We left Jacksonville midway through Monday headed to Dallas on American Airlines. From there we boarded Quantas headed for Sydney. Shortly after takeoff our pilot explained our delayed departure was due to a required double check of the fuel load. Apparently this calculation can get kind of complex and our flight was unusual because we were going on the largest commercial airplane in the world (neat) on the longest single flight in the world (boo).
It had been about 15 years since I’ve traveled overseas, but the aircraft itself reminded me of a newer 747 – nothing extra special. I still had the joy of having my knees touch the seat in front of me when my neighbor reclined and only being able sit in a few positions but these seats were much narrower than the old ones. I’m not a wide guy but I couldn’t have had much more than about 6” of extra space. The treat of this new plane was that the seat cushions offered more support and the cabin noise level was much less than any other overseas flight I’ve been on. The standard procedure for me, even in business class, has been to sit in one position until I wear my butt out then shift to the next and continue this cha-cha until we land. I had zero rear soreness getting off this flight and, in fact, it was more comfortable than the short flight from Jax to Dallas.
Sometimes you win the long flight roulette and sometimes you lose. You are always going to get dehydrated from being in a metal tube at 25% humidity for such a long time no matter how much water you drink. But will you get a headache? When you flip flop noon with midnight, your body isn’t going to appreciate it. Will you just be hungry at weird times or are you going to get indigestion? Sadly, I got both the headache and the indigestion. The flight was pleasant for Melanie which was a real answered prayer because she doesn’t travel great. She got some sleep and was in very good spirits. We thought Quantas was a decent airline and we’d fly them again.
The eyemasks were a huge hit. They actually made my sore dry eyes feel a little better.
The compression socks worked perfectly. Normally our feet and ankles swell and they feel sore or at least tired after a long flight, but they felt completely normal. I’m a believer.
The headphones were most welcome. Using them at the Dallas airport, we were able to sneak in an episode of House of Cards and be in our own world for a little while. On the first noisy flight we were able to cancel out almost all of the engine noise. They are comfortable and work great. We never needed to change batteries during the entire trip.
Arriving in Sydney for the first time was neat. We began our trip on Monday and it was now Wednesday, but just being in a new place is a fun and energizing experience even if you are tired, dried out, and ready to be done traveling for the day. It was so foggy that we really didn’t see anything until we were on the ground. The airport itself has the feel of a smaller Hong Kong airport, which means nice, clean, sleek, with plenty of mid and higher-end shopping available.
The final leg of the trip took us from Sydney to Auckland. Hooray! New Zealand at last! Just like Sydney, it was quite foggy in Auckland too.
Picking up our rental car from Apex rentals was quick and easy. They are the big domestic rental car company and we were perfectly happy with the service we received from them. They had a line of people getting cars and were used to churning though the tourists like us. It was hard to keep up with everything they were saying but soon enough we were out the door in our compact Nissan and on our way to the heart of Auckland.
Driving was quite a challenge and both Melanie and I were extremely grateful that we’d watched the video I mentioned in my intro post. Melanie had to relearn her lane spacial awareness, how to navigate roundabouts, and pulling on to the left side of the road when making a turn. All of this had to happen immediately as the car park dumped us into Auckland evening traffic. A little bit of stress right off the bat but nothing overwhelming.
Sidebar: For those of you that know us personally, you may be wondering if you read things correctly. Indeed you did. For the first time in our marriage, we decided for the good of the trip it would be better if I navigated an Melanie drove. It worked pretty well and probably made the trip more pleasant overall but for reasons we’ll discuss in posts to come, we both agreed that in the future I’ll be driving.
Auckland is the big city in New Zealand with a population of somewhere between 1 – 1.5 million people. Unsurprisingly, it feels similar to Jacksonville (also a ~1 million oceanside city) – if Jacksonville was crammed into a much smaller area. We saw bits and pieces of downtown Auckland on the way to the Stadium Waldorf Apartments Hotel. It seemed pretty nice and is definitely much more vibrant and alive than the Jax downtown. Overall it was very clean but not very exciting to us. We must have been located near a college because almost everyone we saw on the street was about that age.
Our room was nice and ridiculously large with laundry facilities and furnished kitchen in the room. The staff was professional and pleasant. It was quite affordable for what we got and we would strongly consider staying here again. Parking was tough. We ended up in the pay-to-park lot for the hospital next door because we were exhausted and quickly tired of looking for a parking spot.
It had taken longer to get situated in the room than I had planned and we were wiped out so we skipped doing any touristy stuff and just looked for a quick dinner. Around the corner and down a block there is a two-story IKEA-like grocery store where we grabbed some tasty pumpkin soup for dinner and breakfast supplies for an early start in the morning.
Overall, I would say Auckland is fine. I know that there are day trips to the surrounding beaches and islands that sound like fun, but no must-do’s for me. I think for most people flying in and then getting out of town like we did is a good way to go. There are much more uniquely New Zealand places to visit than this.