Stranded in a Tropical Storm in Barbados

The departures board flashed red and I stifled a sigh. Delayed. Even worse, it didn’t say how long the flight was delayed for.

The departure board was an array of red now with a cluster of flights delayed. Well, they don’t say Liat is an acronym for ‘leave islands any time’ for nothing.

Outside the large airport windows the wind billowed persistently. I looked on as palms in the distance were being buffeted so much they almost looked like they were under a ruthless hairdryer.

The sky was grey and the ocean on the horizon wasn’t even visible, hidden behind a screen of rain and blending into the murky sky.

What a day.

I’d been surprised to wake up to such extreme weather. As I flung open the heavy curtains that morning, my eyes widened and I laid eyes on the relentless rain which smashed down into the usually gentle carp pool. The wind howled, rattling the windows and giving all the palms a very bad hair day.

The huge navy-coloured vessel which had been sat outside our window, bobbing on the horizon, since we had arrived, decided it was all too much. As huge white waves flung it about like a flimsy toy, the boat lifted anchor and began to leave, perhaps to dock up somewhere more sheltered.

The ocean was a far cry from the beautiful turquoise paradise it was the day before. It was black like tar with monstrous waves, like a wave pool at a waterpark but even more severe. The black water was frequently fragmented by the white crests of waves as they broke.

Not a bad day to move on, I decided. Perhaps I had just jinxed myself.

The morning hadn’t got off to the best of starts.

Correction, it started off pleasant enough but quickly went down-hill.

We had a nice breakfast in our room, delivered the previous evening due to us now being up far earlier than breakfast at the hotel started.

We had then departed from the hotel, feeling a little sad to leave such a beautiful, welcoming place behind us.

The roads had been quiet. We drove in silence as the dark foreboding clouds loomed overhead and the wind blew leaves and debris into the air.

I was excited. Today we’d be getting on a plane and flying to another Caribbean island and one I’d always longed to visit! Dominica.

We waved goodbye to our lovely Suzuki Jimny. What a fun little car that had been!

Once we entered the airport, the chaos started to unfolded.

I had to pick up my drone from customs as it had been seized on arrival, despite paying for the permit. Spoiler, I never did get my money back.

It proved to be a horrific faff to retrieve the drone. We had to go through security as normal but then journey all the way to the arrivals hall to present my paperwork and finally collect the drone. Once we had it, we had to go all the way back through security for a second time before finally be able to relax.

I was hot and already exhausted.

Things only got worse when I went to purchase a postcard and whilst routing around for money in my bag, I somehow managed to dislodge my precious hard drive which fell to the floor with a horrific thud and split open.

Thankfully, by some way of a miracle, I managed to get it working again after popping its casing back into place.

The only thing that could cheer me up was a ham-filled croissant, chocolate brownie and cup of tea. So I sat beside an empty gate, devouring all three. They were good.

Suddenly a man wearing official Liat uniform appeared beside one of the gates.

“Attention!” He called. “Please can all Liat passengers come here.”

Oh, no. This couldn’t be good.

Lewis and I exchanged nervous glances before hauling our backpacks onto our backs and making our way towards him along with countless other passengers.

“Due to the severe weather,” he began, “all flights in and out of Barbados are cancelled for today.”

I felt like the floor had disappeared from beneath my feet and my mind started whirling. When faced with issues, my first port of call is to come up with potential solutions. This time I had no solutions. Everything was completely outside of my control and I felt helpless.

“I do not know when flights will resume. It will be when the weather is better but I can tell you for sure…” He looked out of the window towards the windswept trees and grey runway. “There will be no flights today. The airport is closed.”

Now what?

We were in the middle of a tropical storm – Tropical Storm Karen to be exact who had just passed to the north of Trinidad and Tobago with 45 mph winds.

“If you have any questions, please ask them.” He added.

He was faced with a barrage of questions. Passengers were speaking at once, yelling over each other and the Liat staff member recoiled slightly.

I turned to Lewis to see his expression was just as horrified as mine. What did we do now?

“Everyone come with me!” I heard the Liat staff member call.

At once he made his way towards the arrivals hall with the flock of disgruntled passengers trailing behind. He lead everyone over to baggage reclaim where suitcases were already travelling along a conveyer belt.

We didn’t have any luggage so whilst most passengers swarmed around the belt, I took my moment to speak to the Liat staff member.

“What do I do about my getting another flight?” I asked.

“You can go to the Liat desk now and if they have any spaces available, they can book you on a flight in the next few days. I don’t know exactly which flights will be available or whether it will be tomorrow or another day. I also don’t know when the storm will pass and we will be able to fly again.”

So many unknowns.

In my eyes, there was no other choice but to try and get on the next available flight. But then who knew if it would fly or not? Would there be any flights at all this week?

We were only going to be in Dominica (our next destination) for 5 nights as it was. It had now been reduced to 4. Things were not looking good.

The only positive was that we seemed to be the only ones who didn’t have to wait for bags so could rush through to the Liat desk before anyone else.

On our way to the desk we passed customs.

“Anything to declare?” They asked.

Oh, shit. Not this again.

Once again, the drone was seized.

After giving up our drone again, we raced through the airport and were the first to arrive at the Liat desk.

Success!

“I have some seats available on tomorrow’s flight at 10am, the same time as your flight was meant to be today.” The woman on the desk announced.

