Delays on the Road: The Side of Travel You Rarely Hear About

It’s not the destination but the journey that counts, they say.

Those words are not very comforting when a trip (the part where one is travelling to a destination) is disrupted by unexpected events. I seem to be copping more of them as the years go by. I hope my luck changes for the better, because most of the delays didn’t make for great stories.

The 7 times I faced delays

2009: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I had a layover in Schiphol airport on the way home from Warsaw, one that was just enough to cover all the sights in the terminals but too short to make a trip to the city worthwhile. I was at the gate well before departure time approached, but there was no sign of the flight crew anywhere. In the end, we waited an extra hour to board the flight.

2011: Fairlie, New Zealand

On the way back to Christchurch from Mount Cook, everyone heard a strange noise coming from under the floorboards of the coach. Thud-thud-thud it went, and the frequency changed with the vehicle’s speed. The driver pulled over to check – one of the tyres had delaminated. Chunks of tread were flailing around and smacking the undercarriage.

We limped to Fairlie to wait for a mechanic, enjoying the fish and chips and, uh, the sight of the statue of James McKenzie. This was before Crossfit enthusiasts made tyre changes a thing.

Tyre delays
I kept a piece of the tyre as a souvenir.

2013: Nida, Lithuania

This was a comedy of errors that deserved its own post. The entire incident can be read in full at The Long Way to Nida.

2013: Melbourne, Australia

Nikki and I had a stopover in Melbourne on the way to Auckland to start our working holiday. We waited more than two hours before our plane showed up. There wasn’t more we could do other than hang out at the Hungry Jack’s.

2014: Hobart, Australia

With the Tasmanian road trip done and dusted, I got to Hobart Airport punctually. There was no sign of our plane on the tarmac… or even the plane that was supposed to use the spot before ours. It turned out that all the flights were delayed by high winds on the Bass Strait between Tassie and the mainland. The planes eventually arrived though and we took off two hours later.

Virgin Australia
I liked the old Virgin Blue livery

Hailstorms caused some inconveniences as well when I had four wheels.

2015: Malacca, Malaysia

Not much happened on the way to Malacca from Singapore, but that was because we waited five hours to clear Malaysian immigration. It would normally take less than one hour, but it was not a normal day. Way too many people were leaving Singapore for the extra-long weekend.

We were stuck in another traffic jam on the way home, and it might have proved one too many for the coach. When the driver tried to move off on a ramp, there was plenty of engine noise but started rolling backwards. My first thought was, ‘I hope we don’t get stuck here.’ It was probably more frightening for those in the vehicles behind us!

We managed to get going after a lot of revving, but the slipping clutch meant that we had to abandon ship at the checkpoint. All of us boarded the public bus to complete our journey. So much for a relaxing weekend – I’d never been happier to be home than I was that day.

2015: Jakarta

When the Rinjani volcano erupted in November 2015, I thought I’d dodged a bullet by going to Yogyakarta instead of Bali. It turned out that, by flying AirAsia, I was also affected. That was the trip I learnt how hard budget carriers worked their planes.

My outbound flight to Jogja was delayed by two hours because the plane had to wait that long in Bali for the ash to clear up before it could fly to Singapore. It was only surpassed by my flight home from Jakarta, while was delayed by five hours for the same reason. The ennui was immense as there was no telling when the plane would be available.

I reached home at 2 a.m. and had absolutely no energy for work later that morning. More frustratingly, the delay was just short of the amount I needed to claim insurance.

All said and done, I managed to reach my destinations in the end, and I’m indeed privileged to be able to fly like this.

Even though I did not get to claim insurance payouts from any of them, it’s still worth buying. And that’s the last word.