What was supposed to originally be a thirty-two hour journey to New Zealand turned into a sixty-four hour journey with two surprise layovers and missed flights. But unexpected adventures always turn out to be the most memorable and exciting! The first leg of my journey was to Abu Dhabi, and everything went smoothly until I arrived at the airport. After waiting three hours at my gate for my next flight to Sydney, an airline attendant came over and asked for everybody who had just arrived from Munich to come to her. About thirty of us came over and she immediately told us to follow her, and without saying anything else, led us out of the terminal and up to the “transfer booking” desk. She told us to wait there and then left. After about ten minutes of waiting around super confused, we were called up to the desk and informed that the flight to Sydney had been severely overbooked and we were all going to be put on other flights the following day.
After waiting around for another two hours while they tried to figure out which flight I could get on, I was told the following plan: I would be put up in a hotel in Abu Dhabi that night, driven by an Etihad chauffeur to the Dubai airport the following morning, in which I could catch a new flight that was supposed to get me to Christchurch by Thursday evening. The biggest perk of all was that I would be upgraded to business class for the duration of my journey!
Leaving the airport was a bit of a shock, as I was not prepared for the scorching weather outside.
Apparently July is the absolute hottest time of year in the U.A.E., and the skies were so hazy I could barely see anything in front of me. I definitely felt like I was in the Middle East.
Once arriving at the hotel I was treated to a much needed Arabic style buffet lunch. Three other Germans traveling to Australia and New Zealand were put in similar situations, so we stuck together for the rest of the day. After checking into the hotel—which also had a rooftop pool—we decided to take the hotel shuttle to explore part of the city. We were takento Yas Island which is a huge and expensive shopping center.
The mall reminded me of a much grander, cleaner, and quieter version of the malls in the USA. My German friends and I were pretty much the only people in the entire mall, and as no stores played any music, it was also deathly quiet. It was also one of the final days of Ramadan, so all of the restaurants and food courts were closed in the mall until the final call to prayer at sunset.
Attached to the mall is the Ferrari center, which is basically another mall within itself.
As the sun was setting the jet lag hit me really hard, so once back at the hotel it was another delicious Arabic meal and then straight to bed for my 5AM wake-up call to Dubai.
I was really lucky to see as much of the U.A.E. as I did—in twenty four hours I got to see the two biggest and most expensive cities in all of the Middle East! My driver to Dubai was a really friendly man from Egypt, who had moved to Abu Dhabi so that he could make more money to support his family back home. During the drive through the desert he explained a lot about the way of life in the U.A.E.
Created only forty-five years ago, the U.A.E is currently run by Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan after the death of his father, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan—whose pictures are on most of the buildings and highways.
Home to about twenty-two million people, the U.A.E. is keen to have only naturally born citizens; as my driver explained, even though he has worked in the U.A.E. for seventeen years, he will never be able to become an official resident. Only people who are born in the U.A.E can become permanent residents. If two citizens marry within the U.A.E, the government will give them a house and pay for their electricity and water as well. But my driver explained that he pays $1000 per month to share a one-room apartment with six other roommates.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are extremely wealthy because of all the oil that they sit on. This quickly became apparent once I arrived in Dubai. The whole city is full of extravagant skyscrapers along the coast, and they all sparkled in the early morning sunrise. But the city of Dubai is not complete, and with a World Expo in 2020, the hundreds of cranes are building even more skyscrapers to fill up Dubai.
Dubai to Sri Lanka to Sydney to Auckland to Christchurch:
I have never had the opportunity to fly business class, let alone business class on an Emirates Air Bus! The plane is two stories, and I had to walk up staircase to get to my seat. I was so surprised and excited to find my own little corner of the plane—complete with a window seat, a chair that extended all the way to a bed, two televisions, and a glass of champagne once I had settled in.
Once in the air I got to enjoy a delicious Arabic dinner as well.
Even though the flight from Dubai to Sydney was going to be eighteen hours, it would definitely be a comfortable one!
But before the plane took off a passenger fell ill and we were delayed two hours from our takeoff. Luckily everything turned out okay and I seemed to be on my way to Sydney, and then to Christchurch, and all the travel drama was finished! But of course, that thought crossed my mind too soon. About three hours into the flight, the captain made an announcement that another passenger had fallen severely ill and that we would be making an emergency landing in Sri Lanka.
As our plane arrived at the Colombo airport it seemed as if their whole airport crew there was waiting for our plane. As soon as we landed crew members started posing in front of our airplane and taking pictures. I don’t blame them—the Emirates Airbus is mighty impressive.
Thankfully, after waiting for nearly four hours on the tarmac, the doctors were able to help the passenger and we were ready to get back on our route.
Unfortunately this delay would mean that I would miss my connecting flight from Auckland to Christchurch. Once landing in Sydney the transit desk told me that unfortunately there were no more flights to Christchurch that I could take that day and would have to spend the night in Sydney. After nearly fifty hours of traveling this was the last thing I wanted to hear. Luckily, the lady at the counter took pity on me, called again and negotiated with the airlines for forty-five minutes, and miraculously managed to get me a ticket that would get me to Christchurch that evening!
Because I had landed in Auckland on an international flight, and my flight to Christchurch would be domestic, I had to do the following upon landing: pick up my baggage, go through passport control, go through customs, switch terminals, re-check my luggage, go through security, and re-board for my final flight of the journey! And I only had two hours to do the whole process. Luckily some airport workers let me cut the passport and customs lines to catch this final flight. I had left Munich on Monday evening and finally, on Thursday evening, had landed in Christchurch ready to settle into my new home.