Well, we have made it! 27 hours of travelling and a lot of timezones after we left London, we are now in Wellington. The journey was nowhere near as bad as I had feared. It was a little more bumpy coming out of Hong Kong as we passed over the Pacific Islands, but I had picked myself up a “Wrist Angel”, which is an aromatherapy strap which contains a “scent tablet”. I was very sceptical about whether it would work, but every time the turbulence started, I took a sniff, and instantly the queasiness disappeared. It might have only been a placebo, but it helped, so I am not complaining! Our arrival in Auckland was far more straight forward than I thought it was going to be; the boarding card asked us to declare whether we had any goods worth more than $700; as I was carrying my oboe, I said “yes”. This caused the first customs officer to pause, and he referred us to a colleague downstairs (meaning we went down the “something to declare” aisle). He then explained that as we were coming in on a residency visa, we didn't need to worry about that (this time; all future visits, we would be restricted to the limit), and then took us through to the quarantine area (checking for food / seeds / mud). We got bumped to the front of the queue, and the quarantine inspector was not at all interested in the fact that we were carrying a stick of Brighton Rock (“That's a building material, isn't it?”), nor my seed necklace (well, it is varnished, and I have had it since I was about 8 years old), nor even my running shoes, once I explained that I had cleaned them with disinfectant (Alice, they are nearly white again in some parts!). So we cleared customs very quickly, and were in good time to check our baggage on to the domestic flight to Wellington (once more, slightly over (I didn't point out to the chap weighing the bags that the scales were showing -0.3 kg before we put the bags on), but he wasn't worried), and walk to the domestic terminal (it's about 15 mins walk from the international – not too bad except that 7kg on my back suddenly got very heavy!) to find a good coffee. And it was a good coffee – far better than the evil stuff served on the plane (I had a suspicion that the grounds might have already been used once on the flight, it was that weak), and even came in an offer with a cake, which helped sustain us after the airline food! (Actually, the airline food wasn't too evil, though I could cheerfully have strangled the person that thought that scrambled eggs or stir fry chilli noodles were a good choice for breakfast – I went for the noodles in the end, but my stomach wasn't too impressed!)
The trip down to Wellington was incredibly straightforward – about 45 minutes in the air. Most of it was over the sea, but we did pass over Mount Taranaki, who's snowcapped peaks rose up out of the clouds, and was an incredibly jaw dropping moment. We definitely need to go there on holiday when we get a chance! Even the landing was straighforward, unlike all of the YouTube videos we have seen of landing at Welly, we came down with a very smooth touch, no bouncing or wobbling at all! (most disappointing...) Once we landed and were reunited with our luggage again (no need for customs this time, just grabbing our bags and out), we got a shuttle-taxi to the holiday park. It might have been more expensive than getting two buses (it was $55 instead of approx $32), but it was direct, we didn't have to haul our heavy cases on and off buses, and we didn't have to wander around the centre of Wellington looking for our connection!
We are currently staying in the Top 10 Wellington campervan park, in a 2 room cabin. It's actually better laid out than I thought it would be – it has one room with a bed, and a kitchen/living area with a sink, 2 hob stove, microwave, fridge, a table and two chairs. What it doesn't have is any storage space, so things are going to be a bit cramped for a short while at least. But as this is only temporary, it really doesn't matter.
The park is in the middle of an industrial estate, so it isn't the most scenic (though it does have some lovely bush covered hills rising up in the background). It does, however, have the duck mafia (huzzah!) who came to welcome us and see if we had any bread. The whole park is alive with bird song; I woke up to the dawn chorus this morning, and it was stunning. The usual chirrups of sparrows, skylarks and starlings, mixed in with the tui, the silvereyes, and a whole host that I can't identify yet.
We had a very relaxed afternoon and evening after arriving at the park. A little bit of internetting (to let people know that we had arrived safely), and then we wandered down to the seafront. It wasn't quite as blue and as sunny as when we had arrived, but it was a lovely walk (once we got off the main road and the industrial bits!), and fantastic to gaze across at Wellington proper. Then we took a hike to Jackson Street. This is the main road in the Petone area and has a whole host of exciting shops and restaurants (John was pleased to see that there were a number of Indian restaurants – one of which had the range of strengths of the heat: mild, medium, hot, NZ hot, Indian hot, English hot! Does our reputation as a nation of stomach-bonfire builders precede us, I wonder?) It was then that we ran into a little problem of how to work out whether something was expensive or not when we didn't have any sort of measure to gauge it by! Our first thoughts were that $18 for a main course was expensive, but that actually seemed to be the standard, and we ended up at a pub/restaurant (the local Speights bar) where we had an incredibly enjoyable meal (mine was an interesting combination of chicken breast, stuffed with a cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, then covered in a wild cherry sauce, served on a bed of mashed potato with kumara (sweet potato) slivers on the top.
After our meal, we went to the local supermarket and picked up a few bits and pieces (trying not to overshop at the moment, because we don't want to have to transport too much to a rented flat), and caught the bus back to the campsite.
Then a very early night (we were asleep before 9) and a lie-in this morning (after getting up a couple of times, we didn't wake up properly till gone 9.30), and I think we have completely avoided jet lag – very pleasing!
We've had a leisurely morning, with a stroll to the local Dairy (newsagent), where we had a very long chat with the Fijian owner (well, chat – he talked and we nodded and murmured at the right points!), who was very keen to tell us how brilliant New Zealand was – just what we wanted to hear!
Tomorrow is going to be a bit more manic – we have to get into Wellington central (fortunately the bus runs directly from outside the campsite into the centre) to open up our bank accounts and to start hunting for places to live!