Auckland

Today was the longest day of my life. At 10:30 am on Saturday December 24th, my mom and I left for New Zealand.  We had a stopover in Kansas City and San Francisco, but as my brother and sister-in-law kindly used their aeroplan points to fly us there and saved us thousands of dollars I wasn’t complaining about it.

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I was a little stressed though.  While we had 3 hours to connect in Kansas, we only had 1.5 hours to connect in San Francisco where we also had to switch terminals. Air Canada though 1.5 hours would be enough, provided the flight wasn’t delayed, but the lady I spoke with at United basically laughed in my face when I asked if that would be enough time.  I was perhaps a little more than a little stressed.

In order to be as relaxed as possible, we got to Pearson 4 hours early instead of 3. We figured since we were flying out on Christmas Eve, Pearson would be crazy busy. Oh, we were wrong! Within 30 minutes we had checked in, dropped off our luggage, and cleared US security and customs. Apparently there had been a big rush of people early in the morning, but at 10:30 they were no where to be seen. We managed to relax and enjoy our time at Pearson, but I still had a tinge of worry that everything would soon be going horribly wrong.

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When we get to Kansas everything appeared to be fine.  Our flight was on schedule to leave at 7:05 local time.  Yet, in those three hours, the departure time fluctuated between 7:05, 7:30, 7:18, and 7:47, due to the plane arriving late. I made friends with the United check-in staff, and he bumped us up to economy plus free of charge so we’d be a little closer to the exit, and hopefully make our SF flight on time.  Of course, as soon as everyone boarded, the pilot discovered an error message that is usually fixed by turning off and back on, which was just what I wanted to hear.  But apparently after restarting the plane all looked well, and so we were finally off, with an estimated arrival time of 9:50 (less than an hour before our connection!).

When the flight attendant came around with drinks, I asked her if we’d make our connection, and she completely calmed me down.  She worked out of SF, and assured me it would only take 10 minutes to transfer gates and there wouldn’t be any need to go through security again.  Lo and behold she was correct and we actually made it to the gate before they even started boarding.

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From there we had a 13 hour flight to Auckland.  They fed us dinner, a couple snacks, and breakfast, and they also had wifi available for purchase which was amazing, but despite all this, I’d prefer to never have to fly 13 hours straight again.  My plan is to just slowly make my way around the globe, so that I’ll have a bunch of shorter flights in places that I want to go anyways.  I’m also determined to never have more than 1 connecting flight per trip.

We were a little worried that our bags wouldn’t make it, but they did too, so there was absolutely no reason to stress!

We got to our hotel by 9am, and though we were exhausted, we knew we had to stay awake until it was night in Auckland.  So we headed down to the harbourfront to walk around.

Our concierge suggested taking a ferry to one of the other islands, so we spoke with a couple people and decided on Devonport. Only a 15 minute ferry ride away, there was an option to add a 1 hour bus tour around the Victorian city, which we thought we’d give a try.

We had some time to spare before the bus arrived, so we got a quick bite and walked around the town. I particularly admired the very large trees and gorgeous library.

From there we did the bus tour which took us around and told us the history of New Zealand and in particular Auckland.  I won’t bore you with the details (in particular because I was jetlagged and my memory on those details is failing me), but there are two stops worth mentioning.

We stopped at two extinct volcanos, which provided gorgeous views. The first looked over the harbour, which is the only way into Auckland by water. It flows directly into the Pacific Ocean.

Because this was the only way into Auckland in the 19th century, they put watchtowers here so they could see all incoming boats.  But they didn’t want the watchtower to be seen (to keep the element of surprise) so they built it in a hollow.

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Our last stop in Devonport was the summit at Mount Victoria which overlooks the Auckland skyline. At some point they filled the crater of the volcano with water, turning it into a water reservoir.   The mushrooms in the picture below are actually air vents for the reservoir.

We headed back to the mainland, checked into our hotel, had a short rest, and then hit the town to see if we could find any boxing day deals.  We did not, but we did discover that not all the city’s Christmas decorations had been taken down yet, and we got a good view of the Sky Tower.

And then we crashed.  We both picked up a head cold before leaving Canada, so we used the rest of the evening to recuperate and prepare for a long day tomorrow.

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