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In Tahiti

semi-overcast 29 °C
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On long distance flights, for us most airlines are pretty much the same: there’s individual in-flight entertainment, mediocre food and some kind of cheap toy article handed out for kids. But this time, there was a first: never before did we get a flower handed out in a plane. In this case it was even a Tahitian Tiaré which was extremely fragrant with a very pleasant smell.

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Upon our arrival, we were pleased once more about a distinctive difference vs. other airports: at the entrance to the main terminal, there was a couple playing music and dancing for us. I found it funny to see that they were wearing official airport employee badges on their traditional costumes.
Passport control was not more than just a quick glance – after all we were just official entering France, i.e. an EU country. The airport is small by comparison and consequently our bags arrived in no time.
As it was just a bit after 5am in the morning local time, we decided to have a break at the airport snack bar. Max was excited to get his favourite drink, real ‘Apfelschorle’ imported from Germany and we tried to wake up by drinking some tea.
A bit after 7am it seemed late enough to take a taxi to our home for the next two nights, the Inaiti Lodge. Marceline, the owner greeted us warmly and invited us to have some tea and hot chocolate. She explained all we needed to know about our surroundings and shared the great news with us that our room was already available for us and we did not have to wait until the official check in time of 2pm.
We were excited to hear that: all of us were a bit exhausted from the long overnight flight. And after a while even Max went to sleep. By noon we had rested enough to start exploring and to have something to eat. An outside nearby snack bar was easily found and we had great fresh food underneath a tree in full bloom.

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For shopping we headed to the local Carrefour market which reminded us a lot of the Carrefour we used to shop at when we still lived in Romania.
A bit later in the day we took a walk to the Tahiti Yacht Club. There we had a nice view of the sailboats, the sea and the sunset behind the neighbouring island of Moorea. We even spotted a typical outrigger canoe training in the evening sun.

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In the evening we stayed up until after 8pm and rested well until the next morning. And with that we were practically adjusted to the new time zone – five hours behind the Chicago time we were used to.
It did take us a bit longer to get adjusted to the heat though. At 30 °C / 86 °F it was actually not too unpleasant, but we were simply not used to such temperatures anymore.
There were also lots of other things we were not used to anymore after our long stay in North America: typical French baguette for breakfast, seemingly crazy car drivers (of which more than 50% seem to be driving Renault / Dacia, Peugeot or Citroen) and people speaking exclusively French. In fact, many of them probably know how to speak other languages as well, but they usually chose not to do so. So it was time for me to resurface my French skills, while Sam and Max were pretty much at my mercy to get translations.
We ventured into Papeete by taking the local bus into town. Our first destination was the central market, where we had excellent food and had fun people watching.

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From there we headed from the pier with its cruise ships, sailboats and colorful fish to the parks along the sea promenade where we easily found a playground for Max to get rid of some of his excess energy.

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Back in the center of town we had a peak into the cathedral and walked by the town hall, but actually preferred to watch the artists decorating large surfaces all over the town as part of the annual street art festival.

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That evening we were knackered and happy to just sit in our little hut outside, have some baguette with camembert cheese and local Hinano beer. If I wouldn’t have read the label, I could have easily believed it to be Bavarian beer, a typical ‘Helles’ – a nice surprise.
At night, it was raining heavily and we were able to experience a short and intense tropical rain shower also that morning. Once again, we were extremely lucky, as Marceline was able to let us stay in our room until she took us to the airport around noon. Check in was very quick and we took the advice to stay outside the gate area until 10 min before boarding would start. What seems like an impossible idea in most large airports, was easily done: there was no one waiting in front of us at the security check.
And our joker Max did an excellent job again: having a child below 12 years of age, we were allowed to board the tiny ATR 42 turboprop plane first – a big plus considering that there were no seats assigned and we wanted to make sure that we’ll get good seats for taking pictures.
And the views from the plane were beautiful indeed. We got to see all major islands of the Society Islands. We started right next to the sea in Tahiti and soon got to see Moorea and later Huahine below us.

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After just 35 min of flight, our plane made a planned stop in Raiatea, where we got treated to an excellent close up view of Raiatea and neighboring Tahaa. Many people left the plane and a couple of new passengers joined. Still, of the 48 seats in the plane 13 had to stay empty, as the short runway in Maupiti only allows for a limited payload.

