15 January 20
Posted at 8:30
Thirty Seven Days On North Island
Marilyn and I have returned to New Zealand for a fourth time (over the last 25 years or so). This time we are not living in a motorhome as usual but are travelling around North Island staying at eight different places in an eclectic mix of rented accommodations – all booked through Book A Bach. Hopefully at the fourth attempt I will record a detailed journal of our adventure.
We flew from London Heathrow on Monday 13th January 2020, economy class booked through New Zealand Airlines but flying with codeshare partners Singapore airlines. The first flight was due to take off at 10:55 so being all too aware of the poor reliability of our rail network these days and the car park that is otherwise known as the M25 we splashed out on an overnight stay at Heathrow the night before. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn at Terminal Two, a brand new hotel that is ideally situated if you are flying from Terminal Two.
In my opinion breaking up the 23 hour journey to Auckland by staying for a night or two in Singapore (or HK or KL depending on your airline) is a waste and totally counter productive especially if you have visited said cities before. It is a waste because it is an unnecessary expense and when all is said and done you’ll still be knackered on your first day in NZ. So my idea is to bite the bullet and get to the final destination ASAP. To that end we booked flights with just a 55 minute changeover at Singapore. The first flight of about 13 hours duration was uneventful. I took in three films. Rocket Man a film that is saved by the absolutely awesome music of Elton John and Yesterday an awesome film that also has some pretty good music (and hands down was the winner of the two). Along with a sweet little 90 minute film called Denmark which stars Rafe Spall, I loved it and don’t think that was totally due to the consumption of three gin and tonics along with endless red wine (although nowhere near as much as the lady sitting next to me, the other side to Marilyn). When I did manage forty winks on this first leg I woke with the uncomfortable and upsetting feeling of a cold coming on. I’ve not had a cold in ages!! We landed at Singapore and as the minutes passed by during landing it became clear that 55 minutes between flights may have been a risk. When finally the hundred or so travellers in front of us had got their acts together, remembered which overhead locker their bags were in, checked their mobile phones, scratched, farted, collected kids and finally moved along the aircraft towards the exit we embarked into the metropolis that is Changi Airport. I looked around in a semi panic for a local lass with a board saying. “ Mr Gravett connecting to flight SQ281 to Auckland follow me” but alas this is a service no longer offered. Instead we were spewed out into the endless concourse of bright lights, shops, food outlets and people who dawdle. We will miss our connexion I thought along with all the associated anxieties of the various scenarios that would follow. Gate B10 was our gate, there was no sign saying that it was “five miles away and the extra hand baggage you sneaked in will get heavier every step of the way” but that is what it felt like! Puffing and panting we arrived at the gate with just minutes to spare to find and endless queue of people waiting to go through security to actually enter and as time passed we were more front than end of queue. Why do I always panic like this?? On the second flight which was just nine hours in duration I managed to watch all 8 episodes of series one of a TV drama called Mr Mercedees. I say all eight I actually saw seven one hour episodes plus 50 minutes of episode eight so I have to wait six weeks find out how/if they actually caught him. Good drama though that I had never heard of before.
As we arrived in Auckland at midnight we had arranged to stay at a ‘budget hotel’ near the airport before picking up our hire car next morning. I borrowed a trolley from arrivals to ease the twenty minute walk to the hotel (I couldn’t be arsed to wait for a courtesy bus that may or may not have arrived at that time of night). As we made our way through the darkness it became clear that my cold was now full blown. That coupled with 23 hours of liberal alcohol intake and an eight hour marathon of a somewhat disturbing, well manically disturbing, TV drama series compacted into a single sitting would mean even if the budget hotel room was bigger than about four square metres I still would probably not have slept very well.