A small world
24,000 miles, that's the circumference of our planet. It was that size a thousand years ago, and it's the same size today, but it doesn't feel that way! In the last century with the amazing machines we've developed we can now travel round the planet in less than two days! And that's with the stops on the way!
More interestingly is that in that two days you may be in the USA but where's your luggage? Do the airline even know where it is?
All I'll say is that all the stories in the hub are true, and most of them happened to me. There are some lessons to be learned, and I also hope you enjoy the ride!
Flying 'Cargo class'
(1). Always check your ticket!
One of the most amazing trips I ever did was when I was in the Army. It was just after I'd got posted back to the UK from Germany but the squadron I joined was on deployment to the Falklands. I was kept back in the UK on the 'rear party' but a few months after they returned a deployment to East Africa came up and I was in there 'like a shot'
We got our details for travel and I found I was on the advance party for the deployment but there was one slight detail that we weren't told until the last minute.
There's three types of ticket for planes right? Wrong, there are four!
- First class
- Business class
Yep, you read right, Cargo class! We were flying all the way from London to Nairobi in the back of a Cargo plane. Not just any Cargo plane but a Lockheed C130 'Hercules' affectionately known as the 'Hercie bird'
Two days in the cargo bays of a Hercules, but no one told the RAF we were supposed to be two days in the plane, they thought we were only going to be an hour flying to Germany!
You'll only be an hour in the air!
That's what they told us when we were told 'No smoking' in the plane.
"Bloody fast flight then!" was our Sergeant's reply.
"You're only going to Germany!"
"No,We're supposed to be going to Nairobi via Cyprus" was our reply, it's not surprising that the RAF gets this wrong, anyone in the Military expects this kind of thing.
"Shit" was the reply, you could tell he was thinking "We loaded the wrong damn plane!" Turning to the man airman standing next to him he gave a quiet order "unload that plane and load the other one, Quick as you can man!"
To us they simply said "No problem, shouldn't delay your departure"
It was only when we took off and the Pilot told us that the original flight plan had been a stopoff in Germany that we realized what was coming next. The second Herc suddenly discovered that they had cargo on for Germany and had to divert, we didn't make Cyprus but stopped off in Irakiolon in Crete as the second Herc was four hours late getting there because of the diversion. I still wonder how the poor RAF people loading the planes got out of this!
Our start point. Brize Norton has huge runways and is actually the Emergency runway for Heathrow. It's also the main logistics airbase for the RAF
Our stopover. eight hours from Brize
Twelve hours from Irakiolon. Two days in the back of Hercules. travel in style!!!
(2). Whatever customs says. Do it!
This story actually took place before the first, but it's better putting it here as it fits better here so that things are in order when you travel.
During the eighties we still had soldiers deployed in Northern Ireland patrolling the streets and keeping an eye on the IRA. We'd just done a four month posting there providing Helicopter support to the forces there. We were rotating out.
As with every Airport the RAF base at Aldergrove in Belfast had a departures area. You can't really call it a lounge as it was just a huge hangar. Marching into the hangar we noticed that the main thing you saw was a huge forty five gallon drum painted black and labelled 'SIN BIN'
When you see that label it immediately paints pictures in the mind, but the people handling the flight didn't let that happen.
"The bin's for anything you shouldn't have!" was the explanation. "Put it in there and nothing will be said"
Did you know that the Irish make a whiskey that's actually illegal!! I didn't, not up to that point. The Whiskey is made from Potatoes and is called poitin. I'm not sure whether it would be what they call 'Moonshine' in the states but it's up there and pure 'Rocket fuel'
"Put your contraband in the bin and nothing will be said" a simple instruction right? "Don't do what the last lot did!" was the next part of the instruction.
Apparently some enterprising young soldier had got a bottle of the poitin. in his bag but was a bit too embarrassed to put it in the bin, so he went to the toilet and poured it down the urinal.
The next guy to walk to take a leak was smoking, he did his business and threw the cigarette but in the next urinal, the one that had the poitin poured into it.
You remember I said that it was pure rocket fuel right? You guessed it, an almighty explosion, when the debris cleared there was the urinal, blown clean off the wall!!! Always follow what the customs tell you. The consequences of not doing so can be interesting!
Anyone for a trip in one of these?
These Babies are HUGE!!
I have to admit the Humble C130 is a lot smaller, but also a lot more versatile. Built for short (or no) runways the C130 can go where most other planes dream of going. The Israelis used a C130 to get their paratroopers down to Entebbe in Uganda in the 1970s to take out a bunch of PLO and rescue a planeload of hostages.
(3). Get your visa beforehand!
Imagine arriving at a border crossing in the dead of night. Fifty tired travelers on a bus, most of whom you've never met and don't speak your language, you speak theirs but it's not the same. You give your passport to the passport control officer who comes on the bus who then disappears to process them.
Ten minutes later he's back with one question, "Where's the Englishman?" There's only one of those on the bus and it's you! forty nine sets of eyes turn in your direction with one question in each face "What have YOU done?"
