The one thing that nobody wants to hear at passport control is “Oh. So your visa must be in your other passport, then?” It is almost always the precursor of a very long day (or night ahead). The pretty blonde lady (no, it didn’t seem to be a mere hallucination post seventeen-hour flight – she was gorgeous! Only in Australia?) looked dubiously at us, at our UK passports, again at us and then at our – almost empty – South African passports. Flustered and not entirely unaware of the queue stretching like a seasoned yogi behind us, we started to gabble. “Uhm – we were told we didn’t need one. By our travel agent. For our UK passports. So sorry. How silly of us! Wow – is it us who smell like that? So, ja, a visa, hey?”
Having taken off from Santiago, Chile in the early evening of the 8th of December, we had the dubious privilege (who am I trying to kid? It was awful!) of being guests LAN airline. Apparently, the fact that one’s knees somehow need to fit between your seat and that of the rocking, screaming minion-monster in front of you, did not come into consideration when the interior of the plane was unplanned. Also, it was unfortunate that the flight (non)attendants seemed to find our mere presence quite an inconvenience (“What?? Passengers? On this flight to New Zealand and its terribly awful extension to Australia?? But why?” – imagine in a Spanish accent). But I digress.
Due to the absolutely, completely unfathomable way in which airline fares are designed (do you think it has something to do with beer and a dartboard?) meant that for us to go from A (Rio, Brazil) to B (Cape Town, South Africa) it was cheaper, or ever-so-slightly less crippling to go past C (Western South America), D (Sydney), E (Thailand), F (Singapore) and G (Dubai) before reaching our destination than a simple A to B flight in the usual manner. But as we are always seeing on cheesy motivational posters, life is indeed about the journey and we certainly weren’t going to argue about all the more travel for our buck (depleting daily at about the rate of South African rhino horn). Until we landed in New Zealand after thirteen hours of flying and (and this is no fun) sat on the Wellington tarmac for a further three. that is. As much as I really love airplanes, and I really do – almost as much as Alain de Botton, they seem to slightly lose their point and much of their appeal when not suspended between molecules of air, actually taking you somewhere. Grumbling aside we finally flew in to Sydney, a cloudy morning on, and here’s the kicker, the 10th of December. Do you still remember what date we had left Santiago? Granted, it was some time ago, so I’ll remind you: the 8th. Two days before. Now to seasoned travelers, flying over the International Date Line must surely be no big deal and it probably wouldn’t have struck me as quite an important event (despite my tragic inability to ever work out anything concerning time change), if the 9th of December hadn’t happened to be a fairly important day on my personal calendar. The day I was born. As a self-appointed princess (my name even means princess in Hebrew, OK? Nothing to argue here), I am a bit of a birthday diva and had just missed my 25th, which was somehow lost in clouds of swarthy Spanish irritation and atmospheric ether.
So you see, by the time we were being asked for our visa, the magical password that would ensure our free passage into the land of kangaroos; the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to the land of the free and the brave, we were a little lost, confused and forlorn. And then, and this was almost enough to make me burst out into monster-minion ugly tears of my own, the passport control fairy wished me happy birthday… and arranged (with not a little look of apprehension should we leave our baggage in the intestines of the airport and make a new life for ourselves on the outback) for us to be very temporarily allowed in to Oz. Dorothy (no red shoes, but the handbag would have to do) and her gorgeous husband (I think that part is in the racier sequel) were in.