Luke has a British passport and this passport has been to lots of places around the world. Just last year, he used this passport to go to Havana, San Francisco, Saint-Pierre, the UK, in/out/around Canada, and he has never had any trouble travelling with it. Unfortunately, the fact that this passport has received a decent amount of use in the past 9 years means that it isn’t in perfect condition - the corners of the passport pages have curled, the lamination has started to separate on some of the edges, and the gold writing on the front of his passport has worn off. His well-used passport is why we were taken out of the line to board the plane, and that is why we are not currently in Mexico.
Unbeknownst to us, Mexico is apparently very critical of passport condition. Secretly, the woman who checked us in at the airport had scanned Luke’s passport and sent it off to the airline’s “Immigration Specialist”. During the time between check-in and boarding the plane, the Specialist (who we never spoke with) decided that the Mexican authorities might reject Luke’s passport upon arrival in Mexico so we would not be allowed to board the plane. After running around the airport like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find the correct person to speak to about this, the plane took off without us. We had never heard of someone being rejected for a flight based on a "damaged" passport, and the crazy thing is that Luke's passport doesn't even classify as "damaged" according to the UK Passport Office. Upon further research, it appears as if the airline, Air Transat, was just trying to protect itself because had Luke's passport been denied on the Mexican border, his return flight would become their responsibility. On another note, we will never know whether or not his passport was actually in hard enough shape to be rejected upon entry into Mexico!
The cancellation of our Mexican road trip was overwhemingly disappointing and we had been looking forward to it for months. After a couple of difficult phone calls, we received about 30% of our money back for our flights (we could only get money for cancelling our return flight as it is "Luke's responsibility to have suitable documentation"), and understandably we cannot get back deposits paid on accommodations. Looking back on it, we're lucky that we didn't pay for more things in advance. After the flight took off without us, we initially wanted to hop on another plane and take a trip anyway, but we held off because we knew we would have to sort out Luke's passport dilemma at some point. Although he had never experienced any issues with his passport being accepted before, we didn't want to take the risk and have another vacation disappear before our eyes (and our wallets). Needless to say, Luke is getting a new passport. However, there seems to be no way to expedite passports when you are living overseas so it will take at least 6 weeks. Fingers crossed we receive the new one before our weekend trip to Ireland in mid-May, but if we don’t there is an Emergency Travel Document that he can apply for. So for the moment we're both back to work and since we can't easily leave the country, our future travel plans are somewhat up in the air.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Make sure your passport and other travel documents are in great condition before travelling. You can be denied boarding with no compensation and that should be outlined in the airline's Terms and Conditions. It seems like Mexico is particularly strict on passport condition, although these are examples when it has happened to people travelling from England to Spain on Ryanair, US to Costa Rica on US Airways, Ireland to US on Aer Lingus, and the Philippines to Vietnam on Cebu Pacific - and that's just from a quick Google search.
All that being said, we've moved past the incident and are treating it as a learning experience. So this past weekend we continued our Something Saturday tradition by spending the weekend in Swift Current, a small picturesque community about two hours from St. John's. We checked into our cabin at Kilmory Resort on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend snowshoeing, relaxing, and enjoying our beautiful surroundings.
After turning around and snowshoeing back to the car, we enjoyed some leftover meatloaf for supper and hung around the cabin, watching a couple of movies before bed. Saturday morning brought more relaxation, but by the time lunchtime rolled around, we were eager to go outside and explore the area in the unanticipated sunshine. We decided to put the snowshoes to use again and we drove 45 minutes to White Hills, just outside of Clarenville. White Hills is a ski hill (where we went downhill skiing earlier this year) that also has groomed cross-country skiing/snowshoeing trails.
The sun was blazing as we started trekking around Harry’s Loop, at the foot of White Hills. We both got a workout, trudging through the sun over hilly terrain, but it was fun and we thoroughly enjoyed the trail. On Luke’s lead, we even went off-roading for a bit and were amazed by the views and the beauty of the area.
We arrived back at the cabin just before dark and enjoyed our fancy fudge with some white wine. Later on, rain started pouring from the sky so we settled in for an evening with Netflix and a movie.
On Sunday, we decided to go on one last snowshoeing adventure; this time, on the Garden Cove boardwalk. The funny thing is that the boardwalk really wasn’t great for snowshoeing and it looked like the locals knew it because the trail was untouched. There were patches of high snow, no snow, melted snow flowing over the boardwalk into the ocean, etc. It was quite the feat. We snowshoed on the trail until we reached a nice lookout point and then turned around to observe the area we had called home for the past two days, from a different perspective.
Here are some more pictures from our weekend in Swift Current: