Sunday, 17 October 2010

Getting lost and loving it: The tale of the 504 coach

I wasn't planning to get lost - not that most people do - and I certainly didn't have the time or energy to derail in the slightest bit on my trip home from North Cyprus. Yet I did, loved it and would repeat the experience.

Here's what happened

There I was having landed at Stansted Airport, exhausted, famished (honestly the food they serve in KTHY) and mildly pissed off - you see this beautiful Cypriot baby that I spent the entire flight smiling and making faces at threw a massive tantrum towards the end of the journey and in the process made his mother pour the entire contents of his feeding bottle on me. Poor woman, she apologised profusely, she even followed me up to the customs queue, to tell me how sorry she was. I just nodded gingerly and gave a weak smile and told her it was fine. Of course it wasn't, my clothes were ruined, although admittedly it wasn't her or baby that I was angry at, it was my mum who up to that moment had not picked her phone.

So, feeling the way I did, I decided that I needed to get home ASAP. There was not point in resting at the airport or even getting something to eat, I could do that at a service stop, and finally at home. With my mum not picking her phone, I went to one of those flashy-and-inviting-but-really-expensive airport internet places and fished a £1 coin ready to go online with the intention of booking a last minute coach ticket. Destination: Penryn. Nationa Express coach route: London - Penzance. I had taken this route numerous times before, I could do it in my sleep...Number 500, book ticket, confirm, print...Go! What I did not do on this particular day was check. Properly. Being so knackered I just saw London - Penzance, number 50..., and click! I booked and paid for it. Checked to receive a mobile confirmation and off I went outside the airport to wait for the coach while trying to call my mother, again unsuccessfully.

I didn't bother with the confirmation text. I just saw that it was from national express and blissfully ignored the rest. My ticket was here, that was the confirmation that I had paid for it and that was that. When the coach arrived, I nonchalantly scrolled the message for the driver to read and my journey began. It was all smooth sailing until we got to Plymouth and I woke up from a deep slumber to catch the last words of the driver instructing those passengers going to Truro to get off the bus and get on the one next to us. I thought...Truro, hmm, that's my usual route. After Truro, it would be Penryn and I'd be home, but why would they want to get off? Surely this goes there too? Being in an overall lethargic mood, I decided to ignore it. It must pass through Penryn, it's the 500, I assured myself.

How wrong was I.

I woke up when the coach was making a stop at St Columb Major and came to the startling realisation that the coach was going nowhere near Penryn and it certainly wasn't the 500. I sat up and panicked a little. I could get off if I wanted and take the train home but it was starting to get dark and I didn't know the area well at all. I could also stay the night in a cheap B and B if I wanted, but I didn't - neither did I have the money - I had travelled with my credit card, which was by now blocked because my bank thought someone was using it fraudulently in Cyprus, hence the frantic calls to my mum. So there I was, it was growing dark outside and I was far from home as could be, and about to be even far from home if the coach left.

What to do? What to do? Nothing. I decided. I was going to go all the way to Penzance and decided from there. I had been to Penzance before, but not in the town centre and certainly not where the coaches stopped. In short, I didn't know Penzance very well too, but I ignored this fact. I decided I wanted to get lost. I wanted to be stranded. I wanted to look like an awkward tourist lugging her bags with her.

I fell back on my seat and off the coach went. At least I would enjoy the scenic North Coast.

Next: Getting lost and loving it: Penzance by night, The clubbers and The British Transport Police

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