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Leaving on a jet plane.......

Leaving on a jet plane…………

South Africa to Lisbon

18th September

A sigh of relief as we successfully checked through passport control enjoying the feeling of “finally on our way” for the girls year long planned journey to walk the Camino. The four of us sat in the international departure lounge expressing our excitement, wishes, dreams and joy unbeknown what was waiting for us………

We arrived in Doho @ 01:00, 19th September and enjoyed our wandering around the beautiful exotic (but expensive) new airport, patiently waiting for the 3 hours to pass by quickly so we could board our flight to Madrid. I only had 1 x cuppaccino, @ R65 and tight budget due to the fallen Rand Euro exchange rate, I curbed my want and need for more! Girls topped up on a few snacks for the plane and with bottled water costing almost R40 a bottle we headed for the departure gate.

I remember Nika looking me in the eyes and saying THANKS MOM FOR MAKING THIS HAPPEN, I CANT WAIT TO BE ON THE CAMINO WITH YOU, words I have hung onto ever since and driven me to a whirlwind of emotions and tears. Our third passport check – Qatar Airways Gate B1 boarding for Madrid…..

Qatar – Who is passenger Tanika Marsh?
Tanika – oh, that’s me (responds with her big bright beautiful smile)
Qatar – Step aside please, we need to off load your luggage and you need to go back to Johannesburg

…….and this is where it all started going south fast!!!

The two minute version of a long EMOTIONAL drawn out day in Doho airport is as follows:

Tanika’s Visa had a typing error in that her entry date for Europe was 28th instead of 18th. I checked the visa’s and documents required when traveling with children over and over and over and over again, in fact I had taken the FULL batch of documents to the travel agency to double check that all was in order the day before. With the new travel laws in South Africa I needed the following:

– unabridged birth certificates – check
– affidavit from girls dad (Phil) stating he was aware of our travels abroad – check
– home affairs letter of consent signed by Phil allowing the girls to leave the country with me (who by the way is the biological mother and has FULL custody of the girls, yet these darn documents are not negotiable) – anyhow check
– certified copy stamped by SAPs of Phil’s ID – check
– flight ticket – check
– visa – check

Travel agent says Ms Sparks all is in order, you are good to go and should not have an issue at the airport!

We departed with these very documents and Visa, checked thoroughly at Qatar check in counter and checked again and stamped by passport control and boom shakalaka in Doho the error is picked up!

My assertive non negotiable self kicked in and I quickly took matters into hand stating that due to 2 passports being correct and it is the 18th, and flights scheduled for 18th – surely they could see that this is a small error in that a 2 was typed instead of a 1!!

Small error – but 10 days difference in date of entry into Europe is one BIG f%}€#% error which in the end cost about R25k to proceed with our journey and sadly without Tanika Noodle Nik Nak Marshmellow Marshin.

The airline was adamant that Tanika would not be able to continue to Madrid, the risk for the airline in terms of fines is HUGE!!

The choices were – do we all return with Nika or do three of us continue and Nika returns alone.

Flight had now closed for boarding and the airline needed to either off load all our luggage or just Tanika’s – pressure was on to take a decision – I was too stressed, angry at myself for not picking up the error on the visa, to take an informed decision in 10 mins – AS WELL AS ENSURE TANIKA IS SORTED ONCE BACK HOME, I am a single parent and was in DOHO so what the hell did they want me to plan / organize in 10 mins, besides the fact that it was 04:00 in the frikken morning and everyone back in SA was still fast asleep!!

9 hours and many tears later, Cass, Rachel and I boarded a flight to Madrid and left Tanika in Doho to catch a flight back home at midnight! My soul has never ached so much however I also know that walking this Camino with Tanika in my heart, body, mind, soul will allow us to further bond in a different kind of way and both of us will come out stronger on the other side.


The hardest decision ever taken as a parent, saying goodbye to this precious soul at Doho airport!  

So why the R25k additional expenses? And this is where I get angry at the airline for not accommodating or understanding the predicament!! We were boarding our flight to Madrid when the error got picked up. The airline needed a decision there and then on whether we continued or not (Cass, Rachel and I) – how does any mother take a decision of this magnitude in 10 mins, so because I chose to “offload ourselves” from the flight to sort out Tanika’s safe arrival in SA I had to carry the costs from Madrid to Lisbon! At the time I thought it was not a big deal as Ryanair has some good deals however what I did not know is if you don’t fly all the “legs” of the flight ticket initially booked your return flights become invalid! Therefore I was forced to change the flights and pay the penalties! Plus accommodate a night in Madrid that was not planned.

What is, is and I am feeling somewhat relieved that Tanika is safely home and visiting friends and family in Cape Town while we commence with our Camino on 24th September from Porto!

