BAC New Zealand - 2015
January 28-30 - Home to Auckland
Our neighbors, Howard and Betty Shugart, dropped us off at Rockridge BART on their way to buy ice cream at the new Safeway store. We caught the 5:20PM train to SFO. Arriving around 6:20, we found the Air New Zealand counter with hardly any passengers checking in. We were a bit early for our 9:00PM flight, but I expected some congestion. It was the same way going through Security. Based on this experience, I will consider evening international flights from now on.
Because we had a long wait for our boarding call, we decided to use our Mileage Plus free tickets to the United Lounge. It felt good to relax and to eat a few snacks so we would not be starving by the time we got on the plane.
While waiting at the boarding gate, we ran into Karin Nelson and Vickie Romo who were on our Bike and Barge trip last year. We knew that they were signed up for the New Zealand trip but we did not expect to see them on our flight.
NZ15 boarded smoothly and we found our seats in a cramped economy section on our 777-200 - Ann in the middle and me on the aisle. The window seat was occupied by a recent college grad who said that she was going on an Outward Bound excursion in the South Island.
After watching "Boy" and eating our hot meal, Ann and I took sleeping supplements and had a relatively good sleep. We awoke with about three hours remaining on our twelve hour flight. We had decent omelets for breakfast along with large cups of coffee.
After we landed at 6:30AM on Friday (we lost Thursday), we had huge lines going passport control and horticultural screening - New Zealand does not want any objects coming into the country that could carry infected dirt. They look for drugs, too. Ann was accosted by a drug sniffing beagle who was alerted by honey in the candy in her carry-on bag.
We went outside and caught a Super Shuttle to our hotel. Four other passengers - Sheila Coe, Greg and Kathe Fowler, and Bob Barrows - were also on our tour so we had a nice chat on our long ride. We had to stop twice to leave off other passengers. We got to The Quality Hotel Parnall way too early to get into our room. So we checked in, left our luggage and took a walk down to Dove Myer Robinson Park. The park has a very aromatic rose garden and and shaded walking paths that lead down to the water. We saw a sign that pointed to a swimming pool that caught Ann's interest. So we walked to the swimming beach. Although it was a nice sandy beach, there was nobody swimming even though the temperature was close to 80 and humid. We then walked up to a really old white clapboard Anglican Church and graveyard. Most of the tombstones were dated in the early 1800s.
Our route back to the hotel went through oak tree lined streets that had many very nice large houses. When we reached the hotel, it was still too early to get into our room, so we decided to walk to lunch. We found a cafe on Parnall Rd. Ann had pumpkin soup and toast while I devoured callamare and chips.
We discovered that Auckland is spread out over low hills. They gently rise from the bays that are on two sides of the city. There are lots of trees on the land and lots of boats in the water. The people are very friendly as we expected and they have heavy accents. The traffic is moderate and polite - they stop for you at crosswalks.
When we got back to the hotel, we were able to get into our room. It felt really good to take a shower, shave and brush my teeth after two days without doing so. Our room is on the fourth floor. Out the window we have a good view of the city and the harbor.
While Ann was cleaning up, I was able to unpack my bicycle and put it together. I will give it a test ride tomorrow.
Ann talked me into going to our hotel's cafe for a snack. We had apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in our room and checking out our battery chargers and my GPS. We met John Gradwell, David Williams, Paul Ciano and Richard Hanke in the lobby and went to dinner at Hog Heaven, a Lousiana smokehouse. I had baby back ribs while Ann had a pulled pork sandwich. We both had average tasting beers. I have been advised that strong tasting and high alcohol beers are hard to get in New Zealand.
It was a long walk to and from the restaurant and it was worth it on the way back so that we could settle our stomachs after all of the food.