Day 142: Welcome To Middle Earth

Wed. 2nd January 2013

Lord of the Rings figure at Auckland AirportIt turns out that it was more appropriate than we’d thought to go and see The Hobbit last night. The Lord of the Rings is one of the themes that seemed to run through the day and New Zealand has gone completely overboard on it. Also, at one point in the film, Gandalf says to Bilbo ‘the world is not in your books and maps – get out there!’. Now that’s a sentiment that we would agree with.

After a late night last night, it is inevitable that we need to get an early start this morning and the 5:30 alarm is not a welcome friend. We are definitely glad we did most of the packing last night and so, after a quick breakfast, there is just a final check and tidy up of the apartment. We really did strike it lucky being able to stay here – it really is a beautiful part of Sydney. Thank you, Lynette.

Sunrise from apartment balconyThe sun is just coming up as we head off for the 6:30 ferry and everything just goes like clockwork – the ferry was bang on time; the train station is right by the wharf in Circular Quay; and there was a train for the airport waiting at the platform. 45 minutes after walking out of the apartment door we are at the airline check in desk at the airport.

We have two flights today – firstly to Auckland (on our Round the World ticket) and then on to Christchurch as a separate ticket. Whilst there are plenty of flights from Sydney to Christchurch, because we want to visit both North and South Islands and will fly out of Auckland on our RTW ticket, if we didn’t fly in to Auckland as well, it would count as an extra segment and we’d lose a flight somewhere else. Trust us: a) the OneWorld Alliance RTW rules are complicated; and b) we looked at all the permutations.

At Auckland airport we are first off the plane which is a bit of a treat and means that we should get to immigration ahead of the crowd. It is, however, a double-edged sword – particularly in Auckland where there is a long walk from plane to immigration – you are the ones who have to follow the signs and find the way. No option just to be a sheep! Here, we also get our first taste of the LOTR (Lord Of The Rings) madness, with big tourist posters promoting the links between the films and the scenery in New Zealand. Also, when we get into the terminal, there is a big statue from the film standing guard over some of the shops!

Still rebuilding after the earthquake at Christchurch AirportAs we are not sure as to what Internet access is going to be like in New Zealand – after all we will be in a camper van for most of our time here – I go to one of the phone operators and get a 3G SIM for my new phone. Using this we should be able to share out the Internet connection on my phone to allow the laptop, tablet and other phones all to get online when needed. We’ll see how it works out and how much data we actually use.

Our flight to Christchurch is (according to Janet’s tally) the 26th flight of our trip (not including my viewing of the Nasca lines), so we have seen a fair few safety briefings in different styles and languages. Qantas have roped in some of the Australian cricket team, and all I could think of was ‘losers!’. However, on this flight, I really watch as it included both characters and actors from the Hobbit & LOTR films getting all the usual messages across but in the theme of the films (e.g. Gandalf not allowed to smoke his pipe).

Waiting for the bus in the rain at Christchurch AirportGetting off the plane in Christchurch, we can see excavations and building works and the penny drops that this is still recovery / rebuilding work from after last year’s earthquake. We had wondered why when we’d tried to book a hotel for tonight (we are due to pick up our camper van in the morning) we hadn’t seen any options for hotels in the centre of the city. The manager/owner of the hotel we stay in, later explains that not only are all of the big hotels in town still shut following the ’quake, they are not certain to reopen as the cost of compliance with new building regulations is so high.

The final theme of the day is the friendliness of the locals here. Its not that people have been anything other than nice to us everywhere, but here they have just gone the extra mile:

  • In line with our ‘don’t be a gringo’ policy we wanted to catch the bus from the airport to our hotel – despite the fact it was pouring with rain. The bus driver not only agreed to drop us off in between regular bus stops so we were close to our hotel, but also only charged us half fare as ‘we were only going half the distance’;
  • At the hotel, we were offered fresh milk to have in our tea and coffee in the morning. They just couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful;
  • In the pub/restaurant we chose for dinner, after striking up a bit of a conversation with the waitress, we were given free T-shirts for no reason (other than being ‘amazing people’).

If these are the omens for New Zealand, we really are going to have a fantastic time in Middle Earth.

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One Response to Day 142: Welcome To Middle Earth

  1. Gavin says:

    Well if you were going to Wellington Airport you’d have the joy of this chap greeting you, nice.

    Have a great time in NZ – tandem sky dive on the list?

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