Perfect!

“That sounds great. Please can we book on that flight.” I responded.

Fortunately there was no extra charge for the new flight and before we knew it, it was booked.

Lewis, clearly nervous, started asking some questions. “So how long do storms here normally last?”

She shrugged apologetically. “It can vary. Sometimes just a day. Sometimes longer.”

“Are they common?” He pressed.

She began nodding. “In September they are very common. It’s the peak of hurricane season now.”

Lewis shot me a dirty look and I felt like I wanted to disappear.

As we left the desk behind us, I tried to prepare myself as much as possible for the barrage of words I was to be hit with.

“Why on earth did you book a trip in the peak of hurricane season?”

“I didn’t realise.” I snapped back. “I knew September was the very end of hurricane season but I didn’t think it was the worst month.”

Before we knew it, we were in a bitter argument. But arguing wouldn’t help the situation that we were in.

We sat on an uncomfortable metal bench, the humid wind buffeting us from the open side of the airport. I could hear the flapping of leaves as they were hit with a strong gale and stared at the puddles which littered the pavement outside.

I had no idea what to do next and I didn’t have the energy to even think about it. The Little Arches Boutique Hotel had been a wonderful place to stay for the past 2 nights but it came with a price. It was the most expensive accommodation I had ever stayed in and extending our stay another night would cost a lot.

Plus Barbados was overall an expensive destination so the extra food and the taxis to and from the airport would also burn a hole into our wallet.

Then I had to consider our onwards accommodation and car rental who were expecting us to arrive now. The flight was only an hour in length.

I had no clue what order to organise things in or if it was even the right idea to return to The Little Arches. Should I start looking for a cottage or apartment? Oh, dammit –  I didn’t even have WiFi.

I gave in to the easiest option and phoned The Little Arches. Fortunately our room was still available and they were glad to have us back. We then jumped in a taxi which was just outside the airport with a fixed rate to the hotel. Thoroughly deflated, we journeyed back to the hotel.

The staff at The Little Arches could always put a smile on our faces no matter how bad we were feeling. The manager, Sandra, even said that if there hadn’t been any room at the hotel, she would have let us stay at hers. I was moved almost to tears.

Once we were back in our room, we just flopped onto the bed. I was shocked, sad and disappointed in myself. How could I have fucked everything up again? I felt like a total let-down who always – no matter how hard they tried – managed to fuck everything up.

After our traumatic end to our trip to The Gambia, I had decided our next trip would be much more relaxing. The Caribbean seemed like a safe-bet, or so I thought.

I’d been enticed by the great deals I was faced with when looking to book off-season and when we booked Sri Lanka off-season the weather wasn’t too bad. I just hadn’t considered the hurricanes. I sighed.

I lay for hours, unable to think straight, let along do anything. When I mustered the strength, I fired off emails to our accommodation and car rental in Dominica. I just hoped it reached them in time.

I’d become obsessed with tracking the storm on my phone. I could see it was travelling ever further away. I risked glancing out the window. It looked slightly less windy. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much.

“Why don’t we go for a walk.” Lewis suggested.

He’d calmed down now but was still a little prickly.

We left the hotel and made our way across the lane that lay in front of it. On the other side was a perfectly-manicured swathe of grass, surrounded by a neat picket-fence. We entered the garden area and I marvelled at the beautiful palms that stood here.

At the edge of the garden was the ocean, crashing viciously on rocks which lay just below the small cliff that the garden stood on. The sound was eerily beautiful, almost soothing in a way.

I stared out at the horizon, watching the huge waves as they charged towards the shore, almost like an army going in to battle. The ocean was a deep blue, not quite as menacing as it was this morning.

As I turned to my left, I was baffled and amused to see a man sitting a few hundred metres along the coast, perched upon the edge of the cliff. In his hand was a fishing rod. He was actually fishing! I wondered if he’d had any luck so far.

Below him a huge wave crashed against the jagged rocks, white spray being forced in all directions. He must have felt some of that spray! Even so, it didn’t deter him.

The clouds seemed to be dispersing slightly. They certainly didn’t resemble a carpet of dull grey like they did this morning. I could see their outlines which were glinting slightly as the sun fought valiantly to break through. I was convinced they were changing colour too, dappled with pink and orange hues.

Pleeeaase Karen. I silently begged. Please move on.

I could have stood gazing out at the ocean for hours. It was mesmerising. I watched as the mighty waves curled up as they reached the cliff, showing some beautiful spiral patterns before finally crashing into the rocks.

We decided to continue our walk and found ourselves wondering down the lane to Miami beach. I noticed that the waterline was a lot higher today and a couple were frantically digging in the sand and grabbing small white objects and placing them in a bucket. I wondered if this was a turtle nest, in danger of becoming overflown with water, and that these were carers set on saving them.

As we wandered along the beach, I noticed that the waves had come even closer now and the water was surrounding the duo. Fortunately, I think they had just about finished and it wasn’t long before they took their bucket full of eggs and fled the scene.

As we stood on the sand with nothing but the sound of the ocean in our ears, I wondered what tomorrow would bring. The wind had mostly died down and the sky was filled with the colours of the setting sun. I noticed the horizon was turning a blood red colour.

Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, right?

I hoped that saying was true.

All I knew was that right now we had absolutely no idea whether tomorrow we would be on a plane to Dominica, or stranded in Barbados for another day.