We knew we had excess baggage and we new the charge was going to involve more than one zero but we couldn’t have predicted there would be quite this many zeros. My response as I walked away from the check-in desk? NO WAY!!! But I get ahead of myself.
Up and at ‘em this morning at 4:30am to fit in a final run around the village before being cooped up in a plane or airport for the next day or so. It was a lovely peaceful plod in the wee hours and then back home to begin getting organised.
On top of the leaving preparations we had to finalise, the power company decided that today of all days was the day to cut off the power in our area for maintenance, so this meant no power all day, which for us also means no water because we use electricity to run the pump from our water tanks. So, on returning from my run it was action stations before the power went off at 8:30…shower, final load of washing, fill buckets of water for flushing toilets, boil the kettle over and over to fill umpteen Thermoses for hot drinks, fill sinks with hot water for hand washing – as if I didn’t have enough to worry about! Steve had gone into the city to get an international driver’s license – just in case, and I scurried around feeling like a premature camper before we’d even left, making sure we had water on hand. The rest of the day was spent faffing around getting ready to leave and then off to the airport we went.
We stood in line at the counter, two bike boxes and two enormous bags filled with our panniers and awaited the moment of truth.
We had done the calculations on the weight and excess baggage and the website had told us that we would be charged $80 for ever extra kilogram over our allowance and we were 15kg over. We were in for a hit to the wallet, but we weren’t expecting the result we had and the number of zeros we were faced with. What was our excess baggage charge? What was it? Wait for it…wait for it…$0.00!!! That many zeros! But…only zeros! Zilch, zip, nada, nothing. NO WAY! The lady who served us at the counter was the mum of a little boy I had taught years ago and we got chatting about what Adam was up to now.
“He’s married and expecting his first baby,” she informed me.
“No,” I said, “I live in a time warp, he’s still a little tacker in my mind.”
“I know,” she replied, “they grow up!”
So while we were chatting, she weighed the bikes and weighed the bags and we watched the scales and we were way over weight, as we knew we would be. Then we carried the bikes down to the belt to take them off to the plane and she said, “There are your boarding passes through to Zagreb and your luggage tickets. It’s nice to see you again, have a good trip.” And that was it. She didn’t mention excess baggage at all. We had taken the preventative step of joining the airline’s member club that gave us some extra baggage allowance and she didn’t mention that either. She didn’t mention being a club card member, she didn’t mention baggage of the excess variety or in any other sense, she just checked us straight through. So, whether it was chatting about her son and her family that distracted her, or her knowing us and being kind and letting us off the excess baggage charge or something flagged on her screen to show Steve had club membership, we will never know, but the end result was we had a zero excess baggage charge. Phew! Even though we had to pay to join the airline club, the extra allowance we get will save us the stress on the return journey and even with the cost of joining, we’ll be in front if we have to face a real excess bag charge on the way back. So we’ll call it a win. Our parents saw us off at the airport, so final farewells were said and we were off.
We breezed through security at Melbourne ready for the flight, then time for a quick bite to eat. Steve found a vegan burger and tucked into that. I opted for one of my travel hacks. I knew I’d be subjected to airport and airline food, so I used my reverse meal strategy to front load the day with proper food and reversed my meals. Vegetables for breakfast, big kale salad for lunch and then I packed a ziplock bag with some porridge oats, flax, ginger, cinnamon and sultanas and while Steve ate his burger, I just got a cup of hot water, asking for it to be “double cupped” so I had an empty cup. In went the oats, on went the hot water and bingo, instant porridge and breakfast in reverse. Happy.
Then on the ginormous A380 and we were off. I sat next to an older German lady. I helped her work her screen so she could watch movies and when we were served our meals she turned to me and said, “Good appetite.” Gotta love friendly strangers. The flight was looooooooonnnng. No sleep for me. Steve did pretty well on the sleep front. He didn’t have a seat in front of him so he could stretch out and lie back and snooze. As we were descending, the German lady and I got chatting. She now lives in Greece with her husband, who is Greek, and she asked where we were from and when I told her Tasmania and we were about to cycle through Europe, she turned to her husband to relay this information and I heard something like this:
The lady: “Something, something, something Tasmania something something.
Her husband: “Something something Tasmania?
The lady: “Something something something Tasmania.”
Her husband: “Something Tasmania!!”
I couldn’t get the words, but I got the inflections and it seemed like our home state was something of great interest!
We got quite chatty and she was lovely, telling me about their own trip to Croatia, 40 years ago when it was still part of Yugoslavia and why their own trip didn’t go so well. Then she asked where we were going and this nice lady got out a notebook and drew a map of places in Germany we should visit and told me what her own town was like and why we should visit The Black Forest. When we went our separate ways, we wished each other well and happy travels. These are the perks of travel – the nice people you get to meet in random ways and this first encounter was on the first flight before things even started.
It was good to be off the plane because that flight was looooooooong and I’ve never been so uncomfortable. Those seats were HARD. I think the airline looked at the seat catalogue when they were fitting out the planes and could have chosen the “Power Plush Pillowy on the Posterior version 2.0” and instead they said, “Ah, let’s not dip into the petty cash, lets go for the ‘Plush-Free Plank of Pine with Bonus Bum Numbing Foam-Free Feature version 0.2”. So, no sleep and lots of sore bits to show for the 14 hour flight. Again, First World Problems I know, but I was still feelin’ pretty sore and generally knackered! It already felt like we’d been travelling for days. It was a long flight but they fed us well and the veggie meals were great.
Through security again at Doha airport; I went through with no drama, Steve got the red light and had the full body pat down, but passed and we were off for the long walk to the other end of the terminal to find our gate, which was good because I needed the walk. No sooner had we arrived and it was time to board. Through the boarding gate and onto the bus that took us out to the plane, then up, up, up again, with a view down over the monochromatic landscape of Doha and its myriad high-rises on a vast palette of beige. Another good veggie meal was served of lentil curry for breakfast and the final leg towards Zagreb was underway. What would await us? Would the bikes have made it? Would they be in one piece?
To be continued…