there and back again

SATURDAY and loooong SUNDAY, 3rd & 4th December

I dedicated the morning for packing. I threw away all the folders and brosures that I had been carrying all around and they were making my bag pretty heavy, didn’t pack my warm fleece and jacket leaving them to hold in my hand and put on when I arrive in London. But I had to pack my warm shoes and travel in jandals, because it was really hot. Suddenly I got so much space and my bag was so light, that I was really surprised! It was about 1 pm when I finished packing. My friends weren’t at home. The whole family was taken over by the Christmas fever, like parades and parties. I went to the town centre to buy some more chocolate bars to fill up my bag and fish & chips for lunch. It was busy, because later J. told me that there was a Christmas parade which I missed when I was packing. I had no luck with Christmas parades in NZ.

The legendary Mr Whippy ice cream van

When I came back home, J. and the boys had already got home too, so I did have a chance to thank her and say goodbye before H. came to pick me up. My dear friend offered herself to drive me to the airport. It was again one more circle made in my journey. Just as H. was the first person to greet me in New Zealand, she was also the last one to wave goodbye to.

The flight back home seemed to pass quicker than the flight to the Southern Hemisphere, which was odd, because I flew to Australia then and it was a shorter trip. I guess going back home is always faster than going away.

If we go according to the calendar, my journey back home did look quick, because I got on a plane in Auckland at 18:50 on Saturday and arrived in London at 12:00 pm next day, so it was as if I travelled just for 17 hours. But it wasn’t like that according to the actual hours spent in the air and at the airports.

So here are some numbers:

AUCKLAND – MELBOURNE: 3 hrs 25 min; 2,639 km;
from Sat 18:50 to 22:37 Kiwi time (20:37 Aus time)
We had to stop by to fill up. Interesting that there were no Christmas decorations at the airport while in Dubai, there were lots of them. Melbourne is on my ‘to-visit’ list.

MELBOURNE – DUBAI: 12 hrs 50 min; 11,656 km;
from Sun 00:25 to 13:40 Kiwi time (from 22:25 Aus time to 4:40 UAE time)
We were chasing the night. I saw dawn in Dubai.

DUBAI – LONDON: 7 hrs 10 min; 5,504 km;
from Sun 16:45 to Mon 00:35 Kiwi time (from 7:45 UAE time to 11:35 UK time)
It was already the middle of the night for me and for my sister the day has just started.

I travelled for 29 hrs 45 min, so almost 30 hrs out of which 23 hrs 25 min in the air conquering 19,799 km. I did well staying awake for the rest of the day, not quite knowing what I was talking about.

bonus days

MONDAY and TUESDAY, 28th & 29th November

My friend from England had texted me to watch out for the strike on Heathrow on Wednesday which was when I was supposed to land in London. I looked for any information on that on the Internet and they were warning the passangers about possible delays and getting stuck at the airport. The Emirates, the airline I was flying with, even said that we could change our tickets with no charge, so I thought, “Why should my holiday end with a nightmare on Heathrow after over 20 hours in the air?” I called the Emirates and the nearest free seat on their plane was on 3rd December. My visitor visa was to expire on 1st December, but I took the risk and changed my ticket. I got extra 5 days in New Zealand! 😀

First, I thought not to make such a big deal and not to call the Immigration Office. So in the afternoon I just went to the city centre to look for some Christmas presents.

My favourite Christmas decoration: bungy jumping Santa.

Giant Santa on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets

On Sunday there was a Christmas parade, Auckland Farmers Santa Parade, but I was travelling from Wanganui then and I missed it. It was a really hot day, so I wonder how Santa survived that day, unless he was wearing just swim trunks.

The next day I thought that maybe I should call the Immigration Office, just to let them know I’d be staying two more days and if there was anything I should do to not to have any troubles next time I came to New Zealand. When I got to talk to a guy from the Office, he kept me on hold many times, typed my explanations in my files, but before I made sure if I should apply for a new visitor visa or just do nothing more but this phone call, the money on my prepay phone card ran out, so I wasn’t sure what I was standing on. I decided to go to the Office personally the next day, before I pick up a car.

“What car?”, you ask. Well, since I got some extra days, I didn’t want to waste them in the city. The weather was great, I had some emergency money from my dad, the Coromandel was close and I hadn’t been there yet, so what should I wait for?

from Wanganui to Auckland

SUNDAY, 27th November

Three sisters were leaving Wanganui on the same day as I was and when they had found out that I was going to Auckland, the younger ones had offered a lift to Hamilton and I could catch a bus to Auckland from there. I changed the booking on Sunday morning and was free to go with 2/3 of ‘Three Musketeers’.

