 kilometres and 35 hours later at 8.30pm local time at my brother Phil's place in Javea, Spain, surrounded by most of our bags and getting our priorities right by doing nothing else but opening a bottle of red wine and toasting ourselves on a job well done. Cheers.
To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.
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