Twelve long, long hours

I’m sure Auckland is really nice, but I’ve only ever seen the inside of the airport.

What I brought: my luggage from South America (one large backpack, one small backpack, a duffel bag full of goodies)
What I didn’t need: to be in Auckland airport for 12 hours
What I should have taken: my wits; more money

In December 2014, I went to South America on my very first solo trip overseas. I spent four weeks in Peru and Bolivia, going on a guided tour. Having booked the trip before babs came along and made my life complete, I had an idea to stay away from Australia for Christmas and New Years. I booked myself a week in New Zealand from New Year’s Eve so I could have some time to myself in our neighbouring little sister country.

But then babs came along, and I could think of nothing worse than being a three hour flight away from my beloved during New Years Eve celebrations – especially when I had already been away for four weeks.

Instead of flying back to Australia on January 8, I made sure I had a flight back on New Years Eve. The only thing ‘wrong’ with this was that the travel agent who had booked my flights wasn’t so sure about the seemingly dodgy flight from La Paz, Bolivia, to Santiago, Chile. This one flight stopped in three different places, and he wasn’t sure how it worked. So I made sure I had an afternoon flight from Auckland on New Years Eve just in case that original flight ended up being dodgy.

Guess what! It wasn’t dodgy. And my flight from Santiago to Auckland was EARLY. It landed at 5.30am instead of 6.15am. Guess when my afternoon flight was? 6pm.

The departures gate at Auckland International Airport.
Nah, mate. You’re not going in there. Image Source: Edric Pascual via Flickr. Image unchanged.

I was already jet lagged and incredibly tired (I’d been travelling for 24+ hours), so the only thing I could think of was asking if Jetstar could change my ticket from the 6pm flight to the 10am flight.

I had to wait over an hour and a half for their check-in desk to open. I tried to nap, but I didn’t want to miss my opportunity at getting back to Australia earlier than intended. (Plus I had a whole heap of bags and a debilitating fear that my things would be stolen.)

The check-in desk opened. I rushed up and was first in line for enquiries. Aaaand they told me it was going to cost me over $400 to change my flight. (Even though they had seats free.) Thanks for nothing, Jetstar! Cue tears.

Feeling emotionally distraught, tired as anything, hungry, and just plain dirty, I looked around and tried to come to terms with the fact that I would be in this airport for a long time.

Then I noticed that the LAN desk was open, and that the flight I had come in on was still going on to Australia. I rushed over and asked what my options were. Could I get on this flight?

Check-in was closing in 10 minutes. They couldn’t guarantee that if I bought a ticket I would be able to get on the flight – the information might not come through and they may not be able to check me in. They advised against it. Cue more tears as I turned away.

I decided to check my Cash Passport balance, just in case I had enough money left to even go down that path. I had less than $100.

When I was in Bolivia, I was injured on Death Road. I hurt my shoulder quite badly, banged myself up, scraped a lot of skin off, sheared off some of my hair, put a hole in my elbow and gave myself a back injury. This had happened ten days earlier and all I had wanted since then was to see babs and my family.

Photo of Rowie showing her elbow (covered in blood) to the camera with a distressed look on her face.
This bastard injury still hurts.

I spent the next eleven hours feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t have enough money (or energy) to put my bags in storage, head in to the city, and do some sightseeing. I had to pay for more internet access. There was only so much reading I could do. I napped in the cafeteria area. I watched families being reunited. I debated about whether to have a shower or not. I spoke via Facebook with my partner very briefly – he had a lot to do and the time difference wasn’t really in our favour.

But where am I going with all this whinging? Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be over cautious. Sometimes it works against you. And sometimes, those ‘dodgy’ flights through South America are actually incredibly efficient.

If I could change anything I’d make sure I have some way of accessing emergency money. My Cash Passport could only have money transferred onto it within two days at the earliest. If I had a better failsafe I could have at least explored Auckland. Then it wouldn’t be the ‘horror airport’ destination, but something I looked forward to exploring more. (And if some serious shit went down and I needed to go to hospital I’d have some way of paying for it. Probs a good idea.)

Auckland Airport, I’ll see you again one day. Hopefully I feel a bit better about you by then 😉

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