A SOUTH Wales architect managed to battle his way back from Kiev by using every means of transport available – apart from a plane.
Peter Gamble, director of Cardiff Bay based architectural practice Holder Mathias, took 48 hours to get back to Cardiff after his flight home was cancelled.
Mr Gamble had been in the Ukrainian capital for a series of meetings and intended to travel home last Friday, but the volcanic ash stopped his initial flight back to the UK.
Instead, he used a combination of trains, coaches, hire cars and taxis to get back to Cardiff.
But his journey became even less straightforward when his train out of the Ukraine was barred from entering Germany on its border with Poland, and the hire car taking him to Calais broke down.
The trip should have cost around £250 and lasted three hours, but instead cost £750 and dragged on for more than two days.
After his initial flight was stopped, he looked at other ways back – starting with booking a flight to Nice, France, last Saturday.
“Then when we got to the airport it was spooky; it was full of people but quiet,” he said.
“All the lights were off and the staff were all leaving.”
Luckily for Mr Gamble, a friendly taxi driver managed to get him a train ticket to Berlin through his contact who worked at the central station.
Mr Gamble said: “This was a stroke of luck as I was competing with 5,000 delegates from a commercial flower show who were trying to get out of Kiev at the same time.
“On the Polish-German border, the train I was on was condemned as unfit to enter Germany, so I jumped onto a smart German commuter train heading for Berlin Ostbahnhof.
“Here, I changed trains again for one heading for Brussels, picking up my onward Berlin-Brussels tickets from a travel consultant who met me at Berlin Hauptbahnhof for a quick hand-over as the train waited at the station.
“It soon became apparent that the amount of train tickets sold via the internet for the Berlin-Brussels route far exceeded the capacity of the train as everyone struggling to get back to the UK had the same idea, so I was bumped off at Cologne to finish the journey via coach.”
With the Eurostar already in high demand from thousands of Britons wanting to get home, Mr Gamble decided to hire a car and drive to Calais but the car broke down just 50km from the port.
“As it happened, my business partner and his wife were on their way to a holiday in Bruges and I got him to use his contacts to get me a taxi to Calais,” said Mr Gamble.
“The last part of my journey was surprisingly the easiest, and despite the media hype I managed to get onto a P&O ferry bound for Dover with not as much difficulty as expected. I was then picked up by taxi the other end and managed to make it back to London – 48 hours after I started my journey – before catching a train to Cardiff the following day.
“Despite the inconvenience, the challenge of getting home was certainly exciting, and I succeeded in getting through it with the help of my colleagues across Europe and new friends I met along the way.
“Most people I met in the same situation were dealing with it through a mixture of stoicism and good humour.
“I’m feeling great and pleased to be home,” added Mr Gamble, who returned to work yesterday. “My three sons had put up a banner to welcome me home.”