Everyone keeps asking me what the best part of my trip was, but I thought I’d share my worse parts first. Then there is something to look forward to…the best parts. 🙂
It kills me to say anything negative about Belize. I’ve come to really love this amazing english-speaking country in Central America. This most recent trip marked my third visit to Belize and it still won’t be my last. In fact, I’m hoping to get there for the fourth time in 2014.
But, the wind was relentless during my visit in November. Some of the clothes I brought to use in New Zealand, my fleece for example, came in very handy while in Belize. The wind even messed up my sailing plans. The first trip got cancelled and the second trip was cut short. My best friend almost missed her flight home because of it. She only made it because of the kindness and resourcefulness of the Belizeans.
And, that kindness is one of the biggest reasons why this windy experience hasn’t dulled my love of Belize.
Just as I had always assumed New Zealand was beautiful beyond words and reminded me a lot of Alaska. But, I have two nasty words about the South Island…SAND FLIES. I had no idea that these tiny critters could be so ruthless. It all started in Abel Tasman at dinner. I had wore long pants, but only sandals on my feet. I was nearly in tears after less than 30 minutes. It wasn’t until our trainee-guide asked if the restaurant (it was outdoor seating) had something that I discovered a “saving grace” and my defense against the sand flies. I didn’t know what I was spraying on my legs and feet at the time, but it worked instantly.
Later I was filled in on the contents of this ankle-saving juice. It was a mixture of Dettol (a medical antiseptic) and Baby Oil. It took me approximately .000001 seconds to decide those ingredients would be on my shopping list in the next town.
After successfully mixing up my own concoction, the sand fly assault on me was over, but not without the scares of battle. I still have about three little marks on my legs to remind me that I never want to do battle with sand flies again.
I didn’t think I was going to be able to leave Australia and while at first that sounds AWESOME, I was ready to get home. My flight from Cairns to Sydney showed up just two hours before my international flight. It was enough time, but it would have been nice to have a bit more time to get from the domestic to international terminal and get checked in.
However, I did not expect to get to the Air China ticket counter and find out that they couldn’t find my reservation…even though I had a printed itinerary from United Airlines. They recommended that I call United and get a ticket number (hint to fellow travelers…a confirmation number may not be enough…make sure you get ticket numbers). I had no means to call United, so I tried to get information using the crappy-free airport wifi. What did I find? United Airlines doesn’t have an international toll-free number…really United??? If they find out about flight cancellations and such, they will activate a temporary phone number. Not helpful.
After 1 1/2 hours of back-and-forth with the Air China employees, one of them got out his personal tablet and let me use Skype to call United Airlines (United States only) toll-free number. It turns out that instead of my ticket being under Pamela it was under MissPamela. Since this was getting worked out at the last possible moment, the Australian ticket agents could not check me all-the-way-through…meaning I was going to have to collect my bags in China and recheck them. And, that brings up the next worse part of my trip.
I didn’t get a China Visa because I would only be spending a six hour layover at the airport. Normally that’s really easy, but since the Australia ticket counter didn’t check me or my bag through, I had to go through Immigration and Customs. I only found this out after standing in three lines and deciphering broken English. Getting through immigration was scary because I got pulled aside and then several immigration officers were speaking about me in Chinese (I knew this because I heard my name once in a while). Several phone calls later, I got a temporary Visa. Getting through customs was a non-event…I just walked through…no one said anything to me.
Waiting for the ticket counter to open made me nervous. I knew they’d have a tough time finding my reservation and this time there would be a language barrier. Luckily I was second in line and it was a good thing…they couldn’t find my reservation. This time I was armed with my ticket number and that helped a lot…it only took 45 minutes to get checked in. I could not have been happier once I got through security and close to my gate.
And, to make things better there was a STARBUCKS!
There is always something that doesn’t go as planned when traveling and over-all I would say all the items above were pretty minor. Well…except I really was worried when they couldn’t find my airline reservation on the way home. What saved me from total meltdowns…taking deep breaths and staying calm.