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Jun 12 2015

Not the start I anticipated

I stood forlornly gazing at the lone burgundy wheelie bag circling in front of me on the otherwise empty baggage carousel. A bag that unfortunately wasn’t mine.

Sigh.

Not exactly the start I had anticipated to our Namibian adventure.

Sigh.

Last time my bags were lost, it took the airline 5 days to reunite me and my precious belongings. The holiday was only a week long.

Grrr.

The handling agent couldn’t have been more disinterested. He wouldn’t even start opening a ‘lost bag’ file until the carousel had stopped moving. As if my bag was just playing hide and seek beyond view and any minute it would appear with a monumentous “ta da” and burst of fanfare.

“Did I have a local contact phone number?” Well, let me see. I have just stepped off the plane, not even entered the country, and I am a tourist, hmmm …

“Where are we staying tonight?”

My frustration mounted. “Well, that all depends on how quickly you get my bag to me” I blurted. “But I suppose we won’t be leaving the city to start our holiday!”

Extracting information from him was akin to drawing blood from stone: no, he didn’t know where my bag was; no, he couldn’t get hold of anyone in Johannesburg (despite a feeble attempt); yes, they would refund the cost of replacing lost items – to the sum of US$30 per day!

I was livid. I was tired after 3 flights and not nearly enough sleep. I was grumpy from eating too much airline food. Standing in my summer clothes (the journey started in the Middle East) the challenge of kitting myself out to camp in African winter on US$30 was becoming obvious. My intial solution was to spend it all on hard liquor which would, no doubt, keep the cold at bay.

Viking Explorer – sensing my increasing desperation – gently pushed me aside. He asked a few pertinent questions, no doubt ones that would actually reunite my with my bag, and took the pile of paperwork thrust at us. Giving me a big hug, he steered me through customs to meet Lester. “Come” he said. “Let’s get moving. It’ll get sorted.”

By this stage I had calmed down to a panic.That is what travelling is all about! Just deal with it! And as we learned on our big trip, helpful people do appear when you need them.

Lester drove us to pick up our rental car. While Viking Explorer was given the grand tour and how-to’s about our camping kitted Toyota Hilux, the car rental company parked me in front of their office phone so I could locate my bag and arrange for it to join us on our holiday. They reassured me that they often have guest arriving without bags and the baggage agents are actually well practised – even efficient! – at reunited bags and passengers.

Bernadette at at the airline’s Customer Service was far more caring and concerned than the baggage agent had been. Over the course of the afternoon, she managed to get hold of the right guy in Johanessburg, find my bag, arrange for it to be loaded on the next flight to Windhoek, and arrange for it to be delivered to our accommodation.

In the meantime, the car rental company found somewhere in Windhoek for us to stay for the night, booked our accommodation and given us directions to get there. They also added a sleeping bag and pillow for me into the vehicle in case I needed it.

We arrived at the guest house in the pitch black and rapidly dropping temperatures. Thank goodness we were staying indoors. I just wanted food, my bag, a hot shower and bed. We must have looked exhausted standing in reception. Our hostess dispatched us immediately to a local restaurant for dinner, promising that she would take care of my bag when it arrived.

A large glass of wine and huge piece of steak later…

… I found myself tucked up in bed in my own PJs, warm and clean.

TOP TIPS:

1. Always carry a clean change of undies and socks in your carry on bag. You never know when you’ll need them!

2. An item or two of your own clothing in your travel companion’s bag is useful.

3. Place a sheet of paper inside the top of your checked in bag which has your name and contact details on it. That way, if all your tags are ripped off the outside of your bag, there is still a way for someone to identify who the bag belongs to. (This tip was given to me years ago by airport baggage handlers)

4. Helpful people are always around. Just keep your eyes open and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

5. A glass of wine and piece of steak after 24 hours of travelling make the world a happier place.


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