Posts Tagged With: Long haul flights aren’t my friend

Wed 5 July: last day in London and home to NZ

Today the tea situation got worse, there was not even any Twinings everyday tea, I had to make do with green tea! Not a good start to the day. Apart from that, I have discovered that around the corner, on the other side of the restaurant, is another table with cereal and bread and a toaster. Yum, I had toast with marmalade, trying not to be churlish thinking how much nicer it would be with black tea. In context, if this the worst of my problems, life is pretty good.

After breakfast I headed to the metro, and off to see Shellbe. Sad to say goodbye to Brett, but excited to be  going to spend the with Shellbe and see where she is living. Brett is heading off for a couple of days to York to see his step daughter Sandra.

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London Bridge Underground – off to see Shellbe before the flight home.

To get to Shellbe’s I had to go two stops on the metro, and then get off and go up three escalators and then find the correct train to get to Teddington. I found my way to the station ok, but there was a signal problem and a number of the trains were delayed including the 10:27 to Teddington. There was however, a 10:33 via Richmond to Teddington that was not delayed and had a platform number, so off I went and hopped on that.

All was going well until we came into Richmond and I half heard the train announcement about this being the change for what I thought was Teddington, and just about everyone on the train hopped off. I jumped off as well, but actually it was the change for Twickerton. Drat! By the time I worked this out the doors had shut and the train was gone. Thankfully there was a help phone and I was relieved to find the next train to Teddington would be along in 15 minutes.

Shellbe was waiting at the station and we went back to her place. Shellbe is currently working as a live-in nanny, looking after two small boys, Asher 5 and Matthew (Matty) 3. Just after we got to the house Shellbe had to pick up Matty from kindy and left me behind enjoying a cup of black tea.

Matty was very cute and was interested in me being Shellbe’s mum, and within a couple of minutes he had invited me on the family holiday in a couple of weeks to Italy.

At 3pm we picked up Asher from school, and we went to a bushy park where there were a number of deer roaming around. They are really nice boys, both asked me lots of questions, and for the rest of the day they referred to me as Mum as Shellbe was.

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Back at the house, time for Shellbe to cook dinner bath the boys, read stories and then their Dad arrived home, and all too soon it was time to head to Heathrow airport.

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I had a last couple of hours with Shellbe at Heathrow, then it was time to say goodbye 😭😭. It was really hard to leave her. There were tears all round, it has been so great being able to share the past few days with her, in both Amsterdam and London.

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Not much of a consolation at the moment, but at least these days we have messenger call etc to keep in touch and see each other.

Off through security to the horrors of long haul flying. I just don’t have the ability to sleep on planes. I was flying Emirates, and on the leg from Heathrow to Dubai I managed about 45 min, thankfully only a two stop over in Dubai, most of which was spent getting to the next gate.

Dubai to Auckland, which is a 14 and a half hour flight, I managed about an 1 hour of sleep. The flight seems endless. Around me everyone seemed to be sleeping soundly. The two people in the seats next to me slept almost the entire flight. I spent most the flight watching movies, and getting up and down (thankfully I had an aisle seat).

Upstairs on the plane, as well as business class seats, there are sleep cabins where you have your own room with a bed! Plus access to a shower. However, to fly from Heathrow to Auckland in one of these would cost $13,500 dollars per person (20 hours flying, makes it $650 an hour).

I arrived at Auckland, it was lovely to go through customs etc, within 20 minutes from landing I had my bike box and bag, cleared customs and was heading to Auckland domestic terminal. I really did not want to get back on a plane again.

My son Dan picked me up at the airport, and had Benji (the dog) in the car. We got home at 3:30 pm. Dexter, the other dog, was delighted to see me and I spent the next 3 hours struggling to stay awake until my daughter Tracey got home with my grandson Jasper (who just turned one). They got home at 6:15pm, I managed to stay awake until 6:30pm then off to bed to sleep. Nothing quite like your own bed.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I am looking forward to catching up with my other children, their partners, and my grandchildren at Jasper’s first birthday party. Sunday will be spent unpacking and getting sorted to return to the realities of work.

On Monday there will be 323 days until the next ride. The next ride I have booked is The Pub Ride, from Dublin to Denmark.

Thank you to my daughter Kelly for all her hard work and patience as editor of the blog -dealing my spelling abilities (or inabilities) and the Ipad’s tendency to change what I have written, not an easy task.

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Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

To Bosnia I go!

