Unfortunately, there are no same-day connecting flights to Rotorua, so we chose to stay overnight in Auckland. At one point it seemed that Ansett offered a flight, but it proved to be a rather doubtful rail connection and not a flight at all. We did book a train to Rotorua in the end, but the following day. Auckland City Travelodge thereby enters history as the only hotel with three separate bookings.
The following morning, we rose early to take the train to Rotorua, a curious journey in a railcar decked out somewhere between the style of a train and a Business Class cabin. The service was excellent, but for a journey which is, by air, just over a hundred miles, I thought four hours was somewhat excessive. Travelling with young children, it seemed even longer. New Zealand is not a country with well developed rail transport at present, but no doubt it will be again one day.
Our stay in Rotorua was a most enjoyable one. As it was a second journey, we were much better able to plan our journey and our trips. Whakarewarewa was an area we loved just as much the second time, and as I run through the Maori names of Waiotapu, Waimangu, Rotorua and various others too, I am bound to point out that this is a thrilling area, and one which you should visit. However, there are so many small areas worth visiting that I think a lifetime of sightseeing and tourism would not be enough.
On arrival in Auckland, it was a four hour wait before Air Vanuatu was due to take us back to Port Vila, time we spent profitably in the airport, eating a fuller breakfast, playing in the children's area, looking at the aeroplanes from the observation lounge and buying things in the duty-free area. One of my friends had asked me to bring back a baby fleece, which I duly did. This meant that we would need to go through the red channel at Port Vila, but we would have had to do so anyway because we had been to a farm while in New Zealand. The Agrodome and the Rainbow Farm are both designed as tourist attractions, but as both are also working farms, I deem it necessary to put the tick in the YES box on the arrival form. Some others might not see it this way and the immigration and customs staff in Vanuatu certainly didn't seem very interested when it came to it.
After we boarded the flight, there was actually very little to say about it. Service and everything else was just as one might expect. My children slept through most of the flight, enabling my wife and me to eat a meal in relative civilisation and read a significant amount of the books we had hoped to read on the flight. This has become a rare luxury since they were born. My wife remembers well the flight from New York to Mexico City where she was able to embroider almost non-stop for four hours except for the meal break, the first flight of any distance either of us had ever taken in Business Class. This flight wasn't in the front, but the seats were the convertible type, so that the seat pitch was greater than usual for Economy Class. Why Air Vanuatu staff see fit to put the low excursion fare passengers in the best seats I cannot say, but I have no cause for complaint.
After landing and clearing customs and immigration, all seemed well. However, our greeting party seemed larger than usual, as it had been augmented by two senior members of my department, who needed immediate help with a crisis which had developed during my absence. One of them later told me that he saw it as quite a bonus that I was sober. This seems to imply that after a flight offering free drinks he would not be. I went home, and was back at work a couple of hours later, tired, exasperated but not prepared to let a major crisis wait until Monday. Minor crises and major crises are clearly defined in my work, and there was, unfortunately, no way I could leave this one to wait.
An acceptable solution was reached by noon the following day, after which it was back to business as usual.