London to Split: It Could’ve Been Worse.

Before we had even begun, our trip from England to Croatia had already suffered several blows. Our original plan had been to meet our friend Lauren at Heathrow on the 27th then leave from Gatwick at 5:45 the next morning. Unfortunately, I’d unthinkingly booked us a hotel at Heathrow rather than Gatwick so that meant getting up at 2:30 to get  a taxi at 3am to get to the airport at 4 so we’d have plenty of time for our flight. Unfortunately Lauren’s job situation was thrown into confusion just days before she was due to fly out and she ended up having to cancel the trip, which we were rather sad about as she is an excellent (tried and tested) travel companion and would’ve relieved us of the monotony of talking to each other. Just kidding! (Mostly)

So, we made our way from Cambridge to the Premier Inn on Bath Road – would you believe there are FOUR Premier Inns at Heathrow? Luckily only one is on Bath Road and the bus there is free.

The room was nice, the food at the hotel wasn’t too bad, people were watching Germany get kicked out of the World Cup and seemed to be enjoying it. We got about six hours sleep (champions that we are.. drinking lots helped) and woke up in time to meet our taxi and encountered no traffic or road works on the drive. We congratulated ourselves for being so well-organised and checked in our bags then headed for the gate.

This was when Luke realised that he’d left his passport in his checked bag.

As the blood drained from his face he experienced an adrenaline rush like none in recent memory. We raced to the gate and were initially told, by a geriatric flight attendant who looked to be one of those ‘I know the rules and I’m going to tell you about them multiple times’ types that Luke flat-out wouldn’t be able to fly. What precisely would happen to his bag, since it was checked in under my name, we struggled to work out.

He turned and told another member of staff that Luke had left his passport in his checked bag. “If that’s true,” the man said, “that is the most monumentally stupid thing I have ever heard.” Luke agreed with him wholeheartedly. Then this man, a Turn Controller named Jonathon, proceeded to be just the type of guy you want in your corner during a crisis of this nature. He was calm, kind, decisive and communicative. It also helped, as he pointed out, that the plane couldn’t leave until he signed off on it – and he’d do everything he could to remedy the situation before he did so.

What that involved was Jonathon waiting for Luke’s bag to arrive at the plane, snagging it before it was loaded, and then getting security to oversee Luke removing his passport from the bag before loading it on to the plane. While that all sounds straightforward, given that time was ticking, security was being slightly unhelpful and the geriatric gate guard was blustering at us any time Jonathan wasn’t around to fend him off, it was a very close call. But in the end the passport was retrieved, Jonathan saw Luke on to the plane with a handshake, and he took the seat next to mine.

The sigh of relief Luke let out as he sat down was both palpable and heartfelt. Jonathan popped in to the cockpit to approve the plane for take off and even gave Luke a wink as he left the cabin. What a hero!

Well, obviously we congratulated ourselves on dodging a situation that might have cost us a great deal of time and money (well, cost Luke… I would’ve gone anyhow to save having to buy two new fares) and relaxed, safe in the knowledge that surely nothing else could go wrong.

Honestly, what else could go wrong? Nothing, that’s what.

After enduring the free-for-all that is Croatian passport control, we headed out to pick up our bags. Because we’d been in the non-European queue we were almost last out and the conveyor stopped moving almost immediately with only a handful of pieces of luggage left. Luke’s bag was visible but mine wasn’t.

And wasn’t.

And wasn’t.

We waited for nearly an hour before going to the lost property office and registering my bag as missing. Because of the passport issue in London I had accidentally left my luggage receipt at Gatwick but had, oh-so-fortunately, taken a photo of it before handing it to the staff there, which meant I had all the details of my tag. THANK GOD. I don’t know how hard it would’ve been to retrieve the bag without it.

Somewhat heavy of heart we boarded the bus into town, having to stand up for the forty minute drive because we were nearly last in line.

After a bit of wandering around the back streets of Split we found our Airbnb (phone GPS doesn’t always work so well in narrow stone alleys and apartments don’t seem to have numbers here) and our host was lovely and helpful.

The local markets were only a few steps away and I bought a cheap spare pair of underpants and then we bought a few bits of food and wandered around town.

When I got back I took a photo of everything that was in my small backpack.

