Today was by all measures our longest day. Because of the timezones, December 3rd actually lasted 39 hours for us; and we spent nearly 36 of those hours traveling! For reference, we gave times in several timezones.
Our travels actually began on December 2nd around 21:30 (Eastern Australia Time; 06:30 EST; 11:30 UTC). Our transfer picked us up from the hotel pretty early for our flight. In fact we waited in the ticketing area of Cairns International Airport for an hour before the counter clerks even showed up for work. Soon after they arrived we checked-in, got our tickets, went through secruity and waited in the terminal for a couple more hours. During that time, the calendar changed and December 3rd officially started for us. At 01:20 (EAT; Dec 2 10:20 EST; Dec 2 15:20 UTC) our plane took off and we left Australia.
Ryan took a power nap for a couple hours, and Rachel stayed awake during the flight. At 06:00 (EAT/Guam; Dec 2 15:00 EST; Dec 2 20:00 UTC) we landed in Guam. Guam was our only stop in Micronesia on this trip, and the fifth US territory we have both visited. The only US territory we have not been to is the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, located just north of Guam.
Transferring though Guam was pretty easy. We got off the plane, was funneled down a hallway to customs. Because we were transferring, we didn’t have to fill out any paperwork. We just had to show our passports and boarding pass for the next flight. We also had to go through security again, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary. In total, it took about 15-20 minutes including deplaning and walking. Which was great, because we only had a 55 minute layover. Ryan was going to have just enough time to pick up a Guam magnet for his brother and make it to the gate before boarding started.
That was the plan at least. Before we reentered the terminal, we were notified by United Airlines staff our connecting flight would be delayed, and they gave us meal vouchers. As it turns out, the flight crew has exceeded their allowed time in flight because of a delay the previous day. Therefore our connecting flight to Tokyo was going to leave at least 3 hours and 8 minutes late. This meant that we would miss our flight in Tokyo.
The United gate staff at Guam were great. They were very polite and accommodating and manged to find us an alternative flight plan back to DC in business/first class (which is how we purchased the ticket). Within about 20 minutes our new flights were worked out. The new plan involved us flying from Guam to Tokyo to Newark to Dulles. The three hour delay in Guam turned into a 12 hour delay overall. Ouch.
After picking up some magnets at the gift shop, we went to the United Club to relax and use the internet. Later we used our voucher to pick up some breakfast/lunch. At this point we had been awake with little-to-no sleep for 24 hours and our bodies weren’t sure what meal to expect.
At 10:08 (EAT, Dec 2 19:08 EST; Dec 3 00:08 UTC), our plane left Guam and made it’s way for Tokyo. This time, Ryan stayed awake and Rachel took a couple hour long power nap. At about 12:45 (JST, 13:45 EAT, Dec 2 10:45 EST, 03:45 UTC) we landed at Tokyo Narita.
International Transfers through Narita were even easier than Guam. We just followed the signs for international transfers, went through security and reentered the international terminal. It took less than 10 minutes. A United Club was even right by the exit from security! We spent nearly the rest of the time in Tokyo in the International First Class Lounge. Because of the time of day, we were the only ones in the lounge for almost an hour. There were plenty of Japanese and western appetizers to nosh on during the wait, and even though we didn’t use them there was also showers and a self serve open bar. We spent the time in the lounge surfing the net. Ryan watched the end of the eagles game, Rachel edited photos. We both took turns taking very short naps (<1 hour).
As the time approached we left the lounge to board the plane. Along the way Ryan picked up a magnet at a gift shop. We quickly found our seats on the plane. Thankfully these were the full flat seats, with 15″ on-demand video, goody bag and all the other fun stuff. This was going to be as easy as a 13 hour flight could get. The plane left Tokyo at 17:45 (JST; 18:45 EAT; 03:45 EST, 08:45 UTC) and we said good-bye to Asia, the second continent encountered today.
Rachel realized that if the plane took the shortest path, we would be flying pretty far north and therefore have a shot at seeing the northern lights. We even consulted the NOAA Auroral Forecast and it looked optimistic. If the shortest path we used, we would have gone as far north as about 69.8° North; which is about the same latitude as Barrow, Alaska. Before we took off, to make sure that daylight wouldn’t interfere we googled “Sunrise Barrow, AK” and found a neat google easter egg. It read “These days the sun doesn’t rise much in Barrow” and then told us when the next sunrise would occur in 46(?) days. Sadly we did didn’t screen grab it, and it appears that the easter egg went away since that time. Now it just says “1:17 PM Tuesday, January 22, 2013 (AKST) Sunrise in Barrow, AK”.
On the plane, we asked the pilot if we would be able to see the Northern lights during the flight. He said he doubted it, since we weren’t flying that far north and moon was out. We took a longer path to Newark. The plane only made it as high as Anchorage, Alaska about 61.1° N. We didn’t get to see the Northern Lights. But this was the farthest north either of us had ever been (by land, sea or air).
During the flight, we watched a few movies and each got around 3.5 hours of sleep. The plane landed in Newark around 16:30 (EST; Dec 4 07:30 EAT; 21:30 UTC); making North America our third continent visited in one day! Additionally while landing we saw the Atlantic Ocean out the window making it the third ocean was saw on the trip.
We exited the plane, found our bags, cleared customs, re-checked our bags and made it to the next gate in under an hour. We went into another United Club to get some small snacks and refresh ourselves from the long day of traveling. We still had almost four hours ahead of us until we got home.
At 19:37 (EST; Dec 4 10:30 EAT; Dec 4 00:37 UTC) we left Newark, NJ on a small jet, or what Ryan calls “a lawn dart”, and landed at Washington-Dulles at 2100 (EST; Dec 4 12:30 EAT; 02:37 UTC). Rachel’s father picked us up at the airport and an hour later we were home at last!
In total, it took 40 hours to travel door-to-door (Hotel to Condo), an hour of driving, 21.5 hours flying and the rest waiting in airports.
Tomorrow is a day off at home relaxing, unpacking and readjusting our internal clocks. We intend to add another post summing up our entire trip in the next day or so.
But don’t think that that will be the end of the blog, we will have more exotic travel stories to tell in the future!
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