All change! We’ve now been back in Blighty for a week, so I thought I’d do a quick update on our last days in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the journey back to our other home in the UK.
We’ve still got five more posts to publish to complete our NZ adventures, so it’s going to be a little confusing for a while! Apologies in advance. Additionally, Barry had a bit of an accident with a glass of wine and his laptop just before we left, so although his images are on the next NZ blog, I’m not sure they’ll get on any others for a while. But as you know he’s a ‘can-do-kiwi’ and I’m sure he’ll find a solution. Watch this space …
Saying Haere Ra to Gisborne
On our last night in Gisborne, we had the pleasure of the company of family and friends for an Indian meal at Bollywood Stars Indian restaurant. The farewell, for now, coincided with Barry’s brother Ray’s birthday which was fortuitous. Sadly though we’ve missed his son Tom’s birthday, 20th August, last year and this – by days!
The restaurant had been broken into in the early hours and we were incredibly grateful to all the staff for their hospitality despite what must have been a stressful day.
The following day we said our farewells to Tom and Mir, as well as Ray at Verve Cafe. If you’re ever lucky enough to be in sunny Gizzy, do pop into Verve for the best coffee and delicious food.
The Road To Tauranga
Around midday, on Sunday 1st September we left the East Coast and headed to Tauranga. This route is one of the most stunning roads in New Zealand IMHO. As we approached Whakatane, White Island/Whakaari came into view on the horizon. I’ve had the pleasure of walking on White Island three times since 2002, and each time was slightly different. I would’ve been four times but the weather dictated otherwise in 2006.
Most of you will be aware that on 9th December 2019, the active volcano erupted while 47 people were on the island. Twenty-two people died, either in the explosion or from injuries sustained, including two whose bodies were never found and were later declared dead. A further 25 people suffered injuries, with the majority needing intensive care for severe burns. It’s unlikely to ever be a tourist destination again.
The volcano looked very active as we drove along the coast road. She’s decided she wants to be alone thank you very much …
We’d planned to spend our last few days in Tauranga as we needed pre-flight COVID tests, and also hoped to separately spend time with friends there. I would stay with Rivka and Barry with Lee. Sadly Rivka was marooned in Melbourne, so I stayed with Max instead! I relished a couple of restful and reflective days alone. Barry’s experience involved playing snooker and drinking beer, as well as copious incomprehensible jovial chatter I’m sure.
The preflight COVID tests were $200 each, which on top of the flight certainly makes travelling a lot more costly nowadays. But we were just thankful for the chance to return to the UK and sucked it up. Actually, the swabs almost touched our brains. There wasn’t any sucking just unpleasant poking!
Farewell and Thank You NZ Areandare
Our next appointment was in Mission Bay, near Auckland, on Wednesday 4th August. Our beloved campervan NZ Areandare was delivered to her new owners. Simon and Dorothee had previously owned a Volkswagon LP28 campervan in Germany, so when they saw our LT35 with a ‘buy now’ price on TradeMe, Simon threw caution to the wind and snapped her up. A brilliant move I’d say!
We were delighted to hand the keys over to such gorgeous people, who we’re confident will care for her as much as we did. Maybe even more …
Overnight In Auckland
From there, we jumped in an Uber Taxi to the Auckland Airport Lodge. It was our first experience staying there and we’d highly recommend it. I’d booked a deluxe studio with a spa bath and was extremely glad I did. The only downside was Barry relaxed (or was stressed?) so much, he spilt a glass of wine on his laptop. Will it ever recover? We’re not sure at this point, as he also ‘mislaid’ his laptop charger somewhere on the journey back to the UK. Oh boy!
We had the space to once again unpack and pack our suitcases and hand luggage and hoped we were under the 30kg limit per hold bag.
While there we also had a visitor. Barry’s cousin Sally who lives nearby, and dropped by after work. It was wonderful to see you, Sally, albeit briefly. Barry’s other cousin Craig, and his wife Sally, were hoping to be around at the same time. Sadly, as with Rivka, they’d been unable to leave Melbourne due to lockdown number five there. They’ve since gone into lockdown number six.
