Portraits on the road

How we made it to our flight thanks to amazing help

posted by Kate March 28, 2019 0 comments

Smartly packed, well rested and full of excitement we were ready for our first cycling adventure in Morocco: a land full of mystery, Arabic and Berber culture, heavenly food and marvelous scenery. Summer clothes, sunscreen, a water filter, a map, and our beloved tent were just a few of the items we packed. It seemed that nothing could go wrong, but oh how wrong we were.

Packing for the trip

Cycling to the airport harder than expected

As neither of us had ever been in Morocco, we were very excited to visit a new land, a new continent and of course just being back in the saddle made our hearts race.  After being caught up in excitement we decided that there is no better way to start this vacation than by cycling to the airport. The distance between our house and the Schiphol airport is 60 km and we thought it would be a great warm up for our upcoming trip. Little did we know that we would face a great challenge even before reaching Morocco.

In our almost 7 years of travel experience, we have never missed a flight and up till now planning seemed to be our strong side.  We left our house with a minor delay and our estimated arrival time was an hour before we had to check in our bikes and luggage. Not bad, right? It should be more than enough time to pack our bikes according to the airline restrictions and hand in our luggage.  However, after cycling the first few kilometers, I realized that due to my shoulder injury my condition was less good than I imagined. We were also facing unexpected headwind and the combination affected our schedule.

Cycling to Schiphol airport

The train would get us to the airport on time

We discussed our options shortly and decided take the closest train to the airport. We checked the live train schedule and everything seemed to be in order. It was the safest option, we agreed. But by the time we got to the train station in Leiden there was a power outage and there were no trains going in the coming hours. What a slap in the face. Now we had to cycle from Leiden to the Airport – which was a much bigger distance than our original route. This would take us at least an hour and a half more, while we had an hour left to check in our luggage. We were shattered. What can you do in a situation like this? No guide book prepares you for this. There were no other public transport options for us and our fully loaded touring bikes. And taxis wouldn’t help us because they had plenty of easier customers. So what now?

When nothing goes right, go left

With no time left to waste, we decided to race, but it already seemed that this adventure might end before really starting. Being the weakest in the team, I suggested that Tim should race alone, so he would increase his chances to make it to the plane. But as a really loving boyfriend and trustworthy teammate, he just simply answered “All for one and one for all”, leaving me without any other choice than figuring out how to make this mission impossible work.

Crazy idea

While I was crying I said: “Look, it sounds a bit crazy, but what if we ask someone with a van to take us to the airport!?” Tim looked at me with raised eyebrows and said that would never succeed, but having nothing to lose, he would give it a try. While we were reaching the outskirts of Leiden we spotted a big white van. With our last particle of hope, we were facing the next challenge: how do we find the owner of this vehicle?

Asking for the seemingly impossible help

The van was parked close to the construction site of a new neighborhood. While I was waiting with our loaded bikes, Tim entered the site hoping to find the owner of the van. After asking around, a worker pointed to the last building in the row. Without time to spill, Tim ran to the half-finished house.

He found a plasterer at work, walked up to him and asked “Hello sir, are you the owner of the white van parked outside?” The plasterer said yes while continuing his job. Tim continued, “sir, we are having a kind of emergency situation. There is a power outage in the train station and there are no trains going to Schiphol airport. My girlfriend and I are with touring bikes and there is no way we can get to the airport on time. Taxis won’t take us either. We will miss our flight unless someone with a van would help us out. Could you please bring us to the airport? Of course we’ll compensate you for the ride”.  The plasterer replied “Hmm, that sounds interesting, so how much are you willing to pay?” Tim said “I think I’ve got 50 euros, would that suffice?” The plasterer kept working on his wall and didn’t respond. At that point Tim thought he was insane for asking a plasterer to stop his work and bring two crazy bicycle tourists to the airport. Of course he wouldn’t. Who would? But after these few seconds of despairing silence, the plasterer put his hawk board down and said, “Okay, so what are we waiting for? Let’s go. We have a flight to catch”.

Our hero Jeroen

Luck turned to our side

Together with Jeroen (the plasterer) we loaded our bikes and bags in the van and off we went towards the airport. We still couldn’t believe this was actually happening. We were having great conversation with Jeroen and it turned out we shared a passion for bicycle touring. What are the odds! We arrived at the airport at 13.50 and the luggage check in was closing at 14.00. In a hurry we grabbed our stuff, thanked Jeroen graciously and I took the money out of my wallet, but Jeroen only grabbed the smallest bill from my hand and said with a smile: “Have fun kids!”. We were overwhelmed, grateful and happy. We made one last selfie, so that Jeroen would have proof to show to his wife that this crazy event had happened. We waved our last goodbye and rushed to the check-in desk. Luckily the ladies from Transavia were also very helpful. In almost no time we prepared our bikes for the flight, packed our panniers and were ready to go. A minute before two, we handed in our luggage and with a smile from ear to ear we went to security.

A lesson learnt from this experience is:

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles”. Wayne Dye

If you want to read more about Morocco, click here.

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