We stayed in a more upmarket place on our last night, pushing ourselves to reluctantly part with a whole $20. Yikes! Oh how this hurt, but actually, we were tired and weary and with air conditioning, a hot shower, lovely décor and bedding, and a wide screen telly showing movie after movie – we were really quite happy. We headed out for our last meal, and then grabbed some beer and a Bacardi Breezer or two from the 7/11 with some goodies and headed back to the room for a quiet night in. Our flight was at 9pm the following night, so that would give us more or less a whole day to finish our shopping for some little souvenirs to take back home. We had managed to get a deal on some little carved wooden Buddha’s up in Chaing Mai, (more about this later), so there was no pressure just trying to pick up some more odds and ends.
Arriving at the airport, we were really disappointed to hear that our flight had been delayed by 3 hours. The good news was that we would not miss our connecting flight in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as the plane would wait on us arriving. Whatever way we looked at it, we would have to wait 3 hours in one of these airports, so nothing was lost really. The bad news was that we arrived in Colombo at 1.30am local time, and we were horrified to find out the connecting flight had been delayed until 7.45am. A quick calculation made me realise that we were going to miss our pre-booked train from London to Dundee. Disaster! The tickets were non refundable, and this was going to cost us arranging alternative transport at so short notice. Weary and feeling down, we did not feel like sleeping, so propped the bar waiting patiently for the clock to slowly tick away towards boarding time. Soon enough, the flight was called. The flight was awful with screaming kids and constantly crying babies. I will admit that I really got quite agitated and annoyed. Lack of sleep really, and then I thought about these youngsters, the cabin pressures were probably affecting their ears and causing some pain. I really felt for them, but selfishly I was just wishing they would fall asleep so I could get some peace and quiet. We hardly slept a wink, and were absolutely exhausted on arriving at Heathrow.
Checking the internet in the airport, the trains were double the price now, but regardless we would never make it to Kings Cross in time anyhow. The domestic flights were now costing more than our international flights back home, and the Megabus was fully booked. We were stranded, and after much tired, slow debate, we booked a flight for the following morning, deciding to try to get some sleep in the airport. This was actually no problem, and due to being so exhausted, we managed to cram in a good 6 hours or so of broken sleep.
Arriving in Edinburgh, I immediately felt the cold. We bought tickets for the shuttle bus, and Michelle hopped on, while I took advantage of the 5 minutes we had before departure to grab a quick smoke. I had only just lit the cig, when I heard the roar of the bus engine, and turned around in disbelief as the bus tore away – with Michelle on it!
We had no way to contact each other, and all I could do was watch as the bus disappeared in the distance. My mind started working overtime wondering what to do. Almost a year of travelling together without getting lost or separated once ( well actually that’s a wee lie, thinking about last October arriving on Lombok – right Lyndon ? ).
Fortunately, another bus came along in 10 minutes, with WI-FI!!! I pulled out the laptop, emailed Josy in Glasgow, who tried to contact my old phone which Michelle was carrying, but to no avail. My bus stopped at Waverley with no sign of Michelle. I had 15 minutes to find Michelle in order to catch the next train. Phoning home from a phone box, Pat told me Michelle was actually in the station. I sprinted down the road towards the station, spotting Michelle at the last moment, but the time was now 11.14am, so it was too late, we had missed the train. This would mean another delay of at least 3 hours. We were getting close to home, but it seemed like our luck all of a sudden kept leaving, and someone was playing with us.
I thought there was going to be a bit of a squabbling match between us on meeting up, but actually, we had both seen the funny side of this and could only shrug and laugh. I think we were happy enough to be back in the familiar surroundings of Edinburgh, and it already felt like home anyway just back in Scotland. What a mammoth journey home this was turning out to be. We calculated we had been in transit for 54 hours, with roughly 8-10 hours sleep. We would have to wait another 2 hours for the next train.
The mobile phone rang just at that specific point, it was Mike and Mary, and they were coming to collect us and would not take “NO” for an answer. We were “instructed” to go to the nearest pub, sit down, relax and chill.
As we made moves up Cockburn Street and then walked down the Royal Mile, I did a double take as we walked past a little novelty shop. There in the window, was the exact little Buddha’s we had bought in Thailand. The price was 49 pence each. They were about a quarter of the price we had paid in Asia, and we just looked at each other and smiled. Ever get the feeling you’ve been had?
We wearily dropped our now heavy backpacks in the corner, and propped the bar of the infamous “Worlds End Pub”. Feeling relaxed and happy, I waited patiently for my first pint of Guinness in almost a year, to be poured, and slowly allowed to settle. What a wait. This was like a scene from one of my favourite old time films “Ice Cold in Alex” when they eventually get out of the desert, and head straight to the bar, the scene used for a Calsberg advert years ago. As the pint turned from shades of beige and brown to jet black, and the creamy head formed, I took a few seconds to admire and appreciate this perfectly poured pint. All the memories of Asia were running through my head, and the number of times I had thought of this moment. I took a long swig, savouring the smell and taste of the “Ole’ Back Stuff”, and spotted myself in the bar mirror as I wiped the creamy froth from my top lip.
Asia was a million miles away, and so was I, lost in my own thoughts.
With mixed emotions, we were home, but it felt like we had never actually left. Strange being back, but only 2 months and we will be out there again to finish what we started. It will be great to see everyone over the coming weeks.