As those of you know and have read earlier blogs, we are not the luckiest travellers in the world. We’ve had dramas, disasters and even missed holidays altogether. You will recall that in September 2018, when I booked the Very Best of Australia Tour with stopovers in Singapore and Bali, I mistakenly booked it for February 2019! It was a cock up before we even got started. Having realised this mistake, I ate humble pie and contacted the tour operator who rebooked the right date for our trip to coincide with my 60th birthday in 2020. I was assured that nothing else could possibly go wrong, right?
The bushfires in Australia had ravaged the country in the summer of 2019/20. Nowhere was safe apparently and the country had suffered horrendous loss of life; people lost homes, wildlife and woodlands were decimated. People were picking through the the ashes trying to salvage what little the fires had left them and we were going there on holiday. It was hard to be ambivalent to their suffering. As the fires continued air quality became an issue and media coverage did little to quell the rising levels of anxiety here in our household. Tennis players participating in the Melbourne Open were complaining bitterly about the air quality there and Melbourne was one of our stopovers. We might not be able to visit any of the places at this rate. We watched with more than a passing interest as the impact of the devastating fires became all too real in every day life in Australia.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office became our new best friends. We favourited them on our browser to assist us getting to the information quickly and efficiently. Our insurance company also suggested that unless the F&C Office stated that it was unsafe to travel, they would not refund the costs if we cancelled. Having paid a telephone number in cash for this trip; the dream holiday was suddenly becoming a nightmare. My antenna was raw monitoring the situation. The news continued to sound concerning, I know we have coped before with such threats and risks, however this was a major set back.
And it was not over. Kangaroo Island, where we were to spend two nights, was removed from the tour itinerary. Anyone who watched the fires on TV could see the horrific impact on wildlife there. Other trips on our tour were also under threat, but daily updates continued to pour oil on troubled waters and as time went on glimmers of hope began to emerge. I turned to prayer, only to hear that Trump had started an offensive in Iraq. The thought of a war in the Middle East filled me with dread as we were passing through Dubai on our travels and might be affected. Those chances increased tenfold when, in apparent retaliation, some angry men shot down a passenger jet (admittedly mistakenly) nevertheless taking out everyone on board. I was weak at the knees, finding solace in my sofa as I watched incredulous, and contemplated the impact of these latest developments. And it was about to get so much worse.
Two weeks before we were about to travel, news of a deadly virus in China was beginning to filter onto our news channels. Wait, we were heading in this direction, with a stopover in Singapore which had close links to China where the virus originated. This was the third calamity to hit the holiday. We watched with horror as the World Health Organisation declared the virus a “global problem” and instigated widespread measures to attempt to constrain the spread of a deadly Coronavirus. Our favourite website was red hot as we searched for guidance and information (again) about whether we should travel. Our cases lay empty, no real packing had even begun with this latest development hanging over us. During all of this, quite innocuously my sister mentioned that there had been a plague of locusts in Africa that had devastated crops, described as giant locusts, the like of which had never been seen before. This piece of information began ringing alarm bells, religious teaching suggested fires, floods, plague, locusts and shooting planes down could mean only one thing; the end of the world, imminent annihilation, the apocalypse was coming. Our holiday was doomed.
Never say we are not positive though for despite these threats, the risks mounting on a daily basis, we started to pack the cases, buy the currency, book the driver and buy the guide books. It is called faith. Looking on the bright side we purchased masks to wear when we arrived in Singapore and ensure we were protected from the virus. A little bit of excitement was beginning to take hold the morning the driver arrived to collect us. We threw the bags (well maybe we dragged them-they were quite heavy) into the boot, sat in the sumptuous leather and breathed a sigh of relief we were on our way. Two miles into the journey an accident on the M8 forced us off the motorway and re-routing our journey added a half hour delay. We breathed a sigh of relief as we rejoined the M8 only to hit a second accident at Charing Cross. A further delay here meant we arrived a little late into Glasgow Airport but we managed to drop our bags without fuss and head to the Emirates lounge for the first champagne of the day. That is when the Lion said “ These accidents they usually come in three’s don’t they?…………….”