In Dubai we had to catch a bus from the terminal and then wait by the plane while the bags were loaded. I was watching the loading and saw what looked like my bag but not my bike box. I crossed my fingers that it was already loaded. The short walk from the bus to the plane had me dripping with sweat – 37 degrees out on the Tarmac.

Onto the plane and the first problem: there was a man sitting in my seat! He had no plan of moving. It was sorted out by the flight attendant, he moved into the next seat. Although the air conditioning was on it was really hot. The seats seemed very narrow, and his arm was on the arm rest and dripping over into my seat. I decided to let it go at that stage.

Every time I turn left to look out the window the man is staring at me. I turn right and a woman is staring at me! I think I must be imagining it but every time I turn her way she is looking right at me. Finally after about 30 minutes of sitting on the tarmac we take off. Another 20 minutes and the seatbelt sign is off. I get up to go to the toilet, and what is it about airlines and the way they pack their planes! The front four rows we are jam packed 6 in each row, the rest of the plane there is one person in each of the three seats stretched out relaxed with their eyes shut!

Back to my seat and I have to wait whilst the woman from the aisle seat next to me has a fiery exchange with the man in the seat next to mine. The gist of it, from what I can work out, is she wants him to sit in her seat and she will sit in his. After a couple more minutes she goes back to her seat.  I get back into my seat, and the glaring from both sides resumed. I concentrated on reading my book.

Food is served: a box full of snack bars, chocolate, and a potato cheese thing.

The next test is trying to eat whilst not being able to use my left arm, as the man’s arm is intruding into my seat so does not allow any room for movement and I don’t want my other elbow in the very narrow aisle.

No water is served. and coffee and tea has to be paid for. It was a nice cup of tea. After the meal the woman in aisle seat next to me got up and leaned over me, and started the exchange again.

After a few minutes she went back to her seat and the glaring resumed.  After another 30 minutes, the man next to me indicates he wants to get up so I decided to take the chance to go to the toilet. When I get back I am waiting for him to come back, then I notice that the glaring woman is not in the aisle seat next to me any more, another man is. The glaring woman is seated two rows up. The man who was next to me – who knows.

All goes well for the next hour or so, until the person whose seat the glaring woman is sitting in, comes back from who knows where he was till then, and wants his seat back. Next thing I know the glaring woman is standing next to me. I have no intention of getting up and letting her into the middle seat, or moving over. Apart from the fact I am feeling a bit intimidated, she is huge!

I concentrate on looking totally engrossed in my book. After about 5 minutes – feels way longer – she goes to a seat two rows up and starts a heated exchange with the man whose seat she was sitting in. Eventually he gives up and goes back to wherever he has been for the past hour (I presume) and all is well again. Well, apart from every 5 minutes the huge glaring woman turns around and glares at me. Very weird. At least one consolation is that neither of them look like bike riders.

All things end – finally I arrive in Bosnia. It was a small terminal, and we are the only flight at this stage. Standing at the carousel waiting for my baggage, my bag arrives but every rider’s worst nightmare: no bike box! I wait until the carousel gets turned off, I pick up the phone by the lost baggage which rings and rings without reply. Then a woman arrives and ushers me and a couple whose bags have not arrived into customs. They wave me through. I am trying to explain I am missing a bike box, they are all nods and smiles as I am waved through.

Given transporting large bike boxes is not always easy, Rachel my excellent travel agent has arranged for transport from the airport to the hotel for me, and the man who is here to pick me up speaks good English.

We go to the baggage counter and wait for ages while he deals with the couple in front of me who don’t speak English or Bosnian. Finally my turn, thankfully I have my baggage tracking slips and boarding passes, after a few minutes he gives me a two sided picture and tells me to select what my luggage looks like. Hmmm, they have no bike boxes on either side. Thankfully my driver steps in at that point and explains it is a bike box and there is not a picture of it.

More delays, and then it looks like my bike is still in Dubai and won’t be here until the next plane arrives from Dubai which is Saturday! At 1pm which is after the bike ride starts!

The man behind the counter asks when I am leaving here and I reply before the next plane arrives, so he says “Ok we will send your bike back to the country you came from” !! Thankfully Gerre, who is taking me to the Hotel, intervenes at that stage and it is arranged I will be here to pick up the bike when it arrives on Saturday. He gives them his phone number to ring once the bike is located.

Interestingly unlike NZ where the bike would be delivered to you, here it’s up to you to be back at the airport to collect. So it is what it is, and I will just have to deal with it. I am tired and smelly and just want to get to the hotel and sleep.

