Lord Howe Did I Get Here?
Wake up! It’s 3:40am and I’m up. Weren’t you supposed to provide the wake-up call? Luckily I had the iPhone as back-up. I’m actually ready on time which means I’ve most likely left something behind. Fine, I can’t find one of the locks for my suitcase nor can I find my carabiner, a handy clip-thing rock-climbers use but is also very handy for travelers to clip things onto other things and, therefore, helps prevent leaving random things in random places.
The taxi arrives just before the scheduled 4:30am pick-up time. Taxi? Wait, I ordered a Super Shuttle. That’s why they said I had to leave three-and-a-half hours prior to my flight departure as we might have to pick up other people. Apparently, those other people slept in and they’ve sent a taxi for me. It’s a really nice one; more like a town car. Still, I’m at the airport at 5:00am and my flight isn’t until 8:00am.
Today I’m flying Qantas Airlines which allows a whopping 30kg (about 66 pounds) of checked luggage. It’s great not worrying about how much weight is in my bag as there’s no way it holds more than 26kg. You can divide your 30kg between two bags, but, as the only other bag I have is my roll-aboard carry-on (not including my backpack filled with electronics), and the leftover contents of that are more than 4kg, well, you do the math. So, with my carry-on weighing 10kg, and the airline only allowing 7kg (15 pounds? Are you kidding me?) for that bag, I say a prayer that they won’t weigh the carry-on.
After checking my bag with the nice Qantas lady, I breathe a sigh of relief. I’m in the clear! I head upstairs to hand in my card which says I’m leaving the country and not overstaying my visa, and walk towards security. As I round the corner, I see officers standing next to scales asking everyone to place their carry-on bags on them for weighing. With much trepidation, I slowly walk up, just as an overweight lady approaches the scale at a Weight Watchers meeting following a week-long cruise vacation. I ask the lady how her morning is going and she replies, “Fine, hows yours?”
“Oh, I’m having a tough one. My watch broke (my backpack ripped the little knob right off when I was adjusting) and I lost my carabiner. (She has no idea what I’m talking about.) I’m trying to earn her pity before placing my bag on the scale. Looking up sheepishly I say, “I know, but can you please help me? I’m traveling around the world and heading to Lord Howe Island.”
She goes on to explain the rules, asks what’s in my backpack – “It’s just my computer, I swear” – and asks me to remove my fleece jacket and pillow bag attached to the bag.
“If that brings it down to 7 or 8kg then we’re okay.” (I like that she says “we”; we’re in this together.)
I unstrap the coat and pillow (would be easier if I had my damn carabiner) and the weight plummets to 9.55 kg. Again, I give her my best sad-puppy face and, by some miracle, she says, “I’ll let it go this time. Next time be sure you have it under.”
“Oh, I will, I will!” I say. “Thank-you so much!”
I breathe a sigh of relief and walk through security before heading to grab a much-needed cup of coffee and some breakfast.
After a really long wait, I head to my gate to board my flight to Sydney from where I’ll connect to my tiny Lord Howe Island plane. I pass a gate boarding a flight to Rarotonga and nearly sneak into that line. Yup, I kind of wanted to go to the warm, sandy beaches of the South Pacific Islands. With some sadness, I pass that gate and climb aboard the flight to Sydney.
We arrive in Sydney at 9:30am. Plenty of time to clear customs and immigration, and use an ATM to grab some Aussie dollars. I also hope to purchase a WiFi SIM card which may, or may not, work in the mobile WiFi I purchased in Auckland, and likely won’t work in Lord Howe Island, yet, as at some point after Lord Howe, I’ll most likely stop by mainland Australia, I’m giving it a shot. I’m then required to recheck my bag and go through security before catching a bus to the domestic terminal. Oh yeh, and I have to pee. Unfortunately, while we land at 9:30am, we sit on the tarmac for another half-hour while waiting for another plane to move. Still I’ve purchase my ETA authorization online (my authorization to enter the country) for twenty-Australian Dollars (AU$) so, as a U.S. passport holder, I should be able to use the electronic immigration machines and breeze through.
When we finally dock (that’s what it’s called on ships and it seems kind of the same), I step off the plane and walk the many long hallways to the electronic immigration machines. I insert my passport, answer questions indicating I don’t have Ebola, and the machine tells me my passport wasn’t able to be read. I remove it, insert it again, go through the question and answer portion of this exercise again, and lo-and-behold, I receive the all-important ticket which will open the gates to Sydney (or perhaps Narnia) for me. In order to it, I step up to the gate, insert my ticket, and stand there while the camera takes my photo and analyzes my bio-metrics. The gate remains closed and my ticket is spit out at me like a sip of bad wine. The message on the bio-metric screen says it was unable to verify my bio-metrics. (Perhaps this is because I’m American and we never went to the metric system?) Apparently I look so bad after the early flight that not even the computer recognizes me. The nice security man standing at the machine tells me to try the next one as this one’s been acting up. I move over to the next lane and am, once again, rejected, only this time it doesn’t bother to return my ticket. The nice security man tells me I need to go to the customer service line.
I step into the line, all the while staring at my watch (yup, had a spare one on me) and tell my story to the people in the line in front of me about how there’s only one flight to Lord Howe and I’m afraid I’ll miss it and they reluctantly allow me to go past them. When I reach the front, the lady stamps my passport without any problem. I head down, grab my luggage and head out the exit by way of the “Nothing to Declare” door.
Once in the terminal I make use of an ATM before seeing a place to purchase a SIM Card where I deal with a girl who, well, she’s not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. I ask if it will work in Lord Howe and she asks where that is.
“Australia, ” I say. “New South Wales.”
After forking over my $29 I leave with no clue whether or not this card will work.
I head over to the Qantas baggage recheck and place my previously checked bag onto the conveyor belt. The lady at the desk looks concerned and tells me that the flight to Lord Howe has a checked baggage limit of 14kg. Um, what? Knowing this would be a small plane, I called Qantas ahead of time to check on allowances as nothing was specific to Lord Howe was listed on the website. I’d been assured that I could bring 30kg in one bag or two bags combined. Oh, and remember that overweight carry-on bag? This is when it comes into play. The lady is very nice and works with me to come up with a solution. It turns out that 14kg is the allowance in which your bag is guaranteed a place. Anything over that means it flies standby. Well, shoot, that’s happened to me twelve-times in my life, only back in the U.S. they call in lost luggage.
She hands me a cool, sort of disposable bag with a zipper and we transfer my toiletry bag from my larger luggage to the disposable bag so I’m sure to have my products with me (nobody wants to see me without hair product). Through this process, I learn that you can fly with unlimited liquids in your carry-on on domestic flights in Australia. I send my rolling carry-on as the confirmed luggage and my larger bag flies stand-by.
As I head through security, my luck continues, as the machine begins beeping. I remove various items of clothing while walking back-and-forth through the metal detector when, finally, I walk through free-and-clear. Unfortunately, my liquid bag causes some concern and, when the lady rifles through it, she finds two pairs of scissors and a cuticle clip (crap, forgot about those during the transfer). I apologize as she confiscates them, a small price to pay for finally heading to my gate.
I stop by Hungry Jack and pick-up a Whopper (yup, that’s Burger King’s name in Australia) and head to my gate where I soon board the bus which takes me to twenty-nine passenger propellor flight where, thankfully, they feed me free wine.
Tomorrow – An introduction to the Lord
**Note – due to minimal WiFi availability and it being incredibly expensive for 500mb, articles on this location might have a lack of photos, or some poorer quality ones. Apologies in advance.