Before B. got on her bus back to Wellington, we went to the Castlecliff Beach with black sand

Then B. went south and we took the north. Beautiful views along Whanganui River Road.

Raukawa Falls

We stopped for lunch in National Park

Te Kuiti, “the sheep shearing capital of the world and is host to the annual New Zealand National Shearing Championships”. The statue is 7 meters tall and weighs 7.5 tonnes. Three time capsules were sealed inside the statue in 1994 and are due to be opened in May 2024, 2054 and 2084.

Going through Otorohanga was like blast from the past. In September I saw real kiwis in the Kiwi House.

Near Hamilton airport we stopped at a strawberry farm and bought fresh fruit and strawberry ice cream for dessert. I had enough time before my bus to visit one of the sisters’ house and had delicious dessert. At 6 pm, I jumped on the bus to Auckland and in the evening I was back in Te Atatu at my friends’ having late dinner.

Being back in Auckland meant that those were my last days in New Zealand, but my mind wasn’t ready for that yet.

The RWC Finals Weekend

FRIDAY to SUNDAY, 21th – 23rd October

Funny thing, when you travel a lot you start meeting the same bus drivers. The one who took me from Tauranga to Auckland was the same one who took me from Matamata to Hamilton a couple weeks earlier. What was even more surprising, he remembered me!

I was in Auckland after 12 p.m. and P., my friend from Australia, who was coming to see the Bronze Final with me that evening, was landing at 2:40 p.m. I had asked him to catch Airbuss Express from the airport to the city centre, as I wasn’t sure if I made it to welcome him there and mostly I didn’t want to spend about $30 on going just back and forth. I left my bag in a locker at the bus station and spend my extra time before P.’s arrival in the Auckland Library updating my blog.

When P. finally got through the traffic after 4 p.m., we only had time to pick up my bag and catch a bus to Te Atatu peninsula. We were staying again at J.&Ch.’s with two sons and a cat, Mortimer.

Does it happen to you often that you’re so focused on your plan that you miss other more convenient opportunities? When we got off the bus in Te Atatu, the bus driver checked out when the next bus was and if we had enough time to go back to see the match, and it was in two hours and there was a risk we may be late. He even asked how long we would need to leave the bag, because he could wait for us and take us back to the city, but I wanted to have time to say ‘hello’ to J. and thought it would be rude to just pop in, leave the bag and run off. So I let the driver go and then we found out that J. wouldn’t mind us going straight to catch the bus after leaving the bag. But it was too late.

J. showed us a poster made by one of her boys 🙂

And we were late for the match, of course, about 15 minutes. We missed Australia’s first try, and I was happy not to see it, because I hate looking at P.’s smug face. Again, because of missed penalty kicks, Wales lost and the Wallabies got away with the third place in the World Cup.

I also felt sorry for Quade Cooper. He looked like he tripped over his own foot, but in fact he got a knee injury. When he came back for his medal, his leg was wrapped and taped.

I realized I hadn’t had a photo of me in Eden Park!

I didn’t have many plans for SATURDAY, except for seeing The Black Seeds in Fanzone in the evening. And again awesome H., my friend from Auckland, came with a helping hand and her car. I didn’t mind seeing the same places I had seen before as long as P. had a good day, because it was his first visit to New Zealand and a very short one. He was leaving the next day.

First, we had lunch on Ponsonby Road, next we went to Mt Eden, One Tree Hill and then hot chocolate at Mission Bay. On Friday the weather was beautiful, but on Saturday it got cloudy and windy again. I didn’t feel well, my muscles ached, I had sore eyes and I couldn’t eat much. I was afraid to get sick. I didn’t want to waste my time lying in bed here, while the South Island was waiting. I took some painkillers in the evening and luckily, I was feeling better the next day. Interesting enough, I was feeling great already when I was listening to The Black Seeds that evening! But we had to wait for them quite a while, because they weren’t the only act performing then. Others weren’t bad at all. The first band was Rubberband, then 1814.

The third band was Katchafire. The crowd went mad when they started playing Get Away and from that on, it was a general sing-a-long.

There were two huge boats standing in the wharf and Katchafire was very popular among the kitchen crew

The Black Seeds started playing before 11 p.m. Some people were already pretty drunk, others were leaving to catch their last buses home. My bus was at 11:30, but H. said she’d drive us home. ( :-* ). So there were less people in the audience than for Katchafire. How the band played you can hear it yourselves, a couple new songs you can find there and this is what they played as an encore:

SUNDAY

In the afternoon, I went to the city centre to soak up the atmosphere before the grand final. Quay Street was closed, Queen Street was still open when I got off the bus, but soon after that it was closed, because of too many people already walking on the road.

