November 19th – Leaving on a jet plane… hopefully!

Our Nepal V.A.S.T. adventure is nearing an end, as we embark on our next journeys (Tonic is going home, Gin is headed to NZ for an internship). The morning began with the completion of packing, preparing the V.A.S.T. bin (of course!) for his journey back to Saskatoon, and a quick clean up of the room we had been staying in at the house in Kathmandu. We discussed the remaining travel details over breakfast at the restaurant on the corner, uphill from the neighbourhood where the house was.

We were equally pleasantly surprised and blatantly shocked when the taxi cab showed up at 10:45 am (which was 15 minutes later than planned… however the fact that he showed up at all exceeded our expectations). As we rode to the airport, the sun was shining and the day was warming up. We had noticed over the past week the temperatures during the day and night had been decreasing (currently it had been getting down to 8 or 9 degrees C at night with a high of 23 or 24 degrees C during the day).

The airport was buzzing with activity and confusion as we assertively piled luggage onto a cart, and pushed past all the men asking to carry the luggage or coordinate things for us. The airport employees needed to call in the reinforcements to check in our bags, and ensure Gin’s body bag sized checked bag went to New Zealand with her, and Tonic’s pack and V.A.S.T. Rubbermaid went to Canada (for some reason there was waaaaay more confusion than there needed to be). We both also made it through two bouts of security, and two bouts of full body pat down successfully (i.e. without being detained OR losing our temper). Tonic’s pat down from a male security guard was a little over the top, and we are pretty sure that would have been illegal in Canada. Anyway we had a good laugh over it.

Somehow the airline assistants decided that we did not need to sit together – and once we realized it, no one was willing to chance the seats for us. However, we boarded the plane and enjoyed a takeoff in day time… allowing us to enjoy the scenery from the air (including visuals of the Himalayas and Mount Everest!!). Then… we promptly fell asleep.

Upon landing in Guangzhou, China approximately 4 hours later we exited the plane onto the tarmac into a warm rain shower. It seemed to be about 27 degrees Celsius and nearly 100% humidity. It was about 6pm Saturday evening in China by this time (after midnight in Nepal… who knows what time it was anywhere else!). We took a shuttle bus to the airport and attempted to go through immigration. Gin made it through successfully, however Tonic was stopped. Due to the fact that Tonic had a 16 hour layover in Guangzhou, despite all of our research and reassurances to the contrary prior to our arrival, she was required to go a different direction and would need to leave the airport for the night. We double checked with the Chinese airport immigration attendants, since prior to the trip our travel agent had confirmed that Tonic would be allowed to wait in the airport. Unfortunately the answer was still no. Tonic had no desire to argue with the Chinese officials (just like you do not argue with a semi when you are riding a bicycle) so although Gin was ready to do battle, she gave Gin a quick hug, wished her luck and followed the Chinese officials. Gin, somewhat lost with her trusty sidekick, sadly stood on the other side of the line and watched Tonic leave, given the sudden separation was not at all in the day’s plan.

Gin then continued on through immigration, and went off to wait for 5 hours prior to boarding a plane to New Zealand (what a globe trotter!!). Feeling somewhat bereft she spent most of that time pacing in 200m figure 8s through the A wing of the airport.

Meanwhile Tonic filled out more immigration paper work, met with the immigration official again, then finally met up with another official who gave Tonic a map and showed her where to go to set up accommodations for the night. For the next 30 minutes Tonic followed a Fred Penner maze (minus the guitar and light-hearted attitude) to the Accomodations officials who told her to choose a hotel from a list, then collected her signature and phone number, and put a sticker on her left arm just as though she were part of a production assembly line. She waited until an official with a sign appeared and followed him since the sign matched the sticker on her arm. She was shown to a bus which she boarded with about 5 other people, also spending the night at the same hotel. The bus drove for 30 minutes to a hotel where Tonic presented her passport and important documents, and her passport was photocopied (somewhat concerning…). Slightly concerned that she might be walking into a scene from a B rated movie, Tonic was given a room card and told to meet at 11:00 am to catch the bus back to the airport. Through all the confusion, it was still pretty cool that Tonic got to spend a night in China!!

Tonic was impressed that she was able to find her way through the maze at the airport the next morning (Sunday, November 20), and successfully make it through immigration and another two bouts of security. For the last time she boarded the shuttle bus to the airplane for the 12 hour flight to Vancouver, Canada. Though it was a long flight, Tonic was lucky that she was seated next to a Chinese man (he had an aisle seat), who was just as unable to sit still as she was and was happy to move at any time to let her out. The two days of Sunday continued, as the plane landed in Vancouver at 9:30 am, Sunday November 20. YAY Canada!!! Tonic and the V.A.S.T. Rubbermaid went through immigration and yet another two bouts of security prior to boarding the plane to Calgary. This time round, Tonic only just got through security just in time to board the plane. In Calgary she finally collapsed for a nap at the hotel that Gin had booked for her, showered, had a meal and then went back to bed. In the morning, after her work out she found her truck (still in one piece) and made the long drive to Rick’s in Saskatoon for the night.

In the interim, Gin had managed to make it onto the plane to Christchurch. Somehow (go figure!), the airline desk had made more mistakes with seating (on a fully booked flight!) and given 2 people the same seat. Thankfully, everyone had a seat, and through a number of switches, she ended up with an aisle seat (which meant that she could bounce up and down whenever she wanted – even though it wasn’t a window, at least that made up for it). Two meals and 5 movies later, the plane tried to break apart two hours outside of Christchurch… so much for calm flights. The next two hours created roller coaster-like experiences, so that even Gin (who doesn’t normally get motion sick) was feeling slightly woozy. Once in Christchurch Gin managed to make it through immigration unscathed (when asked about being around livestock, Gin simply said that she had burned everything and asked if the agent wanted to see the pictures. The agent was somewhat shocked at the extremity of the disease prevention efforts taken, and simply waved her through). She then found her way to an airport shuttle and had collapsed in bed by 5pm. Given the 6am flight to Invercargill, and 4:45am shuttle back to the airport, a 4am wakeup was in order. Moving like a zombie, Gin arrived back at the airport, but was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that there was somehow no security on this flight. Her arrival at the Invercargill airport was somewhat anticlimactic after all of this, and her new boss picked her up in the midst of a “summer” rain shower. She was at work at her desk by 10am (after a tour of course) on Monday morning.

Thus ends the V.A.S.T. Nepal adventure of 2016!

We would like to thank all the people who donated time, efforts, money, and products/supplies to V.A.S.T. to enable us to take this trip. We think it was successful, and as usual learned a lot. Stay tuned for more V.A.S.T. events on our website.

Signing off, love to you all!

Gin & Tonic

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