New Zealand 2020 – Part 2

After arriving yesterday, and having slept for 11 beautiful hours, today I went with some of my friends from Papakura, where I am staying, to Devonport on the North Shore of Auckland.

We took a detour to Takapuna on the way, and the place where I lived for four years after first arriving in New Zealand. The navy housing in that area is gradually being demolished and the land redeveloped, but I was pleased to find my old house is still standing and although it looks quite sorry for itself, I regarded it with much fondness.

We took the ferry across to the city. The sea was quite choppy, but the journey was surprisingly smooth. It was slightly overcast, and there was some light rain, but we were soon city side.

Due to the earthworks going on in downtown Auckland, which will see a new rail network (including some underground routes) linking parts of Auckland together, the route to Queen Street was a little hampered. But we managed to get through, and spent a couple of happy hours wandering up one side of the street, and then down the other.

We went as far as Aotea Square, where we also stopped for lunch at a burger place called ‘Carl’s Jnr’.

I was really pleased to see the iconic Farmers Santa still smiling down on all Aucklanders, as I understand there is some doubt about how many more years he will be a Christmas feature. I hope it’s for a long time to come!

The journey back to Devonport saw bright, sunny skies and we sat on the outside upper deck, which gave great views of the city as we retreated from it.

Back in Devonport, we had a little look around. It’s such a pretty place, with small independent shops and cafes lining the street. I was particularly struck by a very large and unusual tree next to the library. It is a Moreton Bay fig tree (Australian, I think) and was planted in 1883. I’d like to think it will still be there in another 137 years!

On the way back to Papakura, we stopped at Sylvia Park, a large shopping mall in Mt Wellington, where amongst other things, I had my first experience of frozen coke!

It was such a lovely way to kick off my NZ trip. I can’t wait for the adventures to follow!

New Zealand 2020 – Part 1

I’m very excited to be going back to New Zealand, the country in which I spent ten of my most formative younger years, for the month of January. What’s more, this will be my first trip back without my family and I can’t wait to spend time, and catch up with my friends.There is just the small matter of 27 hours traveling between me and my dream. Bring it on!

My flight to Auckland was with Air New Zealand, via Los Angeles, on board the beauty below!

Having checked in online 24 hours beforehand, the baggage check in process at Heathrow was very straightforward. Security was also very quick. I had left plenty of time to get a bite to eat and have a mooch around the shops at Terminal 2, so I was feeling pretty relaxed when it came time to go to the gate – B36. It was a little bit of a walk to get to the gate, but it wasn’t too bad, especially as most of it was moving walkways and escalators.

Boarding was also very straightforward and well organised. My seat, 58G (an aisle seat, which for me is a MUST), meant that I boarded a little ahead of some others (but behind all the priority and ‘expensive seat’ passengers!). Of course, this also meant I was one of the last to disembark, so there are pros and cons to choosing a seat nearer to the back.

Take off was 20 minutes late, and a grey winter’s London day made for a very dull spectacle out of the window. However, it was amazing how bright the cabin suddenly became when we broke through the cloud cover and were met with a bright blue sky! I always think the clouds look like an Arctic landscape. It’s hard to believe they are not a solid mass, although I have no intention of free-falling out of the aeroplane to discover quite how intangible they are!

There was a very comprehensive entertainment package on board, which was navigable via the touch screen on the seat back in front, or a remote control. It is full of things to watch, do and listen to. You can also order drinks and snacks via this system, straight to your seat. However, I preferred to get up from my seat and walk around as much as possible, so I went to the galley on several occasions. The crew there were friendly and helpful and it was nice to while away some time chatting to them.

The meals were very nice, including Moroccan chicken with couscous, cheese, biscuits and fruit. There was also a selection of NZ wines from which to choose.

Transiting through LAX was every bit as annoying as I expected it to be. After disembarking, there was a walk to their immigration area, where an electronic self service check was done by scanning your passport into the machine, and looking into the attached camera. You were then granted (or not, I presume!) the first part of access to US soil. From there, you queued again to see an actual person, who once more checked your passport and took biometric fingerprints. This done, there was another walk to a departures security area, where you loaded all your carry on baggage through the x ray machines etc, before being allowed to then walk onto the gate to re-board the plane.

All of this procedure was as straightforward as it could possibly be, but in a busy airport terminal, and with several other flights loads of passengers all trying to do the same thing, it made for a frustration that was not altogether enjoyable!

Back on board the plane, everything had been cleaned and the seats restocked with headphones, blankets and pillows. I had the same people sitting next to me as in the first leg, and we settled into the second part of the journey. Although as comfortable and as well serviced as the first, by now, it was the middle of the night in England and I was beginning to feel quite fatigued. After a meal of chicken with pasta in a delicious sauce, I tried for as much sleep as the economy seat would allow. This worked, on and off, for four of five hours, but I spent much of the remaining hours watching films and getting up and down from my seat to get some exercise and keep the circulation going.

Finally, we were nearing Auckland. Two hours out, breakfast was served. The omelette and fruit were surprisingly tasty, and it was then only a short time before landing. Unfortunately, the cloud cover was such that seeing much out of the window was quite difficult. (Added to which, I was seated in the aisle of the centre row, so the windows were not too close by!) However, I did catch a glimpse of Auckland, with Rangitoto Island dominating the Hauraki Gulf, before the ground came up to greet us and we made a somewhat bumpy entrance onto NZ soil.

The captain made an announcement in Maori, and I felt a massive sense of coming home.

Harae Mai. Welcome.