Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Blog From Down Under...

My trip here was unforgettable…literally. I thought a week in Africa without luggage was inconvenient and frustrating (and it was), but that was nothing compared to the experience getting here. I have to say beforehand, that even only in my first 4 days here, it was well, well, worth it.

So I left for Sydney from Houston on Saturday, January 16th, and arrived in Sydney Wednesday, January 20th. Yes, you read that right, 5 day trip. Houston to Denver was fine. I changed some of my cash over to Australian dollars which I was excited about, it started making it feel more real and less of just another trip. The delays started in Denver. When they went to shut the door of the plane the exit light didn’t come on automatically like its supposed to so they had to call maintenance to come onto the plane and fix it. I wasn’t concerned because I had a layover in San Francisco for about 5 hours so I had time to waste anyway. Dad was very thoughtful and bought me a one day pass into United’s red carpet club so I could have a nice place to relax, eat, get online etc. I made a bunch of phone calls, using my iPhone (which I have missed TERRIBLY) for the last time and then headed over to my gate a little early. I was interested to see what kind of people were going to Sydney, and I’m always up for some good airport people watching…

Once my butt hit the seat at the gate, they made an announcement. They said that there was “severe weather” between San Fran and Australia and they would not be able to take everybody because they needed the plane to be as light as possible to make it through the weather. They were offering $600 plane vouchers and a night at the Hilton to anyone willing to give up their seats and get their luggage off the plane. Since I wasn’t in an incredible rush to get to Sydney (other than I had waited over a year to go ☺) and that my family would love to be able to come see me and it is super expensive, I jumped up and was 2nd in line to talk to the guys about the possibility of staying over. They were not only willing to give me the $600 voucher but also make my original ticket open ended which saves me a few more hundred dollars being that I would have had to pay change fees whenever I decided I was going home (if I ever do ☺). So it quickly became an offer I couldn’t turn down, not to mention a 20 hour flight sounded pretty dreadful even WITHOUT a severe storm, so I was happy to get off the plane. By this time I had been traveling all day and up since 5:00 so a bed in the Hilton sounded PERFECT.

While I was waiting to reclaim my bags I met 2 Aussies and 1 Kiwi turned American that quickly became my much appreciated and super fun new friends that would make the rest of the trip a total blast in the midst of what could have been incredibly lonely and sad. We went to the hotel crashed, and made plans to get up for a nice breakfast on our hotel vouchers and spend the day in San Francisco. The plan was to be nice and tired so that we could sleep the majority of the long flight over. We had a wonderful day in the city and then went back to the airport. We had a 1 hour flight to L.A and then boarded our plane for Sydney. The time had finally arrived! I was headed down under, or so I thought. Long story short, we sat in the plane, that never moved for 3 HOURS!?!?!?!? THREE HOURS!!!!! They only made 2 announcements the entire time, the flight attendants disappeared about 45 minutes into the fiaso. The reasoning? Basically they couldn’t figure out how much fuel they had before the refueling process began. Needless to say LA over WATER to Sydney is not a flight where you want to be unsure of how much fuel you have. They finally let us off the plane at 1:00 AM, by the time we got our new hotel vouchers and got to our hotel it was 3:00 AM. We were told to be back at the airport at 9:30 Am since we just had to go through security (we didn’t get our bags back and were going to use our original boarding passes they said our flight would be at 11:00 am the next morning. The next morning we got up for another nice breakfast, this time at the Marriot on our hotel vouchers. Even though we still had the same clothes on, it was nice to feel clean from a good long shower. At breakfast an Aussie at the table next to ours let us know that our flight had been CANCELLED. We never were told why. Most people had already gone to the airport, we were so grateful that we stayed. They gave us our hotels for the rest of the day and more vouchers to eat with. We went back upstairs and slept for a while and then met back in the lobby to figure out what we were going to do in L.A. The weather was pretty crappy so we ended up taking a taxi to go buy bathing suits and spending the afternoon in the hotel hot tub that was on the roof.

We showered up, enjoyed another nice hotel meal and headed over to the airport to try, for the 3rd time to get off the ground and headed to Sydney. It was a success ☺ By this time I was SO worn out that I fell asleep probably 10 minutes after take off and I slept for about 10 hours of the flight. The flight was actually shorter from L.A than it was from San Fran, only about 14 ½ hours which sounds horrible but was actually shorter than my flight from Houston to Dubai which was 17. We received another $250 voucher, bringing my grand total to $850 and the free adjustment on my original ticket.

Landing was actually bittersweet because as much as I was excited to start my time here in Australia, I was sad to say bye to my new friends. Such beautiful people on the inside and out. I can't wait to hang with them again. Sydney is nothing short of spectactular, I will expand on that in the next blog and in all of the blogs to come I am sure :)

This is already way too long, I just wanted to give some sort of update. My internet access is limited and my iPhone is locked here. I am going to buy a blackberry tomorrow and get set up so I can text with those of you that have blackberry messenger and also have better access to email and facebook.