Our journey home was supposed to start at 3:15 pm in the QT airport… Check-out at our hotel was 10:00, and they kept our bags for us as we wandered around town.We had breakfast at Halo, which our guidebook recommended for breakfast. I had the Eggs Benedict ($15) and Marc had the French toast ($15). Both were delicious. After that, I bought the rest of the gifts for our relatives (an extremely stressful process that made us vow we would never buy for so many people again). As we started back to the hotel, it began to pour down rain. We got back to the hotel at 1:15 for our shuttle pick up at 1:30.
When we went to our departure gate, the waiting area was extremely crowded. Several flights were delayed due to the weather. We were worried our flight to Auckland would also be delayed–we only had 1 h 15 min to make our connecting flight to SFO. At 2:55, we were supposed to begin boarding, and precisely at 2:55, Air New Zealand made an announcement that they were canceling all of their flights for the day due to weather!! I think we sat there for a good minute in a state of shock… This was the first time we’d ever experienced a flight cancellation, and it was such an important flight… Via overhead speaker, they instructed people to pick up their luggage and call an 800 number to rebook flights for tomorrow.
As were waiting for our bags, we heard someone say that they couldn’t get through on the 800 number. We went to the information counter, which had a good 50 people in line… Eventually a representative who was making her way through the line got to us and advised us to go to a hotel and call the 800 number, and that they couldn’t rebook anyone at the airport (which seemed odd to me). We called Earnslaw and Lynne answered and said she thought we might be returning and she had a room available for us, non-lake-facing for $124. We got our bags and took the shuttle back to the hotel.
When we finally got thru to Air NZ, the only flight they had for the next day was for the following:
- Queenstown to Christchurch
- Christchurch to Auckland
- Auckland to LAX
- LAX to SFO
- SFO – SEA (on Virgin America)
FIVE FLIGHTS! If 1 flight was late, we’d be screwed! I ran this by Marc and from the look on his face, asked the Air NZ rep what she had for the day after (Tuesday). She was able to book us on QT – Auckland, Auckland – SFO. We took this option.
Then I had to call Virgin America, we had booked our SFO – SEA flight through them and thank goodness I had bought insurance! However, they had NO flights for Tuesday, the next available was for Wednesday! So we would have to stay one night in SFO, meaning we wouldn’t get home until mid-day Wed instead of Sun. 3 days late. It cost $300 to re-book the VA flight and were told we’d have to get reimbursed by the insurance co.
We asked Lynne if she had a room for the next night, and she said she had put us down for 2 nights, just in case. What great customer service! By then, it was almost 5:00 pm. We realized we had no toiletries and no clean clothes. The hotel had full-size washers and dryers downstairs and even supplied the laundry detergent–nice! We started some laundry and hit the hotel bar, where Lynne hooked us up with some Speight’s. After our laundry was done, we contemplated going to town for dinner and buying toiletries. It was still very windy outside and pouring down rain. We decided to order a pizza from Hell Pizza ($26 for a large “Wrath”) and it was very good. Lynne brought us some plates and we ate in the bar and watched TV. As I paid the pizza delivery guy, a couple came down, dressed up for going out to eat–I must have looked pretty pathetic! But then they sat in the reception area and waited 15 min before they were able to muster the courage to set out–it was really nasty out. Back in our room, Marc watched Top Gear and then I watched Master Chef NZ. Then we went to bed with no alarms set and no plans for the next day.
I was surprised that I didn’t freak out about our flight being canceled… I think part of what made me not stress out was the ease of getting back to QT-town, the niceness of our hosts, and the realization that there’s no use crying over spilled milk…
Day 22 (extra day due to flight cancellation).
We set our alarm for noon, but alas, could only sleep in until 8:30. We woke up to a stunningly beautiful day, clear as a bell (of course)! We set out at 9:30, planning to get to the Kiwi Bird Sanctuary by 11:00 for the conservation talk. We went to a bakery and bought 2 muffins for breakfast ($7). Mine was dry and tasted day-old.
Next we went to the Kiwi Bird Sanctuary ($74 for 2 people). Got there at 10:30 and heard the conservation talk at 11:00. They talked about how the introduction of non-native species such as stoats, rats, possums and housecats have had a devastating impact on native birds and vegetation. It was very informative and they showed us Red Crowned Parakeets and Tuatara. After that we went into the Kiwi house and were thrilled to see not one but two Kiwi!! We even saw them up close, they were right next to the glass of the darkened viewing house. It was amazing to be two feet away from the Kiwi bird and we spent a good 15 min watching them. Other species of birds that we saw were: Morepork, Kea, Black Stilt, Blue Duck, Paradise Duck, New Zealand Falcon, Tui, Brown Teal, and New Zealand Pigeon. This is a must-visit for any bird lover, and for any tourist who wants to support the preservation of NZ native species. All of their funding comes from the price of admission.
We finished up there at 12:30 and wandered to town for lunch. We noticed there was no line for Fergburger and decided to give them a second try. This time we orderd the Lamb Burgers ($28 including a coke) and they were much better than the beef burgers. We ate at the waterfront and admired the lovely view. Although it was sunny, it was still cool out and I was way too cold in my t-shirt, convertible pants, sweater and rain shell. Marc had the same layers on and was plenty warm.
After lunch, we discussed how incredibly clear it was, and how we would be able to get great views from the gondola. I managed to talk Marc into hiking to the top rather than taking the gondola. After 10 min, I was ready to turn back but he trudged onward. It was a tough climb that took 1h 15 min due to several stop-and-complain breaks. We admired the views from the top and then, remembering that no one had checked our tickets when we exited, took the gondola down without buying a return ticket. It occurred to me that if our flight hadn’t been canceled, we never would have experienced these amazing views. Maybe things happen for a reason?
After that, we went to Patagonia for coffee ($10). I had a mocachino and Marc had a Chai–it was the best coffee of the trip, probably due to the fact that I forgot to order it trim, and also because of Patagonia’s delicious chocolate.
After that, it was 5:00, so we went to the Irish pub next door for their “office” happy hour and got two Guinnesses for $10. At 6:30, we went to the Kebab place for dinner. This was the same place we went to lunch on Sat. Marc got falafel this time and I stuck with the lamb–it was delicious, again. After dinner we went to the grocery store and got breakfast items and toiletries. Went back to the hotel and packed for our return trip home for the second time…