The epic story of how I lost my passport in Greece

There is Eat, Pray, Love and then there is Eat, Read, Beach, Repeat.

Corfu would prove to be the perfect place for all of the above.

After a full on (but amazing) road trip around Greece with a friend that had scheduled the grand tour as tight as a formula one car manoeuvres around a quick bend, it was nice to chill out (or I should say sweat it out) without any set plans or finishing times. For the one that is forever restless, having no plan was the best plan for the next five days.

The journey to Corfu was a long one. I may as well count the hours as how you would recall ancient times (Before Corfu and After Drinks) as it felt as if my day dragged out in millenniums. Surviving off broken sleep and a lingering hangover (courteously of cheap red wine), it was time to leave the big smoke and head to island paradise. I bid farewell to my Perth friends, of whom I had spent the last few days with, at Athens airport and hopped on my flight to Corfu.

I received a kiss from the sun and a hug from the fresh sea breeze as soon as I boarded off my Corfu flight. One hour later via public bus, I found myself in the Old Town of Corfu. I had read up about the buses being notoriously bad in Corfu so girl made sure she got the right bus schedule to plan for her next bus ride to her accommodation.

Or so she thought.

After engulfing a salad at a fast-food style healthy cafe, I adopted my London pace to steadily walk through the fortified town before bailing to get to my beachside accommodation in time. Immediately I knew I would come back to this town, particularly for its perfect blend of architecture being reminiscent of Venice – it was like a perfect slice of Italia besides the cheesy crusted kind!

Time was running out. I quickly made my way back to the bus stop to finally get to my Greek beach paradise. It had already been a draining day. I was fatigued and desperately wanted my towel along the shore already plus it was unbearably hot.

I ran to the bus stop.

Here I waited. And waited.

Until I realised that yes, buses on Corfu, particularly on a Sunday, are very much unreliable and certainly do not run to schedule. After gazing at people piling out of a blue bus that had just pulled over, I decided to quickly hop on board, with my wheelie carry on just waiting outside on the side of the road to ask the bus driver if he knew when the bus was coming. He informed me I had the incorrect schedule and the bus was actually coming in at 2pm.

Shit. An other hour to go.

By this stage, I was already swimming in my own juices, craving for all forms of water to attack me. A shower; a beach; a water bottle. Anything that would bring my temperature down from borderline a new sun on earth.  I thanked the driver for giving me the correct time table and hopped off. I reunited with my carry on bag and had my laptop bag under my arm in tow. I was checking myself in for an other hour to walk around this town until I realised I something was missing; my handbag.

Shit!

There are cat ladies and then there are bag ladies. I will forever more be a bag lady.

Wow. I panicked, I freaked. I left my hand bag on the bus. THAT HANDBAG HAD MY WALLET – MY PASSPORT!

As soon as I realised, I took deep breathes. My mind became scattered. I decided to run and run hard I did. I needed to aim for gold in the form of a passport. I was running as hard as what Cathy Freeman would run like if she was wheeling a bag down the middle of the road with one hand with a laptop bag under her other arm. This would prove to be the ultimate marathon of my life – chasing down a bus in Corfu to grab my prized European medal.

I was desperate. I gave it all I could. But I lost sight of it.

I could not accelerate my body anymore to chase it.  The wheels in my mind had certainly come off. I started to jump to conclusions – a perpetual bad habit of mine.

I am going to be stuck in Greece – Well actually, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

I would have to call the Italian embassy! They will now find out that I am this phony with an Italian citizenship who cannot speak any more words other than what is listed on a menu. That and asking ‘how old are you?’, ‘how is the weather?’ and ‘what is your name?’ I guess that is a good enough conversation for Italian Tinder.

Maybe I can get my Australian passport sent over!

The rare time I travelled without my Australian one would be a blessing in disguise I thought.

But another thing lingered in my mind also. Touch wood as I am about to jinx myself for sure.

Despite some shitty mishaps or loss of items, I always somehow have a habit of things working in my favour or things returning to me like a boomerang. I was hoping this was one of these case like scenarios that would be played out rather than the new plot for some Lethal Weapon type crime.

Imagine me running like a breathless mad woman down the middle of the road during the heat of the day the small quaint town of Corfu Town because that was exactly what I was. My breathing was so heavy. I had no idea what to do. I kept running until there was a car behind me. I was stopping them in their tracks. They pulled down the window and asked me ‘What was I doing?’ Good Question. I had no idea what I was doing because I knew I had already lost.

I had seen a number of blue buses at the bus station. How would I even be lucky enough to track down the bus I left my bag on?

