1991 Round World

New Zealand...this is just the beginning

As the time for leave approached, we made our plans. We had originally hoped to stop off for a few days in Singapore, but we found out that they are not favourably disposed to pregnant women visiting. It seems that birth there bestows nationality, and they don't want too many more people acquiring Singapore nationality. So we needed to change our itinerary, and chose to stop in Bangkok for a couple of days instead. This was partly because our travel agent pushes Thai International at every opportunity, so we thought we would try them. So it was that in the middle of March, I finished work.

17 March 1991 Air Vanuatu 171 Port Vila to Auckland, Business

Air Vanuatu had moved up in stature during the year, and by now offered more routes: Auckland, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Nadi, all with Business Class, all with jets. In fact, they only owned one 727, and the Nadi flight was a shared flight, but that is another story.

At this time of year, daylight saving starts in the Northern Hemisphere and finishes in the Southern Hemisphere, but not necessarily on the same day in each country. We were not sure, therefore, whether our flight left at 13:30 or 14:30. Enquiries to various places gave ambiguous answers, but the consensus revealed that it would leave at 13:30. Accordingly, we set off in time for this, and after check-in, we waited.

As it turned out the flight took off just on 14:30. As befits a Business Class service, good quality meals and good quality champagne and wine were served throughout the flight. From the interior of the aeroplane, you would never guess that you were not flying with Australian Airlines, with whom Air Vanuatu has a close affinity. This is so that when Australian uses their aeroplane during the rest of the week, nobody suspects that it isn't a real Australian Airlines aircraft.

I have no complaints about the quality of service. So far as I can remember, this was the first time I had ever travelled on a narrow-bodied aircraft which offered in-flight entertainment. No film, but numerous music channels through headphones.

The meal service, the drinks and the level of service were certainly as would be expected, and on arrival in Auckland, everything ran smoothly and efficiently. We disembarked, and went through immigration, to the first westernised place I had visited in a year. It was quite a shock. We took a taxi to the hotel, the Auckland City Travelodge, in the city centre and checked in happily.

The most disturbing thing about our hotel room was the mini-bar. I know that the prices in a mini-bar are always outrageous, yet after almost a year in Vanuatu they seemed reasonable. Obviously they were not genuinely cheap, but to those who have become used to prices with import duty always added to them, they did seem acceptable.

It was not until the next morning that I found that I was suffering terribly from an unknown complaint. Quite simply, this made me feel so weak that even moving was a terrible effort. I do not know what was wrong: the staff at the hospital suggested it was just as a result of the strain of the flight. This was not encouraging at the start of a round the world trip. Other, more cynical, folks have since suggested that it might have more to do with the quality of the champagne on the flight, or even the quantity of it. Either way, I didn't do much that day, but was fortunately just about well enough to get to the airport for the next flight. So we left some bags at the hotel in Auckland, where we were later to return, and set off.

18 March 1991 Mount Cook Airlines 21 Auckland to Rotorua

The trip to the airport was uneventful, and we arrived in time to have a quick look around the domestic part of the airport. We were expecting to have a chance to look around the international departure area later. We checked in for the flight, and had a bite to eat in the lounge.

However, I struggle to say much about this flight, travelling the short distance from Auckland to Rotorua. It was a Hawker-Siddeley HS-748, with the unusual feature of having the rows numbered from the back. Magazines were handed out for the benefit of passengers, but I can't remember whether there were any drinks available. Food was not served, but the flight was really too short to warrant it anyway. On arrival, we took a taxi to the hotel, where we ordered dinner from room service, and settled down for the night. Not only is the Kingsgate Hotel in Rotorua modestly priced, it is very good indeed. It was formerly part of the Hyatt chain, but is now independent.

Rotorua is a tourist centre in a way that Auckland is not. Generally, Maori culture and geothermal activity are the main pulls. Whakarewarewa and Waiotapu are two areas among others well worth visits. Others include Rainbow Springs and Waimangu Volcanic Valley. I would say that the Rotorua area offers more to the tourist than, say, Auckland.

20 March 1991 Mount Cook Airlines 6 Rotorua to Auckland

Rotorua is not the busiest airport in the world, so we were not much delayed in looking around it. All the same, it was not the quietest airport either: it seems to have a number of commuter flights and tourist flights to think about. We arrived and checked in, looked at the other aircraft arriving, dropping off passengers and luggage, collecting new passengers and luggage and setting off again. Soon it was our turn, and we clambered aboard. This time the flight was just as it had been the previous time, except that the flight was fuller, and no magazines were dispensed. Why not? This is presumably one of the mysteries of flight which will never be solved. We were soon back in Auckland, the city of sails, and on our way back to the hotel.

Come on, Ian, you must be able to say more about your first trip to New Zealand than that.
OK, I'll add to it when I get time and a memory...

Next page
Previous page
Back home