Yep. it happened to me. I'd been studying Arabic in Egypt for a year (I was working with a Missionary organization at the time) and had the chance to do a bit of traveling. It was 1992 and two of my teammates had been in Iraq just after Desert Storm so it was time to go back and see what was going on! Our team leader had been asked to speak at a conference in Korea and thought it would be great for us to do the trip to Iraq.
The plan was fly to Jordan from Cairo and travel overland from there through Syria, Turkey and into Iraq from Southeast Turkey. Sounds simple right? and there were only two of us making the trip.
The travel from Jordan to Syria had gone according to plan and we'd both been to Syria before so everything was going smoothly. In Aleppo we boarded the bus for the border and it was full of Egyptians, we felt at home, after all we spoke Arabic with Egyptian accents and the Egyptians loved the idea of two westerners speaking their lingo!
We got to the border about 2am as I said the passports were collected and taken to be stamped when the next part transpired.
On marched the Police, questioned me and said gruffly "Come with me" They took my mate off as well as he was Swedish.
Turkey was trying to join the European Union at the time (actually it's been trying since the late 1960s but the main opponent to their membership was Britain so they were getting their own back.
You have to remember that in these cultures if you insult their country or "run it down" everyone takes it personally, they can't help it!! It's part of being Turkish, or Kurdish, or Arab and Britain had insulted Turkish pride so any Brits coming their way was going to pay!!!
The way they wanted to get their revenge was simple, anyone entering Turkey has to buy a visa at the border, but anyone coming from E.U. Countries has to buy using the currency of their home country, the problem was I hadn't been to the UK for over a year and didn't have any! So I was going nowhere! My teammate was in an even worse situation as he was Swedish (grew up in Sweden) but was traveling on an austrian passport (have you ever tried to get Austrian Schillings!!!) We had $US and we had German Deutschmarks but no British pounds!!
Three hours later the Turks were not moving on the situation when the bus had to leave. So we were stranded (or so they thought) eventually we agreed to pay $10 US and 50 Deutschmarks but that wasn't the end.
We got our revenge on the return trip. Having spent ten days traveling all over Northern Iraq (and me building a dozen toilet doors in a village on the Iranian border (as well as negotiating with the locals not to sell their bulldozer for food) we came back over the border to confront the same situation in Turkey, this time though we crossed in daylight and decided to get our own back, we staged a sit in at the office.
They were surprised and asked us if we were going to pay up, "No" was the relpy.
"What are you going to do then?" they asked
"Stay here until you give the visa" was our reply as we drank their tea (they were always polite that way)
"But you need to pay the pounds"
"And we haven't got them! so we'll just stay here until you accept the $US"
This time we got talking to the big boss there and found that he had a brother who was a cabbie in London. We eventually got the visa by telling the Big boss about London and promising that if ever he visited he'd be welcome at home!
So the lesson here is always make sure you've got the right visas, and if you can't do that make sure you've got something from home that you can part with, you'll be amazed at how many barriers it brings down.
I'm going to Tashkent, but my luggage is going somewhere else!
Actually this was my Boss with the Mission agency did this. I'm not sure it would work today but then again it shouldn't have worked then either.
Stockholm Airport and my Boss was flying to Tashkent in Uzbekistan (about five years after the breakup of the Soviet Union). He approached the check-in desk, " for SAS (Scandinavian Air Services the Scandinavian airline) and the following conversation took place
"I'm going to Tashkent" he said "But I'd like this bag to go to London" he said holding up a bag with his left arm "And this one to Leningrad (now St Petersberg)"
A look of horror registered on the young attendant's face "Sir" she spluttered, "We can't do that!!"
"Why not?" he replied, "You did last time!"
Needless to say they didn't lose the luggage that time. But then he dropped what he really wanted. "When I return I might be a little overweight in my luggage!" he explained a little apologetically.
"No problem sir" the attendant was still worried about the lost luggage he'd mentioned "We'll take care of it, no charge!"
When he presented the 'extra luggage' that's when they found out it was a carved wooden bench weighing around 150lbs (hand carved) which they actually honored the agreement to transport it at no cost.
Mind you anyone willing to pull a stunt like that deserves the reward!
Have you got any interesting travel stories?
Turkey's amazing really
Did you know?
The largest Church ever built is in Turkey! The Hagia Sophia is the biggest church ever built! It was built in the sixth century and served as a church until the Ottomans took over Constantinople in 1452 when it was converted into a Mosque until 1931 when it was converted into a Museum. It's still the largest church ever built
There is so much to see in our world. but sometimes getting there to see the things can be half the fun, the chief thing to remember is to relax and literally "Enjoy the ride"
Just a few things that have happened to me
I really hope that these stories haven't put you off travel, it's a lot of fun especially when you're ready to relax and enjoy the ride. Have you got any 'funny travel stories?'
If you enjoyed the hub then leave a comment below, especially if you've got stories