It’s about 30 minutes from the airport to the hotel, I chat to Gerre. There are about 1 million people living in Sarajevo and 3 1/2 million in Bosnia, the national sport is football (which even I know is soccer).

I am staying at Hotel Michele, it is a very quaint, family run place. My room is huge and cool and is all to myself.

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My room is Hotel Michelle

The whole way since just before boarding in Melbourne, I have been worrying that I will have to turn around and head back to NZ as my 19 year nephew was missing. He was working down south and had gone missing since the night before I went away. Initially when my daughter mentioned it to me I was not worried as he is a teenager and I thought “Yep out partying somewhere and overslept”. Then when it was upgraded to a missing persons case I started to really worry. I was torn about boarding in Melbourne but as my daughter Kelly said “by the time you get to Bosnia he will no doubt have turned up, and you will have missed starting your ride. If he hasn’t turned up you can turn around at that point”. Thankfully she was right when I got up to my room and checked my phone: yay he has been found safe and sound.

I was just about to jump in the shower when the room phone rings and reception advises Gerre is ringing to say my bike is actually here at the airport, and for 20€ he will deliver it to me. What a relief! Only problem I haven’t got any currency yet, so off down to the shops with a map of how to get there. I found the ATM, and first problem: it won’t accept my card pin! Try another couple, the same problem, so I decided the only option is to get the cash on my credit card, which of course comes out in marks. I worked out the exchange and headed back to the hotel, carefully following the map.

I thought about going out to get something to eat as the hotel only does breakfast, but don’t want to go out before the bike arrives. 2 hours later my bike arrives intact. Yay! I don’t have to sort the logistics of starting the ride late, getting to the airport then catching up with the riders 100k away, with the transportation of a large box to arrange.

At this point I thought ok time to go and find food, and !then thought actually I am just going to go to bed. Nephew is safe, bike arrived, all is well, time to sleep.

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A very welcome sight – my bike box at the hotel! 

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Long haul flights – first flight done

Thankfully long haul travel is like child birth – you quickly forget the realities and just remember the joy of the new baby or fond memories of the holiday.

The flight from NZ to Melbourne was uneventful, but I was close enough to the front of the plane to observe the food being served in business class.

I had a two hour stop over in Melbourne then onto to the plane for 14 hours. Luckily Rachel, my fantastic travel person, had booked me a seat with leg room so I could at least stretch my legs out and prop them up against a wall.

I was really tired and thought I would sleep ok, but the reality was I dozed off a few times for 30 or so minutes at a time. The worst bit was the screen at the front that relentlessly showed how much longer to go. I tried not to look as each time we had been travelling much less than how I felt.

I was quite anxious getting into Dubai as I had to change terminals, which involved getting to the right place where the bus left. Brett had emailed me a map but I still wandered round and round till I walked past the same security person for the third time. He started explaining to me again “you go down there, turn left and then…” but seeing the glazed look on my face he took pity on me and personally escorted me to where the shuttle bus left from.

I am now waiting to board the flight to Bosnia, I am very grubby and grumpy. I am also a bit jittery from the three cups of coffee, and pleased I packed my toothbrush in carry on.

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The blog resumes!

Writing this I am at Wellington airport on Tuesday afternoon, through security, and relaxing with a book and a glass of wine.

My bag plus bike was over the weight limit by 4kg but Qantas didn’t seem to have an issue 😀. They just printed the labels and smiled.  I smiled too as there was nothing I could leave behind.

I have travelled twice on these biking trips with the same weight restriction and once had to pay excess baggage. This time I was wondering why I was over the weight limit, as I am staying in all hotels so I am minus the weight of the tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat –  until I remembered that the last two trips I boarded with a carry on backpack well over weight, having to concentrate on not falling backwards and hoping they would not weigh it – whereas this time I just have a small string bag.

It has been a crazy busy last few days trying to get on top of work, so I have not done a lot of training – never mind plenty of training coming up!

I am boarding in 30 minutes, the first leg is three and half hours to Melbourne, a two and half hour wait, then I board for a 14 hour flight to Dubai.

Then I have to get to another terminal to find an airline called Fly Dubai. I have nearly four hours before boarding, and then a final 6 hour flight to Bosnia.  Thankfully my bag and bike are checked through to Bosnia, so I don’t have to worry about them in Dubai.

Let the horror of long haul travel in cattle class begin.

