There have been many epic journeys: Columbus’ voyage to the New World, Moses’ pilgrimage out of Egypt, Armstrong’s moon landing. Few were as nerve-wracking, time-consuming or rain-soaked as our trip to Corfu in October 2010.
We had decided to book an autumn break to Corfu for some much-needed rest and recuperation. We took off from Manchester on the morning of our departure in fine weather. Unfortunately, that was the last we saw of any fine weather whatsoever for about three days.
As we approached Corfu I looked out of the window to admire the sun-drenched island only to discover that in fact I could see nothing through the blanket (blanket? More like a duvet…) of black cloud beneath us. We circled the airport and descended. We went back up again. And again… After half an hour of circling, descending and taking off in mid-air, we started to travel east. Sure enough, an announcement from the captain advised that the weather was so bad in Corfu that it was impossible to land the plane! We were therefore travelling to Thessaloniki.
For those unfamiliar with Greek geography, Thessaloniki is 230 miles away from Corfu. Perhaps not an obvious choice but options were limited! We parked up on Thessaloniki’s airport apron, which ironically was enjoying some beautiful weather. Two hours later, we were still sat on said airport apron! Then, hark! The cockpit advised that we were heading back to Corfu.
We had enough fuel to fly for an hour. This did nothing to assuage the nerves of some fellow passengers, who by now had already reduced their fingernails to dust. Alas, the apocalyptic rain had not abated; if anything, it had worsened! We repeatedly, unsuccessfully, attempted to land.
Once again, we turned and instead we landed…where? I still have no idea where we were. Neither did the pilots nor crew, who all made a rapid exit to avoid any questions! The ‘terminal’ consisted of one small shed, although there was a stall selling an unappetising array of crusty sandwiches and water which was some relief. The sole person in attendance was a ground-crew man who was experiencing the worst day of his career. “Where are we?” “Where is Corfu?” “What’s happened to our pilots and crew?!”
A fleet of coaches brought some salvation; these would take us to a ferry, which in turn would transport us to Corfu Town. What somebody omitted to tell us was that this journey would take two hours. Not only that, but our driver got lost so we added on another twenty minutes driving in the wrong direction.
We trundled up the Greek coastline, which looked beautiful through the dusk that was beginning to set in. Eventually we rolled into the port. The initial plan was for the coaches to drive onto our ferry and we could then get off. However, none of the coaches could traverse the ramp so off we got and we boarded as foot passengers. By now, the spirit of the Blitz was taking over. Older folks were having difficulty unloading and carrying their bags up the slippery steps in the driving rain so my husband and I, plus others, helped to load everyone on and guide them upstairs.
Our holiday company had arranged for some hot drinks to be provided in the ferry cafe, which was most welcome seeing as we had lasted twelve hours with little to no nourishment. The queue was enormous, the staff overwhelmed and eventually I gave up; I am not blessed with ‘sea legs’ so we sat outside on the deck in the rain, wearing all the waterproof clothes we had and trying to see the funny side as we sailed out.
My relief when we arrived in Corfu was palpable; at least we were on the right land mass. We boarded another coach for an hour’s drive to the resort, and finally a minibus to take us down to the hotel, which was great once we finally, joyfully, made our way into reception at midnight. We polished off some complimentary sandwiches and then collapsed into bed to start our holiday, twelve hours later than planned and facing the reality that Corfu in October was not going to be tropical! It rained for a few days but luckily we were then blessed with some stunning Greek sun, fabulous food and awe-inspiring thunderstorms. After the journey there, taking in two flights, three buses and a ferry, we were determined to enjoy every second!