Winter Still

This morning as I stepped out the front door to get the paper, which was not there (no big surprise, as delivery seems to be run on some sort of lottery), the air was so cold that it shocked my nose. It was the kind of cold that stings the face and brings tears to the eyes. Nevertheless, it had that deep winter freshness to it as if it was too far below freezing that it could contain no impurities. Not that I lingered in my bare feet and thin clothing. Someone once proclaimed that a beautiful winter scene is best enjoyed looking out of a window from a room with blazing logs in a fireplace.

We’ve just returned from the other side of the world, New Zealand, where it is late autumn and the air is balmy and the temperature is mild. In fact, we came home with some dread after looking at the weather predictions. At LAX there were a couple of hours to spare, a short layover where I took advantage of the confusion of jet lag to have an American IPA, something I’d been missing. The Kiwi beer is better than the Australian, but it still isn’t up to what we brew here in the US. And, while I was enjoying my 20 ounce glass, I checked the weather for Missoula. It had not improved and still looked like it was going to be a nasty, cold arrival home.

There was no time for beer at the Portland airport, but I did chance to check to see, once more, if Missoula would be as cold as predicted. The answer, of course, was “No” as it would be colder than expected.

I’d prepared myself as best as I could, not having a parka or insulated boots to don, but I did have some long johns as well as a flannel shirt. I also had an insulated raincoat with gloves in its pockets. After landing in Missoula, I was fairly protected from the blowing snow on the walk from the plane to the terminal. I grumbled to myself, but I really wasn’t cold. I was merely anticipating the deep cold during the days ahead.

Something changed inside of me after Mignon picked us up and we were riding in her car, looking out at the deep snow along the road. Part of my internal transformation was inspired by the late afternoon, winter light that turned everything into a dreamy soft color that seemed to be a muted pink. Also, time seemed to stretch out as the road was slick and drivers took their time, and the traffic seemed to flow along in slow motion. It was almost like being high.

Contrary to what many people will think, I had not indulged.

The next day, after a twelve-hour sleep, I got up rather excited about what the day might bring, and I had a purpose. Even though our walk had been cleared the day before we returned, there was another four inches of snow to deal with, and the city actually will fine people who don’t get the snow off their sidewalks (not that I’ve actually heard of anyone getting fined). I put on my cold weather gear, grabbed the pretty blue plastic shovel and went to work.

The work felt good, and it was fun building the mountain of snow from the back yard. It’s huge now, almost as tall as I am. And, hopefully, next week there will be more snow to add.

It has been almost a week since we’ve returned home, and we still are enjoying the novelty of winter. The bitter cold has caused a collection of hoar frost on the trees, and the river has nearly frozen over. Most days have been cloudless and the sky has that incredible blue quality that appears only when the land is covered with snow. It is good that we didn’t miss winter.

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Leaving New Zealand

It is February 26 here, and the high will be in the lower seventies, mostly sunny. At home, in Montana, it is February 25, bitterly cold and there is a blizzard warning for Missoula. Our flight home leaves tomorrow afternoon. Yes, we are a bit reluctant to leave.

My sun burned scalp is healed, and it doesn’t feel as if my head is being boiled every time I take a shower. Nor does it feel like my head is on fire each time I go outside without a hat. I’ve stopped peeling. I’ve acclimatized to the New Zealand weather.
This is our last morning in Auckland, and our flight home is scheduled to leave at 2:50 this afternoon.

The word “last” has a special meaning for us as we are not likely to come this way again.  For us “last” has more of a terminal meaning.

That is not to say that we feel bad about it, and it doesn’t mean that we are necessarily going to stop traveling. But, a journey of such a long distance as the other side of the world doesn’t have the appeal that it used to. It is more difficult and takes more of a toll on our bodies.

Part of the hardship is, of course, that airline travel has changed. True, the prices are more reasonable, but the passengers pay the price by being crowded into uncomfortable seats that are best suited for those who are the size of children. Overhead bins do not accommodate enough carry on bags, and the space below the forward seats are barely large enough for feet, let alone a small bag as well.
Traveling is also less likely to call us to foreign parts since we aren’t interested in the same things as when we were younger. We don’t feel like staying up to party with the locals, nor are we likely to get up early to beat the crowd to any particular attraction. We certainly don’t really want to put on heavy hiking boot and carry a pack as we trek up a mountain trail or into thick jungle.

