Back in the UK once more
Unfortunately, no business class, as the plane was chockers. Oh well!
So we landed at Heathrow, eventually, after being in a holding pattern for a while, and began the walk to Immigration. Now, I'm probably gonna be called "picky" but I just can't fathom it, and neither could another passenger, an Aussie, as it happens who was complaining to/with me. The Immigration arrivals hall is quite large, with many, many counters, so why are "Other Passports" and "Fast Track (Business class & Crew)" crammed into about a third of the area, while the UK/EU Passports area takes up the remainder? There must have been over 300 people shuffling through the many twisting snakes of queues in "Other Passports" with only 3 or 4 counters staffed, yet there were only about 35-40 people and 3 counters operating in all of the UK/EU area!!! How stupid! What a great introduction to British efficiency - NOT!!
An hour after landing, I finally reached the front and got stamped in. Off to the luggage collection area. Nope, my bag wasn't there! Sheeeeesh! Off to the Enquiries counter, filled in a Lost Baggage form. The guy assisting me went for a wander back to the baggage carousel.
Another young guy fronts up, looks at my form carefully and says: "You know what? This is the very first time I've seen a form completely and correctly filled in."
"Well, I used to work for the Australian Government, so I know how to fill forms in" I replied. Strike one up for me!
Back comes the original guy, carrying something in a plastic bag. Yep, it's my bag, although he could not explain why it was wrapped. All sorted, it was off to find a cafe, settle in and jump on the net, trying to find a hotel for the night. Now, in Australia, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are the easiest and cheapest for accommodation and other services. Not so in UK, apparently, as almost everything decent within about 10 miles of the airport was FULL, except for a couple of the GBP500-600 per night range of hotels. Eventually, I had to settle for a Days Inn, at 100 quid!!!!! And it was pretty awful, anyway, as the room stunk of cigarettes, although it was supposed to be non-smoking. So later I actually complete their emailed survey/questionnaire, and vented my disgust! But it was a bed for the night. And the taxi from the airport had cost me 24 quid, to go about 4.5 miles! Daylight robbery.
Thinking to save a few quid, next morning I walked along to the underground station, where the station policeman overheard me asking about trains to the airport, and kindly suggested I go across the road to the private taxi depot, as they were much cheaper than the airport taxis, as I needed to go to the shippers, out past the airport. Yes, quoted 18 quid to the shippers, so off we went.
Finally got to see the bike, and went over it with a fine tooth comb, finding that an expensive pump bottle of screen cleaner was missing, and that the lock to lock the topbox on to the bike was missing! Funny that - were they trying to work out how to crack the locks on the lids, and broke it, perhaps????????? Of course, when I mentioned the lock being missing, it was brushed aside. Typical.
Pulled my gear on, and rode away to the nearest servo I could find to get some fuel, which was over the road from Heathrow, as it happened. I'd preloaded the African maps into the GPS when I dropped the bike off two weeks ago, so had to work from instinct to get anywhere. But I knew where the Maccas were, so went there. Checked email etc and reloaded a few British maps, enough to get me around the Heathrow area.
Finding another shipper was interesting. I would have preferred going straight through an airline, as I do with Qantas. But the airlines I approached shoofed me off to agents. Standing in the queue waiting to speak to the Emirates agent, a truckie overheard me mentioning bike transport, and gave me his company's card as he recommended them for shipping bikes and cars, so I eventually ended up there.
Long story short, they agreed to ship it, so I sourced a BMW crate. Nothing could be done till Monday, so I went back to Rob and Stacey's in Wolverhampton for the weekend. Then back down to the shippers near Heathrow yesterday. Bugger! The bike is too long for the BMW crate!! Yaaaaark! Couldn't source a longer one anywhere, so Ian, the manager, said they'd make one for me, at a cost, of course. Oh well, it had to be done. The bike was wrapped in plastic for security testing overnight, which it passed, of course.
Ian dropped me off last evening at a guest house close by, then picked me up again this morning. We slightly dismantled some of the bike - the mirrors, the GPS bracket and removed the windscreen, to make it lower overall. Fixed all the paperwork, paid the money, then they gave me a lift to the airport.
So here I am, sitting at Heathrow again, awaiting my Emirates flight to Nairobi, Kenya, via Dubai. I wonder if I'll get Business Class again???
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