Yes, going to be a long day. Got up at 7:00 AM. Changed my trip habit of shower and shave at night to regular one of doing these in the AM on this last day in NZ. So, when I got up it was 2:00 PM on 7/3 in STL and I will be home after travelling around 10:30 PM on 7/4 in STL.

About 10:00, we walked over to have breakfast at the café where had eaten the last two mornings only to find out they are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday so they can take time off each week. General store person directed us to go to the How Waves Cafe  at Hot Water Beach, which we did. Great breakfast as have all been here.

After we ate, we drove down to Hot Water Beach. At low tide, folks dig pits in the sand since hot water bubbles up. One can do this mostly at low tide plus or minus an hour or two depending on the waves as the tide comes back in. It was well beyond that time span when we got there. Beautiful beach, of course. Donna frolicked in the water.

Drove back to our accommodations, packed up, and were on the road by Noon. Took 2.5 hours to get to airport. Got a bit lost around the airport and road construction, but the Hertz GPS and Jeff got us back on track. Dropped off the car. Stuffed my new down jacket into my suitcase using the expansion zipper. Don’t think I will need it in LA or STL. Wheeled luggage into airport.

For most folks, ANZ has kiosks where you check in and get luggage tags and boarding pass printed out. Then you take your luggage over to a drop off area and put it on a belt. Donna and Jeff found out this AM that ANZ had changed their seats so that instead of two aisle seats they had an aisle and middle together. When we got to the check-in area, they worked with a live person to see what could be done.

I, on the other hand, found the Premium Check In desk. For all my flights, the scans of my electronic ticket have not worked. Same in premium check in. Attendant did it manually and said it was the “Jr” on my name that is on my passport but not part of the ANZ records that caused the problem. So, put my luggage on belt, went up a level and went through single scan/gate for premium passengers at Customs. Security was a breeze. At each juncture, I waited to see if J and D would be coming through. Finally, went through the huge duty free shopping area and upstairs to the ANZ lounge. Made contact with J and D who wanted to know where I was. They had gotten seats they wanted. But were slow coming through security and Donna was getting extra screening!

I tried to see if they could join me in the premium lounge, but I’d have to be Gold Member to be able to do that. So, I fed my loneliness with a long black, finger sandwiches and wraps. Assuaged my guilt (hahahaha). Now, lots of time before my flight boards. Hours. And the lounge is pretty empty. Too bad I could not get guest passes for  J and D. And their plane leaves about two-and-a-half hours after mine. Well, I don’t want to eat too much here. Would spoil my appetite for the fare aboard. So, fiddled around with downloading images from this morning and waiting for my call to beard.

Again, since I cannot say this enough, the whole trip was a great experience with the icing on the cake being with Jeff and Donna these last four days. We were blessed with good weather and a great group of fellow travellers. I gained new friends. And now it’s back from winter to summer, from being chilled to being fried. 

 

NZ6, Seat 3A: It’s about 10:00 NZ time and dinner service is over. Left the gate about 8:00. The three guys with stripes on their arms all look older than I am. Guess gray hair brings experience. On board, the woman across the aisle from me is wearing a face mask. Little did she know that I would be aboard! And she laughs out loud at whatever she’s watching on her video monitor. Guy in front of her changed to PJs. Guess he’s done this before. And it was interesting to watch through the open curtains to the galley as a crew member assembled each main course from various containers and bowls. What emerges is as if you are at a good restaurant. I’m still on NZ time so I can figure when to get the bed extended and go to sleep. Too confusing to change to LA time yet. Did check in online for my AA flight LAX-STL. It was 24 hours before my flight given it was 7/3 in LA.

Had two glasses of sauvignon blanc before and with dinner. While red wine seems to get me coughing, found out that white doesn’t. Strange.  Guess it’s time to take out my hearing aids, lenses, and get supine.

Slept for five hours. Reset my watch before I lay down. So, it was about 7:40 LA time when I got up. Others seemed to sleep longer. A couple of hours later, they served breakfast. Lots of food, of course. Got into LAX on time. Breezed through Global Entry. Went outside to figure out where my AA terminal was and how far away. My check in online showed Terminal 5 which is past Terminal 4. I dragged luggage and myself down there only to find out that the gate had been changed to one in Terminal 4. However, TSA Precheck was fast and I parked  myself near the gate, dozed, got a scone and coffee, dozed.

AA803, Seat 2F: Flight boarded on time. Reset my watch again to STL time. I think dinner is next. 

Got up this morning about 7:00. Donna’s birthday over here today! Went out to Hahei Beach about 8:00 and walked the long beach. Smooth with almost no shells. Met a man from US who, with his wife, moved here 21 years ago and loves it. Lovely light. Lovely clouds. Nice walk.

Up for breakfast at Hahei Beach Café and back to our accommodations for downloading, showers, etc. Ate leftover Indian food from last night. And about 2:00 or so, drove over the Cathedral Cove car park and walked down, down, down to Gemstone Bay. Lovely. Rocky shore to scrabble on. Waves and clouds.

Around 4:00, drove down to ferry landing and went over to Whitianga. Walked around town until about 5:30 and went to Salt, where we were the only patrons that early, for dinner. Outstanding local mussels. Venison was only okay. Made it back in time for last ferry before the driver’s break and then home.

Walked about 10,000 steps today. Lots of “flights of stairs” given how one has to get down to areas like Gemstone Bay.