So, even though we will miss the mild climate of New Zealand’s early autumn, we are not likely to seek a long journey to find a comfortable alternative to a cold winter.

I hope I don’t freeze my ass off.

 

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Auckland Redux

The late summer here on the north island has turned into early fall, and there is a chill in the air, especially in the morning and evening that makes us pleased to have some of our Montana clothing along.

A chilly breeze chased some of the early fallen, dry leaves ahead of us as we headed down Anzac Street from our nifty studio flat toward Central Auckland. We were looking forward to Sheila’s Flat White (New Zealand’s version of a latté) and my Long Black (an Americano) which may come with a small pitcher of hot water. The amount of espresso in a Long Black varies as well. It was a hard choice what to have with our coffees, but I eventually decided on a sausage roll and Sheila had a brioche baked with cheese and bacon. [We’ve found that the Kiwi bakeries approach French quality and variety.]

In two days we will be leaving New Zealand and we are having a bit of a problem deciding what we want to do and see while we are in Auckland. We turned in our rental car yesterday afternoon, and, quite honestly, I am pleased that I don’t have to face driving here in the city. Contrary to what I reported about drivers in this country recently, it became of a nerve wracking experience the closer we came to Auckland from the rural north.

Last week found us staying in a charming little cottage just outside the village of Waimauku where we looked across a small pasture that contained five friendly Herefords and a view of the bumpy hills and thick woods with sub tropical vegetation. [I can identify the palms, and know some of the trees are evergreen. There are many large ferns, but I never learned what those tall, lanky trees with branches that hold bunches of leaves that sort of form umbrellas. Google is no help when I supply that description as it refers me to Dr. Seuss.]

Our cottage contained a little radio, which delighted us even though the car radio seemed to play only crappy stations that disappeared after five minutes. Sheila was able to find a classical music station that, in spite of some of the long-winded commentary, we played almost constantly while we were in Waimauku. The personalities on the station sounded quite cultured, as they reported the weather information, and sounded as if they were reading a menu from a trendy restaurant.

Despite the pastoral setting of our cottage, other than looking at our bovine friends and the stunning beauty of the countryside, there was absolutely nothing to do other than listen to the radio. It wasn’t even possible to go for a walk or jog as there is no shoulder to step away from traffic. It was always necessary to get in the car and drive if we wanted to do something besides sit.

We learned about the traffic around Waimauku as we attempted to find our rental cottage as directed by our message from Airbnb. It was located on Taylor Road, a distance of only a mile out of town. When we slowed to look for the number on the mail box, I noticed that cars were bunching up behind us, so I picked up my speed. It wasn’t long before we saw the drive, but I was going too fast to make the turn. It seemed as if I was suddenly in the Grand Prix as I sped down the curvy road looking for a place to turn around. Finally, seeing what seemed a suitably wide drive I turned on the windshield wiper to indicate my turn.

After hearing horns blaring when I was stopped in the driveway, I once again was reminded the the turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel in New Zealand. After being chased up and down Taylor road a couple more times, I was finally able to enter the right drive, sort of. It turned out that our host shared a drive with another home.

The neighbor of the stylish home came out to greet us with only a trace of a smile and informed us that our lodging was not where we were sitting. It was pretty obvious that this error had happened too many times for him to respond with a bare minimum of courtesy.

Each time we left our comfortable cottage to explore the area, we seemed to be chased by little racing cars. For example, when we drove to a beach, there was a black VW with a surfboard on top that followed our little blue Toyota as if the two cars had a ten foot tether. Perhaps the surf was up and the driver was anxious to get to the waves before the crowd.

The beach had a different feel than that of Baylys Beach. The sand was dark and oily and there were more people hanging about as might be expected this close to a large city. The beach was softer, and our feet sunk into the sand as we walked.

We were looking for birds as the guide book suggested, but there wasn’t a even a gull around, much less anything we’d not seen. Spying a trail that appeared to lead inland, we followed it on to the other side of tall dunes where there was more vegetation, where birds might nest or at least roost.
So we trudged over to a road less traveled, so to speak.
There was much less wind, and there were actually some bird songs that could be head coming from the brush and bushes not far from the path. A few sparrows flirted with us as we continued, but nothing out of the ordinary came to our attention. We followed the trail for half a mile or so before deciding that the beach would be more interesting and took a path that seemed as if it would bring us to the ocean.

