Turkey - the 48 hour flight home

Luke and Robin on the plane.

We didn't not leaving Coskin House until 10am and the majority of the packing was done yesterday by Julianne so it is a morning not rush which is nice, through it was not a major relaxing morning. I am wanting to adjust to NZ time early and as such I woke up at 1am which is 10am NZ time and spent several hours working on my blog before heading back to bed at 3am.

I was up around 6-30am and the others woke over the next hour. The final showers, breakfast and last minute packing was done and all was sorted by 9am. I then rushed back to the Astra Bazaar to spend the last 18 Lira on Jasmine tea bulbs, no point taking the money back with us.

On the way back to Coskin House I said goodbye to the Hoyia Sofia and Blue Mosque as I walked past them, I do love the location where we are staying, no matter how hard it is to drive to.

All the bags were first carried down the steeps stairs to the street and then down the steep street to the minivan hired to take us to the airport, because of those pesky bollards again. The driver was 10 minutes early so we were all packed and moving by 10am. At the airport a problem was quickly identified – we had no money left as I had spent it all on jasmine tea - and you need a single Lira coin to get a trolley at the airport.  I was really kicking myself as I had 3 coins in the morning and they all went on tea instead.

We have so many bags now that they can’t all be carried at once.

So they were all carried to the nearest door and we joined the queue for bag scanning to get into the terminal. I ran around for a bit trying to get a trolley but no success. Getting all those heavy bags to the start of a long queue and then getting through the queue was a real challenge. Once though the bag checking process we went to some scales that were nearby and weighed all the bags and found out why it was hard work. Each suitcase was between 26 & 29 kg’s – so the three together came to about 85 kg’s. And then were the 2 big packs at around 20 kg’s each. All up it turned out that Julianne and myself had about 101 kg’s and Grandma bags came to about 50 kg’s. Luckily we are flying on Etihad as they give a 30 kg weight limit and not the 20kg limit I am used to with most other airlines, but even so Julianne and I had a total limit to 100,(30 for myself, Julianne & Robin and 10kg’s for Luke) but it looked like Grandma was in for an expensive trip home with excess baggage at 20 kg's over her limit.

I then went for an explore as I am prone to do, and then hallelujah I found two free trolleys. Inside the terminal it is a lot easier than outside to get a free trolley as people are checking in their bags and leaving trollies around.

Coming back with the trollies was such a good feeling and the look of relief on both Julianne and Grandma faces was great to see. At this time it was 11-30am and we fly out at 2-30pm so we had time, which was the plan. I didn’t want to be rushing at the airport and can now relax until check in opened.

Sitting with our huge array of bags, 150 kg's worth at Istanbul Airport!

After what seemed a long time but was actually only 15 minutes the check in opened and we joined a very long queue. After being in the queue for about 30 minutes and being about just over half way from where we started, we were pulled into the business class queue because Luke woke up and started crying. Babies are a great way to get to the front of a queue when traveling I have noticed.

It was decided to put all the bags together and for Grandma to pay any extra, as the rest of us were just 1kg over our limit – but for some unknown reason there was no comment and all our bags were accepted! So we quickly left the check in area before they changed their minds and headed to passport control. So much for the concern about Grandma being 20 kg’s over the limit. Maybe they gave Luke 30 kg’s instead of 10?

On getting to the other side of security we had our last meal in Turkey at the airport. At 2.05pm we were sitting at the far end of the terminal where our gate was located when I noticed the laptop – the Mac was missing! The flight was at 2-25pm – so I had 20 minutes to find it, and most importantly all the holiday photos were on it. This caused quite a bit of stress as you can imagine and was the last thing we needed especially being right at the end of the last terminal and quite a distance from the main terminal.

Luke and Robin watching the planes just before I noticed the Mac was missing.

