The great adventure begins!!
Thursday morning, October 1, Georges and I left the luxury and comfort of Luxembourg to head to where tents and a lot of body stinkiness awaited us.
We had a last coffee (G had hot cocoa) and pastries with Philippe in the Luxembourg airport. Then we boarded our plane for Paris.
Upon arriving in Paris, we found our flight to Kuda Lumpar, Malaysia, cancelled. If you’re like me, you might wonder what exactly ‘cancelled’ could mean to an airline passenger. It turns out to mean, simply, there’s no plane on which to board. Which meant, for us, our beautiful two-day trip with a total of five hours in layovers suddenly became a lot longer.
Once we were sure there was no plane, my first comment (as Georges’ ears started to steam) was, “Better cancelled than crashed!” and I tried to maintain my focus on that for the next four days dealing with Malaysia Airlines. Which, by the way, I strongly recommend against ever using. It is worth quite a difference in cost to me never to have to fly with Malaysia Airlines again.
We ended up staying in Paris from Thursday morning to Friday afternoon. Malaysia Airlines put us up in a hotel there in the airport (Ibis) and gave us food vouchers for lunch, dinner and breakfast. The hotel wasn’t so bad; the room was tiny (even for European standards) but very clean and plenty of space considering we had nothing to do but watch TV and sleep in the room. The food in the hotel, on the other hand, was miserable. This was the first time in my life I’ve ever been faced with a buffet of options and unable to find a single thing even close to edible. I tried everything I could think of down to completely covering my plate of food-like-objects with mounds of salt and pepper. No gain. It was so disgusting. G and I couldn’t believe it was even possible to present these pans and tell people to eat the contents. The saving grace was bread. So we ate a lot of bread.
At 8:15 Friday morning, we went back to Malaysia Airlines check-in and waited in the unending switchback line for over an hour. When it was our turn, the perfectly pleasant lady informed us our flight was delayed until the afternoon but we should go ahead and go to the gate where a midday meal would be provided. She also assured us we would have a connection in Malaysia to Auckland, but unfortunately (as we had been told the day before) we would land in Malaysia Saturday around 9 a.m. and the flight to Auckland would leave Sunday around 9 p.m.–meaning we would arrive in New Zealand Monday afternoon. Our hostel and bus bookings were made all under the assumption we would be in Auckland Friday night.
So. We waited. And we rebooked. The hostel was easy enough to fix–I just sent an email asking to change nights. The bus tickets (to get from Auckland to the top of the island) proved to be more challenging and costly.
We did indeed get a midday meal of a sandwich and bottle of water (a pleasant relief from the hotel ‘food’). I finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Georges wondered around our tiny little gate area and eventually talked to an airline representative to see if there were any earlier flights to Auckland. (We were told there was not.)
We finally boarded shortly before 4 p.m., Friday, for Malaysia. There were hundreds of people on the plane. We found out half of the passengers were upset because their 11 a.m. flight was delayed until 3 p.m., but the other half of the passengers were upset because their Thursday flight was taking off on Friday–the airline had sent a bigger plane to Paris and simply combined two flights into one.
The plane was disgustingly dirty and particularly cramped. The passengers were cranky and the attendants busy. I don’t recommend Malaysia Airlines–it was an incredibly uncomfortable 12-hour flight. Georges slept and groaned with discomfort and slept and watched a couple movies. I started Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, slept, watched some movies and successfully stopped a panic attack which greatly resembled the recent panic that lead to a seizure-like incident. All in all, we made it to Malaysia by Saturday morning and only slightly worse off than expected.
In Malaysia we took our time finding the information desk and asked about our tickets. We were planning to figure out how much the promised hotel voucher would cover of a hotel, but instead we found out our flight to Auckland was not Sunday night (as we were told by three previous airline representatives–who even wrote it down in detail), but Saturday night!!! Instead of a 36-hour layover, we had only a 12-hour layover. 🙂 Oh the things you celebrate when traveling…..
We spent Saturday in the Malaysia Airport, which is dirty. We walked around a lot and slept on the benches quite a bit. It was another long day with dirty, dirty bathrooms. Our flight finally left, as scheduled, Saturday night shortly before 10. One more 11-hour flight and we would finally be in New Zealand.
The plane was even more cramped this time–I have no idea where Georges put his forever-long legs. Haha, well I do remember a few times in the night when he tried to put them in the dark aisle; by the second angry person who stumbled over them, G resolved to putting his legs back under the seat in front of him. We slept and watched movies. I had already set my watch to New Zealand time, so I stopped sleeping when it was morning in Auckland. Maybe it will help the jet lag.
Tired, dirty, cranky, and smelly; we finally arrived in Auckland Sunday morning. Word to the wise, go pee before the bio security screening. We passed through border control and customs with a breeze, but we didn’t make it through the bio security screening–I had too much dirt on the bottom of my shoes. If I had known that would be an issue, I would have used any number of my layover hours to clean my shoes. Unfortunately, I didn’t; so another line, another set of scowling airport employees and another explanation of why we were traveling with a cardboard box as our checked bag. (It is our bounce box for our months in New Zealand.)
After explaining, in detail, the entire contents of our bounce box and how long it had been since each piece of our backpacking gear had been outside–I got my shoes back from the mysterious set of doors they took dirty things. Soaking wet. They had power-washed both of my entire shoes. Sucky, sucky, sucky. And in combination with already being really rather cranky–I had to pee. Not that I could put my shoes back on to go to the bathroom. We dug into our checked bags to find my camp sandals so I could at least go to the bathroom. Having resolved the bathroom crisis, we went to find our transport to the hostel. I carried my dripping hiking shoes frustrated I wouldn’t be able to wear them for at least a day, if not longer.
We were so close to showers our smelliness seemed to exponentially intensify.
We took the shuttle for 16 NZD each and got off at the first stop downtown. A short walk to the YHA Auckland City Hostel and we were greeted with some absolutely wonderful news. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Our reservation for two in a mixed gender room of six was upgraded, free of charge, to a private apartment sharing a bathroom and kitchen with one other private room. Sweeet. Plus, we needed to add another night to our reservation and we got the same room at our original price minus an additional low-carbon-traveler discount. Making it 11 NZD a person for a sweet private room (that’s like $7, USD).
The hostel was clean. Wonderfully, amazingly, satisfyingly clean. Our room is off a locked hallway that leads to a kitchen with a sitting area, a toilet room, a bathroom and one other private room. It is so great I would easily live in a space like this. Our room has two twin-sized beds, a lounge chair and a wardrobe-like thing. And it’s clean.
G and I each took showers and unpacked our checked bag and box to organize a bit. Then we laid down around 5:30 p.m.. Georges says he never intended to sleep, but I definitely did. I was clean and laying on a soft, warm bed–we had a whole day tomorrow to organize everything before taking a bus north–why wouldn’t I sleep?! So we slept.
Georges was a little restless around midnight but managed to get back to sleep. I woke for good around 5 Monday morning and continued to lay in bed until we got up at 7. Ahhh: we were clean, we were rested, and we had plenty of time to do everything we needed to do. 🙂 🙂 🙂
Two days of travel turned into four. Five hours of layovers turned into 45. A six-person room turned into a private apartment. Stress turned into, ‘well, does it really matter?’. All in all, we made it.