Who: my good friend, Becky Zeiber and myself
What: Took a trip to the gorgeous country of New Zealand
When: 2/3/10-2/16/10 (Becky stayed an extra week after I left)
Where: Most of the north island and the northern part of the southern island (I know, I know, we missed the best parts…more on that later…)
Why: Because we had the means and it was on our bucket lists
How: Planes, ferries, and recreational vehicle (that we lived in!)
I plan on writing some of my blog each day, or often at least, to update about our amazing trip. So here you have it….
Day One, 2/3/2010
I knew I had to keep a journal so I could write down the happenings of each day…but what to write in? OH YEAH! You see, I first met Becky three years ago at a place called the John C Campbell Folk School, a wonderful place in Brasstown, NC. It’s a school that teaches arts and crafts, but for adults. I had been curious and wanting to go there for quite some time and finally went…by myself! I had signed up for marquetry class, but it was full, so I took a book-making class instead. I also requested a dorm room for my lodging. I walked in the room, and there was Becky, unpacking her stuff. I said, “Hi! I’m Wendy!” and she said, “Hi, I’m Becky!” and that was it. We talked and talked and hung out the whole rest of the time. We remained in touch, mostly via email since then and have gone back to the Folk School together each year since. This year, however, instead of going to the Folk School, we went to New Zealand!
Becky had sent me and a couple other friends an email last year that simply said, “Do any of you want to go to New Zealand with me?” My response, was simply “YES!”. I was the only one that responded in the affirmative. Fast forward to February 3rd, 2010….the day I was beginning my journey to a place that I have always wanted to experience.
As I packed, I wondered what to use for the journal that I mentioned earlier in this post. DUH! In the bookmaking class that I took at the Folk School, I had made several beautiful books. One I was saving for a special occasion. The cover paper had pretty, sparkly, real mica fleck and the interior pages had a tannish, aged look. It even has a light green ribbon that I added as a page marker. I had never used it in the three years since binding/making it. Now was the perfect time….
Becky and I had decided that we were NOT going to check any luggage on our flights. It was summer in New Zealand, so we could pack light. I got a sturdy new, TSA-approved carry-on bag and was going to use my backpack as my “small personal item”. Somehow, I fit everything to last me two weeks in both bags. Check it out (and note Charles was used for perspective!):
Yep, I was ready! David took me to the airport, we said our goodbyes, and I headed to the e-ticket kiosk to check in. Odd. It won’t let me check in. I asked one of attendants, and he couldn’t get it to work either. He told me to wait in line for the next available Delta rep behind the counter. Lovely. So I wait for a bit and finally get to the desk. Lucky me, Delta dude was new and in training. He asked where I was going, and I told him my final destination was New Zealand…via Los Angeles, then Sydney. “Sydney!?” he exclaimed. “Yep!” was my response. To this he asked where my Visa was. Me: Visa? What Visa? He then said that I required a Visa to travel to Australia. Oh my god, are you kidding me? He said that it was required, but he would double check for me to make sure. He called over a more senior agent, and she didn’t know for sure, so they checked together. I almost called David to have him come back and pick me up. I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to go, and I was BUMMED. Soon, however the two agents determined that I, in fact, did not need a Visa if I was just catching a connecting flight. NO DUH! It took him a while, but he finally was able to print my boarding pass. I head to the gate and wait to board. The time comes for us to all board and push back from the gate. No sooner did we push back from the gate, did we pull back in again. NOW WHAT?! A broken valve. The pilot had us sit on the plane for about 45 minutes while mechanics tried to make the repair. It was determined that the repair could NOT be made so we all had to de-plane. Grrreat. It was chaos after that. Everyone was trying to see what other flights they could grab, trying to figure out how to make their connections in LAX, loud cell phone conversations and increasingly agitated gate agents 1) because people kept asking them the same questions over and over and 2) not only was the plane broken, so was the gates PA system. Finally the agent yelled out to the