Vacation 2001, Days 7-8
Friday-Saturday, July 27-28
Xian, China to Christchurch, New Zealand
At 11:25 am I depart Xian airport on Dragon Air flight 941 for Hong Kong arriving there at 2:05 pm. The flight takes 2 hours and 40 minutes. 6 hours later at 8:25 pm Cathy Pacific flight 107 departs for Auckland, New Zealand arriving 10 hours and 45 minutes later at 11:10 am Auckland time.(Auckland's time is 4 hours later than Hong Kongs). On the map below the cities are labeled. The Xian to Hong Kong flight is in RED. The Hong Kong to Auckland flight is in BROWN.
The final leg of this travel day goes from Auckland to Christchurch on a booking that we changed at the last minute to a later flight so as not to be rushed. The new flight (Qantas 4137) leaves Auckland at 2:40 pm and arrives in Christchurch at 4:00 pm for a flight time of 1 hour and 20 minutes. The BROWN line on the map above suddenly changes direction to make the connection to Christchurch. Total time on aircraft over these 2 days: 14 hours and 45 minutes. As the Australian Pacific itinerary says: The rest of the day is at leisure. I certainly hope so after all this.
Created July 13, 2001.
What actually happened on these days.
Little did I know what would or even could happen over these 2 days when I wrote the section above. For ease of reading I will break the following into 3 sections, the Xian section, the Hong Kong section and finally the Auckland/Christchurch section. Here we go...
At 6:00 am there was a thunderstorm. There was thunder, lightening and rain that lasted for about and hour varying from heavy to light. Going down for lunch between 7 and 8 am I noticed that the roundabout just outside the hotel was flooded. This was a large traffic circle as we would call it and all you could see was the grass round median that made up the centre of the circle. All the roads were filled with water from the road surface to the top of the concrete curbs. This didn't look good!!!!
Had breakfast went back to room and got call to come down and leave early for the airport. Original time was 9:10 this happened about 8:50. By the time checkout was completed and everybody connected it was about 9:00. Another glitch was that the english speaking guide couldn't get to the hotel so the driver was to get me to the airport without her. I talked to her on the drivers cellphone. About the only english the driver knew was "lets go" so we did. We got through the first pond but ended up getting caught in traffic on the other side (caused by another pond further on apparently). The driver backs up, goes against the traffic into the lanes going the other way and tries another route. After several more 'ponds' all of a sudden a girl walks up to the car carrying an umbrella and gets in. It turns out to be the english speaking guide. All along the way there had been all sorts of cellphone activity with the driver. He was talking with contacts at the airport, the english guide, and others.
After a couple more 'ponds' we finally get to one the driver thinks he can get through without swamping the car. We drive through water higher than the cars floor for several long blocks but make it. There is joy from the Chinese in the front seat. They have also found out that the flight has been delayed 10 minutes to allow for the flooding. We are on the mad dash to the airport now that we are clear of the water. It's now between 10:15 and 10:30. The airport trip takes at least 75 min. I had no idea where we were but apparently we hadn't gone too far. The rest of the trip was a case of wild mad driving like I don't think I've ever been in before. Finally arrive at the airport at about 11:35am and the planes still there but the Border Police are gone. Flight missed by about 5 minutes. Now what to do? Two Americans have the same problem apparently from the same part of town. The english guide says "this is unusual".
After 3/4 of an hour of negotiations (with Dragon Air people I discovered later) these are the options, wait until Monday and we will honour your ticket or there is another flight to Hong Kong at 2:35 pm on China Northeast Airlines but I would need to buy a ticket for 2440.00 Yuan ($460.86 CDN). There was only one option. Buy the ticket. This done I had to wait for the Border Police to come back which they did at 1:00 pm. The guide got me processed through and said goodbye. The flight on an Airbus A320 was uneventful except that I got seated in the middle of a group of about 50 high school kids from Hong Kong going back after a vacation in Xian. It turned out not too bad when one of the ones I was sitting beside wanted to use her English so we had a conversation in somewhat broken english on her part but it turned out ok in the end.
Once arrived here I went to a Cathy Pacific transfer desk since at this point I wasn't staying in Hong Kong. The New Zealand flight in their computer was booked to Christchurch but you can't do that as customs clearance had to be done in Auckland. The guy corrects it for me in the computer but only manually corrects the baggage tag. They go get the bag from China Northeast and transfer it to Cathy Pacific. Sounds good to me. Instead of having 6 hours to wait I'm down to 3 or so. While wondering around the airport I misplace my umbrella, realize it too late to go back to get it so its gone somewhere in Hong Kong International Airport. The flight to Auckland leaves on time and without incident.
On arriving in Auckland after an almost 11 hour flight that was quite bumpy for about the last 2 hours, I get off, go through passport control and to the baggage carousel waiting. Then I'm paged to go to the baggage office. There I'm told that my bag isn't on the plane. It's not lost just not on this flight!!! I fill out the appropriate documentation just in case it dosen't show but am assured it will be delivered to me in Christchurch once I get there. The bag will get there late tonight. Now I have to go through customs. The baggage guy says tell them you don't have any. Well customs people look at you funny when your coming from Hong Kong to New Zealand with no bags. I explain the situation assuring the officer that it will be inspected when it arrives in Christchurch before it gets to me. She's doubtful but accepts it. On to Qantas Airways for the flight to Christchurch with no problems. The Auckland baggage guy told me to see the baggage people at Christchurch to arrange for the bag to be delivered. This is done and I'm whisked to the hotel. I tell the hotel and ask them to deliver it too my room when it arrives sometime after midnight. I'll look for it. It was delivered sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 am. I was very happy!
What happened to the bag?
The Transfer guy in Hong Kong changed me to go to Auckland but not the luggage. It was tagged to Christchurch directly. So Cathy Pacific's system figured out the most efficient way to get it there. That was from Hong Kong to Melbourne, Australia on a Cathy plane and then from there to Christchurch on an Ansett flight arriving in Christchurch around midnight on the same day as I did. I was without it for about 12 hours. A most uncomfortable feeling I must say.
Last Updated August 26th, 2001
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