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Along the way to our left, Bora Bora was lying peacefully below us giving us already an impressive first glimpse into where we’ll be in a couple of days’ time.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 15:16 Archived in French Polynesia Tagged sea beer sunset flight island outrigger baguette heat eu Comments (0)

The ugly side of traveling: our journey to Western Australia

From Rarotonga via Auckland and Melbourne to Sydney; from Sydney via Perth to Broome

overcast 23 °C
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We were in for a big change: leaving the South Pacific headed towards Western Australia. It was approaching midnight when our taxi picked us up and took us to the airport. We had booked the Sunday Nov 6 flight at 2:35am with Jetstar and were planned to reach Sydney on Nov 7 at 9:10am after a short touchdown in Auckland. This sounds like a very long time, but it’s not. Crossing the dateline towards west, we’d lose a full day. But the actual fights should be manageable. We were at the airport early enough to make sure that we’d for sure get seats. We knew that yesterday’s Jetstar flight to Auckland had been cancelled, as the owners of our house were supposed to be on that flight. Therefore, we were weary that in addition to our flight, there will also be yesterday’s passengers hoping to get a seat.
Our shock was significant when check-in did not work as smoothly as usual. The lady at our check in desk started checking with a colleague first in order to then have a chat with her supervisor. After a couple of minutes, we learned that our flight had in fact been cancelled and our flight was now supposed to leave on Tuesday Nov 9. Even though we had not received a message in that respect, the ground staff was clear that they could not do anything at this stage, but that’s something we’d need to work out directly with Jetstar. We were told that the flight was fully booked and only in the event of several people not turning up for the flight, we might be admitted. So, this meant taking all of our stuff and waiting in the hope of few people turning up for the flight.
We were shocked, but at the same time tried to remain positively minded. Up to now everything on our trip had somehow worked out and this time we hoped that this would be true once more. It’d better be: if we’d be able to fly only on Tuesday, we’d miss our flights to Broome, which had been fairly expensive due to the remote location.
While we played all kinds of scenarios in our mind, more and more people kept turning up at the airport and I got significantly more nervous about our prospects. As it turned out, the ladies behind the desk somehow made it possible for us to check in after all.
They told us that the journey might not be pleasant, but only once we checked the details on our boarding passes, we realized how bad it would be: we’d arrive in Auckland, wait there for 15 hours, fly to Melbourne, stay overnight at the airport there for another 7 hours and then arrive in Sydney about 23 hours later vs. what we had booked.
Already at that stage, Sam asked me not to book Jetstar anymore. He enforced that statement once he saw the leg space in the plane and the lack of any kind of entertainment or in-flight services. Not even water was offered on the five-hour flight to Auckland.
At least Max slept all the way to Auckland. Once there, we realized that there is no Jetstar desk to complain or see if our connection might be improved, nor is there a playground. On the pro side, there was a nice and quiet lounge that allowed us to stretch out and have a good afternoon sleep. And while we slept, Max kept making somersaults.

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Unfortunately, I had not been cautious enough where I put my glasses while sleeping. By the time I woke up, I had to realize that the frame was broken at one side. I could still use them, but they kept hanging there so lopsided that it felt very awkward.
When we finally got to board our plane to Melbourne, we had to realize that our spell of bad luck had not been broken quite yet. It was already a bit strange that when scanning our boarding passes, there was a beep and the Jetstar lady had to somehow override the system to let us in. We were almost the first people on the plane, but when getting there we realized that our seats were already taken.
The head stewardess checked her paperwork and eventually told us that we were not supposed to be on that plane. After some further checks, we were told that we should have taken a direct Qantas flight to Sydney earlier in the afternoon and not this one. It felt like people were mocking us: we would have loved to take a direct flight to Sydney. But we simply did not know and had no way of finding out about it. Still, as the plane still had three empty seats, the ground staff managed to get us admitted on the flight and once everyone had boarded, we were given new boarding passes and were fine to go to our seats.
When arriving in Melbourne around midnight local time, we were not too surprised when our luggage did not turn up on the baggage belt. After all, we had not been supposed to be on that flight, so our baggage was not there either (even though it had been tagged for that flight).
After everything that had happened so far, we found some comfort in black humor. At least, we realized that without big bags in tow, it was much easier to get through Australian customs inspections.
At the Jetstar baggage service desk, Renee was extremely helpful. After listening to our story, she filed the lost baggage claim. She also made sure we were booked on the morning flight to Sydney (which once again we were not on) and checked us in already. She also gave us a stack of food vouchers worth over 50 AUD to at least compensate us a bit for our troubles. So at least, we were sorted.
By the time we were done at the baggage service desk, it was already past 1am and we were supposed to be at security for our next flight around 5:30am. In other words: we had four and a half hours ahead of us. A hotel at the airport would have cost more than 200 AUD and anything further away would have reduced the time at the place such that it was not worth it. So, we’d spend the short night at the airport.
Unfortunately, Melbourne airport does not feature a lounge as nice as the one in Auckland, so we ended up staying on the floor in a dead-end hallway that featured at least carpet flooring. Max slept fine, Sam slept a bit in a chair, but eventually was freezing too much just in his T-Shirt, and I stayed awake. When deciding to stay at the airport, we had factored in that we’d just get our sleeping bags and fleece jackets out of the checked baggage in Melbourne. With the baggage not arriving, this plan did just not work out as intended.