The path became ever more difficult as it seemed to continue over some steep dunes, and, indeed, it petered out almost altogether. We had to help each other up and down some soft spots that looked only suitable for animals to follow. At last we came to an area that was well cared for and absolutely flat. In fact, it was too well groomed as it was a golf course, and we were standing on a putting green. In the distance, next to a cart we could see two men getting ready to tee off in our direction.
We made a hasty retreat and with remarkable agility we tumbled back over the dunes and followed our trail back to the beach.

Walking along, admiring the surf we noticed a mob of people in the distance who were in the water despite a sign that indicated that swimming was not permitted. With our binoculars we observed that the crowd was not exactly swimming but standing in a line, bobbing up and down as the waves came through. The scene made us wonder if this was some esoteric activity that was peculiar to New Zealand or perhaps a movie set for another remake of JAWs.

As we came closer, we could see that there was not a haphazard arrangement of people standing in the surf, but a line (or “queue” as they say here) of males and females and a man standing at the deepest end who looked as if he was directing traffic. Each time a wave came crashing in, he would jump up and the people would follow suit making the scene look like a vertical conga line.

 

I could stand it no more. I had to find out what was going on.
There was a couple who were lying on a blanket, taking in the sun nearby, so I strolled over to find out what those folks in the water were doing. Trying to keep my eyes on the young woman in the bikini, I asked the fellow if he could explain what we were seeing.

It was his opinion that the group was a high school class, and the guy in front of the line was a surfing instructor who was teaching a safety class. The teacher would wait for the proper wave with a surfboard and at the right instant he would hand a kid a board. After a boost, the kid would try to ride the wave in as long as possible.

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Is that not cool?

Baylys Beach

It was after eight o’clock last night when we went for a final stroll on that miracle of nature called Baylys Beach, in time to watch the brilliant red ball slowly appear from below the lavender/gray clouds and slowly sink into the empty waters of the Tasman Sea. During this event we walked between the gently breaking surf and the steep banks of sandstone at the bottom, a thick layer of black, carbonaceous matter that was wood just as it was turning into coal, and a topping of more sandstone carved into fanciful shapes that resembled fairy tale castles by the constant wind and seasonal rain.


The moisture was slowly leeching some of the black material while the wind mixed it with the brown sand and then spread it all on the beach in patterns that changed daily. No artist could have imagined the hatches and crosshatches that were formed on the slight undulating ripples of the beach.


Sheila had mentioned that sunset was to be at eight thirty, and the sun was beginning to disappear, right on time. That boiling, red hot copper was spreading its last light across the tops of the waves as the breaking surf became lavender and the wet sand blushed a ravishing pink. The gulls, dressed in formal, black dinner jackets, strutted back and forth, like rich old men in the fading light. Evening fog softened the glare of headlights as darkness slowly settled in.


A bit of sun was still reflected in on the clouds and the light was filtered through Sheila’s hair. This last light of day, on this beach, this evening was important. This scene would last in our minds. This was a forever moment, and we would not return.

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From Sheila, not Jan

I know, I know, Jan’s the storyteller and the writer, but I’m itchin’ to report some of the “funness” of being with him in New Zealand. This essay will be more like headlines, without thesis sentence and composition elements. You”ll be takin’ your chances.

When we arrived in Auckland, Jan didn’t rent our little, bright blue tin can to include me as a driver, so I get to laugh when he intends to signal a turn and instead switches on the windscreen washer. I get excited when I see a roundabout coming up to hear the “goddammit!!” Unfortunately, he’s adjusting.

Riding only inches above the sealed road and on the wrong side at 100km/hr with no control feels similar to the time I volunteered to being strapped into a “modified” Mustang with a hairy faced race car driver at the Portland Raceway. Mostly terror without the thrill. The roads are curvy, hill, and narrow. Turning right is scary–for both of us. I’m thinking that maybe Jan had some misgivings about being the passenger so paid to be the one and only driver.

The mostly Japanese cars are imported new and used; hence no manufacturers or assembly plants remain in NZ (except a very few specialty and kit businesses). Subarus are called “sooBAHroos.” And auto colors are brilliant.

