This is my travel story and it is from nearly 30 years ago.
When I was in year 7 at high school I took a few weeks off school to visit my relatives in the UK. My Auntie Anne & Uncle John paid for my airfare and as a 12 year old I travelled unaccompanied from Sydney to London. A big adventure for a young bloke.
Anyhow at the time I knew my grandfather smoked a pipe so after clearing customs with a Qantas Air Hostess and another unaccompanied kid, an 11 year old Scottish boy returning home, we hit the duty free.
Among other things I bought this flash sounding Port wine flavoured pipe tobacco. My Scottish mate bought his mum a carton of cigarettes. At the time we asked if it was ok and it was all good - in Sydney anyway.
Back in those days the flight from Sydney to London involved two stops, the first in Singapore and then in Bahrain. In Singapore we were trapped on the plane but in Bahrain we were able to get off the plane for 1 hour.
The Hostess gave me and my Scottish mate a boarding pass each and told us to meet her back in the same spot in one hour. It was late at night and there wasn't much to see or do but we explored the airport and bought a postcard each. At one stage I distinctly remember feeling like I had dropped something but when I looked I couldn't see anything.
So after our hour of freedom we headed back to the plane to be greeted by a huge Arab man in a military uniform with an AK47 across his chest. An imposing view for a young Aussie boy. He asked for our boarding passes, I had lost mine. So there I am staring up at this big guy with a gun and he's shaking his head, no boarding pass no plane. I am freaking out.
Thankfully our beautiful Qantas Hostess arrived and turned on her charm and managed to convince him to let the kids back on the plane. Very grateful I sat back down and enjoyed the final leg of the flight, thinking my adventures were done.
So at Heathrow we entered this massive hall, collected our bags and then headed to Customs. There we were asked that eternal question "Have you got anything to declare?"
Me: Yes, I have some pipe tobacco for my grandpa.
My Scottish mate: I have a carton of cigarettes for my mum.
Apparently the rules in the UK at the time were not as liberal as they were in Australia back then. Our Customs officer was horrified and informed us we needed to each pay a fine. I didn't have any cash and my mate was also skint and had to hop a flight to Glasgow.
My Aunt & Uncle who were waiting on the land side of the terminal were patiently waiting for me to be led out by a Qantas official. To their dismay they heard their names paged at Heathrow.
Eventually they were escorted into customs, were berated by the Customs official, paid the fine and escorted me to their car. We laughed about it and I got a hard time about my entry into the country but it was a good story.
Sadly the person that suffered the most was my poor grandfather. After hearing the story associated with his tobacco he felt it was his duty to smoke every single ounce of the tobacco despite the fact that the port wine flavoured tobacco was awful.
I would love to hear your best travel story. Add a comment below. I have a special bonus for the best story, in fact two bonuses.
I have donated a 30 inch framed edition of Glacial Contrast to the Fred Hollows Foundation Ball being held at Merewether Surfhouse on 2 April. The great team organising the event have given me two tickets to the ball valued at $300. Kim & I cannot attend so instead I am offering these two tickets to the person with the best story.
If you can't go but still have an awesome story I will give you two Mini Prints of your choice. So tell me your stories and on Saturday 19 March 2016 we will decide the winner/s.
I look forward to your stories.