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New Zealand Vacation

By Barbara K. Almy


Following is the continuation from Newsletter No. 124 (October 2005) of the journal that Barbara wrote on her New Zealand vacation in 2000. (See introduction in Newsletter No. 114.)

Sunday, April 16, 2000 (Continued)

Mom & Dad wanted to nap a bit before catching the 14:00 shuttle to Lyttleton Harbour. And since I found an e-mail address for the Wentworth in Sydney, I wanted to send to Tina and Bill so they will have an opportunity to let me know what's going on. I had time to send those, one to Haidi and a brief one to Karen and MA. I wandered a bit and found another casino only 1-1/2 blocks from our hotel that had even more machines than the 1st one. I went back to my room to get my camera and jacket and housekeeping was doing their thing, so I just grabbed my stuff and went down to the lobby to wait the 20 or so minutes for our rendezvous. We all went across the street to the Visitor Centre.

A bus showed up advertising a gondola ride. The woman I spoke to at the cruise place said we couldn't miss their shuttle, that it had whales and dolphins on the side. After a while someone came up to us and asked if we were waiting for "The Black Cat" bus. We said, "No, the dolphin cruise." He said that was the one and our bus was running late because the AM cruise got in late. Then a bit later he came back and said he would take us as far as the gondola stop and our bus would pick us up there. We were sardined into the already full bus. Mom & Dad had a seat but the rest of us had to stand. The bus was so full the wheel well was jammed with bodies. I think it had to be illegal to have that many people on a bus!

We finally got on our bus and arrived at the harbour. Our tram tickets got us $4 off the cruise price and I put all of us on my credit card. We boarded and Don, Lorraine and I immediately went up stairs to the top deck. The lower portion was mostly enclosed with a small space at the back (no seating) in the open and one could walk up to the front along the sides. There was a no smoking sign up above, but after we got underway I thought I smelled smoke. I looked around but didn't see anyone smoking. When we slowed to try to spot dolphins we were out of the harbour in the South Pacific! I went down below. An older chap in a wheelchair started talking to me. He asked my name, told me his — Norman—and wanted to know what part of the States I was from. I told him "Washington State" and he said he had just been talking to a couple from there. I said, "That's my Mom & Dad." He asked how long we were here for and I said we leave tomorrow and he said that was too bad, because when he saw me board he thought I was someone he'd like to invite to be his guest on the cruise tomorrow. He proceeded to tell me that he was a Commander and a fixture on the boat–sort of an honorary captain. He said he was part owner in a tavern nearby and asked if he could buy my family and me a drink after the cruise? I said that we had talked about going to dinner when we got back. His response was, "Not a problem, the tavern has the best steak in NZ." I said, "But the bus leaves right away." He said that arrangements could be made and would I try to talk my family into a drink at least? He gave me his address and phone number and asked for mine. He asked if I would send him a postcard when I got home. I said I would. The Captain announced that dolphins were off the left side of the boat and Norman said he had seen them so many times that he didn't care. I said that we had taken a cruise out of Russell and had not seen any, so it was new to me. So I moved away and started taking pictures. After a while Norman said, "Barbara, turn this way." He wanted to take my picture and said he was going to have it specially developed and put my picture by his bed! After all his boasting I was getting a little creeped out. I didn't know whether to believe his stories of his different interests, etc. or just write it off as being a lonely old man.

He kept pressing me about going for a drink and asked if when we came in I had noticed a red sports car with a large dog in it. I said no and he said that it was his. Sure enough there was a 2-door Prelude with a dog in it when we landed. He then wanted to take my picture with my hat off. Don & Lorraine had come below by that time and had been appraised of the situation. Lorraine, in particular found it highly amusing. I asked for help and then came up with a real explanation/excuse–that Dad needed medication with his meal. Norman said, "Are you sure you can't just have a drink?" I went back outside and thought I had been "jilted" because he was talking to a blond floozy with a fuzzy white top and black fringed pedal pushers. He ditched her and asked what time we leave tomorrow. I told him I thought noon-ish. He said he would go to the airport to wave goodbye and maybe bring me a rose. Lorraine said that someone on the boat told her that Norman is quite well known in these parts.

He had noticed the ring that Mom gave me and my watch. He guessed that I was about 30 and seemed very surprised to learn that I was 45. And when I told him that Mom & Dad have to take medication and that "It was Hell getting old" he said they aren't that old, they must be in their early 60's.

When we finally saw the dolphins they just broke the surface, rather than leaping like in the movies. At one point 5 or 6 of them were off the back of the boat. I took a picture, but I'm not sure if I had the F-stop high enough, because I had been focused for further away from the boat. I had to change film while the dolphins were still in the area so I did miss some shots of the Hector dolphins. They are the smallest of the dolphins.

We docked about 17:00 (½ hour late because of the late departure) and I shook hands with Norman and he asked me to give him a ring later if I got the chance. We boarded the bus but several people were missing so we waited about 10 minutes before leaving to go back to Christchurch.

