I spent the last two years, like a lot of travel enthusiasts, waiting and watching to see what would happen to the global travel industry. I watched as a lack of tourists crippled some of my favourite places in New Zealand. Then I did the responsible thing, I got myself a 9-5 working in an office.
Living in Wellington was a dream; there is culture (by kiwi standards), cool places to eat, things to do, and the people are great. I had a stable job earning decent money and a great apartment right in the CBD, just of Cuba. I could walk to work, had a local coffee shop where the baristas knew me by name, and my order always came out slightly faster than average.
There is no doubt in my mind I was living the dream; it just wasn’t mine.
The arrival of winter was the final straw for me. One day in June as I watched my groceries roll across the road, having just been blown out of my arms thanks to a partially strong gust of wind, I called it. It was time to get back on the road.
That evening I talked to my partner, and we made a plan. We wanted to go asap and so needed to do some serious saving. We needed somewhere cheap and tropical where we could base ourselves for a few months while we got set up probably. Bali was at the top of the list and ticked all the boxes. I procrastinated a whole two days before saying “fuck it” and booking one-way flights to Denpasar, Bali. I set a count down on my phone and watched as the days ticked down.
The day finally arrived, and it was time to go. After a tearful goodbye to our family at Nelson airport, we were off, and Bali was waiting.
The flight to Auckland was smooth, and we got to see a final kiwi sunset from 10,000 ft. We checked into our hotel a few km from the international terminal and asked for a wake-up call at 3:30 am, which was in 6 hours. The fact I was finally going back overseas was starting to register so naturally, I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight.
At 3 am my alarm went off and I’ll be honest, no amount of excitement could have made it easier to roll out of bed that morning. I had packed the night before, so I took my time getting ready, getting downstairs at 3:30, to wait for the taxi that had been booked the day before. At 3:45 and still no taxi, we realised the booking had been cancelled and frantically searched for an uber. My nerves were still at bay because I was foolishly calm in the knowledge that we were more than 2 hours early for our flight and it was 4 am. Famous last words. We arrived at the airport to the baggage drop-off line snaking back and forward, absolutely full of people. I will admit my stomach dropped slightly as I joined the queue.
Twenty-five minutes later, when it became clear there was no way we would reach the front of the queue before the baggage drop closed for our flight, panic set in. Thankfully some quick thinking and a bit of pleading got us checked in through a different line. That pretty much set a precedent for the rest of our flight because it took us up until boarding to clear customs and get to our gate.
Warning for future travelers allow at least 3 hours to get through customs for your next overseas trip. Add another 30 minutes if you want to browse through duty-free.
Transiting in Sydney
We got into Sydney as the sun rose. Customs was nowhere near as bad as I remember and we got through without a hitch, apart from some conflicting advice that almost resulted in our checked bag being left in Sydney. The lines were once again long and tedious, but we had time and Australians to keep us entertained.
One gentleman, in particular, was very entertaining to watch. A Crocodile Dundee lookalike, complete with the hat (but not the knife), was selected for random screening. In a heavy accent, he paced back and forward, asking “who the bloody hell selected me?” and took it upon himself to walk through the metal detector with a commentary that made me smile.
Although we were transiting, we would be there for 8 hours so decided to go outside for some fresh air. The first thing I heard once I left the airport was a nice Asutrailain lady in a high vis telling the tourists to get off their bloody phones and use their eyes instead of asking her.
There really is no place like Aussie.
Nine hours later, and still on the ground in Sydney, the loudspeaker buzzed for the third time.
I listened to a lady call over the loudspeakers that they were very sorry, but the contractors who brought the pillows and blankets had still not arrived, so we couldn’t board.
An hour and a half since hour flight was due to board, we finally got onto the plane and into an exit row with extra leg room. “With extra leg room comes extra responsibility,” the air hostess told us and a few minutes later it was wheels up and bye-bye Sydney.
Home for now
We landed in Bali and were greeted by 25-degree heat at 11 pm. Customs was a breeze, and we stepped out of the air conditioning twenty minutes later. We were exhausted and had been awake 24 hours, so we jumped in the first taxi we saw. The man driving kept upping the price and we eventually settled on $500,000ird; when I googled it the next morning the average fair is $100,000ird.
None of that mattered though, because I had finally arrived. Bali was hot, busy, noisy, and exactly what I needed.