Wednesday, October 14, 2009

$300 Seashells

I have been having really good luck with travelling. Pretty much everything has gone smoothly. Until now. I seem to save up my bad travelling mojo, and experience it all at once. Today must have been the day. I was set to fly out of Wellington for Christchurch at four o'clock this afternoon. I still had the rental car, so I had to some time to kill. I have several friends who make musical instruments (mandolins, mostly), who do inlay work with abalone shells. New Zealand is the home of the most exquisitely figured and colored abalone shells in the world, so I've been meaning to pick some up. I hadn't gotten around to finding a source for some during my trip-- I've asked around at jewelers, with not too much luck.
With my time to kill today, I hit a cybercafe and Googled "Paua Abalone New Zealand". I found out that a big supplier and processor is right near Wellington, where I was! I called them up, and told them I'd be right there. I hopped in the car and headed up to Carterton to Paua World. I got a smokin' deal on a whole load of paua pieces and six whole, unprocessed shells. I headed back to my guesthouse in Wellington, knowing I was pushing my luck for my flight. I had seen the airport bus many times going right near my hotel, and I know right where the bus stops are, so I thought I was golden. I gathered up my stuff, locked the key in the boot of the car, and headed down to the bus stop. I sat down there and waited for a bit. No airport bus. I finally asked an elderly gentleman if I was in the right place to get a bus to the airport. No, he informed me, I should be waiting a half a mile away on Courtenay Place. I hustled down there through pouring rain and driving wind-- got completely soaked. I got to the bus stop just in time for the airport bus. But it never came. I waited for over a half an hour, and finally it got there. I hopped on, and hoped for a quick ride. The bus wound through all sorts of random neighborhoods, getting caught in traffic and not heading anywhere near the airport. Finally we got to the terminal-- I ran inside and headed straight for the JetStar departures counter. One clerk was helping a very disgruntled customer, and it looked like it would be a while. The other clerk was shamelessly flirting with her boyfriend. I was starting to get perturbed. The flirter caught my stare of death, and dismissed Romeo. I told her what flight I was on, and she informed me that my check-in had closed fifteen minutes ago. I was really screwed. Their next flight was 4:00PM on the 15th, but I am booked on a flight from Christchurch to Sydney at 1:30PM on the 15th. All the tickets are non-refundable, and they are booked out of Denver, which due to the time difference could be of no help. My stress level escalated. I pulled out my itinerary, and realized that I didn't have any phone numbers for the Christchurch travel office, just Denver numbers. I headed over to the Air New Zealand counter, hoping that they had some more flights to Christchurch available. The counter was manned by one person. The worlds slowest man. Finally, I got to speak with the slow man. Turns out that they did have a couple more flights leaving for Christchurch today, and I could get on one for only three hundred dollars. I really didn't have any good options. I handed him my card. Declined. Turns out he wasn't using the machine right-- it did go through after...four...attempts. The plane I missed cost me $69NZ (about $50US).
So my little side trip to pick up some sea shells cost me $300NZ, or about $230US. I was very grateful to get a flight, though-- it would have gotten really ugly for my travel plans if I missed my NZ-OZ flight.
Now that we have gotten all the bad luck out of the way (knock wood!), I'm ready for some smooth sailing!

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