What a journey it has been thus far……

Cass, Rachel and I arrived in Madrid exhausted, hungry, emotional and tired. We had not slept in 36 hours and the next flight out of Madrid to Lisbon was the following day, another added layer of costs as our apartment was paid for already in Lisbon and we now had to spend the night in Madrid. Accommodation was scarce due to Fashion Week in Madrid and eventually @ midnight we found a hole to lay our tired bodies down. I can strongly recommend AirBNB, it was our life saver!! On the way to the apartment we found a cafe open and managed to get water, banana’s and a packet of chips ?, banana and chips for dinner, midnight snack and tasted like melted yummy marsh mellows between two marie biscuits with a touch of nutella!! (dream on)!!

By this time Tanika was getting ready to board her flight home, she had been stuck in Doho airport since 01:00 that morning! I was very grateful that the airline arranged for Nika to have a suit in the airport hotel, she was able to have a nap / shower and just be with her thoughts, disappointment and feelings!!

20th September

Tanika is back home and we are finally in Lisbon. Our apartment is right at the view point in Santa Catarina and 50 meters away from the Farmacia Museo Cafe,what an absolute gem of a place and worth every cent, just a pity we only have one night in Lisbon rather than the 2 nights as planned. We arrived in Lisbon in time to enjoy the 3 hour walk Street Art Tour that I had booked, we sadly missed our segway tour we booked!


48 hours later and we arrived in Lisbon, feeling somewhat relieved that we are here!!!

We were in time for our booked STREET ART TOUR, it was great FUN and the art was most interesting, in below pic we had stopped for a short break and drank some “Ginjinha or simply Ginja, is a liqueur made by infusing ginja berries.” the locals drink this everyday!!  Rachel and Cass cheecks glowing after one sip (mind you mine was as well) 


The three hour street art tour (walk) – some pics of what we saw


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21st September

Lisbon has the ability to brighten and lighten one’s soul.  It could be something to do with the light bouncing off the black and white marble mosaic pavements that line every step of the city or perhaps it’s because of the colourful and endearing painted tiles that decorate the houses, proudly displaying the scuffs, odd cracks and chips that the years have delivered!  This is one beautiful and interesting city.

Decisions decisions decisions again, do we stay another night or do we move on with the planned trip to Fatima and spend the night in Coimbra!  Fatima and Coimbra was Tanika’s wish on this trip, she wanted to see the Place of Miracles and she wanted to visit the oldest university in Europe plus see the Museum Library with books older than 600 years.

We decided to spend another night in Lisbon.  We booked a tuk tuk tour, lasted 3.5 hours, what a blast, it was great fun and an awesome way to zip zap through the up and down winding roads in Lisbon.  At times it felt like we were on a roller coaster.  some great laughs shared while holding on for dear life!!  At one point the tuk tuk driver shouted, “watch our for the crazy tuk tuk driver”‘ he definitely lived up to his name, CRAZY!!

Girls roamed the shopping streets of Lisbon and fell in love with H&M!! H&M is opening up in Sandton end of October, eeeep, they are super stoked and excited!  Late afternoon we took a train to Oriente and explored the promenade / water front of Lisbon.

Our accommodation the second night was not the greatest but we were grateful to have a bed for the night.

We left for Porto around lunch time by train and were blessed with a 4 star hotel close to the beach front in Porto.  Slightly whacked still from all the “touring” around Lisbon we decided to leave exploring Porto for tomorrow!

Our took took tour, first stop at one of the main “look out” points in Lisbon


Loved the breeze blowing our hair wild on our rollercoaster tuk tuk tour!!


We stopped at the cathedral in Lisbon, this is the actual starting point of the Portuguese Way Camino.  We spent time in the cathedral lighting candles for those close to us and wishing them well.  My candle was for Tanika!!  MESSAGE FOR YOU NIK NAK – “my soul is blessed with the joy of your smile”

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23 September

Wonderful waking up to the smell of the ocean, (reminds me of Cape Town)!  We wasted no time, found our way to Hop on Hop off bus and allowed the bus to take us to every nook and cranny of Porto.  We hopped off round the Ribeiro area, the shopping centre, as well as the famous Majestic Cafe.  We sat down at the overly full Majestic Cafe, took one look at the menu and dashed out as fast as we sat down.  1 x hotdog would have cost R250 ?!  We walked the streets of beautiful Porto and admired the old buildings, architecture that surrounded us.  Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal known for its stately bridges and Port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes. São Francisco church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. One could spend two weeks here and not be bored for a second.  So much history and so much beauty.  Exploring Porto was great fun and being with teenagers makes it so much more interesting.  Loved how Cassidy and Rachel started dreaming about life after school and where they would ultimately want to be – 4 days in Portugal and they were convinced that Portugal is the place to live / study!

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Tomorrow we commence with our Camino to Santiago and I have decided I am not going to blog this time round, however I will post pics.  My soul still aches not having Tanika here – “hurts” so deep I can’t explain.  The answers, the lessons, the wisdom I know will come to me over the next few days.  Buen Camino………

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