We’re in a village (one of NZ’s “sweet words”) of Baylys Beach on the Kauri Coast. When it’s not high tide, one can drive 107 km along the beach with no police patrols; however, a prominent sign at the entrance displays a towing company’s mobile number. Lovely breeze and no coats needed. Drive down in the evening in your Ute (utility truck), unpack a table, chairs, and your barbie to have an evening meal while watching the sun set over the Tasman Sea.

For breakfast out, we most often order a long black (cup of black coffee) and a flat white (cafe au lait). Bakeries open in the morning in every village–the “pies” are dangerously yummy as are the sausage rolls. In the Rose Cottage we had French batard, Camembert, avocados, tomatoes, smoked marlin, boiled eggs, and mandarins most days.

The “original” Maori seem to have assimilated with the later “immigrants.” They first killed a few Dutchmen in 1642, but then they butchered and ate lots of the English intruders. And the European in trade gave them venereal infections, measles, influenza, typhoid fever, dysentery and tuberculosis Aren’t we lucky the Donald has yet to suggest cannibalism or germ warfare? Or has he since we left?

The different Maori tribes are gaining ground in repatriation of their original rites. The day we arrived the nation was celebrating the Treaty of Waitangi, with good news of continuing negotiations for the hoodwinking the Maori took in 1840. Colonialism looks so different with hundreds of years of history, eh?

I intended to get a Maori design tattoo, but have changed my mind for a few reasons. A young woman corrected me when I asked about hers. It’s properly and respectfully called a “moko” in Maori. Here’s one reason.

https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/24-05-2018/moko-kauae-is-the-right-of-all-maori-women-it-is-not-a-right-for-anyone-else/

The many logging trucks on the highways surprised us. Their planted pine forests are vast, and the logs look like giant toys–short, thick, and similar. The natural forest protect the giant kauris with thick green bushes and palms growing right up to the road.

It’s early fall here, but the variety and colors of flowers don’t seem to be fading. NZ has charm in so many ways, and “It’s not America–yet.”

 

 

KittyKitty

Our cottage is in the midst of a citrus grove that also has a few avocado trees, and there were fresh oranges on the kitchen table upon our arrival. Audrey, our host also brought some tree-ripened mandarins over later in the week. Our surroundings remind me of where my father lived for a period in Florida, and there was an abandoned citrus orchard in back of his house. It often makes me wonder why it was left untended as the oranges, grapefruit and lemons were plentiful and perfect.

It is late summer here and most of the fruit is gone from the trees, and even though there are some huge tangerines on the trees close to our cottage, the fruit is pretty dry. The mandarins that our host gave us are winter fruit, ripening later in the season.

The weather is unusually dry here in Kerikeri, the small town were we have stayed for over a week. Nevertheless, it is humid as we are close to the Pacific Ocean on the east side of the North Island of New Zealand. The air is filled with a complicated mixture of scents: floral, grass, fruit and the sea. At night the temperature usually drops into the sixties while the daytime highs are in the high seventies to low eighties. It makes it even nicer to know that at home, in Missoula, the weather has been really shitty.

A week ago yesterday we left Auckland after picking up our delayed luggage that had our summer clothing and my drugs. So, it was with some relief that we threw are bags into our rented Toyota Yaris, a little car that drives like a go cart, and took off for the countryside of Northland. It was a bit nerve racking at first, driving on the left side of the road and having the cars coming toward us on what seemed the wrong side of the road. But, after getting to the outskirts of Auckland, the traffic thinned out and there weren’t so many highways from which to choose.

The landscape of the North Island is very unique to us, certainly unlike any that we’ve seen in the US, as there are innumerable stubby hills that make for many steep grades and sharp corners on the roads. Having cruise control on a car seems superfluous when the longest stretch of a straight road is half a mile. At the same time, the speed limit on even the curviest, gravel roads in the rural parts is 100 km/hr. Granted, that is just a little over 60 mph, but it is hard to imagine anyone ripping around some of these small roads at that speed.

Still, we found that the Kiwis are very conscientious drivers. No one seemed to crowd up behind us as they do in the States where if you drive five miles an hour above the speed limit someone in a pickup will be pushing you along with the front bumper. Even on the limited straight stretches very few drivers drove over the speed limit even when there were passing lanes. The only vehicle that we saw stopped by the traffic police was an old stock truck carrying two horses and a couple of cows. The driver was ticketed for embarrassing the horses.

