TEN pm and we were driving around Auckland when we should have been in the sky, on our way from New Zealand to Vancouver, Canada.
We had been sitting at the gate for our international flight when my name was called over the loudspeaker.
Jamie and I glanced at each other, thinking 'what could this be about?'
I was soon to find out.
When I got to the Air New Zealand representatives, I was told we couldn't fly - because we didn't have an onward-bound ticket from Canada.
We were going to Canada for three months, everything booked, and were not sure of our next move, so left it open.
I check for small details like this before planning trips. And while it's clearly stated before entering countries like Australia and New Zealand that you need an onward-bound ticket, I didn't read anything similar for Canada. Well, apparently you do. I must have missed this one.
So after representatives failed to help me sort it out as time approached for us to board, I was advised to go to the internet counter and book a flight. Any flight.
With time ticking, I searched the net for a good deal, but there was nothing cheap and when I finally nailed a flight (which wasn't cheap), my credit card denied the transaction. I suppose the fee was too large and it flagged up a security warning. It's great to know my credit card people are watching out for fraudsters, but it didn't help me on this occasion.
I was resigned to defeat. There wasn't enough time left. I returned to the airline counter and explained what had happened. Out came the manager, all apologetic but firm, doing her job and explaining we had to come off the flight.
"So what next?" I asked.
"You'll have to get another flight," she replied.
"You mean buy another one?" I asked.
"Possibly," she said.
This was now going from huge inconvenience to disaster. But I managed to stay calm. I accepted our fate and had to fill in landing cards, as though we had all arrived in New Zealand, in order to go through immigration and passport control to collect our luggage etc.
It took forever. Soon Jamie and the kids, all looking tired and a bit flummoxed, joined me.
We made our way back, finding it hard not to think about the prospect of doing it all again the next day. There was good news around the corner, though. It turned out we didn't have to buy new flights and that we would be put on the same flight 24 hours later, so long as we had proof of an onward-bound journey in Canada.
All of us were hungry. We finally got through to the main airport area, where we had to wait to be reunited with our bags and then sort out paperwork for the flight the next day.
Another manager came over to me to explain the situation, saying that ALL non-Canadian and non-American citizens must have onward-bound flights upon arrival in Canada. That means Kobra and I, since Zenchai has an American passport.
Then more good news - he said the airline (Air New Zealand) would put us up in a hotel for the night and pay for the taxis etc, which was a relief given our cab meter was at NZ$84 by the time we arrived.
So we waited, snacking on apples and letting the kids run around the busy airport, until finally we had taxi and hotel vouchers presented to us.
We loaded ourselves into a cab and set off, only for the taxi driver to end up in the wrong part of town.
Eventually, we got there - too late for any dinner. Quickly, I sent a message to the person who had offered to fetch us from Vancouver airport, hoping she'd get it in time. We then just stripped off and got into bed. What a day.
The next morning I was on the internet checking out flights until a friend (and travel agent) helped me out. We were all set.
Slowly, we made our way through the day. I took Zenchai to a nearby park to allow him to exert some energy and work his legs in readiness for 13 hours on an airplane.
Eventually, the time came to again set off for the airport - 15 minutes away. We arrived in good time, produced our documents showing we would be leaving Canada, and headed on through to the gate once more.
It was a tough flight, though. None of us, except for Kobra, really slept. Zenchai was over-tired and probably over-stimulated from the in-flight entertainment. Air New Zealand is a great airline, but we struggled through to Canada.
Upon arrival, the immigration lines were long. We queued until an officer saw Jamie nursing Kobra and pulled us out to a faster track.
But the immigration officer grilled us. "Where are you staying?" "How are you affording this?" "How long have you been travelling?" What sort of work do you do?" "Where was your daughter born?" "Does she have a Brazilian passport?" "Can I see it?" etc.
In the end, though, the officer asked some more questions, took our passports, presumably ran a few checks and came back satisfied.
We were in Vancouver, safely. It was colder than in New Zealand - cloudy with drizzle, but not as cold as I had anticipated. We arrived at our home for the next three months, a cosy Laneway Home, and slowly settled in. Seasoned travellers we may all be, but it still doesn't get any easier.