This is it. This is our very last day in Aotearoa, known amongst the English speakers as New Zealand. We woke up to breathtaking views outside of our hotel room. We were actually quite bummed out that we did not have time to go exploring and hiking the trails to the nearby farms. But we had a flight to catch in Auckland and ummm...instead of packing last night, I slept!
Bring on the lazy packing style. Arrival time in Sydney was approximated to be around 6 PM. We wouldn't need too many things with us as carry-on for a nice short 3 - 4 hour flight. The secret to my lazy packing is the airporter bags, they fit an Osprey traveling backpack inside them, and still leave plenty of room on the top and sides for cramming in clothes, shoes, and of course toys! It is not ideal for 'valuable' things, but it works like a charm when you are in a rush and really don't feel like spending an eternity rolling and stuffing clothes into packing cubes like we recommend in our travel tips!
Packing mission accomplished, we headed to a nearby bakery and had bagels for breakfast. With happy stomachs, we headed towards Auckland. Just a few minutes into our drive we realized that we really needed to get gas! Uh oh! We were not exactly on a road with many service and gas stations around, and we didn't want to fill up too soon because we didn't want to have to fill up again before returning the rental car. As we started to get very low, we tried to get Google Maps help to no avail. Google Maps took us to some strange places where it claimed gas stations were, but none of them were actually gas stations! One was a prison, yikes! Slight panic mode kicked in, running out of gas and running out of time are bad combinations. I started to wonder how heavy our zippy car would be and if we could manage pushing it to a gas station. Eventually, we managed to find a gas station. Hurrah! Cue in, relief! Oh wait....don't! We realized that the station was unmanned and that the pumps only accepted chip and pin credit cards! Curse you chip and pins! Or rather curse you outdated credit card system in America, because we only had chip and signature cards!
We decided to ask the next car that stopped at the station, which wasn't exactly crowded, if they would let us use their card and pay them the cost in cash. Thank god we had a few NZ dollars on us, at least enough to make it back to Auckland! The next car that came by happened to be a nice family, and they were really understanding about letting us use their card.
Ok, now cue in relief!
We got to Auckland at a good time, got a full tank of gas, returned the car, and were driven to the airport. Ok it wasn't that easy. The car rental place actually moved to a new location while we were enjoying ourselves in the North Island. They had told us of this upcoming event when we rented the car from them. They also gave us a nice sheet of paper with all the new information and address printed on it. But you see, I accidentally threw that piece of paper away. I hate clutter, so I throw a lot of stuff away, especially if it seems useless (remember, I even threw away my iPhone once)... This clearly was not useless if I had paid attention! Oops! We ended up calling the number attached to the car keys and got the new address. Alas, we finally arrived at the airport.
I was so happy to be checking-in. We had already completed our AU visa forms online, and they were approved weeks ago (yes, US citizens need a visa to enter Australia, and you need to apply separately for every single family member). The lady behind the counter reviewed everything and took our bags. Then she handed us a bunch of orange vouchers for $8 to be used towards food and drink. I grabbed them from her and thought, aww and people complain about Jetstar, they even gave us vouchers to use for food! Then I read the writing in black! "We apologise...", I remember saying loudly as we got on the escalator, "wait, what are they apologizing for? Is the flight delayed?" You'd think the lady at the counter would have mentioned something about that!
Apparently, Jetstar sent an email an hour before we arrived at the airport saying that due to some unforeseen event they had to delay the flight by 2 hours!
Ok! 2 hours is not bad, we could manage. But it wasn't 2 hours! Soon 2 hours turned into 3 and 3 hours turned into 4. At least thanks to our vouchers we were able to eat lunch and dinner for practically $0, and the kids mostly kept themselves entertained in a McDonalds play area. Some other nice family even gave us some extra vouchers, as their also delayed flight was getting ready to board while we were still waiting. Eventually, several hours later, we boarded the highly reputable (for almost never being on-time) Jetstar plane. We had a few entertaining conversations with passengers sitting around us on the plane, and before we knew it we had arrived in Sydney!
Sydney will be different for us than anywhere else we have visited. Elsewhere on the trip, we mostly stayed in rental houses in countries where we didn't have any really close connection. In Sydney however, we are going to stay with my amazing ex-boss's family for a couple of weeks, and we are going to get to see and hang out a lot with my aunt Sheema, who really is more like a sister to me.
In fact, despite all the ridiculous delay after delay, my amazing aunt still came to the airport and gave us all a warm welcome. We enjoyed catching up for a few minutes as we got a SIM card, then caught a cab to the Fitzpatrick's house, where everyone, except for Katie (my ex-boss) was already sleeping. Pretty embarrassing! Thanks a lot Jetstar!
We were so exhausted and plenty thankful for room in this gorgeous house, just a short walk from Bronte Beach. Before we could register all that though, we just passed out!
Looking forward to our adventures in the land of Aussies!
Elmer the Elf Update
Thankfully, despite the crazy rain and fog, Elmer was able to find us at our isolated hotel on top of a hill!
He bid us a bon voyage and promised to find us in Sydney. Oh my gosh only 3 more sleeps until Christmas!