As octogenarians (sounds so much better than old) and with a bad heart and knees, they elected to travel ‘assisted passage’. What a marvellous way to travel! As the ‘accompanied by’ part of the deal, I had laps to put the luggage on, preferred boarding, no queuing and no looking for the right place to be at the right time. It certainly took a lot of the stress out of travelling through huge international airports. Best of all was the ride on the golf cart through the vast concourse at Dubai, gliding like royalty through the throng of tired-looking tourists lugging luggage for miles. We would never have made it on foot.
We flew Emirates and got ourselves to Cape Town International well ahead of time, just to be safe. At the check-in counter, two wheelchairs arrived within minutes and Mom and Dad were safely deposited and wheeled away to the departure lounge with me trailing behind. At that stage they felt slightly guilty about not actually being wheelchair-bound and it did seem odd when they got up and walked to the seats at the window to await our flight. But it didn’t take long for them to appreciate the distinct advantages once the actual journey began and they could see how difficult it would have been for them to cover the distances at each airport.
The flight was to depart at 6.00pm and I anxiously scanned the runway, looking for the Emirates livery. The plane eventually arrived at 4.15pm – just time for a quick vacuum, load up the food and refuel at F1 pitstop speed before herding the passengers on at 5.45.
We had chosen seats at the back of the plane – legend has it that survivors are found in that section! However, we were the last to get food, so that should be taken into consideration if we ever do this again. Despite it being traditional to complain about airline food, it was eagerly awaited, probably as a means of relieving the boredom. I took the safe route with the “chicken or beef?” and chose chicken. It was surprisingly so spicy that it made my eyes water, even though I am used to strong curries. I hate to think what it did to those with delicate digestions. The meal consisted of: seafood cocktail, chicken and veg, apple crumble and custard, roll and cheese, chocolate, coffee. Who eats that amount of food, particularly when not getting any exercise?
The plane was very cold and the noise of the engines created a background hum so loud that it was difficult to hear the movie soundtrack. However, we could hardly ask for them to be turned off. All around us, people were slumped like sacks in their seats oin various uncomfortable looking states of sleep. I dozed until we were nearly in Dubai and were served breakfast at what must have been 3am back home.
The wheelchairs were waiting at the door of the plane in Dubai and, with parents safely stowed, I trailed behind them until we reached the main concourse, where we were transferred to a golf cart and transported like royalty to a holding area where all the other assisted passengers waited for the connecting flight to Madrid.
I grabbed the opportunity to go into the relatively quiet Ladies room in the holding area, where I quickly washed my hair under the tap of the capacious basin – I just cannot start a day without washing my hair, especially after a plane journey which imparts enough electricity to power a laptop if I plugged it into my ear (or so it appears when I try to comb my hair).
Looking one hundred percent more respectable, I escaped up the escalator and roamed the mall, which was crowded as Christmas Eve in Picadilly, except that everyone was toting luggage. I was unable to buy a thing, as no one had thought to impart that the UAE dollar was the only currency you could use – couldn’t even buy a cup of coffee.
Soon we were loaded back onto the golf cart and transported for what seemed an eternity to Gate 222 at the end of the airport building. We would never have made it on foot. First onto plane – another plus. Although our seats were pre-booked, we were put in the middle without a window and I was unfortunate enough to have a young man next to me who kept falling asleep on my shoulder. He also had a bottle of wine with his breakfast and another with his lunch although from his attire I would have thought his religion forbade alcohol. Perhaps he doesn’t practice it in the air.
So much food again! I couldn’t finish the third meal in twelve hours with no exercise. I followed our flight on the underplane camera with some trepidation as we flew over Baghdad and skirted Syria, which must have added a while to our flight time, but better safe than sorry. I am fascinated by aerial photographs and thoroughly enjoyed the interesting landscape as we passed over the Mediterranean, identifying Greece and Italy on the way. And so, seven hours after leaving Dubai, we approached Madrid. Our first visit to Spain!
We took off at 6.10pm on a beautiful day and spent the next 9 hours winging our way to Dubai. Very smooth flight – never been on a flight so easy before. Food varied and plentiful but very spicy. No sleeping during the night and at 3.30am our time, we disembarked. The wheelchairs were waiting for us and all was plain sailing and efficient. What a huge airport! We were taken to a holding area and waited there until we were fetched at 6.50am and went by golf cart to Gate 222 – a long way. Got onto a smaller plane ready for our flight to Madrid that took 7 hours. Very cramped, but otherwise very smooth flight.