The scenery consisted of thick forests and pastoral farmland and, while we did pass through some showers, most of the trip was in sunlight. But, in spite of the light traffic, beautiful landscapes and leisurely pace of the trip, it took almost five hours to get to Kerikeri (pronounced kitty-kitty), and that was after a rather stressful morning waiting at the airport.

Our cottage is in the midst of a citrus grove that also has a few avocado trees, and there were fresh oranges on the kitchen table upon our arrival. Audrey, our host also brought some tree-ripened mandarins over later in the week. Our surroundings remind me of where my father lived for a period in Florida, and there was an abandoned citrus orchard in back of his house. It often makes me wonder why it was left untended as the oranges, grapefruit and lemons were plentiful and perfect.

It is late summer here and most of the fruit is gone from the trees, and even though there are some huge tangerines on the trees close to our cottage, the fruit is pretty dry. The mandarins that our host gave us are winter fruit, ripening later in the season.

The weather is unusually dry here in Kerikeri, the small town were we have stayed for over a week. Nevertheless, it is humid as we are close to the Pacific Ocean on the east side of the North Island of New Zealand. The air is filled with a complicated mixture of scents: floral, grass, fruit and the sea. At night the temperature usually drops into the sixties while the daytime highs are in the high seventies to low eighties. It makes it even nicer to know that at home, in Missoula, the weather has been really shitty.

A week ago yesterday we left Auckland after picking up our delayed luggage that had our summer clothing and my drugs. So, it was with some relief that we threw are bags into our rented Toyota Yaris, a little car that drives like a go cart, and took off for the countryside of Northland. It was a bit nerve racking at first, driving on the left side of the road and having the cars coming toward us on what seemed the wrong side of the road. But, after getting to the outskirts of Auckland, the traffic thinned out and there weren’t so many highways from which to choose.

The landscape of the North Island is very unique to us, certainly unlike any that we’ve seen in the US, as there are innumerable stubby hills that make for many steep grades and sharp corners on the roads. Having cruise control on a car seems superfluous when the longest stretch of a straight road is half a mile. At the same time, the speed limit on even the curviest, gravel roads in the rural parts is 100 km/hr. Granted, that is just a little over 60 mph, but it is hard to imagine anyone ripping around some of these small roads at that speed.

Still, we found that the Kiwis are very conscientious drivers. No one seemed to crowd up behind us as they do in the States where if you drive five miles an hour above the speed limit someone in a pickup will be pushing you along with the front bumper. Even on the limited straight stretches very few drivers drove over the speed limit even when there were passing lanes. The only vehicle that we saw stopped by the traffic police was an old stock truck carrying two horses and a couple of cows. The driver was ticketed for embarrassing the horses.

The scenery consisted of thick forests and pastoral farmland and, while we did pass through some showers, most of the trip was in sunlight. But, in spite of the light traffic, beautiful landscapes and leisurely pace of the trip, it took almost five hours to get to Kerikeri (pronounced kitty-kitty), and that was after a rather stressful morning waiting at the airport.

I was tired, and I realized at the time, I should have taken a couple of breaks from the wheel, but I wanted to arrive before dark. It was difficult enough to find the cottage in the late afternoon, but it would have been worse looking around for the address after the light was gone.

We had the address, but even driving at a slow 80 km/hr, I managed to drive by the driveway at least twice. In order to turn around it was necessary to drive to the next roundabout that was a quarter mile down the road, remembering to give way to vehicles already inside, and then reckoning when to leave the roundabout. But, eventually I managed to leave the road and drive down the gravel driveway to the Wisteria Cottage where we were booked.

I had the combination for the door, 4801, the number that I’d received from Audrey a few days ago. I was already convinced that it would not work as I have a history with combinations that start with my high school days. And, I was right. The door did not open.

As I mentioned above, I was tired, and now I was getting pissed and expressed myself to Sheila. “This pisses me off,” I said, eloquently.

Looking in a nearby window, I saw clothing lying on a bed. “Jesus Christ,” I said, again eloquently. “There’s someone staying here.”

Then I realized that I was looking in a different, adjoining cottage.

I spotted a window slightly ajar. I suggested to Sheila that I could probably climb in and open the door from the inside. She looked doubtful and suggested that we call the host, Audrey.

