USA to Australia
So the time has come to leave the USA and head to Australia. Our flight from Honolulu to Sydney was late evening. So we spent a final day enjoying Waikiki beach. Then we set off for the airport in good time as the traffic in Honolulu can be quite heavy. We also needed to fill the car up with petrol before dropping it off. As it turns out at 8 pm there was very little traffic. We also spotted the one and only petrol station on the way to the airport quite easily.
After we dropped the car we took the Dollar shuttle back to the airport. Inside the airport, we looked for the check-in desk. Nobody was there. There was a small queue of people there but nobody knew what was happening. We wandered around a bit to see if we were in the wrong place but it seemed this was the only desk so we got in the premium queue. Under the premium sign, someone had tacked a bit of paper with ‘web check in’. Since we had checked in already online and only needed to drop our bags we decided to take a chance on the web check-in queue. Everyone else got into the Qantas queue which was next to us on the other side.
Then we waited and waited. Eventually around an hour or more later a Fiji airlines lady appeared and confirmed we were in the right queue. All the others in the Qantas queue were in the wrong line and had to move across to the other side. This caused absolute chaos as there were several families in that line who had an amazing amount of luggage with them. We are travelling around the world with just small wheelie bags. However, our fellow passengers have 3 or 4 huge crates per family. Then they also have large suitcases and huge rucksacks. I have no idea what they are transporting. Paul reckons they were shopaholics.
Just before the desk opened the Fiji Airlines lady reappeared and tagged our hand luggage as approved. Then she asked the people next to us what luggage they had. She seemed as amazed as me when they showed her and promptly told them they could only take 1 case and 1 hand luggage per person. They seemed genuinely surprised but found themselves facing a very large excess baggage fee.
We got called forward first. Checking in online is supposed to save time but in our case, it seemed to complicate things instead. I don’t think anyone in Honolulu flying Fiji Airlines checks in online because they seemed incapable of processing us. In the end, a supervisor voided it and they checked us in again. Then they printed 3 bag labels instead of 2 and apparently that is a big problem and so one had to be voided. Finally, we were all checked in. Then our bags swept away on the conveyor belt (I would be lying if I said I didn’t fear that I would never see them again at this point).
Then we go through immigration. Fortunately, it wasn’t busy as it was very chaotic even with just a few people. Still, it didn’t take too long. By then it was about 11 pm and we were beginning to flag significantly. Nothing in the airport was open so we wandered down to gate 25 and joined the other people waiting for our flight sitting outside and waiting to be let in. Finally, around midnight they called us into the lounge. Then we waited some more.
We were sitting in row 15 so quite near the front. Of course, they boarded from the back. They started with rows 30-43 then worked forward. Finally, they called 25 onwards. So we waited – and waited – no call was ever made for the front few rows. A group of us in the lounge just got tired of waiting and queued to get on. Total chaos Fiji Airlines style.
Onboard our flight from Honolulu to Sydney
The plane for our flight from Honolulu to Sydney was an old type one. No seatback tv or anything. I was past caring by then though. All I wanted was to get in my seat so I could go to sleep. We took off shortly after the scheduled time of 1.15 am and about 10 minutes later they tried to give Paul a veggie meal but he waved them away. The flight attendant actually looked surprised that somebody didn’t want a meal at 1.30 am and tried again. They didn’t have many takers for the meals at all. Most people (myself included) were either asleep or pretending to be as the last thing on your mind at that time is eating airline food. Fortunately, I slept for almost the entire 6-hour flight and only woke up when we were descending for our first stop at Apia in Samoa.
According to my timetable, this was a technical stop – whatever that is supposed to mean. I thought of re-fueling but actually, we dropped off some passengers and picked up some more. Fortunately, we didn’t have to get off. Even more so as it was torrential rain and really windy. A foreshadowing of the terrible weather that was already on its way to this part of the Pacific. Then we took off again for a further 2 hour trip to Fiji. This actually passed quite quickly. Mainly because they spent most of the time serving coffee and breakfast.
Transiting in Fiji
We couldn’t fly direct from Honolulu to Sydney so we had a short stop in Fiji. On arrival in Fiji, we had to get off and change planes but our luggage was going straight through (hopefully). Because we were flying to Sydney we had to give up our water and have our hand luggage scanned again. Then I bought some coke in the newsagent and it had to be packed up and collected at the gate as if it was a litre of vodka. Bizarre but apparently a requirement of the Aussie authorities. We had a further 4 1/2 hours to Sydney but this time a nice new shiny plane with seatback TV.
And for the hobbits – 2nd breakfast – a rather dodgy looking sausage and scrambled egg concoction and plenty of coffee. Paul and I both watched the Matt Damon film The Martian which was actually quite good and at 2 1/2 hours long made the flight tick by quite quickly. I followed that with a couple of episodes of ‘How I Met your Mother’ which Paul watches endlessly at home and which irritates me but served to pass the time.
Arriving in Sydney
Our long flight from Honolulu to Sydney was finally over. We arrived in Sydney on time. Being in row 7 this time, we were pretty much first off the plane. They have e-passport machines where you process your own passport and get a little card, then you go to the gate and have your photo taken and you’re through – great system. We were out of there in no time at all.
Firstly, we took the airport train into Sydney Central Station for a rather pricey $15AUD (that’s about £7.50) each for a 15-minute journey. It was convenient since we stayed right next to the railway station at the Sydney Youth Hostel. A rather sleep-deprived Paul wasn’t very impressed when I told him where we were staying but it was actually ok. Although they do have dormitory rooms they also have double rooms with ensuite and our room was basic but very clean. We both slept really well in it which quite surprised us both.
Although we were both pretty exhausted after our long flight from Honolulu to Sydney we wanted to make the most of our few hours in Sydney. So we decided to walk down to Darling Harbour. We’d been there before and enjoyed wandering around. We found it easily enough as it wasn’t far from the hotel. However, it was absolutely heaving with people. Simply, crowds of people everywhere. As we made our way down to the water’s edge we realised why. We found ourselves in the middle of a Dragon Boat Festival celebrating the Chinese New Year. Probably everyone in Sydney was crammed into the harbour area. And it was baking hot and really humid.
We decided we needed to get out of the sun for a bit and found ourselves a nice little bar for dinner (pizza) and beer. We had a bit of a weird moment when Paul asked for a pint of lager and the girl looked at him like he was mad and waved a smaller (not quite a 1/2 but definitely not a pint) glass and said this is all we do.
Refreshed we watched the finals of the dragon boat races and then headed back to the hotel for an early night – with a small detour via the attached bar/cafe for a couple more bottles of beer. It’s a brief stop in Sydney this time as we move on to Melbourne tomorrow.