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2024 - January - Day 5 - Travel to NZ

By the time the alarm went off at 4am I was already wide awake as is often the case when I know we must be somewhere at a certain time. As we were well organised, we left our Bure early for the last time at 4.45am and walked to the front of the Hotel where our taxi was already waiting. It was still dark.


The airport was quieter than I had anticipated and there was virtually no wait for us to be checked in. It was confirmed that we would need to collect our luggage in Wellington and then recheck it back in for the remaining 2 flights. There was no wait at security and everyone we encountered as they had been all trip were very happy and helpful.


We made our way to the Lounge where we found a table and had some breakfast. We declined the use of the open bar and stuck with hot drinks.


Boarding was smooth as indeed everything had been so far today. We pulled back from the gate just a few minutes late but then just sat there. Eventually we started moving but sadly just back to the gate. I dreaded finding out the cause, especially we only had a 2-hour connection time for our first flight back out of Wellington and I knew that both immigration and customs had to be gone through for our entrance in New Zealand. New Zealand remains very hot on both, although I knew our paperwork was all complete as I had submitted them online, I knew that the process could take some time.


Eventually the pilot announced that we had in the hold the baggage of a passenger who had been off loaded and that it needed to be retrieved before we could leave. We eventually took over almost 1 hour late which caused Karen many worries about the ongoing impact it would have on our other flights.


However, for now I just thought about Fiji and our time spent here. As a nation it has much going for it and much to build upon. It’s not a third world country buts it’s not a first world one either (must look up the definition for second world country). The people, weather and greenery are all an asset. I would describe them as a good Division One football team who need someone to manage them to take them to the next level. We have enjoyed our time here but don’t feel the need to rush back, but that’s not a negative as such. My memories will be of sea, sky, sun, smiles, Bula and their local music. Also, of their desperate need for some good dental hygiene education.


The flight was over 3 hours long. Karen couldn’t get her headphones to work so I gave her mine and read my kindle instead.


Arriving into Wellington using the e Gates we were in the country with no issue. Then we had to wait 5 minutes for the carousel with the bags to start moving but luckily there ours were amongst the first off. There was then a 10-minute wait to see a Customs officer who after a couple of perfunctory questions waved us through. Our final obstacle was to have our bags checked by the trained beagle who sniffed and climbed over our bags before we were free to make our way back to the check in area to get our boarding cards for the next 2 flights with Air New Zealand and recheck in our bags. The staff were lovely and helpful. Within a few minutes we found ourselves at the gate with even enough time for Karen to grab a coffee before boarding started. Despite our delay in Fiji, we were going to be fine for time to catch this flight.


When I made the original booking this next flight was due to be direct to Invercargill. But the airline had since cancelled that flight and we were now being routed from Wellington to Christchurch and then onwards again to Invercargill.


Our seat allocation was in row 2, which pleased us as we thought it would mean we could get off quickly in Christchurch as the airline had only given us a 40-minute connection time there. It was ironic then that for this aircraft the loading was only from the back meaning we had the worst possible seats for speed purposes.


It was though a short 45-minute flight much shorter than the 1 hour 15-minute scheduled. It was very bumpy and hairy at times and we seem to almost land sideways.


Given we had made up some time we were relaxed getting off the plane especially as the gate for the next flight turned out to be next to the one, we had alighted from. We knew our bags had been checked now all the way through to Invercargill – or so we thought.


Boarding started and we had scanned our boarding cards and were walking outside to the plane when Karen suddenly shouted as she could see back in the terminal one of our cases going around on its own on one of the carousels. It was too far away to see if it was hers or mine but Karen sprung into action. She ran back to the boarding gate to ‘stop the flight’ and get the bag loaded onto it. I stayed with all the hand luggage. I saw Karen appear with someone who retrieved the case. Then a baggage handler appeared from nowhere and took what turned out to be my case away with him saying he knew he was one short and guessed it had been put onto the carousel rather than kept in transit and put straight onto our next flight.


Karen wallowed in being the hero of the hour as she was brought back round to where I was waiting. Even as we climbing the steps onto the plane the baggage handler came back over to thank her and assure her that all the expected number of bags were now being put on board.


This was a slightly longer flight and with the wind just as bumpy and hairy. Again, we were given some water to drink and a cookie to eat. The guy in charge of service was quite funny over the tannoy.


And so, we had arrived at our southernmost destination into Invercargill and just as importantly had our luggage. The weather was a tad different to what we had left in Fiji. It was overcast, 14c and blowing a gale. Our pre booked taxi turned up on time and took us the few miles to the Tower Lodge Motel.


The owner was very helpful and we were soon in our room. We decided to walk to the nearest Countdown store to get some food to get us going for the next couple of days. Karen got herself some rolls and cheese to eat whilst I opted for an Aussie pie that we could heat in our rooms microwave.


Then I tried to check our bookings for a trip to Stewart Island the next day. It seems that I had had a major planning failure though. Although I had booked the Island tour it seems it didn’t include the ferry over to it. Not only that but it seemed it would cost us over £200 for the ferry’s as the island was 40km offshore. Easy going Karen took that information in her stride. I am not sure how I made such a schoolboy error. I remember spending ages doing research on the island tour which I can only assume I thought included the ferry. Looking at it now I am not sure why we have even considered doing the tour with a potentially rough long crossing is not something I would relish.


This called for a quick replan which involves now trying to pick up the rental car a day earlier.


It was a novelty having the NZ Sky channels in our room and so Karen watched a very old episode of Call the Midwife before the 4am alarm caught up with us and we retired for the night now over 11200 miles from home.

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