Monday, February 1, 2016

the transit post

So, now to rekindle an old blog I kept while on exchange in 2009 and mildly attempted to keep when I travelled again in 2012. In 2016 (now), I'm in Spain for ~6 months.

Prior to actually moving to Spain, I decided to take a little side-jaunt to catch up with a friend, Mollie, who was backpacking in Europe. It added another 5 hours of transit and 2.5 hours of travel time to the journey (which totalled 48 hours), but was fully worth it!

The actual trip was fairly uneventful. Except for delayed flights, rebooking flights, missing luggage and nauseating turbulence. My first flight was Wellington to Auckland, with NZ's favourite budget airline, Jetstar. I was confident that the departure time of 11.40am would give me ample time in Auckland to catch up with the family for several hours until it was time to board the flight to Sydney. Alas, this was not to be the case. First it was delayed for 2 hours, then it was delayed until 3pm. I frantically transferred the last of my NZ dollars out of my savings account and onto my debit card, searched for an Air NZ flight which was early enough to get me to Auckland in time, purchased said Air NZ flight, then conveyed said flight dramas to the family, who were also trying to get to Auckland to see me off. Last minute flights are not cheap, but in the end I got there. My sister had bought my puffer jacket up from New Plymouth, which I had to take in my hand luggage, and which you will hear more about later.

Once in Auckland, I had about an hour to see the family (who kindly bought me some lunch) before realising that it really was time to go through the gate and security to my flight to Sydney. I always forget how long that stage actually takes so leave it to the last minute and stress that I am going to miss my flight.

Once in Sydney, it was one hour of waiting before the flight to Dubai. I took this opportunity to test every single perfume in the airport and decide against changing out of my pj pants. The were too comfortable.

Sydney to Dubai was the next flight, and I managed to get about 6 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, turbulence woke me up, and kept me awake, trying to resist the urge to throw up, for the next two hours. All I wanted to do was lie on the floor of the plane, but you can't do that when the seatbelt sign was on. I was also concerned to discover that what I thought were vomit bags were actually just rubbish bags, and they said that they're not suitable for liquids.

Dubai airport is huge, and it took one bus and one train to get to the next departure lounge, which was just in time for boarding. I was looking forward to a shower and change, but there wasn't enough time.

The flight to Spain over Saudi Arabia and the Middle East was awesome - seeing the Sinai Peninsula, the martian landscape of the desert, the Tunisian coastline and the Mediterranean from the air was magic. I couldn't figure out what all the circles were in the desert in Saudi Arabia, so if anyone knows, please tell me. I also had a row of seats to myself, and a window, which was great as well.

I arrived in Spain and the airport was cool. Airports aren't normally cool, so I wouldn't normally mention it, but this one was. There was none of the crowds pushing and shoving like in Dubai, and it had weird yellow pillars. Unfortunately, my mood changed when the lady from the airport told me my suitcase was still in the air because they couldn't get it on the plane in time to Madrid. So, they'd just give it to my address in Spain. Wrong. I had booked a flight to Brussels, so was about to go to another country entirely, with nothing but the meagre contents of one red backpack. In the end, it was actually ok, because for some miracle I had packed my puffer jacket in it, plus two changes of clothes and some toiletries.

I then went to the less cool part of the airport, where the more budget airlines are. It was another bus ride of about 20 mins away. Finally, after five hours of waiting, I was on the road (air) to Brussels. This time there was no security or customs upon landing, we literally just walked straight through. I caught the expensive shuttle into town, then attempted to figure out the train system to get to my backpackers. Apparently a 'tram' isn't a tram, but also a train. After an hour of indecision of which train to catch, without any wi-fi or data on my phone, and looking very foreign and very cold, I ended up just catching the one I thought was correct and miraculously ended up at the right place. This is where I recommend downloading the app '' if you are travelling - it doesn't need mobile data or wi-fi to work, it shows where you are and can plot routes, and it saved my life.

The hostel was a 2 minute walk from the train station, and for some reason did not have the same name as the one we had booked online. I went up to reception and was about to ask, when Mollie spotted me (I was an hour later than I expected) and we had a cheerful reunion!

Observations from travel:
1. Don't put anything you need in the overhead locker, because they are heavy and hard to shut
2. Nor put anything too bulky under the seat in front of you, because your feet also need space
3. Travelling in pyjama pants is heaven
4. Airports are all the same

Next post: Brussels and Bruges

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