Day 10: SEPARATION ANXIETY
It was 6:25am when we awoke. The whole night, the room smelled like smoke as apparently someone was burning something all night long. It was still smelling like smoke when we awoke. Clearly our lungs were taking a beating on this trip, especially with the Yasur Volcano experience. Who knows how much of that fine volcanic glass was planted in our lungs during the 90 minutes we were there watching the spectacle of Yasur.
There was an air of finality about this day as we were about to end our last-minute Vanuatu trip. It was also time to count our blessings since lots of things either broke or malfunctioned or was lost by this time. It started with Julie’s spider rubber reef shoes losing the rubbery soles on both shoes, then the same thing happened to me Keens (which I had left at Tanna), then Julie lost her sunglasses (again!, must be at least the fourth time) as well as her hat, and my DSLR camera finally gave out yesterday afternoon (causing me to miss the “sunset”).
At least I got to capture everything that happened, especially the Yasur Volcano (when the camera was really acting up), and the Mele Cascades, which was the last of our sightseeing on this trip. So all things considered, this was a successful trip despite all the bad things that happened.
So Julie and I were taking our time getting packed, getting breakfast (including a cooked omelette at the resort), and then lounging around at the cocktail bar with the view of the beach. We were told that the Adventures in Paradise bus would pick us up at 9:25am and it was about 8:45am when we were at the lobby. So we figured we mind as well enjoy the last of this trip to the very end.
But when 9:25am rolled around, we learned that our luggages were taken onto the Adventures in Paradise bus without us. And so the front desk lady was frantically making calls trying to see what can be done in the mean time. So this got both Julie and I worried that might not be seeing our luggage again, especially if the bus made it to the airport without us and turned it into unattended baggage.
So we ended up going into the conventional “bus” (which we were familiar with the last two days), and the van eventually took us to the international terminal at Bauerfield Airport. When we arrived just before 10am, we couldn’t find our bags. And now, we were really worried.
The bus driver was helpful in trying to make calls back to the Breakas Resort to see whether our bags were still in front of our fare. And after another tense 5-10 minutes, we finally saw the larger Adventures in Paradise bus with the same familiar faces we had seen at the resort earlier this morning. When the driver waved at Julie when we approached, I sensed straight away that our luggage was in the space in the back. And sure enough, we saw our luggage, and all was right with the world once again.
By 10:55am, we were in the departure lounge awaiting our flight from Port Vila to Auckland. We didn’t see our plane yet, but it didn’t take long before we saw that an Air New Zealand plane had landed, and that would be the plane we would be taking out of Vanuatu. Meanwhile, it was pouring rain outside, and I got the sense that the Wet Season had finally arrived in Vanuatu, just in time for our departure. I guess the timing couldn’t have been better that we managed to benefit from near Dry Season conditions for most of our trip.
At 5:25pm, we were back in the International Lounge area at the Auckland Airport. We saw straight away how much busier it was here, and we knew that we probably wouldn’t be able to rectify our split seating situation. After a futile attempt with the international transfer desk, the clerk confirmed that, and so we were pretty much stuck on the 13-hour flight sitting separately (at least we were in the same row). So I guess we were going to be in for a very long flight. Apparently, other passengers were in the same situation, but it didn’t stop them from trying as we saw a pretty large queue for the gate desk. I guess the only hope at this point would be to work with other passengers on the spot, but we’re not holding our breaths for it…
But as fortune would have it when we got onto the fully-booked and crowded flight, Julie happened to be sitting next to a Pakistani-looking guy who was willing to trade his aisle seat for my window seat. Feeling very grateful to him, I shook his hand as we passed by each other, and he acknowledged and understood that it was a long flight to be away from family. I definitely owe him one, though admittedly I wasn’t sure how to pay him back in a meaningful way on the spot.
And so our overnight flight back to LAX might have been 30 minutes delayed (we had a 7:15pm departure), but we ended up arriving at the terminal at LAX 30 minutes before the scheduled arrival time of 10:30am on Sunday.
But as we were walking from the plane and towards immigration, the cheap 500 vatu flip flops that we bought at the last minute in Port Vila broke on me so I was half walking bare-foot and half trying to fix it on the fly. When Julie and I finally recovered our luggage (though it was strange that Julie’s luggage was by the bathroom for some reason), we managed to get out my reef shoes that were also newly bought from Port Vila at 1600 vatu while I chucked my dodgy flip flops. It was yet another casualty on the list of things that died on us (or got lost) on this trip.
Then at 10:55am, we had to await our shuttle bus out of LAX, which showed up at around 11am or so, but to get around the terminal area, it took another 30 minutes as it was bumper-to-bumper traffic on this the busiest travel day of the year in the US. Eventually by 1pm, we would finally return home, and we’d finally get to hug and kiss our little girl, which we totally looked forward to doing.
But not all was totally right as my stomach wasn’t feeling too hot as I was having toxic burp and diarrhea at home. I guess the calamities wouldn’t end that easily. Yet even given all these things, the memories were such that I still wouldn’t trade it for the world…