Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Zealand Part 1

Arriving in Christchurch felt much like home and I wasn't too sure how to feel about that. When I was taking the bus into town from the airport, the first thing I noticed were the houses. They look like any old house that you would see in Canada. It’s now new. It’s not different. And I guess I got used to diversity to a point of needing it to to satisfy my wanderlust?

Maybe it was just the realization of leaving Bali and my dreamy life there. I think it was a good balance for me. I felt like there were a lot of dissimilarities that made it feel like I was traveling in a foreign land yet it had all the amenities (such as toilet paper) for me to feel comfortable...but not TOO comfortable.

The seashell wrapped in a little net that I purchased in Pai, Thailand at the beginning of my trip fell off my ankle literally minutes after arriving in NZ. A couple hours later, the seashell ring I had made myself also released itself off my finger...metaphors signaling a new phase.

I got myself comfy cozy in my seat for the flight from Denpasar, Bali to Sydney, Australia. I thought I was going to have the whole row to myself when ‘REALLY drunk Australian guy’ plopped himself down beside me. He was well aware how drunk he was, and kept apologizing in between telling me about how much he loved his wife but sounded like he had a bit too much fun with the ladies in Bali. Ugh! After I had politely told him that I really just wanted to go to sleep, he proceeded to babble on. His friend across the aisle finally gave him a firm talking to and he passed out cold for the duration of the flight. Yes!

Little did I know that this was just the beginning of a hullabaloo of a journey ahead of me.

Our plane landed in Sydney, Australia about 6 hours later in the wee hours of the morning. We then sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes before we were offloaded. I then had to sprint to get to my next flight leaving within 10 minutes. When I arrived, I got serious attitude from the Quantas agent because he had paged me 'several' times. Um...dude – I was on a plane! I ignored his prissiness. He then asked me to show him my onward ticket from NZ. What? Onward ticket? Why would I have one of those? I am a fly by the seat of my pants backpacker? How am I supposed to know where I am going after NZ? That could be days or even years away?

I was unable to produce said ticket. So he told me to wait until someone was available to escort me back through security while he radioed the baggage people to ‘offload’ my luggage (of which I am sure had not even arrived from the other plane yet). I stood there feeling like a complete ASS for not knowing that I needed this documentation to enter the country. Being a member of the commonwealth, I wasn’t so particular about researching this type of stuff as I was within Asian countries. Aren’t we all friends here?

The Quantas lady escorted me out of security. She told me I would have to purchase an onward ticket out of NZ as well as book another flight into Christchurch. This was really....upsetting. We were almost to the baggage department when she asked me if I had an Australian visa, to which I replied, 'no'. She told me to have a seat while she went to talk privately on her radio. Things were either looking hopeful or desperate at that point. I glanced at her to see if I could read her body I going to jail or hopping the next plane to Christchurch?

She came back over and walked me in the opposite direction to the transit desk to my friend Drew. This guy needs to have a reality TV show all his own.

Apparently, Jetstar could incur a $5000 fine for letting me board the plane in Indonesia without checking to see if I had an onward ticket. Now I was in Australia illegally without a visa or a flight out of there. This was now an immigration issue and their problem, not mine. Drew made some calls and put it to them straight – he told me he doesn’t 'take any BS from these people', as he sat with his arms folded behind his head and chest puffed out – they can either pay for my $300 flight or the $5000 fine. Their choice. Within minutes I was booking a 'refundable' flight back to Vancouver so I could continue on my way (I refunded it later when I got to NZ but with the currency conversion, I lost $500 CDN..I could have spent a week in Fiji for that!).

During this process, Drew bought me a coffee and entertained me until my flight to Auckland. It took 2.5 hours to get there arriving 2 hours before the next flight was to leave for Christchurch. In that time I tried to rent a car and locate my baggage to see if I could just stay in Auckland and drive to Whakatane myself instead of flying all the way down to Christchurch on the South Island and then all the way back up to Rotorua on the North Island, where Tash was to pick me up. In the end, I was told my baggage was en route to Christchurch from Sydney already and there were NO rental cars available for neither that night OR the next day. And so the journey to Christchurch continued..

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