Sunday, May 21, 2017

Air nightmare!

It rained all day in Sydney, so I suppose we picked a good day for travel. I started the day at a coffee shop, and while I was there, I got a message from my friend, Patrick, from college. Patrick was one of my closest friends at NYU, and he informed me that he's now living in Sydney! Unfortunately, time didn't permit us to meet up, but I vowed that next time I would catch up with him.

Today ended up being one of the most stressful days of my life. We were set to fly to Queenstown, New Zealand. When I arrived at the airport, I checked into my flight on JetStar airlines, which is basically the Spirit of Australia (only, as we'll see later - ooh, foreshadowing! - like 100 times worse).

The gate agent asked me if I wanted to check a bag. I told her I did, and she asked if I had booked it online ahead of time, to which I replied "no."

"Okay, then that'll be $160" was her reply.

Um, excuse me?

I asked her if I had heard her correctly or if there was a way we could negotiate. She was having none of it, and when I asked to speak to the manager, I got a similar response. I asked if the bag could be considered a carry-on, to which the manager said, "our carry-on weight limit is 7 kgs."

So, Keith and I immediately began tearing apart my suitcase and hurriedly stuffing my belongings in his to-be-checked bag and moved the lighter things into his carry-on. All of this while they were announcing that our flight was due to close check-in any minute.

It was really stressful, but I am happy to report, we finally managed to compile and condense our way into not having to pay $160. Phew!

Then, came security. Sadly, the security guard confiscated my Vegemite since (according to Keith) it was so gross that it could be considered a deadly weapon it is considered a liquid (just when I was starting to like it!). I also had to say goodbye to my peanut butter and nail scissors.

The flight wasn't terrible until we reached about 45 minutes outside of Queenstown. That's when we started experiencing the worst turbulence I've ever felt in my life. I felt like I was on the Demon Drop, and on one particularly bad drop, people started screaming (myself included). We also experienced something I never had before: side turbulence. It seriously felt like the wind was not only causing the plane to plunge down, but knocking it out of the air sideways. The woman across the aisle from me filled three barf bags, and I threw up a bit myself (in between dry heaves). I was pretty certain that we were going to die, and I couldn't stop crying. I was not the only one in tears.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the pilot pulled the plane up with a sudden movement. The force caused me to slam back in my seat, and I prayed that we would be okay. Before long, he came over the loud speaker announcing that since the winds were so bad in Queenstown due to a snow storm (note to self: don't plan a vacation for somewhere that is in the middle of winter when it's summertime at home), we would have to fly to Christchurch (and next city over) and land there.

I thought I was out of the woods.

Not even close.

After we gained in altitude, the ride was less bumpy, but about fifteen minutes later, when we were making our decent into Christchurch, the turbulence started up again. Rather than smoothly descend down, it seemed like the plane slammed down in a series of quick drops. I looked out the window and noticed we were getting really close to the ground, and I feared that we were too close to the earth to still be falling out of the air. I closed my eyes, tried not to cry, and prayed.

Soon enough, through terrible turbulence the entire way, we were on the ground. I breathed a sigh of relief, and we raced to the customer service counter to pick up our free hotel voucher.

They put us up at the Commodore hotel, which was nicer than any place we had booked! We also decided to use our free food vouchers at the Commodore hotel's restaurant. There, I had a nice pasta dish, and I also tried a drink with bitters in it for the first time. I was so emotionally spent that I told the server to surprise me with a drink. So, she brought back a lemon/lime/bitters combination, and it hit the spot!

Keith and I thought about exploring Christchurch, but by the time we got in and ate, it was pretty late, so, instead, we hit the luxury sheets, and slept for a while. Plus, we had an early wake-up call so decided to just lay low.

Cool exhibit in our hotel (this vehicle went on an Antarctic exploration mission).
We were informed that Jetstar would attempt to fly us out to Queenstown the next day. Since we essentially lost a day, we decided to change up our travel plans a bit and not drive to Christchurch like we had originally planned. We figured that while we wanted to see the city, seeing the airport was going to have to be enough since we no longer had time to drive there separately.

We got to the airport and went through the exact same rigmarole that we did at the Sydney airport with Jetstar wanting to charge us $160 per bag. We asked them to waive the fee as a courtesy since our flight was diverted and such, but that was met with a flat-out "no."

So, we boarded.

We sat on the flight for a while before being told that we would have to exit the flight because the weather conditions were still too bad to land. One of the flight attendants assured us that this happens all the time because Queenstown is such a hard airport in which to land. She even said a lot of times passengers on diverted flights have to take a bus from Christchuch to Queenstown.

The part of me that didn't want to take any more flights secretly hoped that would happen.

The airline agreed to give us more food vouchers, so we stopped to get sandwiches and waited to see what would happen next.

One of the ground crew members informed us that there was a flight from Melbourne to Queenstown that was currently tying to land. He said, "they're going to give it a go, and if they make it, then we'll take off, too."

Give it a go?!

Like, just try to attempt to land? What happens if they fail?

Trying sriracha is something you give a go; not landing a hundred ton potential death machine!

He was so nonchalant about it, which was not reassuring in the slightest.

After eating our sandwiches Mr. Give-It-A-Go came over the loud speaker and proclaimed, "alright, the flight from Melbourne has just had a successful landing, so we're going to be boarding shortly."

A successful landing? As opposed to an unsuccessful one? What was a successful landing? Bodies weren't scattered all over the runway after impact?

I secretly pondered if they would have announced an unsuccessful landing over the loud speaker, while biting my lip and getting ready to board the plane.

This go round wasn't exactly smooth, but it was much, MUCH better than the barf-fest that I endured the previous night.

When I looked out the window and saw our plane carefully manuvering through snow-capped mountains, I breathed a sigh of relief that I couldn't see out the windows the night before. I would have lost it even more than I did.

Finally on the ground in Queenstown!
Upon arriving in Queenstown, we rented a car. I was too nervous to drive on the left, so I made Keith handle that.

We headed to our digs for the night, the Pinewood Lodge. The weather was really snowy and cold, and the front desk attendant informed us that the entirety of Queenstown was without power due to an update of the power grid. So, I crawled into bed and tried to stay warm in the freezing temperatures. I wasn't feeling too hot, so the serious nap that followed was quite welcomed.

I made my way to the grocery store (P.S. holy wow are grocery store prices expensive in Queenstown!), bought some food, and quickly resumed my position under the covers.

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