The First Leg Of The Journey Back to NB Areandare
It was an interesting experience travelling TO New Zealand last year, leaving was slightly less weird but still bizarre in comparison to the other 14 times I’ve flown to the UK from Auckland. The airport was eerily empty, even at 10 am on a Thursday morning. We’d arrived early and enjoyed a coffee and croissant before check-in opened. Getting to the check-in desk we found a queue, though nowhere near the normal long line. It took around two hours to get checked in due to the amount of paperwork that needed to be checked for every passenger. The pre-flight COVID test, the ‘Passenger Locator Form‘, and the two-days post-arrival COVID tests. Sadly our hold bags were overweight, so we had to ‘dispose’ of some items near the weighing scales before we were able to check the bags in.
There wasn’t much open in the airport, a few cafes and bars, but no shops. One wonders if the businesses unable to open will survive.
The flight was probably less than a third full. Barry and I were thankful for a row of three seats each during the 10-hour flight, so we could nestle down and elevate our legs. We’ve not flown with Singapore Airlines for many years, as they’re generally slightly more expensive than Air New Zealand (our preferred airline). But sadly Air New Zealand don’t fly all the way to the UK – they use a partner airline for the second leg. With the number of flight cancellations and the chaos that we had with them to get to NZ last year, we weren’t prepared to risk it again.
A Spookily Silent Singapore Airport
Arriving at Singapore Airport, which has been my absolute favourite airport since October 2001, we were guided to what felt like a holding pen. There was nothing open – though apparently, we could’ve ordered food or drinks via a QR code and WhatsApp message. I just couldn’t for the life of me get it to work!
I wandered around, rather than sitting still for any longer – we’d got another 13 hours of that to come! It was sad not being able to wander up to the open-air sunflower 🌻 garden, or wander in wonder around the butterfly garden 🦋. However, I did find some adorable mother and child sculptures.
Seventy-five minutes exactly, and no sooner, we were called to go through to the boarding gate and a purple wrist band/ribbon was put on us. Once again, no shops were open, and just one cafe.
The next flight to Heathrow was about three-quarters full flight. No longer were we surrounded by people who had left COVID-free New Zealand. The woman across the aisle to Barry was from Sydney which was rather disconcerting!
No chance of three seats each anymore, though we did have a seat in between us so more room than we’d normally have. We landed at 5.50 am Friday 6th August, and to our great surprise, the customs journey was smooth and swift. The only delay then was getting our two-day COVID tests completed at the terminal.
Heathrow To Debdale
I’d organised for the amazing Andy to collect us in his Mercedes Taxi from Market Harborough. He’d taken us to the hotel at Heathrow in August 2020, and we’d found it SOOO much pleasanter to do that than travel by public transport on numerous trains hauling our luggage. Highly recommended, and seriously not much more expensive for two people! We were very thankful.
Surprise surprise it rained on the journey to Debdale Wharf. Not the best ‘welcome home’.
Seconds after Andy dropped us off, what should appear around the corner of the car park than NB Areandare being driven round to the place where she’d be placed back into the water. Barry had asked not to put her back into the cut until he’d had a chance to ‘inspect her bottom’ after we’d had her hull galvanised and double epoxy-coated last November.
If you’re interested in watching Areandare being carefully and expertly put back into the water, go to our Facebook page and watch the two live videos. It sure was a privilege to witness. The newly treated hull has a ten-year guarantee, with a recommendation to check in five years time.
Just after 3 pm, our scheduled Tesco online delivery arrived. As we were still in the holding area, it was easy to get it all on board. Then came the enormous task of unpacking, cleaning and sorting. Spiders had been happily enjoying taking over our floating home. Thankfully though, there wasn’t the expected mould and mildew on anything other than two towels that had been left in the washing machine.
We stayed at Debdale till Monday morning, when we headed to Market Harborough. We’re inordinately grateful to David and everyone at Debdale for caring for our floating home while we were away.
Almost A Year In New Zealand
It’s starting to feel like a dream already, our almost a year of amazing adventures around NZ. We travelled from the top of the north to the (almost) bottom of the south. Such a pleasure, especially without overseas tourists. It will always be remembered as a very special chapter in the book of our lives. Below you’ll find the overview of where we’ve been in the North and South Islands – further than most kiwis we suspect!
We fully intend to publish stories and photos from the following adventures before we start sharing watery tales once again:
Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch
Reefton to Nelson
Our South Island Top Ten
Cape Palliser and the Pinnacles
Six Weeks Back In Gisborne
For now, keep an eye on our location page, where we’ll update where we are as we head towards Chester over the coming few weeks.