I told the lady named Libby and her daughter I had left my handbag on a bus and I was trying to chase it down. At this stage, I could not see the bus but they offered to help me chase the bus. The lady told me to get in. I was desperate. What else was I going to do? Luckily she spoke great English and so did her Scottish and Greek daughter. That is a combination chow mein I have never heard of before.

I opened the back door of the run-down white Hyundai sedan, shoved my stuff into the backseat and pointed like Christopher Columbus to the high seas in search of that bus. She sped.

This had nothing on Speed. Ok, maybe slight exaggeration there but we went blitzing through to catch up to that bus. We even passed where the buses sleep at night. Libby and her daughter told me that this was was no man’s land for the blue buses and that we should turn back to head towards town.

Hurriedly we u-turned and opted to enter the buses lair. Maybe the driver of the bus was on a lunch break or had to return the empty bus with a very worn out bag on the window sill – who knows!

After doing a lap of honour around the bus station we made the decision to abort the bus stake out and head to town. I felt defeated. The boomerang effect wasn’t going to happen this time around. Passport wise – I was in deep shit. Paradise wise – the heavens just opened their doors to a world of tranquillity forever more as I was certainly to be stuck in Greece for a while.

As we drove back the way we came, we passed a set of blue buses. Libby pulled up on the side of the road as if we were about to bust in a crime. With one last ditch of hope, I bolted out of the car, panting like damsel in distress look (ah hello I know there could be much worse out there) and ran up to the first of the three buses lined up. My eyes fixed on the window sill. THERE! My hideous but treasure chest worthy bag awaited.

Thank the heavens I found it!

The bus driver was locked in. I knocked on the window. Our eyes immediately met. He leapt off his seat and came charging straight towards me, down the aisle, to the driver’s seat, pressed the button to open the doors and off I ran to await the door to open.

‘I didn’t know who’s bag it was’ He proclaimed. I don’t blame him. He is inundated with seeing tourists everyday.

‘That’s okay!’ The few high-pitched words that could come out of my mouth. I was just so glad I had my bag, my identity back so I could keep calm and beach on. ‘I am sorry I left it there – thank you so much.’ I exclaimed.

The Notorious Blue Bus
The Notorious Blue Bus

I ran back to the car with arms flung in joy, a big Cheshire chat grin on my face and feelings of relief going down my body. Sing alleluia!

I thanked Libby ever so much for driving me around. This crazy, strange woman making panting noises that she had to stop for as she wouldn’t bloody get off in the middle of the road!

I asked her if I could get her anything. She said sure and so we opted for a coffee.  We went to a local, run of the mill type place where an older Greek man decided to speak German to me, rambling on something about Angela Merkel with a cheeky grin on his face. He was cute – he reminded me of my grandfather (or nonno I should say). After giving us our coffee, Libby, her daughter and I engaged in conversation for a while. I was still getting over my high of loosing my passport then retrieving it somehow. Add a cup of coffee into the equation and I was going to be bouncing off walls with happiness for a while!

There is something in the Ionian and Mediterranean waters as people in general are ever so friendly and giving. This is not new to me as I have grown up with an Italian family and how big our hearts are. We are selfless creatures and enjoy the art of giving and helping others out. As we finished our coffees, Libby, a mid-forties mother of one, then offered to take me where I needed to go – to my accommodation. Corfu is a small island but it is a feat to get around with public transport being slow and scattered. I was taken about by her generosity but not so much either as this was someone that clearly like to help others out despite not having much.

I thanked her for her offer and asked if she wanted anything – she said no.

We left the local coffee joint, waved the Greek grandpa goodbye and went off. We made a brief stop to drop off Libby’s daughter to see some friends then it was on, like Thelma and Louise Greek style to my accommodation which was on the other side of the island.

Of course, the ultimate mini road trip adventure is not without its problems. Libby was driving around Corfu in an old rental car. I did not even know that rental cars existed beyond seven or so years as I thought they had to be relatively new to some degree. This car was more like 20 years old and it showed. It was worn down with banged up sides, including part of the rear panel near the backlight appearing slightly unhinged. Inside, Libby was having issues with the manual gear stick. I am not a manual driver as I chose to live life in the easy lane by getting my automatic license (actually it is called laziness) but I knew something was amiss. The gear stick seemed hard to put in place and Libby was struggling with it.

By this stage we were off the main road and touring backstreets, cutting corners to get to my accommodation. It seemed like we were not the only one cutting corners as the rental company rented out a car that was in desperate need of repair – both interior and exterior. I think it is reckless and rather dangerous to lend this type of car with all its’ issues. As expected in the storybook of what a crazy day it had been already, Libby frantically trying to get the gear stick in second gear, any gear, had to pull up on the side of the road. The gear stick simply would not give way. We were not going to go anywhere.

