So the trip didn’t get off to the best start. The car, which until now has been thoroughly reliable, had a flat battery and we had to call out Roadside Assistance. Luckily, we realised there was a problem early enough that it didn’t cause us any delays.
We were giving Huw a lift to the airport, so once he arrived we programmed the SatNav for Heathrow and off we went. One factor we’d overlooked however was that this was the first day of a Bank Holiday Weekend, so the roads were full of holiday traffic. The SatNav wanted to take us the ‘quickest’ route; into Central London and along the A4/M4. Even on a good day, that is certainly not the quickest route, so we overrode it and headed south towards Croydon with a view to joining the M25 and scooting around London… but of course when we got there, the M25 was choked with slow-moving holiday traffic too!
While all this was going on, a rainstorm arrived; a rainstorm the like of which I haven’t seen in years; absolutely torrential rain, reducing visibility to a few metres and leaving huge pools of standing water on the roads as the drains failed to cope. Even on an empty road, it would have been impossible to make any speed under those conditions!
For a while I wasn’t sure we’d meet the deadline for checking-in our luggage, but make it we did! We met up with Lee and Chris and, after a bit of repacking to make best use of our total capacity, we handed the bags over to KLM and went through security.
Because of the delays, we didn’t have a great deal of time before we needed to be at the gate, so we worked through the list of our needs on our way. Chris needed US Dollars so we stopped at one of the counters on the concourse, with what seemed to be the slowest cashier in the universe! Both he and Huw were in the market for a book and we all wanted some food, so a stop at WH Smith and a concourse cafe sorted us out.
We made the gate in good time and got boarded – only to be told that because of the storms, there was a 45-minute delay to departure. They served refreshments to keep us distracted, so Lee took full advantage and had both tea and coffee. We took off about 90-minutes late. The flight was quite smooth, despite the bad weather, but as we approached Schiphol the Captain passed back information that we wouldn’t make our connection to Nairobi.
On landing we rushed through to the Transfers Desk and queued for our turn (twice, because of a certain jobs-worthness by an agent!) There were distractions enough to keep us entertained though; the security guards on Segway scooters and the superfast buggies that people rode around – none of the deadly-slow buggies you see in the UK that beep constantly to warn you they’re coming. Dutch airport buggies have got horsepower!
As expected there were no other flights tonight, so they rebooked us for the morning – a direct flight that had been too expensive when we originally planned the journey – and offered us compensatory vouchers and dinner, bed and breakfast at a hotel. It all sounded like a very a agreeable silver-lining. Despite using all their respective charms on the agent though, Lee and Huw failed to get us upgraded to Business Class…
There was a large amount of faffing and hanging around before we were finally led to the bus that would take us to the hotel… and then the hotel turned out to be in The Hague, a good forty-minutes away! By the time we got there, the restaurant had closed so ‘dinner’ turned into sandwiches, bottled water and a piece of fruit. We talked to the desk about getting back to the airport after breakfast in the morning and they said KLM would organise all that and we’d get an alarm call an hour ahead of when we needed to depart.
After dropping off luggage in the (large, nicely appointed) room, we gathered in the bar to toast the start of our expedition – and the silver-lining of getting to spend a night in a hotel bed, rather than an aeroplane seat – before heading up to sleep around midnight.