The Final Countdown: Europe, North America travel blog

Tony with his Mum and Dad, New Plymouth

New Plymouth

Mt Egmont/Taranaki

Wellington Airport - The Middle of Middle Earth

Gollum at Wellington Airport

Approaching Nelson


Celebrating Wayne's birthday, Nelson

Wayne's birthday cake

Wayne's birthday

With Dot and Di

Picton, Chuck is still with us

Lake Grassmere salt production

Lake Grassmere salt production

Riding Mojo at Sharon's, Christchurch

Sunset from Sharon's

Sign at the Nelson restaurant where we had dinner

Welcome home dinner in Dunedin

Welcome home dinner in Dunedin

Monday 3rd December

Tony is up at 6am, but it is quite light already. He heads down to the beach and gets a few photos, but the beautiful sunrise he hoped to capture has passed. Still it is a lovely morning. Max is about, and he was also too late for sunrise. He will give it another shot tomorrow.

Tony heads back to the room and he and Cynthea go to the café for breakfast. We will head for the airport around 8.30, to check in by around 9.30, our flight leaves just before 11am. Air NZ Nadi to Auckland cost us $775 for two tickets with luggage. No meals included, but the flight is only three hours, so we should cope.

We get our key deposit back and staff tell us that taxis are just along the road. There are no taxis at the rank, and none in the hotel car park. We start to head back to reception when a porter asks if we need a taxi. We tell him yes, and he whistles up a beaten old van from along the road. There is no signage, no meter, and we have doubts it is even licensed for the road. We figure it is not far to go, and after checking the price is the same as the taxi company we get in.

It is a bit of a rough ride, and the interior of the van is as rough as the outside. We have no problems getting to the airport and join the long queue to check in (we had no internet access so we couldn’t check in on line).

At immigration we wonder if there will be a problem because the small blue piece of paper we are supposed to hand back when we leave is missing from Cynthea’s passport. It was then when we checked in our bags, so it has probably dropped out when our passports where handed back. There are no problems and we carry through to the security check.

Duty Free shopping seems expensive, though booze is cheap. We will have to carry anything that we buy, so it all stays on the shelf. We don’t want to be overweight with luggage on the flight to New Plymouth this afternoon (our bags are not checked all the way through).

The flight in an A320 is around three hours. We are charged for movies these days, $10 each for all you can watch, but how many can you watch in three hours? We find some free channels to watch and the time passes very quickly. There is a section on our ticket that says tea, coffee and water are included. We are asked to please note that “complimentary” meals are not included in this fare, and one wonders how any meal can be considered complimentary when they charge you for any meals…

We arrive in Auckland around 2pm, and first stop is the currency exchange, FJD$52 gets us NZ$28 after charging a $5 fee. We pass through immigration and collect our bags. There are signs up telling us that filming is being undertaken for the Border Patrol TV series, but we do not see any cameras today. We are expecting to get a good going over with our boots as we have been in forest and park areas in the past month (Yellowstone). We are asked to lift our feet so the soles of our boots can be checked. Tony moves the baggage trolley to let someone pass, but unfortunately Cynthea is using it to steady herself. Cynthea gets a bit of a fright, but is ok. The woman from customs tells Tony she thought Cynthea was going to face plant, and isn’t impressed when Tony asks if he would have been able to see the video. He could put it on You Tube! She shakes her head and asks to see what else we declared. John gave us some seed propagating material, it looks a bit like fibreglass from Pink Batts, but this is biodegradable. We don’t know what it is made of, but it is thoroughly checked, mainly to see if seeds are present, and we are allowed to keep them. And that is it, we are sent on our way.

We get the shuttle to the domestic terminal where we will catch the 6.30 flight to New Plymouth. There are a few problems checking in for the flight, the flash new self service kiosks are not working properly and we have to go to another desk to check in. Then we have to cart our bags back to the conveyor belt and place them on ourselves.

We have a few hours to fill in. We get something for lunch, and put our NZ sim cards back in our phones. Cynthea checks the balance on hers, and finds it is down by $40. She calls Vodafone, but their records go back only three months, so they cannot help. They have no answer for her when she asks how that much can drop when the sim card has not even been in a phone. (Tony topped it up when he was home in March, but we don’t have the confirmation text any more). They can offer her a $15 credit and $19 worth of “free” internet and texts, it doesn’t cover what is missing, but there is not a lot we can do about it.

We make our way to the departure gates, there are many delays to flights and the New Plymouth one is not showing on the board yet. Cynthea tries to go through but is turned back. She is worried that we have not been through a security check, but that doesn’t happen on these small planes. We are eventually allowed through, and when we take off we are about 10 minutes late. Our Auckland to New Plymouth flight costs us $186, including a bag each.

We arrive in New Plymouth around 7pm. Tony’s parents are there to meet us. It is great to be home and there are lots of tears.

We spend a few days in New Plymouth before flying to Nelson to celebrate Tony’s brother’s birthday. Jeff, his other brother, and Karen are down from Whangarei. It is an exciting time as in a few short weeks Karen leaves for Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where she will work as a Deputy Principal for the next two years. Jeff will join her in March. Tony’s parents arrive on a surprise visit to help celebrate, it was so good to have everyone all there.

We spent a few days in Nelson catching up with family, took a bus to Picton and from there we were to catch the scenic Coastal Pacific train to Christchurch. Unfortunately the train had broken down, again. We are put on the old train, a sorry sight and not the flash comfortable train we were promised. It is a bit of a bone shaker, with broken arm rests and very uncomfortable seats. There were a lot of negative comments from other travellers, however the scenery, and the staff on board, was wonderful.

We had a couple of nights in Christchurch where we stayed with Sharon. Tony got to ride a horse for the first time in decades!

And finally, we arrive home to Dunedin on the 15th.

We have not moved back into our home here, we plan on a bit more travel around NZ…

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