Iceland volcano: stranded in paradise
Journalist Oliver Smith, stranded in a luxury resort in The Gambia, is reaping the benefits of a fully protected package holiday.
I, like tens of thousands of other Britons, am stranded overseas with little idea of when I might return home, thanks to volcanic activity thousands of miles away. But far from feeling anger, frustration and helplessness – I simply cannot believe my good fortune.
While horror stories continue to surface of epic overland journeys and airport slumber parties – plundering the reserves of both travellers' resolve and holidaymakers' bank balances – I remain reclined on a sun lounger in a West African paradise, and all at the expense of my tour operator.
If ever an advertisement was needed for the fully protected package holiday, surely this is it. From my sunny haven, the alternative route home for an independent traveller, or for one whose holiday company refuses to cough up compensation, would be ghastly.
I am in The Gambia, Africa’s smallest country, whose tiny, solitary international airport serves just a handful of destinations. As things currently stand, to get home I would be forced to take a 40-minute flight to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, followed by a four-and-a-half -hour flight to Madrid, from where I would be required to continue my journey by train, and/or bus and boat. Judging by the hectic scenes at train stations and ferry terminals across Europe, this schlep could take several days and would cost as much as £1,500 (€1,700).
The situation appears to be improving. Eruptions have eased and European airports are starting to open, much to the delight of those travellers far less fortunate than myself. But for me, and the majority of others at my beachside resort, we tune into BBC World News each morning selfishly hoping to hear of further disruption and volcanic activity.
The backlog of flights could still force us to stay here for several days after UK airspace re-opens – and should our tour operator’s patience wear thin, we may have to contemplate the aforementioned odyssey. But as long as our airlines and tour operators continue to pick up the tab for meals and accommodation (and our employers remain understanding), we couldn’t be happier.