Auckland, New Zealand – November 27, 2015
From the first moment we caught a glimpse of New Zealand from the window of the plane, we were in awe. It is difficult to describe the beauty of the north island adequately. There were white sand beaches delicately separating the calm azure ocean from the multi-hued greens of the land. Many small mountains and hills dotted the landscape. I believe we were both looking out the window of the plane with our mouths agape.
The landing at Auckland was smooth and uneventful.
An attendant with a wheelchair met us at the gate as we disembarked. Kevin Barry operated the wheelchair. What a nice and kind man. He talked with us about his country as he adeptly guided us through immigration, customs, the baggage carousel, checking in for our flight to Wellington, and ultimately getting us on a bus to the domestic terminal. I plan to write a complimentary letter to the airport about him.
We arrived in Auckland at about 11:45. By the time we took the bus from the international terminal to the domestic terminal and made it to our departure gate, it was nearly 13:30.
After a celebratory glass of red wine, we prepared to board our Air New Zealand Airbus A320 for the final leg of our journey from Islamabad to Wellington. We seated ourselves at 14:30 and pushed back from the gate some 36 minutes later. That was when the flight crew turned on their airplane safety video. It was very entertaining. It was a rap homage to the move, Men in Black, while also a tribute to the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks. For me, it was somewhat reminiscent of Southwest Airlines in the U. S.
The takeoff at Auckland was smooth and uneventful.
Our flight began calmly enough, but oh my gosh, did we get a white-knuckle landing!!
About 35 minutes into our 55-minute flight, it started to get a little bumpy. As we descended through the clouds, it became uncomfortably bumpy. Over the intercom, the pilot said the wind at the airport had dropped to around 45 kilometers per hour sustained. That meant the gusts were higher. He said it would be a windy landing, but it was “nothing they could not handle.” As we came to find out later, Wellington is in the top ten of the world’s most challenging airports at which to land. We also found out that the airport in Wellington closed off and on throughout the day because of high winds. One gust at the airport was a stunning 102 kilometers per hour. That is 63 miles per hour!Looking out the window of the plane, we did not see the calm azure ocean we saw at Auckland, but rather an angry, choppy, white-capped sea.
The plane bucked and dodged as though we were at the end of some puppeteer’s strings. Meanwhile, in the row directly behind us, there sat a little boy that sounded as though he was on a Disneyworld ride. He just loved the ups and downs we thought was a terrifying ordeal.
The pilot sat the A320 down hard, aircraft carrier style, and immediately stood on the brakes. In addition to the wind hazards, the runway at Wellington is quite short. I really thought Leslie was going to lose her composure completely, but she did not. I was shocked that the passengers did not burst into loud applause upon our safe return to earth. I can only imagine no one was able to release their fingers and hands from the well-squeezed armrests.
Our Embassy sponsor met us as we came off the plane. That surprised us since something like that no longer happens in the U. S. He escorted us to the baggage area. In the main terminal, we saw three huge raptors suspended from the ceiling. The wingspan of each bird must have been 35 to 40 feet. They are modeled after the birds seen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies. On my next visit to the airport, I will take a much closer look as well as some photos.
We made it to our new home around 17:30. While we were still in Islamabad, we did a lot of exploring our new neighborhood using Google maps. We found a pizza place near our home, Pepe’s Pizza Parlour. We vowed we were going to eat there our first night in town. True to our word, we walked there.
We told the young woman that waited on us that we came all the way from Pakistan to eat there. I do not think she quite knew how to take us. She ultimately served us a thin crust meat-lovers pizza. It tasted every bit as good as we thought it would. I have no doubt we will go there again.
At Pepe’s, one can dine in or take away. We opted to eat there. We saw “light” beer on the menu and decided that it was for us. When we looked at the label, we discovered “light” beer means little or no alcohol. Well, what’s the point really?
Because of our alcohol miscue, we quickly found out that there are two types of restaurants; those that serve liquor and those that are bring your own (BYO), like Pepe’s. We did see patrons come in with their wine and beer. Pepe’s charges a small cork fee to open the drinks.
Shortly after our pizza, it was time to go home…in our first rainstorm. Of course, we did not have our umbrellas with us. We waited for the rain to let up a little and then we walked home. We did not get too wet.
Once at our new home in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, it was time to go to bed for some much-needed sleep.