We met in Mom & Dad's room for a 1/4 glass of wine to finish off the white wine Mom, Dad and I had yesterday. We decided to go to Grimsby's for dinner. This was a suggestion from Naomi. It is a charming place in what looked to us like an old church. It turned out that the octagonal room we were seated in was the old headmaster's office for the boy's school. It was a charming room with stone walls and an arched ceiling with a chandelier. Don ordered the fish special of the day — a light whitefish, Mom: mussels, Lorraine: lamb, and Dad and I each chose the Akaroa salmon. Don also bought a bottle of NZ Oyster Bay Chardonnay for the table. It seemed only fitting that we share a bottle of the same wine Roger served us on our first night in NZ, on our last night in NZ. Both Don & Lorraine said theirs was good. Dad & I thought ours was so-so and Mom wasn't too sure about her mussels. In the center of her bowl was some form of pasta with a sauce that was too spicy for her. It turned out to be curry. When the bill came, they had charged $24.50 for Mom's meal. She had ordered the entree (their name for appetizer) as her main meal and it was supposed to be $13.50. I called the waitress over and pointed it out and without hesitation she said, "I'll change it." So she took $11 off the bill. I paid with my credit card and everyone paid me in $$. So now I have about $200 in NZ $$ that I will have to change for Australian $$.

Mom, Dad and I decided to try out the casino I had found after sending my e-mails. The music was way too loud and there was a group of 7 or 8 rowdy women. We played a bit on 5-cent machines, I ended up losing $4 in the ½ hour or so we were there. The music went off and the women left, but Dad was ready to leave so we went back to our rooms. We had agreed to meet in Don & Lorraine's room for breakfast to try to finish off the fruit instead of going out. Check out time is 11:00. I stopped by the front desk to ask the easiest way to get to the airport, to avoid the stress of Saturday's arrival of trying to find the hotel.

Monday, April 17, 2000

I woke up at 05:45 and had a couple of cups of coffee before starting to try to cram everything back into my bag. Lorraine called about 07:40 and said that Don was taking the fruit down to Mom & Dad's room and they would get their own breakfast. She also said that she needed two hours to pack. We decided that we would check out at 11:00, go to the Harley Shop and still make it to the airport on time. Mom and I walked over to the e-mail place across the street. Mom had composed four messages. The guy got us in to the e-mail. Mom wrote the 1st to Nick, then Dick & Kathryn, Haidi and Mara. She got them all sent and it cost her $4 for the 36 minutes she used the machine. We were going to walk along the tram path and find the bicycle stop light to take a picture. We had gone about ½ a block and Mom thought we should have seen it my now. I said, no, that it is farther. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 10:00 and Mom still had to pack all the clothes she ironed this AM. As I was already packed, I offered to take her camera and take the shot. It's a good thing I did, as it took me 20 minutes.

Dad said Lorraine wanted to see me about The Wentworth's e-mail address. When I stopped by to give it to her we agreed that we would meet 11:00-ish. They would go send Barbara an e-mail and we would go the Harley Shop. Everything went according to plan and at 11:30 we were on our way to the airport for a 2-hour early check in to return the car. We gassed up and followed the signs for rental car return. We found Budget, Hertz, Avis and Thrifty, but no Nationwide. There was a fella fiddling with a sign in the parking lot, so I pulled over and stopped the car to see if he could help me. He let me inside the terminal to the information booth. The woman first told me to park it in the long-term parking and lock the ticket and key in the glove box. Then she said she'd better call. We had to back track off the airport and then be driven back. I was not too happy. The Nationwide rep. Said travel agents often refer to the general radius as "the airport." We got back and unloaded and got in line for check in.

Don & Lorraine went 1st and then the 3 of us. I had asked when I called to confirm our flight if the departure tax was included in our plane fare and she said yes. But after getting a snack before proceeding through to the international terminal, Don & Lorraine reported back that we had to pay it still. Lorraine and I went back towards check in. She went to Qantas and I went to the desk that was labeled "Foreign Exchange and Departure Tax." When I found I was at the right place, I hailed Lorraine. To get out of the country for the 5 of us took every last bill we had. $25 (NZ) pp to leave. So Don & Lorraine owe me $20, the slush fund $10 and Mom & Dad owe me $50. Both Lorraine and I were pretty upset, especially after getting steered wrong about the car.

When we finally got up to our gate there was a smoking/viewing area. I asked Lorraine if she wanted to come out for a smoke with me! She just laughed. I had also tried to buy an ice cream cone and was standing in line when 3 Asians went up by the frozen bin. They got served ahead of me, so I left.

But I don't know if I can last ‘til they feed us on the plane. They called our row for boarding and we had to show our boarding passes, then walked down the jetway. Upon entering the plane I was asked to show them again. I asked how many times we have to show them. He said, "I'll need to see it again when you are seated!" He then pointed us to the far aisle. As I came past the bulkhead a fella came up and said, "Ma'am, I need to see your boarding pass!" I knew he was joking, but when they brought the OJ the 1st guy said, "You'd be surprised at how many people get to where you're sitting and really want to be going to Melbourne or Brisbane. And then the doors are closed and they go into a panic so it's just a double check to be sure people have the right flight."

The flight actually left on time and we were told it is a 3:05 hour flight, which made no sense, as I thought our flight was 2:20. It turns out that Sidney is 2 hours behind NZ. It was a fairly uneventful flight. The meal was beef in black bean sauce with onion and red & green peppers over rice. The movie they showed was "Anna & the King." I didn't watch it from the beginning, but what I did see was pretty good, though not I'm told as good as Yul Brenner & Deborah Kerr's version.

We are beginning our descent into Sydney, so I need to put my seatback and tray table in their fully upright and locked position.

The End

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