This is, without a doubt, the most complicated trip I’ve ever planned.
First, I thought Iran was bad…because it took me two tries to get to Kish Island, and showing up at a local office in Dubai with a wad of cash to buy tickets for the next day. There was no info on Kish Air anywhere on the internet, and it wasn’t even all that clear if they really operate the flight that often…but once we’d bought the tickets the plane showed up more or less on time, got us there and back, and was relatively drama free.
Then, there was Somalia. Of course, I made this one harder, entering from Kenya and going out to Djibouti. Daallo Airlines from Somalia to Djibouti actually took my reservation at a call centre in the US, and made the booking, and after faxing back and forth about 20 times with copies of credit cards, etc, it was all taken care of. Now, getting there on African Airways Express from Nairobi was more interesting…they assured me via e-mail that they had an office at the airport, and I could just show up with a few hundred US$ in new notes, and they would take me. Eventually, right after landing in Nairobi, found the office where I sat and had tea with a guy as he hand-wrote the tickets in carbon copy.
This was all a piece of cake compared to the south pacific…and I haven’t even started this trip yet, where I’m sure a million things will go wrong. Why is it complicated? Tuvalu, for example, has two flights a week…and they often are canceled, or don’t show up, or have twice as many people booked as they can carry. So, fitting all the flights between these countries was a giant complex jigsaw puzzle on its own that took months to plan. Just when I had it planned, one of them would change their flights. For example, Nauru has one airline, appropriately called “Our Airline.” Well, it was until yesterday, it’s now called Nauru Airlines. I’ve been in touch with a very friendly lady in Brisbane, Australia who is their “reservations supervisor” and she’s been answering a million questions.
You see, Nauru has all of 6,000 people. In the entire country. The airline has one plane. So it’s unclear if I’ll really get there when I expect to or not, but at least I finally have tickets.
Last reason this trip has been crazy difficult – it’s expensive. Extremely expensive. See, when you only have two flights a week you can get away with charging $1,000 as a discount fare for a 2 hour flight months in advance. Ugh. I’m also trying to do nine new countries this trip, to finish up those I have left in the Pacific. I’ll be using Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji as hubs, since that’s pretty much the only way to get to many of these countries.
If all goes well, I will be visiting the following new countries:
Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, and Tuvalu
I’ll also be visiting one new territory: American Samoa, with the cool city name of Pago Pago.
Speaking of fun names, I’m kind of excited for Tuvalu, because not only does its capital have a cool name of Funafuti (almost as cool as Ouagadougu, Burkina Faso), but it has the great airport code of FUN!
I’ll also be spending nights in Singapore, Bali, Darwin, Brisbane, Auckland, Tokyo, Seoul, and Frankfurt.
Tired yet? This will all take place in the span of 32 days. I’m sure things will get moved around. I’m sure I’ll end up likely paying several hundred dollars in change fees, but this promises to be a grand adventure.
What’s there to do in most of these island countries? From what I understand, not much. If all goes well, I plan to Scuba in Timor Leste, Solomon Islands (home of amazing World War II wreck dives), Tonga, and Samoa. Maybe Brisbane as well, but I’m thinking it might be a bit cold in late October. We will see. Other than that, at least off the islands, I’ll have plenty of time to have fun and relax in Brisbane and Auckland, and who really can complain about a forced overnight in Bali? Not me.
So, other than the new countries, this trip was prompted by the desire to use and maximize United miles before they were devalued. On the outbound, I managed to get Washington to Tokyo on ANA in first class, followed by Tokyo to Singapore on United in First. Not bad, and super excited to try ANA first!
Returning, I fly Auckland to Tokyo on Air New Zealand in business class on the 787, overnight in Tokyo, continue to Seoul on an Asiana 747 in business class, overnight, Seoul to Frankfurt on Asiana in first class, overnight in Frankfurt, and finally Frankfurt to DC in United first, which if I’m lucky I might get to change to Lufthansa first closer in. Quite a great value for the miles, and excited for the overnights in Tokyo, Seoul, and Frankfurt!
All total, this should take 29 flights and over 46,000 miles:
It’s finally all booked, about 11 weeks before I leave, so let’s pray there’s not too many schedule changes! One of the most amazing parts is that I only need one visa for this trip – for Nauru – and it’s visa upon arrival so I’m set there as well!
Oh, and for a final bit of insanity…I return on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to Washington and Wednesday night three days later? I’m off to Israel and Palestine for five days…assuming the stop firing rockets and such at each other before then. So in reality, the map should be:
Yes, over 58,000 miles in just over 5 weeks. I might be insane. But by the time this is over, I will have hit country #159 (Andorra) in late August, 9 countries of the South Pacific (#160-#168) in early November, and Israel and Palestine late-November bringing me to 170 countries with 26 to go!