Flying solo

Posted on December 31, 2016


It will take three flights, two transits and 29 hours to get to New Zealand. A country that has long been on my list of places to visit well before Peter Jackson shared its beautiful landscape with the world. A country with mountains and glaciers, glow worms and penguins as well as volcanoes. I only have 12 days and some of those are travel days so I am trying to squash in as much as possible. Two days in Auckland, three days in Glenorchy two days in Queenstown and two and half days walking the Routeburn Track. This stop off is to break up the epic journey to the South Pacific which will be my new home from January.

I am relocating my life to the island of Calaqai in Fiji for six months. There I will be volunteering as a dive intern helping to collect data on climate change for marine biologists. In exchange for my time and money (the cash goes towards funding the programme/conservation for Global Vision International) I will later be placed on a different island where I will work for free in a dive shop and then be trained as a dive master for two months. It’s a qualification I have had my eyes on getting in the next year so as far as I am concerned it’s a win-win situation.

Before leaving the UK I did the classic mistake of not checking my baggage allowance. Amateur mistake for someone who travels so much but I assumed I’d be able to buy an extra bag nearer the time. My round the world ticket – because I intend to explore as much as possible after Fiji – has restrictions I was not aware of nor was I alerted to. Very annoyed with the travel agent for not bringing this up.

I am flying with Qantas and have a maximum bag allowance of one piece at 20kg. My dive kit alone is nearly 20kg. Do these people know how heavy neoprene is?

The Qantas website is not the easiest to navigate around and after the computer persitently telling me to go to the check-in desk my beautiful friend Sweet Tooth suggested I arrived the night before (Christmas Eve) at Heathrow to sort this out. I could not have coped with all my bags on the tube if she had not helped me with part of the journey. She also gave me the opportunity to get a proper hug off someone who shares in my excitement and anxiety about my next move. And gave me a fond farewell. God love that woman.

When I arrived at the airport a rather bland woman behind the Qantas desk looked at me with bored eyes, gave me a shrug and told me she couldn’t sell me anything. She pushed a card over to me with the 24 hours reservation number scrawled down on it.
“Call this,” she replied flatly and walked away.
Christ talk about customer service. I was hoping for a bit more Christmas cheer. Of course not this is not the season of goodwill: ‘Tis the season to be chilly, tra-la-la-la-lah lah-lah lah laaaaah!!”

If you thought that was bad, read what happened next.

After being put on hold for enough time for me to decorate a bloody tree. Another bored voice spoke to me.

The word compromise didn’t exist in his vocab whatsoever. I tried everything: What if I get an upgrade? Can I take a carry on and as well as my rucksack? But why can’t you sell me an additional piece of luggage its your flight? The conversation so excruciating that i put down the phone in tears. The voice told me because I hadn’t booked directly with Qantas I was only eligible to buy excess baggage when checking in.

Excess baggage is $80 per kilo and I had 28kg. You do the maths. My bottom lip started to wobble and then the silent tears fell one after another onto the floor. I wanted to throw up. The cost of the extra bag was almost the same price as my round the world ticket and this excess baggage would have to be paid for each of the different flights. There are five like this. For a nano second I did contemplate wearing all of my dive gear on the flight over in protest.

Panicking I went back to the Heathrow desk to beg. There I met my Christmas angel.
I tried to look composed and explained the situation, but my voice was shaking. I asked him if there was anyway around the problem. After looking at me and realising i was in a pickle, this lovely man said, “If you check your bags in now I’ll do it and change the booking which I am not supposed to do. I am not working tomorrow morning.”

I almost fainted with relief, “Really, you can do that for me?”
“Well no i’m not suppose to, but I will as it will be thousands of dollars you’ll have to pay, which is excessive,” he replied.
“You won’t get in trouble will you?” I asked concerned.
He hesitated, “It should be ok but you’ve gotta get a move on we shut at 8pm,” he said with urgency.
I glanced at my watch 6mins.
“Aggghhhh! Right what do I need for the morning?” I rummaged fast, tugging at the zip and pulled out essentials before throwing the beast of the case and my backpack onto the conveyor.

My extra bag was just $50 instead of just over $2,000. OK problem solved to Auckland but shit what happens when I have to get to Fiji and then after Fiji. I’m screwed. I need to think of several options -shipping, selling my gear after diving…..

I pushed the problem to one side. Not going to think about it now. I am going to get to the hotel and order several stiff drinks and treat myself to a special dinner. My Christmas was starting early because one thing that is guaranteed is a disgusting tray of plastic tasteless economy plane food.