I punched in the number listed in my booking communication and got a message reporting that the number was no longer in use, and to call the following number: (muffled words, blah blah blah). We had to listen several times to finally interpret the words only to realize that the new number was the same as the old.

The angry steam in my head was threatening to explode out my ears when I looked at another message that I’d received two weeks prior. It was an apology saying that Audrey had to give us an upgrade to the Rose Cottage just a couple of doors away from the Wisteria, the one I that I was trying to break into.

I gave Sheila a silly grin. She did not smile in return.

Instead, she walked up to the Rose Cottage and punched in the combination, opening the door.

Auckland, not Fiji

“Over half of the people in New Zealand live in Auckland,” an expat Brit living in New Zealand opined. “The others wonder why.”

Other than the fact that we had sat around naked in our apartment for hours, while the only clothes that we had rolled around in a locked washing machine, we found Auckland quite charming. Having arrived in New Zealand with the same clothes on our back that we’d worn when we left Missoula, over 48 hours, plus being stuck in airline economy seats for another 14 hours, it seemed reasonable that we would want to wash our stinking, crusty underwear, socks, pants and shirts. What we did not expect was a washer/dryer combination with instructions that had been obviously translated from Chinese to Russian to a sort of English in the manual. Every time that we tried to switch to the drying cycle it started all over again in the wash cycle. After twelve hours of laundering, the fucking door finally opened. However, the clothes inside were really clean.

Because of a sudden winter storm, our flight from Seattle to Los Angeles had been delayed and we missed the Fiji Airline flight. The Alaska Air folks thought that our two bags went on to Fiji and then to Auckland, but, of course, life is much more complicated.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed the city. After checking in to our AirB&B, we were pleased to learn that we were located conveniently close to the major visitor destinations. [Notice how I avoid the word “tourist?” I hate that word. I want to be a traveler or a visitor, anything but a tourist, even a communist. When I take tours, and I am not putting down tours, I will be a tourist.]

So, we started wandering around downtown Auckland in the lovely eighty degree weather wearing our cozy, Montana, winter clothing including thick socks and hiking boots (as well as my trusty wool beret). Everyone else was wearing shorts, flip flops and tee shirts as they starred at us, wondering what strict religious culture we represented. Actually, we were looking for a bar and a stiff drink to settle our nerves and forget about our bags for a while. It wasn’t long before we were lost and had no idea where we were going, but a young man took pity on us and lead us to Amano, a restaurant that was listed in our host book.

After a martini followed by a glass of Cabernet with my lamb (covered with goat cheese, caponata and rosemary), I felt quite calm. Warm, but calm. Sheila, remembering our friend Sarah Alley, ordered an iced Negroni but abstained from wine with her pasta.

We couldn’t leave Auckland without going to the art museum. Its works are housed in a modern looking building that belies its construction date of 1938. Inside, it has some fascinating modern sculpture and print by current Maori artists as well as a charming room where children and adults can express themselves by building miniature houses out of cardboard. There are hundreds, if not thousands of little structures on display. The fanciful creations vary from tiny houses, to space ships to a giraffe with windows and doors. [The one that I was particularly fond of had a little sign in front that said “Andre’s Toilet.” Through the open door, a little cardboard, white dumper was on display.]

Forty-eight hours after we got to New Zealand, Sheila got a call from the airport baggage desk reporting that our bags would be arriving from Fiji. As we had to get out of our rental flat by ten o’clock, we went to the airport and waited for Flight F11. While Sheila calmly read her book, I paced and chewed my nails up to my shoulder.

The small pack I carried with me had one more day of my prescription meds, but I could probably stretch them out for a couple more. This was the first time that I ever put my drugs in a checked bag, always having made sure that I had them within reach. But, in all the years of

travel, even going some places where I expected my checked luggage to disappear, never have my bags been lost. As the old saw goes, “There is always a first time.”

The plane landed on time at 1320 and the arrival/departure board indicated that the flight was “In Process,” whatever that means, but there was still no call from the baggage office. Finally, over an hour after all the passengers on that flight were in shuttles, taxis or busses on their way to Auckland, Sheila got a message saying that we could pick up our bags at Gate 11, just past the McDonalds Cafe on first floor.

And yes, the bags were really there.

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