Sunday 6th March – the day after the Ironman and, of course, it wasn’t raining! The amount of rain that had fallen yesterday was incredible but one thing’s for sure – we can’t do anything about the weather! We’d used the air conditioning to help dry our clothes and that had worked quite well.
Today we set off on the last leg of our New Zealand trip - back to Auckland. Not too far out of Taupo we passed the signs for the Huka Falls and then the Craters of the Moon, two places we had really enjoyed visiting. A few kms further on was the Wairakei Terraces – we hadn’t managed to get there but there’s always another time!
The journey was nearly 300 kms but we made good progress and got to Cambridge before 12 o’clock. Ten days ago, on our outward journey, we had stopped briefly on the outskirts of Cambridge but today we went on into the town and strolled around the centre. Cambridge was obviously the centre of a thriving equestrian area boasting numerous top class racing stables. Built into the pavement were mosaics of some of the most successful race horses and on
a wall was a plaque commemorating the local winners of the world famous Melbourne Cup. On another paved area were plaques commemorating local sporting heroes, including three day eventer, Mark Todd. A short walk down the main street took us to the town hall and a lovely sculpture representing ‘the past, present and future of Cambridge, the equine centre of New Zealand’. Back on the road again we passed fields of cows, many of which were Jersey cows, reminding us of the old adverts for ‘Anchor Butter’.
In seemingly no time at all we were on the outskirts of Auckland and heading for the airport. The hotel we were staying in overnight was near the airport which, in turn, was also where the offices for the car hire company were. As we were looking out for the hotel I spotted the car hire office first so we went there and dropped the car off. It was a bit sad saying goodbye to TART – inspite of a few misgivings initially she had done really well. We’d managed to get round without adding to the numerous small marks and dents she already had so the girl in the office gave
us a clean bill of health, happily took the keys back and arranged a lift for us and our luggage to the hotel.
The hotel was ideal for an overnight stay and we knew we could have a shuttle-bus ride to the airport which we arranged for 6:00am. They didn’t do meals but recommended the Holiday Inn which was just around the corner. So we enjoyed a very nice last meal in NZ and then planned an early night which didn’t turn out to be very early as England were playing South Africa in the Cricket World Cup and it was being shown live on the hotel TV. When we finally turned it off England had been bowled out cheaply and South Africa seemed to be well on the way to an easy win.
At 5am the three alarms we had put on all went off in turn so we dragged ourselves out of bed and finished up the cereals. The TV went on again, set on “mute”, and when we saw the cricket league table we presumed they’d made a mistake. When we discovered the actual result we were amazed – England had won - but it
set us up for the tedium of the flight check-in and the security checks to come. 6:00am came and, sure enough, the shuttle-bus arrived spot on time. Unfortunately, whilst checking in, the driver inadvertently locked all his keys in the hotel reception and had to ring an emergency number for someone to let him in! We still arrived at the airport by about 6.30am which was in plenty of time for our 8.15 flight.
We followed an automatic check-in procedure which Graham hates. He prefers to have someone there checking our passports, tickets etc but we had to use a machine. Fortunately an Air New Zealand girl was there to point us in the right direction so then it was just a matter of handing in the luggage. It was all very straightforward so I don’t know why Graham makes such a fuss! Soon we had gone through the security procedure and sat waiting for our flight to be announced. It took off on time and, again, we were amused by the flight safety video for which Air New Zealand has received many awards. They use the All Blacks rugby players and management team in a funny “parody” of
the usual safety messages. But, of course, it gets all the right messages across and because it’s funny people pay attention. I normally sit next to the window but this time Graham had the window seat and I sat in the middle seat of three. I’d planned to watch “The King’s Speech” – one of the films available on the entertainment system, but next to me sat a lady from America and, boy, couldn’t she talk! I heard all about her life history and that of her FIVE children and never got to turn the entertainment system on. She only stopped talking when the meal arrived and even then she managed to talk with her mouth full!! She (Sally) was actually quite a nice lady and was a bit tired but couldn’t sleep – she’d been travelling for over 20 hours from her home in Wisconsin which is not all that far from the Canadian border. Two of her daughters were living in Adelaide and she was visiting to see her new granddaughter for the very first time. In the meantime Graham had watched two films both of which, he said, were excellent but at least the time flew by
– she was quite entertaining – and we were soon in Adelaide.
We were a bit hesitant going through the re-entry process as we had some questions concerning our visas but we needn’t have worried. The girl who checked our passports called over an immigration official and we asked about how we were to get our visas extended. The first official thought we would have to apply to Australia House and that there might be a fee but, when she checked with a second official, that person took our passports and arranged the extensions there and then and registered them on the master computer – it was that simple. So, if we choose, and the circumstances allow, we could stay in Aus until March 2012 (a slightly scary thought at the moment). Once the sniffer dog had given us the all-clear we found our way to the car park shuttle bus stop and waited to be re-united with PIE. She started first time and within half an hour or so we were back at the caravan park and setting up SWEETIE for a few more days stay in Adelaide. Thank you New Zealand for a wonderful holiday within a
SWEETIE was just as we had left her but surrounded now by new campers. Most were curious to know why she had been left un-attended so that was a nice ice-breaker to get to know some new people. The bikes were still where we had left them (damn – nobody pinched them) and soon it was as if we hadn’t been away. Later in the day we visited the big shopping complex – Westfield – to restock the fridge and even found time for a swim. Planning ahead, we felt we needed just a bit more time than two nights before we moved on so we booked another two nights so we would have time to plan our next journey carefully. That night, still bright and warm, we found our way to Brighton Beach and indulged in fish and chips.
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