Last full day here. Really lovely in all respects. Great to be here with J and D, for sure.

Sharron and Fiona took Jeff, Donna, and me to the airport at 7:30. ANZ flight to Auckland left a bit after 9:00. No issues with the weight of our carryon luggage … it’s a big deal here. Arrived in Auckland around 10:30, got our luggage, went over to Hertz. Got a bigger car than I had reserved since we needed room for three big suitcases. Got a Garmin GPS as well and plugged in Tatati Lodge in Hahei and off we went.

Not sure how long it took, but (even with stopping for lunch) it was longer than the 2+ hours the GPS and Google Maps said. Stopped at Bugger Café as recommended by Sharron. Was fun and good. Then we went on the long and winding road out to Hahei. While the speed limit was mostly 100 km/hr., it was hard to go over 50 the whole way. Twists and turns for 30-40 miles.

Got to Tatati Lodge and into our really modern cottage. All stained pine inside. Two bedrooms and one bath, living and dining area, kitchen. After some tea, I went over to the reception area and am washing clothes so I have something to wear. With all the one-night stops, it was hard to keep up at the end.

Raining here, but quite a bit warmer. First time I’ve been outside with just two layers instead of my usual four. Weather probably won’t be great while we’re here, but good place to chill in any case.

Sat around the cottage until about 6:00 and drove up the road to Pour House for ribs and fish and chips. Nice pub place. Was raining and windy when we emerged to drive back to the motel. Early evening. Trying to stay awake so that we don’t go to bed too early.

Good bed. Nice sleeping. Got up at 7:00. Had coffee. We left here about 8:15 and drove up to the parking area for Cathedral Cove. It was a 50-minute walk with some pretty tough uphills and downhills and stairs. But well worth it. It is absolutely gorgeous. We got down there 9:30 and the light was soft and great. Sun not fully exposed. You can see why this is a big attraction for this region. If it were the only reason to come here, it’s worth being here. Took lots of images, of course. Then did the long walk back to the car park. While we were at the cove, there were only two other people there. On the way uphill, there were droves of folks descending. And today is much warmer than what we experienced on South Island. Actually could get down to just two layers – t-shirt and long-sleeved shirt over it.

Drove back downhill to the Hahei Beach Café for a delightful brunch around 11:30. While the weather forecast had predicted rain, this whole morning was filled with sunlight. Went to the general store nearby and got cheese and wine. Then back to our accommodations to download and work on today’s images … and it rained cats and dogs for quite a while. So, we were lucky to be out at the cove for the early morning light, good weather, and to miss the crowds of folks we encountered going down as we were going up.

Problem we’ve encountered is with what restaurants are open. Many close for the winter season. Many close Sundays and Mondays. Today is Sunday. Tomorrow is both Monday and Donna’ birthday. Found out we can drive about 15 minutes from here to ferry landing. Take a short ride across and go into Whitianga and there should be stuff open there. Made a reservation at Salt there for D’s birthday dinner tomorrow.

Oh, and one thing I forgot to say earlier is that with the Mazda crossover we have, if you stray a few km/hr. over the speed limit, a female voice says “You are over the speed limit.” I try to use cruise control where I can to avoid being chastised by a car.

While is was dusk, we drove to the ferry landing 14 km from here. Ferry crosses a narrow channel to Whitianga. Otherwise, to get there, one would have to drive all the way down the peninsula and come up and around the other side. We walked through town thinking we were going to a particular place, but it was closed. Went to Sangam, a northern Indian restaurant and had one of the best meals on the trip. Engaging young waitress Nadia attended to us.

Ferry driver takes a break from 7:30-8:30 (and he came into the place we were eating for his dinner). We walked back to the pier and waited about 15 minutes until the appointed time and came back across and drove back to our abode.

We have really gotten to see the damage from last November’s earthquake up close. Yesterday we had to travel inland to get to Kaikoura given the collapse of the roads along the coast both north and south of Kaikoura. And we traversed a whole area that had been ripped apart by the quake and zigzagged over temporary roads.

This whole part of the South Island land mass rose 10-18 feet with the quake. Just try to image that. So, in town, while there is extensive damage, much is undamaged by the ground rising and staying up. On the shoreline, one can see the difference from before. And when we went to pick up those of us who went on the bird and seal watching boat trip, there was no jetty. The boat was on a carriage and people boarded it on land. Then it was backed into the water. And reverse when they came back.

On the way back to Christchurch, we got to go southbound on Hwy 1 … it’s one-way going south. The road to the north is still fully blocked. Crews are working all along several miles going south. Debris is everywhere. Roads crushed. Railroad tunnels closed. Shipping containers have been put along between the rock face and road to act as a dam against more debris falling.

Started the day at 9:00 with ride into town for breakfast. Then Sharron took the few of us who had not gone on the boar for a little tour up and down the coast. Saw some fur seals, some of whom were camped out o the boardwalk by a park. Went back into town and wandered around for a bit. At 11:30, we headed to pick up those who had been on the boat. Then southbound through the construction area and back to Christchurch arriving about 4:00.

Left for supper at 5:30. Elegant dinner at a country club where we got to share our experiences and saw slide show Jeff put together with images of each of us in all the places we’ve been. Said good-byes to all. Wonderful group of people. I have gained some good friends.

Tomorrow J, D, and I leave here at 7:30 for 9:00 flight to Auckland where we pick up a car and drive onto the Coromandel Peninsula for a few days.

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