New Zealand / Australia Diary
Tuesday 17 April 2012

It was a (relatively) early start to the day as the four of us took our turns in the bathroom before packing up, loading the car and setting off for our flight to Aukland. Dunedin airport is a long way outside the city - apparently sited there in optimistic expectation of an urban expansion that never quite happened - so I had a good long time to enjoy my final views of the South Island with its green, rolling hills. The airport itself was small and efficient (no problem with the self check-in machines here) and we smoothly proceeded through the various lounges and the customary security theatre onto the plane itself. The first part of the flight was alarmingly bumpy but as we reached our cruising altitude things calmed down and the flight passed quickly and easily.

View from Catherine's house, Whitianga

I don't know what it is about Aukland airport but there always seemed to be something going wrong or badly laid out when I passed through. As I made my way into the arrivals hall the signs saying which baggage conveyor was serving which flight remained resolutely blank while the tannoy announced that there had been a gate change and that passengers should ignore the departure boards "As they are wrong". Not a good sign. Despite this we found & collected our bags and made our way outside where, against all odds (and with very confusing signage attempting to trick & mislead us), we caught the correct airport parking bus and made good our escape. Twice now I had faced the challenge of Aukland airport and emerged victorious, would my third encounter on Friday be similarly successful? We will see...

We had a two hour road trip ahead of us and as honoured guest (and gawking tourist) I was given the front seat to take in the views and soak up the local colour. As we made our way towards Whitianga the countryside changed and began to look more exotic & unfamiliar, the hills grew taller and steeper (although staying very rounded) and palms & pampas grass began to appear and multiply on the hillsides and slopes. The road became increasingly twisty as we left the flat, open plains and switchbacked up & over the hills.

And then suddenly there was the sea! We came to a T junction and ahead of us was a wide, blue bay with a broad sandy beach, fringed by tall, green hills that broke into white cliffs at the waterside. The late afternoon sun lit it beautifully, just to complete the idyllic scene.

After the long drive/flight/drive, to say nothing of the MEDANZ weekend, we were all a bit worn out so after a light supper and a short walk around the block it was time for an early night.

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