February 12,2015 (crossed the date line again)
Tahiti > LA > Denver
Asleep, awake, dreaming, asleep, awake, a dream. Are we there yet? Time slips by. Sometimes the flight seems short, other times long. Tahiti to LAX is the longest part of the journey at nearly 9 hours, then at LAX, Priceline changed my layover so it was now 7 plus hours. Ugh. Did I need a wheel chair? Would there be a medic at the airport? Should I take a cab to a hospital during my layover? Should I try and change my flight?
I made it. My sleep on the plane was disappointing as was my breakfast. I’d requested a vegetarian meal, but would have traded my unidentifiable steamed vegetable breakfast for the crepes or eggs the other passengers had. I was too stressed out about my foot/ankle to eat anyway. I could find an egg and cheese croissant and a proper coffee at the airport anyway. Did I mention all the coffee in New Zealand is instant and there are no bagels or really any breakfast sandwiches?
When I got off the plane in LA there was a man on the jet bridge with an airport name tag with a red cross on it. I asked if he was a medic or if there was an airport medic. He said no, but there was a first aid station, and asked what was going on, and I showed him my foot and he saw my countless bites and said how sometimes on planes some people’s feet and ankles blow up especially when they have bug bites like that. I felt a little better. I also felt better that I’d made it to the US and I was only one flight away from home, or at worst, a one day drive, and my medical insurance works here and they speak English, unlike Tahiti, and have clean water, unlike Tahiti, and I’d soon see my honey.
I talked to multiple airport (American Airlines) folks and finally got a straight answer about checking in and finding my next flight and if/how I could change it (which I could, for a price, but my relief of being back in the states was enough for now and I decided to wait out my endless layover) and how to get my checked bag home since it was already tagged and checked through to DEN, but I had to pick it up at customs. Note, the customs line was super long, but super automated, and really quite quick.
I eventually scored a paperclip from a retail clerk and managed to get my US sim card back in my phone, made a few calls, and got on the internet. Have I mentioned there’s no such thing as free wifi in New Zealand? It’s all password protected and you need to enter a credit card to use it.
Anyways, a quick web search verified that many people experience swollen legs, feet, ankles, on long flights due to inactivity and being in a seated position so long, etc. So I’m at this point hoping it’s just a accumulation of the allergy to the bites plus the pain/swelling from miles of rough trail with a pack plus the plane ride that have built upon each other to create the monstrosity that my right foot had become and not a spreading infection from open sores in wet boots for days on end. Fingers crossed.
I fell asleep awkwardly sitting up in an airport chair, so I set an alarm and succumbed to a nap on the floor near my gate.
The LAX to DEN flight was unremarkable. In DEN my bag didn’t come out on the carousel, but I had my ticket and the guy in the baggage office retrieved it quickly.
Clayton was lost somewhere near the rental car returns as he doesn’t come to the airport nearly as often as I do and instead of a warm welcome I was greeted by an angry and swearing fiance and I instantly wished I hadn’t come home. Thoughts of him and my dogs were the only reason I’d wanted to come home at all. If it wasn’t for them, I’d still be in New Zealand, probably would have cancelled my return flight and would have been job hunting.
The drive home was late and difficult. I’d been travelling close to 36 hours at this point and Clayton had been up since 3:00 a.m. and it was nearly midnight local time. We each made half the drive, made it up the steps at home, and snuggled, and snuggled, and snuggled my pups. That seemed to fix everything, at least for an hour.
My foot was still huge. A bunch of stuff was missing from my checked pack, and I had to clean the house and return to work and real world responsibilities and obligations.
Life is easier when everything fits in your pack and your only responsibility is to your own survival and well being and to living in the moment and the surroundings mother nature gifted you.