Of all the things I didn’t have, a belt was probably the thing I missed most as my new jeans were stretching and I had to keep pulling them up every five minutes. So dignified.

Fortunately that afternoon EasyJet sent us a message letting us know the bag had arrived at ‘an’ airport (which one wasn’t clear but it was nice to know it was definitely somewhere) and the next morning my bag was delivered and order was restored to the universe.

By far the most upsetting part of the whole journey was Luke’s passport incident. I think my weeks of camping and being grotty had left me quite happy to wear the same clothes several days in a row. We also felt good, once the whole thing was over, about how calmly we’d dealt with it. You learn a lot about yourself and others when you have to go through a crisis (however small) together.

Lesson learned though – passport in hand when checking in bags!


We’re in Gatwick at a B&B for the night before heading to the airport at 8:30 tomorrow morning. We both woke up feeling a bit stressed and frantic this morning. I realised I’d left a few important jobs until it was to late – no time now to get my legs waxed (do people wax their legs in Tanzania? My complete lack of knowledge about Africa is becoming painfully apparent. Can we buy clothes? Pillows if we need them for camping? Somehow my brain has substituted the environment of Mars for Eastern Africa).

Malaria meds were another thing on the list. I’m planning on buying them when I get there because I went into Tesco to buy it at the in-store pharmacy and the non-prescription tablets were over 100 pounds for a 7 week course so I went to the doctor in Bar Hill but it was 45 pounds for a consultation. Online research says I could get the tablets far cheaper in Dar Es Salaam so I’ll aim for that and try to avoid getting bitten before I can stock up. Considering that you’re supposed to start malaria meds before you leave… well… there’s no point in telling me off in the comments box because it’s too late. So don’t bother. Besides, I can feel your judgement from here. And yes I know malaria can be fatal. Quiet!

So, I woke up at 6:45 and couldn’t get back to sleep, not only because I’m disorganised but because we’ve got three flights in a row in 48 hours, which multiplies my punctuality anxiety by a million. If any flight is cancelled or delayed that’s about $2000 down the toilet. Just thinking about it raises my blood pressure. We’re flying London to Istanbul (7 hours) then Istanbul to Dar Es Salaam (about 6 I think) and we arrive there at about 3am and have to wait until 11am for our flight to Arusha. Long airport layovers are among the more serious first world problems, I’m sure you’ll agree. We’re spending one night in Arusha because my school’s World Vision sponsor child lives there and although the tour we’re doing passes through Arusha, it passes through on a Sunday and, being a Christian organisation (but not in the slightest bit charitable or relenting), they won’t offer any visits to students on a holy day. Which has cost me quite a bit of money but I’m sure it’ll all be worth it. The bonus of doing it this way is that we get to visit with this student at school, which is more interesting for me and will also mean better footage for the short film we’re planning to make and send back to the kids at my school to show them where their sponsor money is going.

But until we’re in Arusha and in the hands of our WV rep I’m going to be stressing about getting there on time and with all baggage accounted for. Our carrier, ‘Precision Air’ (ahaha! The irony!) is apparently renowned for losing baggage.

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m somewhat notorious among friends for being chronically dreadful with times and dates, so organising these flights, the hotels and everything means I’m just waiting for that heart-stopping moment when I realise that I’ve booked a hotel for the wrong night, or that our flights don’t match up or some other obvious and costly thing has been miscalculated. Honestly, it’s only a matter of time.

Today’s mission, to get from Cambridge to London, change our pounds for US dollars (popular in Africa) and then get to our B&B went hearteningly smoothly. Fingers crossed for the rest of the trip.

I should add, before we fly out, that we have no idea what internet access is going to be like over the course of the tour. Hopefully we’ll get occasional opportunities to update but otherwise we’ll be offline for ages and ages. I might die from blog withdrawal, only time will tell. I am planning to buy a paper diary so that I can then transcribe every bit of the trip into blog posts when we get to somewhere with wifi. This, probably, is one of my traditional grand-plans-that-never-happen. We’ll see. I’m envisaging my African tour as heaps of fun with me moaning every half hour or so to anyone who’ll listen that I wish I could put this in the blog and then forgetting about it half an hour later. Just in time to moan about the next thing.

You see what Luke has to put up with.

We get back to Turkey at the end of August. Catch y’all on the flip side!