The Fanzone in Queen’s Wharf had already been full since 2 p.m. and security wasn’t letting anyone in.

Nevertheless, some people were still queuing, maybe they were Gin Wigmore‘s fans, because she was giving a free concert in the evening.

Cook’s Wharf was open and the security was sending people there.

Mostly I saw All Blacks supporters.

French fans decided to stay together

However everyone was very friendly

Some people couldn’t afford to buy All Blacks jerseys.

or maybe they just wanted to be like Dan Carter

I found Mr Vintage shop. It’s on the way to Eden Park and it was busy when I was going back home.

I had a really bad bus connection to Te Atatu, because it was Sunday and I wouldn’t have had one, if I wanted to watch the game somewhere in the city, so I decided to get back home and watch the Final with J., Ch. and their friends.

The atmosphere was tense during the game and I didn’t want to think what would have happened, if the All Blacks lost. New Zealand needed that win to lift up its spirit after a though year of disasters like Pike River mine, Christchurch earthquakes and now Rena oil spill. And the All Blacks brought some light and something New Zealand is so proud of. They’re their gladiators, role models, heroes. I really like Stephen Donald, an unlikely hero. It was his first World Cup match. When he went on to that field, Ch. said that he didn’t think it could get any worse, but it did. I replied, what was the difference between Piri and him missing the goals (I still love ya, Piri). None, so what was the problem? And then Steve just simply kicked those 3 points that gave New Zealand the advantage. Perfect. What a guy. He may have been worthless in other matches, but he was the right person in the right time then.

I must confess, I had tears in my eyes when the match was over. Tears of joy and relief.

Te Atatu, Auckland

FRIDAY, 16th Sept.

We left New Plymouth at 8 a.m. and arrived in Auckland at about 2 p.m. We dropped off our bags at G.’s friend’s work place near Sky Tower. We took our time to stretch our legs along Queen Street before she finished her work at 5 p.m. G. visited more sports shops and went to Starbucks. I, on the other hand went to Queen’s Wharf to see what the Auckland Rugby Village FANZONE has to offer. And so I saw these guys,

Some players from the Irish rugby team were signing things and posing to photos. By the time I came back with G., they had already gone.

I got a brochure with program and I was happy to see The Blacks Seeds and Katchafire playing during the RWC Finals weekend, when I’m in Auckland. I hope I’ll be able to see them.

At 5 p.m. we picked up our bags and J. took us to her home. J.&Ch. live with their two sons on Te Atatu peninsula in north Auckland. The boys are 7 and 9 but they are quite tall and much more matured for their age. I really enjoyed their company for the last weekend.

In the evening, J.&Ch.’s friends came to watch rugby together. Everyone had something All Black on them, so I put my scarf on, just to blend in. Watching the All Blacks playing with Japan with a bunch of Kiwis was an unforgettable experience and sometimes even funnier than Flight of the Conchords. My cheeks hurt when they left.

On SATURDAY, we didn’t do much. We took a walk along the coast to get to Te Atatu centre and check out the bus connection. There was a nice view on Auckland.

And great street art on one of the buildings in the town centre.

Later we chilled out, it was another rainy afternoon. I also had to make some plans for the next couple days, so I spent some time on the Internet checking out many options and hoping for the weather to get better.

In the evening we head to Eden Park catching bus 049 (or 048 would be good too). We got off at Bond Street and followed the crowd. The streets were green and it was difficult to spot Aussie supporters wearing yellow.


And these guys asked me if I want to take a photo of them. Sure!

Eden Park is very impressive from the outside

We had seats in the 5th row (EE) on one side of the field. During the first half, it was Australian side and we could see some great actions from Irish.


And I couldn’t believe they won! Probably neither the Wallabies. 😀

On SUNDAY, I slept in and woke up in an empty house. Everyone went to church leaving me behind. When they got back, I was finishing my breakfast. It was another lazy day and no one wanted to go outside, because of…. Yep, you guessed it – the rain.

In the evening G.’s time in New Zealand was over and Ch. took him to the airport. On the way back we stopped at the lookout and saw three huge planes landing at the airport. The boys were very excited.

The guys got even more excited when they found out that I’m a big FOTC fan and we sang Hurt Feelings together. Although, it would suit more to sing Friends, since we were in a car.