February 3, 2014 by melcogger
Jonty and I never really considered how much bicycle “stuff” we had accumulated until midnight on Saturday – 12 hours before our flight. We finished packing our bikes into boxes, threw in a whole bunch of tools and liquids that we could not bring onto the plane and looked at what was left for our hand luggage. Then our concerns started to set in. After re-reading and double checking Cathay Pacific’s baggage policy we soon realized that the meagre free baggage allowance each of 20kg for checked in luggage and and 7kg for hand luggage would not come close to covering our weight.
The two bike boxes alone weighed 46kg. What then of our three panniers and ukulele? Would we just sacrifice all our clothes? Wear all our clothes? I decided at this point that it was probably not a good time to sneak in my hair straightener.
We grudgingly began packing our remaining belongings and weighed them. We were astonished to find that we had another 26kg to account for. That was a total of 72 kg… 18kg over our limit. We thought it can’t be that bad, we can just pay for excess baggage. That was until I read that it was USD$60 PER KILOGRAM. I’m no maths buff, but it would have been cheaper to buy some stranger a ticket and keep their baggage allowance with kilos to spare. On top of that we could only carry on ONE item of hand luggage.
I continued to read the fine print – we were allowed another “free” small handbag / backpack / laptop bag each which did not form part of the 7 kg. I got away with reshuffling about 3kg into our “free bags.”
In an attempt to comply with the limit of one carry on bag we then emptied the contents of a pannier together with my ukulele into an oversized duffel bag which we would check in. It was the size of a young child. The duffel bag weighed a total of 10kg. The remaining items filled 2 panniers to the brim. Of course by doing all of this, we had not at all decrease our weight, we merely re-arranged it.
Then after a sleepless night of 4 hours, we concluded that if we were made to pay the excess charge of $60 per kilo (which sounded like hogwash) we would offload 18kg. What we were planning to offload I still don’t know, and I’m still not sure why we didn’t offload this while still in the comfort of our home. Nonetheless we said a short prayer before leaving for the airport and arrived at the check in counter. Our plan was to stay calm and perhaps charm our way out of paying excess baggage fees. The two assistants looked like tough cookies to crack but I kept praying for an empathetic assistant who would head the cause of two aspiring cycle tourers. We got to the front of the counter and we were met with unimpressed faces. We were pushing two trolleys full of luggage in the economy class que- not exactly what you would call inconspicuous.
After trying to squeeze one bicycle box onto a scale with a height limit of 1 meter demarcated by a pole, we were re-directed to a counter in the far corner to weigh our goods. This new assistant seemed a lot more pleasant, but broke the news to us that we were 15kgs overweight and that we would have to pay R690 per kilo. This was of course something we already knew but we still looked shocked. Jonty subtlety flew the flag for all cycle tourers over the world by saying that Cathay Pacific’s sporting equipment policy made no sense to passengers carrying bicycles and all their gear. By now I had resolved to throw away all my toiletries and clothes. The assistant, duly following company policy agreed that the best thing to do would be to try and re-arrange our luggage and said that there was a lee-way of 3kg each, reducing our charge to 9kg (despite the fact that she had no idea at that stage that our hand luggage was also in excess) .
Eventually the assistant took a deep breath and said “ok, don’t check in the duffel bag, just walk straight through the boarding gates ok?”.
What?! We would be carrying on 26kg of hand luggage in the form of a small child bag, two panniers, one back pack, and one not so small hand bag. “But are you sure this is ok? Won’t we get stopped?” we asked with our jaws wide open. She assured us that she would be there by the gate and would make sure that we were not stopped. This was all too much for me, and with a huge sigh of relief I began to cry, followed by both mothers and surprisingly – the assistant began to cry as well. We could not have prayed for a more empathetic assistant.
WOW. But we still felt incredibly ridiculous waking around with so much weight as hand luggage. We wanted to fit in more. So we offloaded a sleeping bag, 2 bungee cords, and one china bag and put the contents of the “free backpack” into to the ever growing duffel bag. We looked slightly less like we were smuggling and extra 15kg, but hardly fit in.
It did not feel real until we actually boarded the plane. I was still willing to let go of my ukulele and all my clothes just in case we got caught. It was a lesson learnt for both of us:(1). Stop hoarding so much crap – let go of my hair creams and the security of 2kgs of inner tubes plus every multi tool available on the market;
(2) Trust in God.
We truly believe that it was by God’s grace that we had a complete stranger backing us. I had a word from God a few months ago that has stuck with me ever since – “do not fear the path ahead of you, for I have laid it for you.” Since then we have had so many prayers by our friends and family for God to go ahead of us and clear the way – this is exactly what He did. We know that if we had any two of the unimpressed assistants helping us, we would have been 18kg lighter wondering what to wear tomorrow.
It hasn’t hit either of us that we have started our journey. I was certain that because we purchased our tickets online, we would arrive at the counter and be told “sorry, these tickets are fake.” I also keep thinking that we ‘ve got to be completely mad going on a journey like this. I’m not a cyclist, I’m not nearly fit enough to lug around so much weight on my bike for thousands of kilometers. I even cried the first time I cycled 5km to work because it was too hard. But we will keep the faith. We will keep the faith that we have not made a huge mistake pausing our careers, and we will keep the faith that this is going to be a once in a lifetime journey… Starting now.
We are in Manila and heading South tomorrow towards Batangas City in the morning.