If I have learned one thing today, it’s that Wellington, NZ is a long frickin’ way from the Canadian prairies. Even by taking flights that more-or-less followed the great circle that connects these two disparate lands, I’m completely exhausted.
My “day” started with a tour of Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand’s national museum. The exhibits do an excellent job of interpreting diverse topics like plate tectonics, flora & fauna, mass human migrations, and the complexities of cultural integration. More than once I wished I had visited the museum at the beginning of my trip instead of the end. I’ve been listening to the beautiful call of bellbirds on the hiking trails for almost a month – now I finally know what they look like!
After lunch, it was off to Wellington airport for a 45 minute flight to Auckland. I use the term ‘flight’ very loosely – the ride was so rough, they would have charged thrill seekers $200 in Queenstown for the same experience. Imagine whitewater rafting without getting wet. The plane actually galloped on take-off when the 80 km/h headwind gusts hit the same natural resonance frequency as our flexi-metallic Boeing 737.
My trans-Pacific flight left Auckland on time. I will admit to being a little flustered as the wheels left the ground. Our take-off was the last 7,500 feet of direct contact I would have with that beautiful country. But all good things must some day come to an end, and my friends (both old and new) were waiting for me in the northern hemisphere.
The first few hours of the ‘big’ flight went fine. I watched the Will Ferrell movie The Candidate and laughed out loud on several occasions, to the bemusement of my fellow passengers. At dinnertime, we even enjoyed Hokey Pokey ice cream for dessert! Part of me wants to believe that Nat and Lina (our south island tour guides) must have pulled some strings to make this treat happen at 31,000 feet above Samoa.
After dinner, I poked around in the plane’s online library for new music. I quite liked the new self-titled release from Aussie band the Temper Trap. Cheeky for a Reason by The View also sounded promising. The lead singer of this Scottish combo describes their sound as “Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours reinterpreted by The Clash”, and he’s not far off. Will have to look for them in my local record shop this weekend.
I managed to get some sleep right around the time we crossed the equator (and the international date line). While dozing, I regained the day that I lost en route to New Zealand. However, as we crossed over the Hawaiian islands we ran into strong pockets of turbulence that tossed our massive plane around for the next few hours. I was glad to have a window seat; Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky were my quasi-stationary reference points.
I presume we rode the jet stream for awhile because the on-board live map showed 100 to 150 km/h tail winds and we made it into Vancouver a bit early. But 90 minutes of sleep in the last 44 hours have made some of my timekeeping and navigational skills a little fuzzy.
In true western Canadian fashion, my 2.5 hour layover in Vancouver became a 4.5 hour layover. Our plane was late due to snowstorms on the prairies. Ah yes – back in winter wonderland!
I finally made it back to home sweet home around 8 pm, safe & sound. In theory, I left Wellington at 3 pm Wednesday and arrived home at 8 pm the same day. Throw in the 20-hour time shift and I’ve actually been travelling for more like 25 straight hours. But despite some turbulence and an extended layover, at least I made all my connections and my bags full of souvenirs (and dirty laundry) safely made it home with me.
I have really missed my nice, quiet, cool bedroom, and we’re about to get reacquainted. But before I head upstairs, I’m having a good old-fashioned Canadian barley sandwich to cap off the trip.
More later, when my head has hopefully cleared a little and I can be slightly more coherent, if not eloquent.