March 1st-3rd

OK, THIS was the LONGEST day of my life!


            This is the first through the 3rd for a couple of reasons.  We cross the international date line during the trip, so we leave on the 1st and land on the 3rd.  That, and it FELT like we were awake for 3 days……

            The cell phone rang at 6:00 in the morning, Neeter bailed out of bed to race to it before they hung up.  She had left Amy’s cell number as the emergency contact number for the airline.  Not sounding good, right???

            Amy gave Annita her pin number to retrieve her voice mails because our flight had been moved up an hour.  We called her voice mail, got the info and then started getting around.  Nita was just getting ready to jump in the shower when I called the front desk to let them know we wouldn’t need the 8:00 shuttle, we’d get on the 7:00 shuttle.  That was when it was explained that they didn’t have a 7:00 shuttle, but they did have a 6:30 shuttle.  I looked at my watch, it was 6:15.  We quickly dressed and threw our stuff into the bags and made our way down to the front desk.

            We boarded the shuttle and rode out to the airport, getting our tickets for the first leg of the trip.  We boarded the plane at 9:16 and made the 2-1/2 hour flight to LA.  It was a good thing they moved our flight up an hour, that way we had a 6 hour layover instead of just a 5 hour layover.

            I spent my time searching for a wireless signal, but was very unlucky, so instead I sat on my butt, reading “Memoirs of a Geisha,” a book I bought at the airport.  I wouldn’t say they robbed me when I bought that book, because the cashier wasn’t holding a gun to my head, but it was a close call none-the-less.  Neeter spent her time going in and out of the airport so she could smoke a cigarette.  They finally took her lighter on one return trip, so that slowed her down considerably.  We decided to eat a bite there and I bought a $5.75 Bud Light.  Little did I know, that was going to be my last taste of civilization for a LONG time.

            We finally took off on an Air New Zealand flight at 5:45.  Shortly after take off, they began serving supper, a choice of chicken smothered in a mushroom sauce, or beef lasagna.  Anyone who knows me knows of my distaste of “fungus,” so the chicken was out.  I ordered my lasagna and that was when my worst fears came to life. 

The flight attendant asked me what I wanted to drink and I of course replied, “Bud Light.”  The guy sitting next to Annita, on the aisle, laughed.

            “Would you like to try another beer?” she asked.

            18 days without a Bud Light!!!  The first sign of the Apocolypse.

I haven’t checked yet, but I’m sure that Anheuser Busch stock plummeted during my absence.  The Kansas liquor stores probably have a great overstock of product now, and will hail my return with open arms, and hopefully, a sale!!!!

            Alas, I digress…..

            We settled on an Export Gold, with a Diet Coke, just in case I couldn’t stomach the beer.  I took my first drink of the “beer,” and wasn’t very impressed.  Shortly afterwards, Neeter said, “Mmmmm, New Zealand butter.”

            “I hope it’s better than New Zealand beer,” I whispered, but not quietly enough.

            The meal was delicious, much better than the 5 or 6 mini-pretzels I ate on the flight from Denver.  Neeter put on her headphones and picked a movie to watch on the flat screen on the headrest in front of her while I cracked open my book and continued reading.  I did manage to get maybe 4 hours of sleep during the 13 hour flight to Auckland, but both butt cheeks were sore from the hours of sitting on planes and uncomfortable airport seats, so I had a hard time getting comfortable.  Plus, I sleep on my side curled up in the fetal position which is an impossibility in those seats.  I finally gave up and pulled on the headphones and picked out a movie, “Chicken Little.”  It was amusing, and killed an hour and a half, then I resumed reading.  Did I tell you that reading makes me sleepy???  It didn’t work, I still couldn’t sleep.

            Neeter was pretty sure that she got about 2 hours sleep on the flight.  She said that I kept stealing her head rest, but I think she was just delirious from the lack of sleep.

            We landed in Auckland at 10:30 AM (5:30 AM local time), so I wasn’t able to see much, and made our way to immigration.  There was a LONG line for foreigners, and a short line for New Zealander’s.  Neeter walked up to the gal giving directions and said, “I have an American passport, but I’m a Kiwi.  The gal smiled and motioned her into the short line.  “What about my husband?” Neeter asked.  She smiled and motioned me in also.  Neeter denies it, but I’m sure she would have taken the short line without me and waited somewhere else for me to work my way through the “foreigners” line.

            I was elated!!!  I had a stamp on my passport!!!  I have to admit, I was a little disappointed upon leaving LAX that I didn’t get a stamp.  I had one now!!!

            We worked our way around and picked up our luggage to have it X-rayed again.  We had to pull the relish and mayo out that Neeter brought over for a potato salad she had planned to make a couple of days later.  Other than that, it was uneventful.  We waited 2-1/2 hours for our connecting flight to Wellington.

            We boarded the plane for the short one hour flight to Wellington at 1:00 PM (8:00 AM local time).  I was able to see a little bit on the ascent, until we disappeared into a cloudbank.  From then on, I occasionally got to see small patches of water or terra firma through small holes in the clouds, but not much of a view.

            Upon descent, we finally broke through the clouds and I was greeted with some pretty amazing views.  Neeter wasn’t real impressed with the pilot, but I thought it was fun.  The plane would drop 8 or 10 feet at a shot, then catch itself only to drop again.  The plane was still alternately dropping each wing upon approach, and wasn’t any where near level when the port landing gear touched down.  The starboard gear did finally touch down, followed by the nose gear, and another safe landing was in the books.  It was only then that Neeter revealed to me how treacherous Auckland’s runway is. 

It’s built on a man-made isthmus.  If your approach is a little short, you crash into the water, if you overshoot the runway, you crash into the water.  I have pictures later that show you this.

We left the plane that was continuing on to Dunedin and made our way to the baggage terminal.  We met Vicki, Neeter’s good friend, and her mother Emelia there as we were gathering up our luggage.  We exited the airport and unloaded our luggage into Vicki’s car.  I opened bag after bag looking for the digital camera we had borrowed from my dad and we couldn’t find it.  I raced back into the airport and back to the terminal we’d arrived at, in the hopes that the plane hadn’t left yet.  Neeter caught up with me there and we explained what had happened to the people there. 

Neeter walked through the metal detector and I followed.  It beeped when I went through, so I drug out all my change and took my belt off and walked through again.  It beeped again.  As I was walking back out, Neeter took off for the plane.  I stood outside the metal detector and began filling my pockets and putting my belt back on.  She returned minutes later carrying the camera case.  Fortunately, she had told them what seat row we were in and told them the brand of camera.  That would have been tough to explain to my father, what had happened to his camera, and why we didn’t have any pictures of our trip.

Back out to the car and down the road we went.  It was drizzly and cloudy as we made our way into Wellington to look for the WETA sound studio where a lot of the work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy had been done, but it was all locked up.  We then backtracked and past the airport to Eastbourne where we had lunch.  After lunch we made our way back to Emelia’s house to unpack the luggage.

Later that day, Neeter’s half-brother, John, arrived with his wife Lynn,  their sons Jack and Nick, and their daughter Silvie.  After that, Neeter’s brother, Roberto, and his wife Kerrie arrived.  We ate supper and then Neeter’s uncle Jack and aunt Clelia arrived.  This was just a precursor to the family reunion that was happening the next day.  During the meal and afterwards, I’d tried a couple of beers, none of which worth mentioning.  It was going to be a long honeymoon.

At about 9:30 PM local time, we decided to go to bed.  That would be 2:30 AM back home, meaning we had been going for 44-1/2 hours on between 2 and 4 hours sleep.

Pictures from the day

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