Sydney to Hamilton

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Flying, especially international, always provokes some nervousness about time. Getting the sleep we need for the day ahead is challenging because we sleep lightly and wake several times through the night to check the time.

Standard Qantas advice for international departures has been to be at the airport at least 3 hours before departure. We had planned accordingly: 40 minutes or so to wake and eat our simple breakfast of muesli and yoghurt in our hotel room, 30 minutes drive to collect Harry, an hour to drive to our airport parking, 20 minutes for the shuttle to be at the airport around 8:00 am.

We were moving at around 5:15 am. Majella was awake and out of bed before any of my multiple alarms had activated. I woke, cancelled the alarms, and set about getting ready. By 6:00 am we were out the door and on our way to collect Harry. Traffic was light and we were there a little before the planned 6:30 am. Simone was doing a last check on Harry’s packing and we were quickly back on the road. Our trip to the airport had heavy traffic at times but we reached the parking station before 7:30 am and were at the airport before 8:00 am.

The checkin terminals did not want to recognise our passports but a Qantas staff member checked us in. We dropped our bags and headed for security clearances. Harry has grown since he acquired his passport and the camera on the passport checking station had to rise to its full height to photograph him. It took some time to pass him through, possibly because his face has changed in recent years. Mine was much quicker and Majella followed without issue.

The line for security wound back and forth across the full width of the room several times and we got some gentle morning exercise as we moved slowly to the scanners. Harry and Majella passed through scanning without difficulty but I was selected for a full body scan which detected something, probably my handkerchief, and required another round of scanning and a pat down.

From there we proceeded to the Qantas Club where we had ‘second breakfast’ and relaxed in comfort for a bit more than an hour. Harry had heard about a fancy McDonald’s in the airport and wanted to see that so we left the club earlier than necessary for boarding to see that.

We found the McDonald’s easily enough. The interesting feature was that the kitchen was above the service counter and orders once prepared were sent down on an endless belt to which they were clipped. At the bottom of the belt they were dropped and then served to customers.

From there we wandered back to a duty free store where Majella bought some half price fancy ‘face reviver’. Then it was on to our gate where we waited to board.

Boarding was straightforward but we were a long time waiting to leave the gate. When we did we sat on the tarmac for a while. Eventually we got into the air, better late (2 years really) than never.

We settled into flight mode and fired up the entertainment. Arrival forms for New Zealand were distributed so we completed those. Odd that they still want those with electronic entry gates and passes that I had to obtain online a week ago using much the same information. I took some time to install my NZ SIM, hoping it will be working when I need to call for the shuttle to our rental car. Lunch was served an hour or so in, a tasty pork in hoisin sauce with greens and rice. 

Despite the slightly delayed departure, arrival into Auckland was a few minutes ahead of schedule. Getting out of the airport was not so speedy. We made it through immigration easily with our electronic passports but our baggage was slow to arrive. Then there was a long queue for biosecurity and another for our baggage to be x-rayed. 

All of that had taken a bit more than an hour. Luckily I had managed to get my SIM working and was able to make the call for a Park n Fly shuttle. They cover for Gorentals after hours but their pickup point was near the domestic terminal, several hundred metres away. That helped my daily step count.

The Park and Fly site was some distance from the terminals but once there we soon had our keys. Finding the car in the parking lot took longer. Majella was surprised to find our car is a yellow Toyota CHR. She has been infatuated with those, but only in yellow, for the past couple of years and is pleased to have the chance to drive one. Luggage space is limited but we won’t be driving much with our bags.

It was after 7:00 pm by the time we were on the road with a bit more than an hour to our destination outside Hamilton. Along the way we paused at a service centre McDonald’s for dinner. Harry was needing some refuelling by that time. Majella and I are trying not to grow sideways as fast as Harry has grown upwards so we shared some fries.

It was still almost an hour to our accommodation so we didn’t tarry long. Cameo Country Garden Retreat is on the southwestern edge of Hamilton so our track skirted Hamilton. A little after 9:00 pm and about 5 km short of our destination Majella spotted an open Countdown (Woolworths supermarket equivalent) store. We were surprised to find one open so late but later found they open until 10:00 pm. Majella executed a turn in a nearby street and we bought some breakfast essentials and other food items to keep us going until we get properly organised.

We found Cameo. As we were searching for the entrance for which I had code details from Airbnb, our host, Grant, and his daughter, Kate, emerged from the house next door to welcome us. They made sure we were in and then left us to settle.

Once our bags were in, Harry made himself some toast to top up his dinner. Majella had half a banana on toast and I had the other half with a cup of tea. By then it was 10:00 pm NZDT and time to think about finishing a long day.