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So, this is how our November 8th, 2016 started. With such a bad start in Australia for us, we figured that at least in the US, things would be going well – after all it was the election day for the 45th president of the USA – Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.
And also our luck turned a bit: The remainder of our day went as planned. So we took the morning flight from Melbourne to Sydney. We even enjoyed the fact that we were traveling so lightly without any heavy baggage.

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From the airport in Sydney it was just a 15-min taxi drive to our Airbnb place in St. Peters where we should have arrived already the morning before. The place was nice and the comfortable beds were really tempting us. But despite our aggregated lack of sleep from two nights in planes of airports, we were fit enough to head off shopping. After all, we had quite a list of things we needed to get done before heading out to Broome the next morning.
Max had the luxury of being able to borrow a balancing bike and enjoyed the ride to the nearby shopping mall. He was rewarded for his patience and for being so good in adverse situations with a fire brigade set from Lego.
But the most important thing was to get my glasses fixed. Luckily enough, there was an optometrist in the mall carrying the brand of my rimless frames. And contrary to Sam’s experience in the US, this optometrist was not only selling the frames, but also able to assemble glasses or cut new lenses. And I was really lucky: they had on stock almost exactly the part which I needed and fixed that on my glasses within two minutes! Wow – it felt great again having my glasses fully functional again!
And the mall also had everything else we needed: a food court with excellent food. And it was really cheap. But let me make a disclaimer: after five weeks in French Polynesia, the Cook Island and at airports, everything seemed to be extremely cheap in comparison. We also went food shopping at ALDI and just barely resisted stocking up on German Christstollen and other typical Christmas sweets.
Once done with shopping, we had a quiet and relaxing rest of the afternoon, a good shower and nice dinner. And yes, we went to bed really early trying to make up for the lost sleep of the last couple of days.
The next morning, it was time to go to the airport again – not even 24 hours after we had last been there. As we were anyhow at the airport, we used the opportunity to get a status update from baggage services. We were told that our bags had made it already to Melbourne. They’d still need to be custom cleared and should then be sent via Perth to Broome. At that stage, there was no telling, when they’d arrive there though.
After our rather ugly experience with Jetstar, we were thrilled about Virgin Australia. We had nice seats with sufficient leg space, individual entertainment screens with a huge and excellent choice of movies, music and games and there was good food. I watched ‘Bad Moms’ and had so much fun that I recommended Sam to watch it as well.

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In Perth, we used our three hours waiting time to get a bit of exercise. Watching TV at the other terminal, we were shocked to see that Trump was leading Clinton in the race to 270 by 236 to 208 votes. And on the flight to Broome in a Fokker 100 with as much leg space as you’d usually not even get in an exit row, the pilot ended his usual speech with the update that Donald Trump had been elected president of the USA. This is not what we had hoped for. But as usual, my friend Susan had consolation. Back in Perth I had seen her Facebook post, reminding us that despair will not help, but rather accepting the situation and seeing how to make the best of it.
In light of the bad news, we resorted to looking outside and marveling at the nice views of the outback and the Great Sandy Desert.

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Once we arrived, we moved directly to the taxi stands and were taken to our home for the next two nights, the ‘Beaches of Broome’ backpackers in Cable Beach. Soon after arriving there, we received a call that our baggage had arrived in Broome on the Qantas flight. Contrary to what we had been promised, we’d not get the baggage delivered, but would need to pick it up at the airport ourselves. I took a taxi back to the airport where I was able to take over our three big pieces of baggage. Unfortunately, Max’ car seat was missing.
So after checking in our bags on November 6 at 2am in the morning, we finally received most of them on November 9 at 7pm in the evening. Even though this is pretty awful, we were relieved to have the bags in the end.
After all, tropical Broome at the start of the wet season greeted us at 30 °C and all three of us were wearing long pants. Consequently, we were thrilled being able to change into clean shorts and to have luxuries like bathing costumes or toys again.
We were happy with the outlook not having to take any flight for the next two months. Sitting in the outside lounge area at our hostel, enjoying a cold beer (and non-alcoholic ginger beer for Max), suddenly provided us again with a pleasant outlook on life.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 18:17 Archived in Australia Tagged night flight airport glasses seat luggage lounge cancel awful Comments (1)

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