Friday, 20 June 2014

Our unexpected 15h-trip to the Caribbean

Wenn einer eine Reise tut, dann kann er was erzählen. (M. Claudius, 1786)

(Translated from German: When someone goes on a journey, then he will surely have something to talk about afterwards.) How true is this traditional German poem that my grandmother immediately cited after we told her about our crazy transatlantic trip.

It was a very ordinary start into our trip to Germany. After our 12h coach night drive on Aguia Branca to Salvador, we had a large breakfast at the Salvador rodoviaria (central coach station) and then took one of the airport transfer coaches straight to the airport. Strolling around the shops, we then did the usual lunch, check in at the (hugest Condor) waiting line (of all times) et cetera until getting to the gate where we sat down to wait for boarding time. We would be waiting quite some time though. Although we were already used to waiting 30-45 min more for boarding, we all got a little bit antsy when no information got through to us about reasons for the delay. Discussions started, rumours about some technical errors went around and some people almost started a fight at the entrance asking for food and water, especially people with little children and babies probably did not have the most brilliant of times.

Till then, still pretty normal, given that the local police strike had just caused major chaos in the city a few days before, so we were not really alarmed yet.

Then, after about 2,5-3 hours, we were asked to get on board. Happy to finally get our long awaited dinner (thank god we had had huge lunch meals as well as snacks before), we boarded the plane, got our stuff in order and sat down. Then the pilot talked to us, he wanted to explain a few details so we thought, oh that s nice, he ll finally tell us what went wrong. I won t bore you with details about some false technical software error message of the left wing of the plane and communication-translation failures between the computing-tech team of the Condor but in the end, the captain had some more important information to get through....

"Please open page xy, you'll be able to see a world map there." (WTH?) OK, from that moment on, I and probably most (German speaking) passengers knew that we would not be flying to Germany that night. Poor English and Portuguese speaking people who had to wait the WHOLE explaining time in between as the pilot first spoke about the circumstances in German, then English and then one of the stewards translated the story into Portuguese. Long story short: Due to law, a plane even though experiencing a false technical error message, when being delayed more than 4 (or 5?) hours is not allowed to be away from an emergency landing possibility than 100km (or so). Meaning the more than 9000km journey across the atlantic was not possible anymore. Our emergency diversion lead us to:
The Caribbean! Punta Cana, an island in the Dominican Republic.

Won't go into details to what happened next, just a few cues: Some people decided to leave the plane, so their luggage had to get dragged out which caused another delay of about 2h..... no dinner still, just a bit of water... then the plane started the 7h(!) journey to Punta Cana, where we landed 3am in the morning. Some coaches brought us to the nearby hotel and (we were lucky to be in the second of about 8 buses), we arrived at the (emergency) hotel (The Westin Resort & Club) probably around 5:30am und checked in at around 6am. It was so good to have a shower, you cannot imagine... I immediately wrote to my family (did not have a chance to call them as our phones did not work on the plane so they went through the long 2h only to find out that the plane had been emergency diverted....
my poor parents....). So I let them know through email and we went to sleep for 2h, woke up around 8:30 to have breakfast (we were starving by that time) and then we explored the hotel, pool and beach areas to spoil ourselves with a little bit of paradise (at least for 4 hours ;), the hotel was absolutely beautiful, the weather was a charm, seawater purrrfect, food *_* and the staff were amazing. A perfect honeymoon place, if I may say so =) If we ever decide to have another trip to the Caribbean, we would definitely come back! Then we had lunch (the hotel, breakfast and lunch were all paid by the airline, although we later found out that some of our flight companions arriving with the last buses did not get any hotel rooms as all were booked and had to camp on the beach....).

Around 14h, we got picked up by the airport transfer coaches and waited for another 4h (without getting some food or water vouchers so we had to pay the expensive snacks and beverages by ourselves (getting more expensive dollars through the (as always unfair) exchange bureau at the Punta Cana airport). And then, we finally boarded our flight with - who thought it - another crew! But the same "faulty" plane... the other crew had probably asked to get exchanged and so the next crew got their share of incredibly angry customers.... The rest of the 9h transatlantic journey went smooth (16h flying in less than 24h instead of 12h)... and my parents kindly picked us up the next day... what a journey! But what else can you expect, because...

Wenn einer eine Reise tut, dann kann er was erzählen!


Here some more pictures =)

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