Thanks in advance to my daughter Kelly blog editor extraordinaire (Editor’s note: My work has already begun, turning what was a wall of text with few full stops, terrible sentence structure, and multiple auto-corrects into something slightly readable!)

Categories: Preparations, The Odyssey, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

December 26: Back to New Zealand

I left Santiago just after mid night  on the 25th of Dec and arrived back in Auckland at 4:30 am on the 26th December. A 13 hour flight, and losing a day in the time zone change – which meant I completely missed Christmas Day!

The flight was not better or worse than any other long haul flight. I was a bit worried about making my connecting flight to Wellington due to the luggage belt breaking down delaying the bags coming off, and MAF inspecting my bike and fumigating my tent etc. The domestic terminal was busy and it took ages to get my bike box checked into oversize luggage, but thankfully I got to the boarding gate in time.

We had perfect weather and great views from the plane. When I got to Wellington my daughters Kelly, Shellbe and Lizzy were there to met me with my grandchildren Xavier and Lucy. I was not sure how Xavier and Lucy would react, given that six months is a long time in a small child’s life, but they were both delighted to see me.

Waiting for my luggage, excited to be talking to my family again

Waiting for my luggage, excited to be talking to my family again

Then it was home for family celebrations 🍴🍷. My family had stocked up on my favourite food and wine 👧👩‍👩‍👦 My house was sparkling clean and the section had had a good clean up as well (there had been a working bee a couple of weeks before I got home organized by my son Daniel). Even Benji had had a bath and was wearing a Christmas ribbon  😀😀😀😄. I felt very spoilt.

Benji the Excellent Dog wearing his Christmas ribbon

Benji the Excellent Dog wearing his Christmas ribbon

My grandchildren reading books - both so much bigger than before I left!

My grandchildren reading books – both so much bigger than before I left!

So almost 6 months later, I am back home. A  kaleidoscope of memories of stunning sights and sounds in my head. It has been an epic adventure, and mentally and physically it is the second hardest thing I have ever done. The first of course, as any parent knows, is parenting!

As a close friend told me during the trip, looking back it is the things we achieve that were hardest that we value the most.

So until the next adventure “Ciao amigos”.

Home for only a few hours, and already well comfortable in my favourite chair - look how happy the cat is!

Home for only a few hours, and already well comfortable in my favourite chair – look how happy the cat is!

Categories: South American Epic | Tags: , | 4 Comments

And that’s a wrap!

To take the words from a previous ride: drat, somehow I must have missed a flag, because I found myself at the airport heading back to reality!

So after 80 days the epic tour is over and I am back in Wellington. All I can say about the flight home: long distance travel is ugly! I was sustained though by the knowledge that at the end of last flight I would be seeing my children and new grandson.

I was a bit worried on the flight from Auckland to Wellington as I could not stay awake. However once I got off the plane and saw most of my children and grandson waiting for me I had a new lease of life. Kelly, Daniel (my son in law), Shellbe, Lizzy and Xavier, and Dan (holding a huge bunch of flowers) were there to meet me. Tracey couldn’t get to the airport but she was at home waiting when we got there. Kelly had bought her work car, a 7 seater Odyssey, so we could all drive home together (with the exception of Daniel who kindly drove a separate car to carry all my stuff, such as a large bike box).

Proud Gran!

We got takeaways on the way and Dan had organized wine for the celebration. We had an enjoyable evening catching up.  I got to hold my grandson at the airport and then again at home. I finally got to see him with his eyes open.

Benji the Excellent Dog was very excited to see me, and not at all impressed when he was put quickly back outside when we had tea. The cat Boss had the usual cat reaction – you haven’t bothered to come home for three months so don’t expect any interest from me just because you’re here now.

I managed to stay up until 10pm, then it was nice to be getting into my own bed, no fly to have to zip up and down to get in and out, and to keep bugs out!  And an inside toilet, with paper and soap – luxury.

Writing this now it is 5am Saturday morning, I have been awake for awhile, it will take me a few days to get back into sync with the time zone. I am going to get up in a minute and go out to the kitchen and make a pot of TEA 🙂 and toast, and come back to bed. Two of the things I really missed when I was away were toast and being able to make a cup of tea whenever I wanted. Then if I don’t go back to sleep I will take Benji The Excellent Dog for a walk along the beach. Then it’s off to the hairdresser for me.

