independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Aussie floods, Christchurch quake and Japan disaster - the honeymoon from hell

When Stefan and Erika Svanstrom set off with their baby daughter on what was to be their holiday of a lifetime last December, they were hoping for balmy sun-drenched beaches and the enriching experience of different cultures on the other side of the world.

The couple, from Stockholm, had only been married in November, and their four-month trip to Australia, New Zealand, South-east Asia, Japan and China was their honeymoon.

But as Ms Svanstrom, 32, put it yesterday: "Our holiday turned out to be a bit more than we bargained for." Swedes are renowned for their cool, unexaggerated style. Ms Svanstrom and her 38-year-old husband are obviously no exception. They, along with their baby daughter, Elinor, found themselves living through some of the most devastating natural disasters the earth has experienced in over a century.

Their honeymoon from hell started with a connecting flight from Stockholm to the Bavarian capital, Munich.

The Svanstroms immediately ran into a violent blizzard which the German media dubbed "the storm of the century" and they ended up stranded at the airport while they waited for the weather to subside. "We thought things will get better," Ms Svanstrom told the Swedish newspaper Expressen. "We thought we are in love and told each other: just think of the beaches we are heading for in South-east Asia."

Unfortunately for the Svanstroms, things got progressively worse. Almost as soon as they arrived in Indonesia on the island of Bali, their hoped-for sunshine was blotted out by torrential monsoon rains. In January, the family decided to cut its losses and head off to Western Australia's capital, Perth. But that city was struck by fierce bush fires hours after they touched down. Holiday snapshots taken by the family and posted on Swedish media websites yesterday showed Ms Svanstrom wheeling her daughter Elinor in a pram in what appeared to be a suburb of Perth, where she seemed about to be engulfed by a cloud of bush-fire smoke.

The Svanstroms escaped to Queensland, but things got even worse. After they arrived in the city of Cairns they were hit by Cyclone Yasi, one of the worst ever experienced in the state.

"We escaped by the skin of our teeth," Ms Svanstrom said. "Trees were being knocked over and big branches were scattered all over the streets."

She recalled how the three of them were evacuated to a shopping centre where they were forced to spend 24 hours seeking shelter on a concrete floor along with 2,500 other people who had fled the cyclone. In Brisbane, the Svanstroms saw some of the worst flooding the city has ever experienced. Their disaster tour took the unwitting family on to Christchurch, New Zealand.

They arrived hours after the city was hit by February's 6.3 magnitude earthquake. "The whole town was a war zone, we couldn't visit the city as it was declared off-limits," Ms Svanstrom said. At this point her mother, now somewhat concerned, called her.

Their horror holiday was crowned in Japan, where two days after their arrival they lived through the devastating earthquake on 11 March and subsequent tsunami which struck the Fukushima nuclear-power plant, raising fears of a meltdown.

"The trembling was horrible and we saw roof tiles fly off the buildings," Mr Svanstrom told Expressen.

The family arrived back in Stockholm on 29 March after finally enjoying some peace at their last destination in China. "I could only laugh," Ms Svanstrom said. "Marriages have to endure some trials, but I think we have been through most of them."

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