Garuda Indonesia Economy Class SOQ-AMQ

Flight 6/12: Sorong to Ambon

Because I wanted to dive some more after Raja Ampat, and I was already in the general vicinity (and there was a direct flight)…I figured that going to Ambon for New Years would be fun. The diving was said to be similar to Lembeh, kind of the whole same-same but different thing that south-east Asia is known for. Seemed like it was worth checking out at any rate, as my last trip to Lembeh was kind of disappointing anyway.

I was glad to be out of Raja Ampat to be totally honest. I enjoyed it, but the resort I’d stayed at wasn’t quite what I thought. Not in a bad way necessarily, but frustrating not knowing certain things in advance.

Anyway, I got to the airport about an hour before my flight, and thankfully check-in was quick and painless. Although the guy at the Garuda counter did try to hit me up for excess baggage. My ticket allowed 30kg, but he tried to tell me I only had 20kg. There was a bit of discussion, and he finally got it. There’s nothing inside the airport, so you’d need to bring your own food and drinks if you want anything.

Flight boarded on time for the short flight to Ambon – just over an hour. The meal was served, but it turned out to just be a snack box. No special meal catering on this flight. The box contained some kind of savoury bread roll type thing, sweet rice (made with palm sugar), and a bottle of water. I ate the rice.

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Afternoon snack…

Landed on time and made our way to the dive resort. Where they actually really genuinely seemed to understand what vegan and gluten free meant!

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Garuda Indonesia Economy Class UPG-SOQ

Flight 5/12: Makassar to Sorong

OMG. Just get me to Raja Ampat already! Seriously.

This entry comes a week late due to lack of sufficiently stable internet access at my resort which would allow me to upload this post.

I spent the entire transit in Makassar holed up in the Starbucks drinking coffee (again), abusing their wifi (again), and charging my phone (thank Cthulu for a cafe with power outlets). To be honest, all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and sleep – despite the copious amounts of coffee consumed in the previous 12 hours. It would eventually hit me.

Eventually the flight boarded. I was tired, and cared so little about food on offer at that point, as it was past 3.30am by the time we were in the air. The hot meal was served, and I did in fact get my vgml – which consisted of yellow rice, vegetables, and some mushroom and tofu thing, with some fresh sliced fruit, and water. No, I did not drink any more coffee. Unsurprisingly, the inevitable stomach ache hit a few hours later from the obscene amounts of caffeine previously consumed.

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Supper that I didn’t really eat…

I attempted to nap, but the flight wasn’t really that long. We landed uneventfully at 6.15am, where I was met at the airport in Sorong for my transfer to Raja Ampat. Yes, my bag did in fact make it from Sydney all the way to Sorong – will wonders never cease? Thanks Garuda!

Garuda Indonesia Economy Class CGK-UPG

Flight 4/12: Jakarta to Makassar (or Ujung Pandang depending on how politically correct you want to be)

We’re getting there…Slowly. Very slowly.

First and foremost: I hate Jakarta. Ok, not in and of itself (sort of – the airport is ok, I just hate the city). I simply hate that people smoke everywhere, even inside the airport, and in the airport cafe’s…And have no qualms at all about blowing the smoke straight in your face. I reek of it right now. It’s gross, and I can’t wait to get to Sorong so that I can get changed out of these smokey clothes.

Anyway, I had a ~7 hour layover in Jakarta before my flight to Makassar. I pretty much sat in the Starbucks drinking coffee and stealing wifi from one of the airline lounges (seriously, could they have less imaginitive passwords? I guessed it on my first attempt). Nothing eventful happened, I got bored pretty quickly. There were a few shops around, but nothing particularly interesting to see. A small department store sold chocolates and cookies etc. as well as some dried fruit. I was tempted to buy some dried mango (shocker, I know), but it was the processed stuff that’s full of sugar, not plain dried mango. Not much else that I could have eaten really. I stuck to my coffee.

Do you know how stupid it is that Raja Ampat is only 1 hour time difference to Queensland? But that it will have taken me 47 hours to get there? Why can’t there be an easier way? Yes, you can tell how tired I probably am at the point of typing up this blog entry.

Anyway, we boarded about half an hour late, but we made up time along the way and actually landed on time in Makassar. The flight itself was totally uneventful.

I got my VGML shortly after takeoff. It was some spinach ravioli like thing (I could tell it wasn’t gluten free, but I cut it open to see what the filling was anyway), with some vegetables and chickpeas. It also came with a sachet of chili sauce and a green jello dessert with some sliced peach (I think). It was late by the time the meal was served, and I wasn’t even remotely hungry. I ate a few mouthfuls of the chickpeas and left the rest.

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This was the VGML that I barely touched. Simply wasn’t hungry. The ravioli probably wasn’t gluten free anyway.

I napped for an hour or so after that before we started to descend into Makassar. A quick transit through to the departures area, and I could hole up in yet another Starbucks!

Garuda Indonesia Economy Class SYD-CGK

Flight 3/12: Sydney to Jakarta

And, we outta here! Seriously, it never feels like I’m on holiday until I’ve left the country. Some weird psychological thing.

Was up early this morning and went to the hotel cafe and restaurant to see about doing breakfast (after spending an hour on the treadmill in the on-site fitness centre)…No luck. It was all muffins and bacon and eggs, etc. Didn’t see any fresh fruit – and I wasn’t going to pay $20 just for an apple. I had a small bag of dried fruit that I’d intended to keep as a snack to eat on the flight to Jakarta (just in case), but ended up eating that for breakfast instead so that I could take my meds.

