Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trails and Travails

OK so I'm on the road again. It's been 10 years since I was last in Europe and now I'm revisiting some old haunts as well as my love interest. I'll update when and where I can but what follows is a precis of one of the longest trips I've ever taken.

[take note; flying direct to London from NZ is a very bad idea - especially at Christmas]

22/12 2.30 pm Leave flat for Wellington Airport. It turns out there's no such thing as check-through baggage to Heathrow thanks to US Homeland Security. All arrivals to the USA have to go through customs and immigration. Thanks George.

4-5pm Wgtn - Akld. The usual domestic cattle class crap. If you're taller than 5'9'' then legroom isn't something Air NZ redgards as essential.

5-7pm Stuck at Auckland Airport with all the other Xmas travellers. Ick. Who takes 3 year old children on international flights? It's just asking for trouble.

7pm-10am (US WT) Ah the joys of timezones and the international dateline. It means I get to relive the 22nd of December. The flight to San Francisco's taken about 11 and a half hours and my normal habit of not being able to sleep on planes is running true to form. Still it was a good chance to catch up on a lot of films I've missed lately thanks to be an over-worked and anti-social bastard. I've managed to cram in Superbad, The Simpsons, Stardust, Invasion, and the Bourne Supremacy. Big ups to Air NZ for it's individual digital content on demand setup.

10am - Arrived in San Francisco. Was expecting a bit of a rigmarole with security (having the word journalist listed as one's occupation on immigration forms has been known to create all sorts of problems) but it's turned out not too bad. Though dear old Uncle Sam now has my photo and fingerprints on his database - not really too happy about that as I'm hardly a threat to democracy. The homeland security announcements in the airport are a little disturbing too. It's all a bit Orwellian and paranoid for a simple Kiwi lad such as myself.

I've now been up for 27 hours and on the road for about 20 so technically over halfway to London.

23/12 11am Frankfurt. At the risk of sounding like a whining bitch I have to truly say that flying Lufthansa truly bites. Seriously it's like airtravel in the 80s and 90s. The plane is dated, the AV system id a series of crappy blurry monitors in the aisles and don't get me started on the food. Forget about war crimes tribunals for former members of the Nazi regime, the caterers for Lufthansa need to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity such is the state of the food they provide. I know airline food isn't much at the best of times but the slop Lufthansa serves up is a vicious assault on taste, decency, and culinary standards.

Spent the flight stuck next to a very irritating German chap. Despite having acres of legroom on his side he feels the need to co-opt mine as well. Having an overweight middle-aged Kraut trying to play footsie with me in the dark of night is not pleasant. I've now been awake for 38 hours.

12.20pm Frankfurt. Bugger! Fog at Heathrow is causing flight delays. Flights are being cancelled left right and centre but mine is still listed as delayed - phew. No word as to whether we'll make it to Heathrow today but it isn't looking promising.

1.35pm Still stuck. They're talking about leaving at three but nothing definite. Can't leave the gate area in case I miss a boarding announcement.

4.30pm Wishful thinking on my part - Still in bloody Frankfurt. Lots of angry passengers wanting to know what the fuck is going on. The famed German efficiency isn't providing a lot of answers. We're now on the plane but no word on when it might actually leave.
My questions are; Why was this plane nowhere near the departure gate? And, why would you only have one person handling all the ticketing for several hundred frustrated passengers?

5.20pm Finally in the air. The flight into Heathrow is surreal. There's heavy fog, yet clear as a bell above 500 feet. I can see the lights of London glowing and shining beneath the fog -it's a surreal sci-fi sort of sight. Apparently the visibility on the runway is just 100m so they've had to reduce the numebr of flights into the airport for safety reasons. Heathrow's only handling 24 flights an hour which is why so many flights have been bumped/delayed/cancelled. I found out later hundreds ended up being stuck overnight and have had their travel plans turned to shit. Looks like I've had a lucky escape.

6pm London (GMT) Finally arrived and through customs. Been awake for over 48 hours and travelling and in transit for 40 - it's not quite as bad as the 42 hour train trip I once did from Istanbul to Damascus but it's pushing it pretty damn close.

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