crowd that the part to fix the plane has been found and attempts to fix it were being made to and please wait patiently. About 30 minutes after we de-planed, we all got back on again. Total deja-vu! We took off and I was finally on my way. It was going to be a tight connection in LAX to meet up with Becky (who flew in from Boston much earlier in the day) and catch the plane to Sydney. Thank GOD I had not checked any luggage. Once landed at LAX, David luckily had researched and found that my next flight was going to be at the International Terminal. This required me to leave terminal 5, and walk outside past 3 or 4 other terminals to get to the right one. I was almost running, even though I didn’t really know where I was going. I got lost a couple times and finally made it to the V-Australia ticketing desk. Boarding pass in hand, I pretty much ran to security. Oh NO…the line was LONG. Becky called my cell and said that if I didn’t get to the gate in 15 minutes, that they flight might leave without me! I told the security line lady what my deal was, and she said, “Oh, you can stay in line, you’ll make it.” OMG! So me and this other gal (a cool Australian chickadee) who was trying to make the same flight, chatted and tried to laugh off the situation. We finally got to the x-ray machines, booked through them, and then RAN together to the gate. YAY! They were still boarding! We made it!!! Becky saw me and screamed out my name. Things were finally going according to plan! We boarded the plane and got settled. The V flight was set up quite nicely and even though I was in a middle seat, I was surprisingly comfortable. Becky was sitting in an aisle seat a few rows back, but she discovered the chat feature on the in-flight entertainment. Coolness. Now we could talk without having to get up and piss people off! We were fed dinner and then the trippy, colorful V lights were turned on…this signified the cabin was going to go dark for sleepy time. I had taken two sleeping pills and actually felt like I was going to snooze! …and I DID! Amazing, but true. In the morning, we were fed breakfast (this was a 14 hour flight). It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Once in Sydney, we caught our next plane…an Emirates flight that would take us to Auckland, New Zealand. WHOA! This Emirates plane was a monster-huge Airbus with 2 levels, a couple bars, chrome fittings, big tv’s and even teak toilet seats! It was super fancy. We got breakfast (again!) on this flight. The female flight attendants outfits included scarves that draped from their red hats and were pinned to the other side. Check it out:
Of course, I was in steerage so I didn’t get to take advantage of a lot of the fancy stuff (except the toilet seat – lol). They did give me a nice warm, lemon-scented towel that I used to wipe off my hands and sneaked in a wipe of my face as well. Ahh. So, Becky and I landed in Auckland. We were tired, but we had to persevere! Now it was time for us to get our RV. You see, we rented a RV and planned on living and driving it all over NZ! We found the shuttle bus, that took us to the Explore More rental office and where we ultimately picked up our “home away from home”. Here it be:
After filling out gobs of a paperwork and getting an overview of the workings of the van, we threw our stuff in and decided that Becky would drive and I would navigate. We decided early on to stay in a hotel in Auckland the first two nights to help recover from jet lag, get acclimated and to explore the city. Off to the Barrycourt hotel we went. As expected, we couldn’t even figure out how to drive off the property, but with some help from some nice attendants, we made our way to the main road. It was trafficky in the city! I was totally tripping on all the different cars and their funky names. Becky did a great job of driving on the wrong side of the road (and the wrong side of the vehicle too!). We found our hotel and parked, unscathed. Ahh! Made it! It’s two days after we left and we made it to NZ! Our room was nice, especially considering the price. It had a really neat balcony with an amazing view of Auckland. See!?!
Neat, huh?!? See the Skytower? At 1076 feet, it is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. It has an observation deck with clear glass floors. Coolness. We’re goin’! ….Tomorrow, that is. After settling in, we showered and chilled out for a little bit, then walked to the Parnell district where we bought wine and had a lovely Thai dinner outside. Here’s happy Becky while we waited for our foodage. 🙂
That’s a lot of info, huh? Well, new and more interesting adventures start tomorrow! Stay tuned!!!!