After letting the airline staff know I ran back to the final bag security check point, just after passport control. Of course the staff didn’t really speak English but I finally got my message across and someone pulled out the Mac from under a desk – what a relief. I then had to open it up and show them a photo with me on it plus sign a form to get it back. Then dashed back to the gate to meet the others with 10 minutes to spare. I am so glad I decided to be paranoid and double check things before boarding. Leaving the Mac behind in Turkey would have been a complete nightmare.

It was a 5 hour flight to Abu Dhabi.

Luke on my lap on the flight to Abu Dhabi - not a lot of room but an important window seat. 

Another plane got very close during the flight - a bit too close for my liking, especially at 30,000 feet.

At Abu Dhabi we started our massive 14 hour stop over! This giant stop over gave us a really good cheap flight but created a 48 hour flight! There were a number of Australians on the same plane also heading to Sydney but with only a 2 hour stopover, they are lucky and I’m not sure why we have to wait another 12 hours for the next flight to Sydney with the airline.

The stop over turned out to be not too bad, Julianne and Grandma slept for half of it as it was now night time in Turkey & Robin for most of it. We tried to keep Luke awake as much as possible so he would sleep more in the plane so whenever someone went for a walk around the terminal they would take Luke with them.

Everyone else asleep - Robin, Julianne, Grandma and Luke with me awake. I had been awake for about 20 hours at this point.

The terminal was very baby friendly as there are prams everywhere so Luke could be easily contained. The biggest issue is that there are not many bathrooms so the queues were always long, even in the gents.

Luke playing at Abu Dhabi airport. 

Julianne & Robin catching more sleep in the more comfortable seats near our actual gate.

I made sure I only slept for an hour during this 14 hour period so I was very tired by the time we took off but when I finally slept on the plane after our first meal it was 2am NZ time – so I was sleeping during the NZ night time and not the Turkish night like the others. I got a good 4 – 5 hours’ sleep on the plane which really helped after being awake so much over the last 24 hours.

Luke and Robin on the plane to Sydney. These front of isle seats give us heaps of room but this means no window seat.

Arriving in Sydney after a 14 hour flight we were all getting tired, but at least the stopover was only a more reasonable 5 hours and not another 14 hours. With time spent getting off the plane and going through the Australian bag checking process, finding the gate the wait seemed to fly-by and we soon on our final flight to Auckland. This was a simple Virgin flight so there was no plane entertainment but we were all too tired to care at this point.

The amazing thing was the meal on the flight was really amazing, normally airplane food is good nowadays but the lamb curry was so tender, the meat just came apart so easily and quickly – yummy. Luke slept the entire flight except for waking up just when the meals were being served – which is the worse time of course. When eating, Luke he is prone to quickly grab something and food just goes everywhere. Eating with him asleep on my arm is tricky enough, but awake is a complete nightmare. Luckily I was able to get him back asleep so I could eat in relative peace.

I had a 30 minute nap on the flight and then we landed and luckily everything went very quickly. Very short queue for passport control and the bags arrived at the carousel just as we did – and that never happens.

Bio-security was a bit of a concern because we have a range of tea, turkish-delight, Turkish biscuits and so on, but Julianne had detailed a list of what we had so we could easily declare it all. This is the easiest way, declare it – they review it - confirm you are being honest and just let you though.

The bags had to go through an x-ray and the sniffer dog didn’t like my camera bag because I had lunch in there previously but after a short delay we were through the door, and on the other side was everyone.

Grandma was quickly swamped by Cleo, Hope & Marshall. Everyone was so happy to see us which is of course a really great feeling. Marshall just would not let go of Grandma’s hand which as so cute.

Back safely in New Zealand.

After some emotional hellos’ and then a very emotional goodbye to Grandma I headed out to Pukekohe with my father in his new car. I have not spent 4 continuous weeks with my mother for a very long time, and she has never been overseas before so was very reliant on me but everything came though OK. It was sad to say goodbye to her, but I will no doubt see her soon.

Adam Weller