What do you do when bad things happen while you travel? Banging on the office door at a campsite in Auckland at 1 o’clock in the morning I started asking myself this very question. We’d both succeeded in showing off a full set of emotions over the previous 48 hours ranging from over-confidence, through shock, denial, anger and ending drastically with (tearful, in Ruth’s case) despair.
Let’s journey back; Incheon Airport, Seoul. We arrived early to give ourselves some extra time (thankfully) and checked in. The check-in clerk gave a small smile and said “no problem” when I asked to sit in one of the emergency exit rows (to save my ridiculously long legs). I later learnt this actually meant, “NO. You’ll sit where I put you”.
The first blow we were dealt was them not allowing us to get to Australia. The backward computer system couldn’t work out that we didn’t need a visa for Oz – we would only be there for 9 hours before taking an onward flight to NZ. Choosing to play on our already frayed nerves they left it until 20 minutes before check-in closed to tell us that we would need to get a visa online. “Hurry though”, they told us. Turns out you need a visa for more than 8 hours between flights, not the 12 I’d researched. So several frantic minutes later we had each gained a 3 month tourist visa for Oz, no questions asked. Nonsense.
Next up, issues in Australia; the check-in line for out flight to NZ. Pleasantries over, the clerk gives us the first little jab immediately – “your bag is too heavy”. Mine was 25kgs, Ruth’s 20kgs, the limit was 23. Now, I’m no great mathematician but I reckon the total of that adds up to less than 46kg. Not good enough apparently – “you’ll need to move some things from one bag to the other”. She follows the first jab with a second blow –
“Your onward flight has no ticket number”.
“What does that mean?”
“You can’t get on the plane.”
“Great, what should we do?”
“Go and speak to your airline and get them to sort it out. Hurry though, check-in ends in half an hour.”
Quarter of an hour later, and a considerable amount less of patience we find our airline’s office has gone home for the day. Out come the laptops again, some more frantic searching online, this time for a cheap flight and give the credit card some more action. Just in the nick of time we make it back to the desk, this time thankfully, it’s ok and on we go. (She’s not bothered about the bag weights any more).
I now really hate plane travel. I stand in the check-in queue, sweating over the small details that are inevitably going to be picked up on by the jobsworth behind the desk. Worst way to travel? Possibly.
We arrived in Auckland, surprisingly with all baggage in tow at about midnight and made for a taxi to take us to the campsite. The guy was quite friendly but clearly had that edge that said, “I’m going to fleece you for all you’re worth”. He did. The 10 minute trip that I’d worked out on the map turned into 40 with a stop-off for fuel, then charged us $50 for the pleasure. Thanks very much.
No surprises next, the office wasn’t open, and after banging on the door we find out nor were they expecting us this late (despite me explaining over and over the previous week on the phone). “Oh no, we’d never allow you to put up a tent at this time, and not in this weather bomb we’re having at the moment. You’ll have to stay in our over-priced family units tonight”.
“How much will that be?”
“I’m sure we can come to some sort of deal. Good night, and please don’t bang on the door again.”
The “deal” wasn’t a deal at all but after some arguing I managed to beat the price down somewhat. They attempted to sweeten the deal by saying, “Steve here’ll give you a ride back to the airport” (there was one more flight to contend with to Christchurch)… “for $35”.
At this moment, luckily for I was close to throttling the money grabbing old couple behind the desk, a guy called Ed and his son Cooper turned up and offered us a lift to the airport, for FREE! Faith in humanity ever so slightly restored. You have our sincere gratitude Ed from Discover NZ.
The silver lining of all of this, I have to point out, was a little dip into Sydney life. We managed to take a quick peep at Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, scoff a delicious pie and sink a Guinness in the few hours between our connecting flights.
So, what do you do when bad stuff happens? Keep calm and carry on, a kindly chap and his son will restore your faith.