Four days earlier, on April 14th, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (easy for you to say), entered a second phase of its eruption, and created an ash cloud that spread over much of Europe. It was believed that chemicals in the ash clouds from volcanoes could damage aircraft engines and for this reason, air traffic over much of Europe was disrupted for the next several days. Most flights into and out of Europe were cancelled and travellers were stranded at airports all over the world. It was thought to be the highest level of air traffic disruption since the Second World War.
Airports began to open again by April 20th, and we were relieved because our daughter Adia was scheduled to fly to Madrid from New York on April 24th and meet up with us there. We planned to spend ten days travelling in Spain together before we were due to fly back to Canada on May 4th. For much of the time during the problems with the ash cloud, the Madrid airport remained open, but at times the airport at Barcelona was closed. We would check the news daily to see which way the winds were blowing, and whether or not Adia would be able to join us.
We were also concerned about getting back to Canada ourselves, and Adia’s itinerary had her travelling to Berlin and back to Madrid before her trip back to North America which would take her through London. If the volcano continued to spew ash far and wide, there was a good chance that Adia’s flight and ours, could be postponed or cancelled as well. We weren’t at all concerned about having to spend more time in Spain, we didn’t have jobs to get back to and Adia is on sabbatical leave, but the idea of sitting by the phone or worse, stacked up with thousands of other travellers at overflowing airports, held little charm for us.
It was during this anxious period that I remembered that almost exactly a year earlier, we had been touring Argentina when the fear of an impending swine flu pandemic filled the news reports world wide. It was thought that the outbreak had started in Mexico, and many flights into the US from Mexico were being cancelled. We were concerned because we were booked to return to Denver on flights that passed through Mexico. In fact, we had planned to stay for several days in Mexico City in order visit more of the intriguing sights we missed earlier.
Argentina had even taken the drastic step of preventing all flights from Mexico City from landing in Buenos Aires. We were somewhat relieved because we were travelling back to Santiago, Chile and taking our flight north from there. However, if the suspected pandemic spread, we could be facing the possibility of being stuck in South America with no way to get back to Canada.
In the end, all worked out well for us. Our flight to Mexico City went as scheduled and we were re-routed from there to Denver via Los Angeles. We would just have to see how things went with the volcano in Iceland and hope for the best. Oh the joys of international travel. You can prepare yourself for a different culture, different languages and different foods, but there’s no way to anticipate these kinds of eventualities. So far, so good, we’ll just keep travelling, it sure beats staying and dealing with Canadian winter storms.