Checking in at the Garuda counters at the airport was a mess. There was a flight to Bali and my flight to Jakarta both trying to check in. You’d think they could deal with having multiple flights checking in at the same time, but apparently not. Eventually got my boarding passes through to Sorong. Immigration went relatively quickly, as they now have those Smartgate things for departures as well. Security was a mess. It’s always a mess.

You want to know something funny? And I do know it makes me sound like a total wanker…But this is literally the first time I’ve been in Sydney airport and not had lounge access. Seriously. OMG, I don’t know how people put up with it! It is a horrible, horrible airport if you can’t hide in the lounge! On the upside, these flights will be enough to push me up to a high enough status with Garuda so that I will have Skyteam lounge access in the future. No more slumming it!

Anyway, we boarded about 40 minutes late and took off about an hour late. Pretty much as soon as we boarded, a baby started crying. Apparently the flight was full of babies, because as soon as one started, that set the others off. It was a 7.5 hour flight of nothing but screaming babies. That is not an exaggeration. I tried to sleep, but it wasn’t to be.

Not long after taking off, we got a snack and a drink. The snack was a small packet of nuts, and I had to read the packet carefully, because on the picture on the front of the packet, there was wasabi peas, and wasabi normally contains gluten. The ingredients said no gluten, and there were no wasabi peas in there anyway, it was just salted nuts. They were safe, and as I still don’t feel ill, it’s safe to say they were ok.

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The picture on the front of the packet was misleading, there were no wasabi peas.

The main meal came out about an hour or so later, which turned out to be some kind of eggplant parma, rice, vegetables, and a tomato sauce. The parma had breadcrumbs, and was definitely not gluten free. I ate the rice and vegetables. The meal also came with a dolomade and capsicum dip, neither of which I ate. And some kind of berry compote and museli bar bites for dessert. The compote was ok. The museli bars contained honey – I checked the ingredients list.

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The VGML that wasn’t entirely vegan, and definitely wasn’t gluten free…

So close, Garuda, so close! I could forgive the gluten, as there’s never any guarantee that a VGML will be gluten free…But honey? Meh. Not the end of the world, but disappointing regardless as I hadn’t been able to eat the eggplant thing or the entree.

I watched a couple of episodes of The Flash on the inflight entertainment system, for lack of anything else that interested me. Not a particularly inspiring range of movies on offer to be honest.

Anyway, we landed a bit late in Jakarta, and then I had a panic attack when my luggage didn’t come off the belt. I was about to cry, when I got myself together and went and spoke to the Garuda staff – who told me that it’d been sent straight to Sorong. This is unusual, because you’re normally required to clear it through customs at your first port of call in Indonesia (like you do in Australia). Here’s to hoping it makes it!

Qantas Economy Class BNE-SYD

Flight 2/12: Brisbane to Sydney

And…rest. Due to flight schedules, I have to overnight in Sydney tonight in order to get the Garuda flight to Jakarta in the morning.

I spent the layover in Brisbane holed up in the Qantas Club lounge. For longer than the 40 minutes initially planned. Flight delays – the bane of my existence. Especially when you’ve got the 11pm airport curfew in Sydney – and we were definitely pushing it.

I got some Moroccan roast cauliflower and chickpea salad thing and added a bit of hommus. Was very tasty! I also drank way too much Coke Zero.

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The Moroccan salad I got in the Brisbane Qantas lounge…

Eventually boarded, about an hour late. Everything went smoothly. Got my VGML shortly after takeoff, and the woman next to me decided she wanted the vegetarian too. Didn’t actually order one, just demanded one. Idiot. Anyway, it was some coconut curry with vegetables and noodles. Definitely not gluten free (it said so on the carton). Always the risk with the VGML – they’re not always gluten free. You win some, you lose some. Bit of a shame I couldn’t eat it though, it smelt good. I gave it to the woman next to me when I discovered I couldn’t eat it. Not the end of the world – this was after all why I decided to eat in the Qantas lounge before the flight.

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The yummy smelling VGML that I couldn’t eat because it wasn’t gluten free…

We landed in Sydney just before curfew, and I made my way via the hotel shuttle bus over to the Rydges at the international terminal where I was spending the night. My flight to Jakarta leaves mid-morning and there was no way to get from Townsville to Sydney that early in the morning, so it meant having to overnight. Splits the trip up a bit at any rate!

Qantas Economy Class TSV-BNE

Flight 1/12: Townsville to Brisbane

OMG. Twelve, yes 12, flights for this one dive trip. FML. Better be worth the pain. And the money.

I’m off to Raja Ampat for Christmas, and then Ambon for New Year. The journey begins with making my way to Sydney – via Brisbane, because there’s no direct Qantas flight from Townsville to Sydney. That would just make life easy or something, and obviously we can’t have that.

Check-in in Townsville was quick and easy, surprisingly my bag only weighed in at 25kg. I was expecting worse. Then made my way to the Qantas Club for a quick bite to eat before the flight. Not much was on offer, but I got some olive mix and my obligatory caffeine.

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My snack in the Townsville Qantas Club…

The flight was quick to board and depart. Unsurprisingly there was no VGML for me. I knew this in advance (why does Qantas even let you book one if they know they won’t have it?), and had prepared some dried mango in my dehydrator at home. Good thing too, as the snack offered on board was cheese and crackers, and a bag of butter cookies. Not exactly ideal for one with a dairy allergy!

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What I got given on board vs. what I actually ate…

Anyway, we landed on time in Brisbane, for what I thought was to be a fairly short layover. Little did I know…