Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Post Script

Rome Airport: Check in time:
"We are sorry to advise you that your flight from Zurich to Johannesburg tonight has been cancelled. If you go to the Swiss Desk over there, they will help you with information about your accommodation tonight in a Swiss Hotel, and about your connecting flight from Johannesburg to Durban".
Bummer! We were all looking forward to getting home.
Swiss Desk:
"Yes, your flight to Johannesburg has been cancelled and we cannot get you on a flight to Durban until Tuesday. When you arrive in Zurich you must go to the Swiss Desk and they will give you a voucher for a night's stay in the Swiss Hotel as well as a voucher for a meal and a transfer back to the airport in the morning for your flight to Johannesburg."

We do some last minute shopping in the Duty Free "Taste of Italy" shop. When it comes time to board, Marion has her boarding pass but not her ticket. Did she leave it at passport control, or was it lost when she handed over her baording pass at the Duty Free shop?
"Sorry" says the Swiss staff, "No ticket, no boarding". They make Marion stand aside and call an official. It's the same man who spoke to us at the dest downstairs.
After a few tense moments he says.
"Give me E50 and I will sort out your lost ticket".
Marion gives him a E50 note and we are allowed to board.
Is this regular? We don't care. We just want to go home.
We land in Zurich an hour and a half later. After walking around the airport for half an hour we finally find the correct desk, are given vouchers and are transferred to the Swiss Hotel in a large tourist bus. It is now 11pm. Smart hotel, lots of brass and glass, up-market decor, little goodies in the bathroom that I am not tempted to take because I am no longer a pilgrim. Restless sleep. The bed is too big, too soft and I am alone. I miss the sounds of two other pilgrims in the room - the soft snoring from Val and Marion's heavy breathing. The pillows are down and the feathers rustle when I turn.

In the morning we are sitting in the lobby waiting for the bus to take us to the airport.
"Hello Mrs Nilsen" I hear a familiar voice.
It is John - Little John - John the perpetual pilgrim (Camino Frances, Camino Potuguese, Via de la Plata, Camino Norte, Le Puy to Santiago, Via Francigena) who is returning home after walking the old VF route from Naples to Rome with Joe Paterson and others. He has a red nose, watery eyes and is coughing fit to drop. We all board the bus and are soon rushing around the airport doing last minute duty-free shopping.
The day flight is long but not too uncomfortable. I sit next to Val who watches 3 movies in a row. I watch a programme on the Swiss Guards. When they say that Swiss Guards have to learn to be polite and friendly as they deal with lots of people, I think, "Humph! Bull-dust! They are rude and arrogant."
I also watch a documentary on the Montreux Jazz Festival. Wonderful - Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, BB King - groovy!."
We land in Johannesburg after 6pm. Everyone is friendly, smiling, polite and helpful. Our parcel with our sticks does not arrive. Off to the lost baggage desk. They are friendly and helpful. It is so good to be home. A visit to the help desk and we are on a shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn Garden Court. We have to spend another night away from home because they can't get us onto a connecting flight until the morning. Will we ever get home?

The hotel staff are welcoming. We have a meal in the SPUR Steak Ranch. Then bed. I sleep like the dead until 5am. There is something on the TV about bombs and Israel. We haven't watched television for nearly 5 weeks. We have been cut off from world events.
We are welcomed into the breakfast room by smiling staff. It is SO good to be back. South Africa is not considered to be a 1st world country but to us it is better for it. First world often appears arrogant, rude, bored and weary of tourists.
The shuttle takes us back to the airport and we board the 11:10 flight to Durban. It is SO good to see loved ones at the airport but Marion is sad - her mother has taken ill and is in intensive care in the hospital. We give Marion a lift to her place before coming home. Carling, my big, beautiful black Labbie whimpers and mouths me when I open the door. Jenna, our pavement special, whines and jumps trying to get a nose in.
My modest home seems over spacious. Why do we need so many rooms? I pack away my shoes and am bemused by the clothes hanging in my cupboard. Do I really need a dozen T-shirts, shorts, socks, tracksuits?
I sort out the souvenirs and chocolates bought for family and friends. I have got 7 large envelopes which I posted to myself along the way waiting to be opened.
"Tell me all about it," says my husband when we finally sit down to share a cup of coffee.
Where do I start? How can you share something like this journey? Perhaps over the next few weeks I will be able to share more than what has been posted on this blog - more of the personal journey and the private moments.
"I will tell you" I say. "Let me just sit here and enjoy being home. Then I will tell you."

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