Immigration and customs were as usual. After that, it was time to negotiate the wilds of Los Angeles streets, where we caught the Airport Shuttle to Anaheim. We were to spend five days in Anaheim at Disneyland, a place which would be of much more appeal to a three year old child than it had been two years earlier. I can recommend the Ramada Maingate Hotel, although there are obviously many more just as good in the area. Los Angeles had suffered street riots in the weeks leading up to our visit, but we saw no evidence of any damage at all while we were there.
I recall the Liverpool riots of 1981, which were in a very small area, yet resulted in people in Africa who had heard news that Liverpool was burning from end to end telephoning people about thirty kilometres away from the riots to check that they were safe.
To return to Anaheim, our impressions of Disneyland were different in a longer visit. We enjoyed Disneyland very much on our first visit, and now had two children. One was now almost three years and the other almost one year. Our sons, it seemed, would be at the age where Disneyland appeals. I suspect that with the right frame of mind, it appeals to everybody in some way, if only they can put aside any prejudices they have. As I mentioned in 1990, there is so much more than the characters. It is very hard to do justice to the place in a few lines or even a few pages, and to do more than that would lead to a very uneven narrative of my journeys. Those who dislike the cartoon characters should avoid Fantasyland. Those who dislike the United States would do well to walk briskly up Main Street USA. There are views and rides for all, but a book about the place would be better for you than my thoughts here. One day, I hope to have visited all four of the Disneyland theme parks, in Orlando, Tokyo, Anaheim and outside Paris.
Again the flight tells its own story by my silence. Overnight flights never have much to say, especially the good ones. After breakfast, we arrived in Auckland, which was not hot, as one might say. Travelling again to the Auckland City Travelodge, the journey was as we might expect, but colder. The only slight hiccup we encountered was that they had no record of our reservation. Fortunately, we did. We were put in a room straight away, and very grateful we were too. Furthermore, having arrived just after 7a.m., we were not charged for the night just gone. This was good news for us. The next two nights we did spend there, and they were as good as any, considering the problems jet-lag has to offer. It didn't stop us going to some swings and to McDonalds on the United Airlines bus. This time we weren't to visit Kelly Tarlton's, however. The following day went on a coach trip to Waitomo caves, a natural wonder of New Zealand, where many thousands of glow-worms light up an otherwise dark underwater cavern. That doesn't sound much, but you should see what it's like before you judge. We didn't do much more except eat and sleep before it was time to go back to Vanuatu.
Whatever the reason, here was our chance to find out about the lounge which has been praised so highly by so many people. I found it quite average. It is a large lounge with a good view of the departure gates, but frankly has little to mark it out as special. Of course it is large: it is a major airline's major lounge. This does not in itself make it good. The supply of drinks is good: the supply of food is not. I do not put it in the same category as the Club Lounge at London Gatwick, nor in the same category as the Air New Zealand lounge at Los Angeles.
Soon, it was time to board the flight, so we did. Business Class was again fairly empty: apart from my family there were two other passengers in the cabin, both known to me as friends from Vanuatu, both employed in the aviation business and consequently not paying the full fare. It made for an interesting flight, and was also the first one since the outward journey on the same route on which we were able to visit the flight deck.
Before too much more time had passed, it was time to return to the earth. Vanuatu from the air is a beautiful sight, especially when it is home. Even so, it takes time to clear immigration and customs, but when we had done so, we were again met by friends. Friends count for a great deal for expatriates, because the family and other previous friends are such a long way away. Twelve thousand miles is reckoned to be the figure. Since last seeing our friends in Vanuatu, however, we had flown a total of twenty-nine thousand, one hundred and seventy-five miles.