From Northland, New Zealand
Greetings from New Zealand. Usually I like to write about our travels but this time it's more like our travails. Hope everyone who reads our blog had a great holiday and that things are looking good for this new year.
We had a nice visit back home in the US but we did realize early on that our home really is where the boat is and 2 months would be too long without a place of our own, especially in the winter months when we can't be on our land or using our camper, etc. So we changed the tickets to go back a month early, which then of course changed the amount of time we had to spend with loved ones as well as to order a ridiculous amount of boat parts to bring back to NZ. We found that we couldn't get it all in so we missed seeing a lot of people but we did the best we could. It was great to wrap our arms around our parents after many months apart. Our truck started right up on the first crank, so we had our own wheels for the time we were in Vermont. The windshield had cracked so we got that replaced and now it feels like a new truck... well almost! The camper is as we left it, like new and we hope it'll stay that way for when we return next, which is undetermined but will be in the SUMMER! We learned that lesson anyway. We got to take some pretty winter walks with my mom & dad but there was no snow for skiing that early in the season. We made up for it with chatty happy hours and good eating. We did get down to Boston to see Dan & Liz and cute little baby Cairenn, and also John & Cindy who are living the "house under construction" life that I said I never wanted to live but know I will if we ever have a house. Things are looking very good though! We swung by our old jobs at MGH & Oracle and remembered how easy it was to earn a paycheck when we worked with such great people. Our last stop on the Boston area tour was our old marina to drop in on John & Karen who are the glue that holds the place together I think. Incredibly, nothing has changed there at Shipyard Quarters!
We spent the second half of the month in Vero Beach with Jon's parents. A highlight outing was taking a very thorough tour of the Piper plane factory, right in town. They do custom small passenger planes and have been in business for many years. It was a really interesting, over 2 hour tour of the plant. Jon is now hot on buying a plane at some point- probably less safe than cruising I would think... Meanwhile, I ran all over Jon's parents neighborhood, enjoying the seabirds and balmy air. Jon's uncle & aunt Gerald & Irene, joined us for Christmas as sort of a building tradition (we were together there last year as well), which was fun.
Behind the scenes during all this time, there was a constant ordering & receiving "business" going on. We were ordering boat parts & things we'd accumulated on a long list over the past year. Shipping things back for repair, pushing vendors to meet our timeline and fretting about whether everything we ordered would arrive in time; that's the way we lived. I kept feeling like I had to apologize to the UPS man every day when he'd arrive with another pile of boxes that we'd open & add to the stack of stuff we'd be carrying back to NZ. Jon's dad would shake his head & for a little bit I started to wonder about us, were we really as crazy as we looked? But the truth is, to any cruiser, this is not abnormal and we can also cut ourselves some slack since part of the reason why we had so many bags is because we were trying to bring back our folding bikes & all of our backpacking gear.
Anyway, this mountain of stuff became too much to fit into the car to go back to Orlando so we had to bring the eight 50 pound checked bags to a baggage service the day before our flight, then return the following day with ourselves. Given the holiday season, there weren't any rental cars available so this was the easiest thing to do. We said another painful goodbye and started a very long, arduous trip back to New Zealand. Here, I will try to compress the frustration.
We flew on points to Los Angeles via Texas on American Airlines but had to pay $600 in baggage overage fees, I believe the most of any airline. But when we got to LA, all 8 bags were still sitting in Texas for no apparent reason. We filed a report and were assured "no worries, it happens all the time" but after a 5 hour layover, still no bags. We boarded the plane for Australia, did the 14 hour flight on the fantastic Virgin Australia, and when we arrived in Brisbane, were told that the bags would probably beat us to Auckland given we had an 11 hour layover. Eleven hours became 13 hours as the plane was delayed so we got a really good feel for Brisbane's airport. We'd envisioned leaving the airport for the day to explore, even if in a stupor but it turned out we would've needed an advance visa to do that. Meanwhile, we get a call from Jan & Rich on Slip Away, who are in Auckland to pick us up and wondering where we are.... well, the Cheapo reservation agency we used to book the tickets has a bug in their automated itinerary maker that sent us the wrong info for our arrival date, not accounting for the dateline change so we weren't actually going to be in Auckland until the next day! So they made arrangements to stay overnight with friends so they could get us in the morning and we begged & pleaded with the hotel we'd reserved to let us come the next day, rather than the day we just no showed. We then flew to Auckland and arrived at 2am and guess what? NO BAGS! The whole time, every dealing with American Airlines was met with incompetence & no empathy whatsoever. We filed yet another report. The bags were just sitting in LA, the original report was never entered.
We put our heads on the pillow at 3:30am after a very long trip and slept a few hours before Jan & Rich picked us up in our van to take us back to Evergreen. It was so nice to see their smiling, warm faces.
All was in order with the boat and it felt incredibly wonderful to be home to it. The past month has been so stressful and emotionally difficult, to be torn between family ties & our own cruising life on the boat, not to mention the hassle & expense to get there & back again.
We remain absorbed with getting all of our bags back. Multiple phone calls, false hopes and frustration. But yesterday, we did get 7 bags delivered to Whangarei airport and there is one supposedly coming soon. Our ghetto luggage (purchased at thrift shoppes from around the country!) made it although most were torn & tattered. The bikes were damaged but should be fixable and we wonder why TSA left pockets unzipped so that parts could fall out. Yesterday we unpacked our stuff and it felt like Christmas. In between the preoccupation with baggage, we've been also getting out to see a few things.
From Northland, New Zealand
New Zealand is as incredible as we remembered it. We love it here, top to bottom so far. We spent a whole day walking all over Bream Head Scenic Reserve and I posted a few pictures. We took a great run up to a lookout on a beautiful trail right from the boat. We had dinner with Slip Away & Victory one night and we have more plans to get together with other friends today & tomorrow. Yesterday, we walked around town to get more of a feel for it and were surprised that most of the stores are closed at 5 or 6 pm. THAT will take some getting used to! The weather has been beautiful and all around the boat there are ducks quacking. When I hear a quack, I have to decide whether it's Jon this time or a real duck, since he's so good at animal calls.
We did get the last bag today- Jon's hiking backpack and it has been through hell. We will try to claim for damages. No replacing it here. This morning we went into town to get our bikes checked for repairs and I swung by a sports store to check for shoes. A pair of Keen's is around $200 NZ. Well now that is just a tad more than I budgeted for! I guess I'll stick to my slick soled trail running shoes. Who needs tread for that money? Since it was such an incredibly lovely day, we took a great hike to Whangarei Falls right from the boat. It stays light until 9:30 and makes us feel like we need to be out enjoying every bit of it. There is a lot to enjoy here, that's for sure. Will keep you posted on when we head out to start touring. First we need to make the van livable & then figure out how we're going to actually live IN it!
From Northland, New Zealand
It was nice to visit home and it's nice to be back home again. They are both home in their own way.