Leaving Mexico City was easy enough but actually getting to Amsterdam unscathed was another matter entirely. If you don’t already know, I am notoriously absent minded. More than once, have I been shopping in Target or somewhere else and I’ve laid my wallet and keys on a shelf to look at something and walked away leaving them to just anyone. I have stopped for gas, put my wallet on the roof of the car and driven away only to (thankfully) be called by some kind passerby who found and returned it, fully intact. That’s not all… it goes on and on: booking a flight or hotel on the wrong date because I don’t stop, think and re-read before slamming the “confirm” button. So imagine my lack of surprise at all the recent mishaps and snafus that were both inflicted upon me and those I inflicted upon myself.
UNPLANNED MEXICO CITY TRIP
The WHOLE TRIP to Mexico City was unplanned. I was under the impression that I booked my flight from Guadalajara to Amsterdam. Nope… after being in Guadalajara for a WEEK, with a week left to go, I actually READ the confirmation email. Apparently, I booked Mexico City to Amsterdam. Uh huh. So that meant quickly booking a flight to Mexico City (this time, I read, read and RE-read before confirming the purchase) in order to leave for Amsterdam.
Nearly missed the flight out of Mexico City
I had to check out of the hostel at 12 and my flight was to leave (or so I thought) at 9pm. I don’t mind hanging out at the airport with my laptop movies, there’s plenty of food and electrical outlets plus, I had the huge bike box to check in. Early is always better than late. I camped out and watched a couple of Sherlock episodes, had a great steak dinner at a fancy pants restaurant and at 7:40pm, just by fluke happenstance heard the broken English announcement of the FINAL BOARDING CALL over the intercom for my flight. Yup, I misread 20:05 as 21:05. Thankfully, I was only three gates away and made it with a little time to spare.
ALMOST LEFT DEBIT CARD IN ICELAND
After an uneventful 23 hour layover in Los Angeles, I checked my baggage in with WOW Airlines expecting everything to arrive in Holland at the same time I did and boarded the flight consisting of a 9 hour flight to Iceland, a 3 hour layover in Iceland then a 2.5 hour flight on to Amsterdam. Upon arrival in Iceland, I found a place to clean up a little, brush my teeth then went in search of food and coffee. The Iceland terminal (from what I saw) was tiny but there was lots to see and shops that carried unusual foods and products. I bought a plug converter and located a place for food, bought an interesting plate of rye bread loaded with cucumber, hard boiled egg and raw dilled salmon. Coffee was next and after ordering my cappuccino I opened my wallet to an empty pocket where my debit card lives. Fuuuuuuk. I paid with another card and back tracked to the food counter and sure as shit, I had left the card in the electronic chip reader and walked away. The clerk had turned it into the information desk attendant who, naturally, was not there when I tried to retrieve it. People were starting to que at the gate of my next flight and I began to panic. I heard the coffee guy calling my name, my cappuccino was ready. Of course it was. A booming voice with a thick accent came over head instructing “Heather Rich, please report to the security office”. I took off running with my heavily laden hiking back pack bouncing behind me. I was able to get the card back AND make the flight thanks to the diminutive layout of the terminal.
AIRLINE LOST MY BIKE AND 1/2 MY GEAR
My flight from Iceland landed at 20:30 by the time my fellow passengers and I navigated the vast and deserted corridors of Schiphol Airport to the baggage claim, luggage was already sliding off the belt and on to the carousel. After locating the “odd-sized baggage area” I waited. Waited some more and STILL waited. I can’t explain the sinking feeling I experienced when one by one all the other passengers left with their belongings and there I stood, still waiting. Eventually, the conveyor stopped as did the empty carousel. The box containing my bike, saddle bags, tent, sleeping bag, bed sheet, tool kit, and some clothing was no where to be found. After filling out a missing luggage form, I stopped in to a shop and bought what appeared to be a gourmet cup-a-noodle and banana then made my way out of the terminal to the city bus area, located the appropriate line to my first nights accommodation and looked forward to a hot shower and a bed.
SOME ACCOMMODATIONS ARE NOT AS ADVERTISED
The short bus ride and a brisk (37 degrees F) walk .5 mile to the campground woke me up and I was thankful to have taken the time during the Los Angeles layover to get a jacket and warmer shirts than what was needed in Mexico. Needless to say, when I arrived at the campground where I booked a “chalet” for two nights, I was physically and mentally exhausted after discovering the loos of my bike and gear and flying halfway around the world on the very little sleep afforded by the tortuously uncomfortable seats on a budget airline. There was a note attached to the window of the darkened reception office: “The following accommodations are set up for the reservations listed below, please make yourself comfortable for the night and return in the morning for a proper check-in” SWEET! Yeah. No. The “chalet” was deserted and freezing, the wall heater was locked. Great. There was one thin blanket on the bed and one pillow, nothing else. Turns out the sheets and towels have to be rented (from the closed reception desk), HEAT is to be charged at a cost of 5 Euro/day (at the closed reception desk), hot showers require tokens that can be purchased at, yup you guessed it, the closed reception desk. etc.. etc… etc… My super crazy warm sleeping bag and sheet were lost who knows where in transit and it was so cold in my “chalet” that I could not sleep. I went in search of the “heated 24 hour kitchen/lounge area”. There was a kitchen, there was heat and there were tables and benches. I prepared my Thai flavored noodle cup (which was AMAZING with all fresh ingredients: chicken, leeks, fresh noodles, spinach, spring onion and a spicy flavorful broth) then sat down with the laptop to find somewhere else to “live”. I booked a dorm bed in Amsterdam for the next 4 nights (hopefully enough time to locate and to be reunited with my bike) then moved to the next problem: not having a shower for the last two and a half days.
THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A DEAD CAT (wait… I don’t think that’s exactly appropriate euphemism FOR this example)
The conversation in my head went something like this: “Have clean clothes… have shower kit… no hot water tokens… need shower… IMPROVISE”. The owner of this “chalet village” doesn’t know that I can be pretty resourceful when needed, nor does he know that I grew up in a two room hunting cabin in the back woods of Missouri. This hunting cabin had only cold running water and no other plumbing. In order to have a bath in our home you had to heat water on the stove cook top (or on the wood burning stove in winter) in ancient cooking pots that were then emptied into a bath tub and the process repeated until you had enough tepid water to cover the necessary bits. So, I set about heating water in a kettle on the cook top. I carried my shower kit, clean clothes, kettle of boiling water and a basin I found under the sink to the (heated) shower building. You can probably fill in the rest of the blanks yourself, needless to say I got the job done. I waited for sunrise then snuck out of the property without a “proper check-in” and I don’t even feel bad about it, as a no-show the terms of the booking say that I will be billed for the first nights accommodation regardless. So they took my money and I rec’d a sleepless night and a “whore’s bath”. (sorry if that vernacular offends)
I don’t tell you all of this so you’ll actually KNOW how ditzy I am but instead to show you that despite my scatter-brained mental handicap, I’m still having the time of my life. My bike was found in Los Angeles and returned to me this afternoon in one piece, I’ve been meeting new people, trying new things, eating strange dishes, and overcoming both organic and self-inflicted obstacles. Like I said, this is so normal to me that I am not even surprised anymore when it happens, you have roll with the punches, fix it and just keep swimming!