Free Spirits Around the World in 99 Days travel blog


Our original plan had been to fly from Delhi to Melbourne, Australia, stay three days in transit, then move on to New Zealand. Jim's online research done back in November had indicated we could do that without a visa. His official visa search engine queries had come back "no visa meets your request."

He therefore thought we could be granted transit status in passport control in Melbourne.

At the Air India check in counter, we were told we had been listed as do not board. We did not have a transit visa or transit number. Australia needed a visa from us, which we did not have. We could not fly.

Jim was devastated.

Air India staff told us to go online and get a transit number. In a corner of the noisy terminal, Jim frantically worked to get internet connection. Wi-Fi failed. Roaming failed. Wi-Fi finally worked.

When he went to what could have been the correct Australian immigration page, he was confront with a 14 page form for each of us, along with a need for copies of our passports and new passport size photos. Impossible under the circumstances.

Jim was defeated. He felt had defeated himself through lack of due diligence. Angry, frustrated, self-critical, he cried before he could get back in control of himself.

By now, gates had closed and our tickets were invalid. Air India sent us to its ticketing window. We could not get a refund for the invalid tickets, of course.

We had to make big decisions in a hurry. We had no desire to stay longer in Delhi, so we decided to continue east toward New Zealand. We needed a destination not requiring a visa. We hit upon Singapore. A quick web search on a dying cell phone battery confirmed no visa needed.

We bought the tickets from Air India.

Now we needed to cancel tickets from Melbourne to Auckland, and get from Singapore to Auckland or anywhere in New Zealand. Our carrier, Emirates, rebooked us to a code share partner. Quantis would get us from Singapore to Auckland. We would have to fly through Sydney, but as we were transferring immediately, we needed no visa - Jim asked Emirates staff to confirm the no visa thing. After putting him on hold while he went through another round of anguish, Emirates did confirm.

Anguish abated, for the most part.

With cancellation of nonrefundable flights, nonrefundable rooms in Melbourne, and all, Jim figured he had wasted $3,400. He was again in anguish. Thank God Mo was supportive, kind, loving, and reassuring. He started to pull through.

Now we had nine hours to kill in the Delhi airport before we could check in for a flight for Singapore leaving in eleven hours. Part of the wait was to sit with lots of Indian cricket fans to watch the Indian national cricket team make an implausible come back to defeat the Australian national team. Of course. Someone had to defeat Australia.

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