Benji the Excellent Dog

Then, would you believe, I will have to go out and look for a laundromat! How ironic! Our trusty washing machine chose this week to die. The repair man came yesterday and it is not fixable, but it did last 15 years in this busy household. Plus of course I will be buying a new machine today.

I am thinking of maybe going for a short ride today and a longer one tomorrow. Today I also need to get everything for the usual Sunday feast, unpack, and open three months of mail. At my request, my children have also saved me the magazines from the Saturday newspapers, so I will enjoy working through those. I will also of course be reading the Saturday Dominion Post – but only this week’s. Then Monday or Tuesday I will have a go at the Windmill Hill ride in Makara, and the Hungerford Road Hill.

Then I am back to work on Wednesday, and back to fitting in riding and training for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge around my life, rather than the past three months of riding being my life. However it is helped by the arrival of day light savings time this weekend!

Thanks to you all for reading the blog, I have always enjoyed reading the comments posted. A huge thank you to the editor of this blog, my daughter Kelly, who has done an amazing job, adding  links to the places I have visited, and interpreting and correcting my creative spelling to ensure that my posts are actually readable. I am a challenged (I prefer the term creative) speller at the best of times, but with often poor lighting and the iPad adding its own interpretation of what I’m saying (which I did not always manage to notice and correct) – all I can say is “Kelly you have done an amazing job, thank you”.

This is the final bog for this epic adventure! However blogging will resume with the Bamboo Road ride, late 2013! This epic journey goes from Shanghai to Singapore over three months. I will have to be a sectional rider for this as won’t be able to take three months off again.

Thanks for reading! Some more photos will be posted on Facebook over the coming weeks. You can see them here: 100kayesadayfacebookpage.

(And if you are looking for another cycling adventure to read about, you could follow this one, the blog of a midwife who is cycling around Australia: www.gogirlaustralia.net.au)

Categories: Information | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Up, up and away!

It occurs to me now that I should have taken a lap top or an iPad with me on this trip, as I am currently standing in the lobby of the hotel typing on a keyboard with most of the letters missing, and there is no chair! I guess when there are 500 guests and and only 1 terminal you do not want people to spend too long.  Best of all, the webpages and instructions are all in Russian!

Anyway, let us not dwell on the negative, I’m off on my exciting adventure!

I got up on Friday morning at 5am to finish a couple of things for work that I hadn’t managed to get done earlier. It took longer than expected so I did not start packing until 9am.

This was not a good plan given my flight was at 12pm.

Luckily Lizzy and Dan thought I had packed already so they weren’t stressed. I also had not quite got around to weighing everything, so I was 5 kgs over the limit – not that it made a difference as nothing in there could have been left behind – so I was stung for an extra $250 for excess luggage at the airport. Ouch.

I had a couple of tears prickling in my eyes when waving goodbye to Lizzy and Dan – three months is a long time.

I had a 3 hour wait in Auckland, and then a 1 hour stop over in Brisbane (after a 3 hour flight next to two small, grumpy and crying children) and then a 13 hour flight to Dubai (thankfully minus the crying children). It was a long flight.

It was 32 degrees when I arrived in Dubai, luckily it was air conditioned in the terminal. It was 4am and as busy as Lambton Quay on a sunny lunch time. I had to find my way to a gate down a route that had 240 gates, and then had another long wait (5 hours this time).  There was a constant stream of people, of every ethnicity.  There was a large group of Arabic people – the men in black robes, the women in white – all sleeping on the ground. “What a great idea” I thought, and sprawled out myself.

The flight to St Petersburg was 5 and half hours, sitting next to a small happy, singing and chatty child, watching a cartoon on a laptop, which was loud even through headphones.

Needless to say, I was very pleased to arrive, and even happier when I saw my bike and bag had arrived as well. I had a slight delay getting in as I had not realised that I had to fill the departure half of the entry documentation as well as the entrance. Oops.

The terminal was a bit of a shock after Dubai, which was shiny, new and opulent. St Petersburg was . . . well, think Wellington Airport before we got the new one.

I was very happy to see the shuttle driver with my name written on a board, off we headed to the hotel. When we got there, Igor (the Russian guide who is going to show me around for a few days) was waiting to meet me. We talked about things to do, and then he showed me a map, and drew instructions on where to meet him the next day. Simple instructions so that I would not get lost. Haha more on this later, but as will be no surprise to family and friends of course I did.

I was pleased to get to my room to unpack and get to bed for some much needed sleep.

Categories: Preparations, Russia | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments