How we almost didn’t see New Zealand

Patrycja sleeping in the corner at the airport on Fiji.

While staying in Fiji we met many travelers who had previously visited New Zealand or lived there for some time. With great interest, we sat down with each of them and listened to the stories. We also asked for a short list of places that we should visit. Prepared like this, we started to imagine how wild New Zealand is and how alone we will feel traveling through this country. Utterly unnecessary…

“That is not what I expected…” ?

About a few things each of them (our “advisers” for New Zealand) was right. The nature in New Zealand is beautiful and very diverse. Almost every beach – by the sea, by the ocean or by the lake – impressed us. From Pancake Rocks, through volcanic rocks to the high Southern Alps – the trails were different from each other like day and night. Many times we were fascinated by fantastic animals, e.g. penguins, dolphins or sea elephants. For the first time we saw glaciers and for the first time, we experienced an earthquake.

On the other hand, no one told us that even on shady days we would have to cover ourselves with a strong UV filter (min +30). No one said that mosquitoes, sand flies, and cicadas will often drive us crazy. Pasture for 27.6 million sheep (where people are “only” about 4.6 million) occupy a large part of the country, dominating the landscape around the roads. And above all, no one even mentioned that in New Zealand there will be so many young Germans and Frenchmen who came for Work & Travel.

The truth is that sometimes we lacked some of the “wildness” and “loneliness” that we expected. At some campsites, we were the only ones who did not speak German. In addition, our favorite saying was – “That is not what I expected…”.

But the most important is that without the slightest hesitation we can say that we enjoyed New Zealand very much! The landscapes that we saw many times left us speechless. The biggest impression, however, gave us the places that no one told us about and which we discovered ourselves. It was worth coming to such remote part of the world to see them all!

But will we ever see New Zealand?

Our adventure with New Zealand started a day later than planned. We were originally scheduled to arrive in Auckland on 30th December. Unfortunately, we had a bad day at the Nadi Airport (Fiji) when we checked in at the airport.

Where do you fly from New Zealand?– To Australia.

And you have a visa?

– We do not need New Zealand. We will apply to Australia through an e-visa, but we wanted to do it in New Zealand.

You will not be admitted to enter New Zealand unless you have a visa to Australia.

– Yes, but e-visa is not a problem because it can be arranged in less than 1 hour. And we will be in New Zealand for over a month and a half so we have a lot of time to do it.

I’m sorry, I cannot let you board the plane. In New Zealand, you will not get an entry stamp if you cannot leave the country because you do not have a visa to Australia.

– But we have tickets around the world and you have it in the system… From Australia, we have a flight to Asia and then to Europe…

I’m sorry, I cannot let you board the plane.

At one moment we were both weak and hot with rage – after all, if we did not board this plane, all the other flights get canceled! Is there anything we can do in this situation? Yes – get an e-visa to Australia!

After speaking with the Australian Embassy representative at the airport, we quickly filled out the forms on the website. Time was running out fast… Finally, our e-visas landed in our e-mail boxes. The planned departure of the plane was still 15 minutes. With the speed of light we ran to check in… and there again the bucket of ice-cold water:

– We have these visas to Australia. We just got them. You did not want to let us in without, but now we have them.

I understand, but the check-in has already ended.

– There are still 15 minutes left for the plane. Please let us in…

Sorry, I cannot help you. I cannot let you board the plane.

– If we do not get into this plane we will lose the remaining tickets!

The door of the plane is already closed. I’m sorry.

It’s hard to even name all these emotions. Anger and helplessness, the desire to destroy something to let the nerves go, and tears coming to the eyes when the “Departed” sign showed up next to our flight number.

Thoughts were rumbling in the head: we still have more than a half of the journey ahead. How to return to Europe now? Need to buy a ticket on our own? In London, it’s now 2 am so our agent will get our email in 7 hours. Or maybe to get a receipt that we were at the check-in, but we were not allowed to board the plane?!

This was the most sensible solution at that moment. So we went to the Air New Zealand office (which was fortunately there on site) and told the whole story. The representative only said:

You are the second couple of Poles who were applying today for visas to Australia at the airport. But they managed to get them in time and board the plane.

She asked us for passports, checked in the system if we definitely got our e-visas, made two phones and added:

Please be at the airport tomorrow until 11:00 at the latest. You will fly tomorrow at the same time as today.– And that’s all?

Yes, that’s it. Tomorrow please be at the check-in no later than 11am.

We couldn’t believe that everything was settled in less than 10 minutes. We were back again – although we didn’t stop for a moment – on a journey around the world! Only had to wait one night longer for another flight into the unknown (i.e. New Zeland)!

We didn’t have any Fijian dollars left, and there was no ATM at the airport. Since they had showers in the bathrooms, and the chairs were comfortable enough – we decided to spend the night at the airport. The truth is that even if we returned to Nadi to our Couchsurfing host, we would not have been good companions after the morning’s nerves.

We definitely preferred to be alone that day. However, when we were approached by an elderly lady, assisted by an airport employee, we could not refuse her. She asked if we would mind if she joined us in waiting for her flight that was delayed by one day. She was flying all alone to Samoa to her family and she felt very uncertain about the fact that she would spend the night alone at the airport.

Together we spent the afternoon, and at night we watched our luggage in shifts so that the rest could take a nap. And even though she did ask us where we are going and talked about her trip 10 or more times, we were very happy to spend the several hours waiting for the plane together 😉

Practical tips:

  • Some nations that travel to New Zealand for tourist purposes do not need a visa if the stay is not longer than 3 months. Though there are requirements that must be met in order to be admitted into the country: a passport valid for at least 3 months after planned date of departure, enough money for staying in the country (NZD 1000 per month for one person), and return ticket or ticket for further travel to the country, to which you have the right of entry.
  • Nadi Airport is a safe place to sleep. Security and staff are present at the airport all the time and they do not have a problem if one wants to stay overnight. In addition, the chairs are comfortable enough to take a nap, and the bathrooms have warm showers that can be used freely.
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