Where we had pulled up was certainly not ideal. We had just turned a bend when the car called it a day. There was not much around us other than a construction site opposite. Libby tried and tried to get the car to work, the gear stick in motion but it was not meant to be. I put on both indicators to signal that we weren’t moving. By this stage, the sun was blistering hot. I was melting. Girl isn’t used to all this heat again after living in the U.K for two years!

Broken down on the side of the road
Broken down on the side of the road.

Libby was quick to speed dial the rental car company. You don’t have to speak the same language to understand anger. Libby was furious. I could also sense the desperation in her talk also. Apparently this had been the second time she was rented out a car that failed on her and she was not going to have a bar of it again – she demanded a replacement car. It would be at least an hour wait.

Great news about help coming on its way. Bad news is that we were still stranded with not much water. It felt like Survivor – roadside style. It was too hot to stay in the car so we waited outside for our Greek car saviours.

We were both on the side of the road. Luckily were we stopped there was a small oasis of trees to protect me from turning into the next Greek dinner special of the day –  well cooked lobster. Cars passed, cursed at us in Greek. I know it was cursing due to the yelling and the hands going up in the air ala how Italian’s like to express their anger and frustration with a hand raised, fingers cupped, bending the hand back and forth in motion like a beggar for loose change.

No one stopped to help these roadside damsels in distress. Except for one car but by that stage we were told the rental car company replacement car was on its way. We were now just playing the waiting game right in the heat of the day. I had noticed that Libby had put the key in the boot. I asked why and she told me she was looking for a witches’ hat so she could alert those coming around the bend that we were there. Good call I thought but I was doubtful that there would be one in the boot. Of course, as I glanced across the side of the the road, there was one lone witches hat. Bingo! I ran to get it and put it on our side just before the bend hit. I was now traffic warden for the day!

What a day – first a chase to win back my passport and now standing still in the middle of nowhere Corfu. Often when I do find myself in a shitty situation, my mind comes to bunch of conclusions that outweighs all the possibilities in a game of Cluedo. This time around, I had to laugh to myself in the fact it was a ridiculous situation and of course, it was a day of one thing after an other. First wakeup hangover in Athens, have an emotional goodbye at the airport, catch my flight, visit Corfu Town on steroids to make sure I didn’t miss my bus, wait around for a bus, accidentally leave my bag on a bus, go on a wild goose chase to get my bag back in a strangers’ car and now this. What a day indeed!

Not long after, our rental car rescuers came to save us from our plight. Arriving in two cars, Libby confronted the young lady who had just hopped out of a small green car. She was quintessential Mediterranean looking with caked on with make up and having a kind of Mediterranean glow about her with her olive skin and long blonde hair. Words were exchanged, hands were being thrown into the air. By this stage, Libby was well and truly frustrated and upset. I didn’t have to understand what was said but I could just tell by looking at her face.

The rental lady grabbed the keys off Libby to check out what was wrong with car. It took her a few moments but by some miracle, she managed to get the car going and off she went.

We waited for a few minutes until she came back. Would she ever come back? Would she encounter the same problems we had?

After five minutes or so, she had pulled up behind the green car. She had acknowledged that the car was in need of repair and so we could have the newer pocket rocket green car. While Libby did the new paperwork for the car, I had moved all our stuff into the green car. And fulfilling my traffic warden duties for the day, I quickly removed the traffic cone from the middle of the road. The show must go on!

We hopped in the car and off we went. It was certainly much smoother and in full swing from the previous car that really should not even be on the road. Good luck to the lady getting back to where it needs to go – I would suggest making a beeline for a mechanic!

Driving along the coast, it was my first introduction to the waters of Corfu. If I may quote Aladdin, it was all shining, shimmering, splendid with the sun glistening over the waters. Maybe loosing my passport wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world – I could certainly set up shop, potentially find myself a modern day Greek God and happy days!

Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at my luxe on a budget accommodation along Pelekas Beach. Hugs were exchanged, had cheers over beers at the bar and recapped what was truly an epic few hours! We finally did it. What a crazy day and one to tell the kids!

Soon after Libby finished her last drop, she bid me farewell. I got to where I wanted to be but it was the journey itself that made me appreciate where I was in the world more so – surrounded by good people in a paradise like Corfu. The sun doesn’t just shine in Corfu, the people shine there too. In my time of need, the generosity and warmth I received from a complete stranger is humbling.

Over the next few days, I really got in touch with myself, my thoughts and just reflecting on the crazy situation that was. Originally on the agenda was Eat, Read, Beach, Repeat but in a place like Corfu, a perfect paradise and people that are ever so nice to help out, there was something else I needed to put on the agenda – thankfulness for the life I lead and those in it.

Enjoy the these images of Corfu!