New Zealand 2011 trip, Day 42, Feb 13th: Queenstown -> Auckland -> Hong Kong -> Taipei

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9:30am, Queenstown airport

Yikes, hit by a lot of fees this morning, but could have been worse…

Up with the 6:45am alarm. We take quick showers, complete packing our bags, cook up some cereal, and leave our toiletries in the bathrooms (extra shampoo, conditioner, facewash…). Out the door shortly before 8am. We carry 3 checked bags and 3 carry-ons together in one go. Quite a haul, even given our constant backpacking the past 3 weeks. Cloudy out, with low clouds.

The drive to the airport, takes ~10 min, with no traffic. An easy drive. During check in to Jetstar airlines, we are told there is a 20kg checked bag limit per person. We are over by 12kg, and it's $15 per kg extra! We have 3 carry-ons, and limit is 1 per person at 10kg. We have a little margin in our carry-ons so we re-distribute. Some how we manage to stuff 8kg in Matt's pockets, tied around his waist, and in carry-ons (the lady behind the counter is also generous in her rounding). We only end up paying for 3kg.

At the car rental counter, we have the expected penalty of paying for a windshield replacement ~$350-$400 (they'll charge $500 and reimburse us after the final cost is determined). Bummer, but the full insurance over 41 days would have been $350, so it's almost a wash… (note, a few weeks later they sent me a letter saying it was ~$280).

Airport security is a breeze. We can leave our shoes and jackets on and our toiletries in our carry-ons. Only laptops need to be presented. Can't actually get through security until they announce your flight is ready. Queenstown airport is quite small, just 8 gates. Mainly domestic travel, and Melbourne flights. Clouds still lingering low, but hopefully we'll see some mountain tops from the air.

Wendy straps on the backpack as we load the car for the airport. A look inside Queenstown airport...

2:27pm, Auckland Airport

Man, the re-packing never stops….

The 1hr, 40min flight to Auckland was smooth. Got some good views of Queenstown as we departed, but then climbed over clouds, and my hopes of catching Mt Cook from the air faded fast. Wendy slept a bunch, while I started transferring my paper journal from all the tramps onto the laptop. Napped a little during landing.

After we retrieved our luggage, we changed from our boots to comfortable shoes (wore boots to save on checked baggage weight), and put all our extra clothes and articles back into our big packs, since we assumed the international flight had greater baggage allowances. Then we followed signs to the international terminal, which led us outside, and along a 10 minute walk, pushing a heavy cart, that felt more like a tramp than simple walk. We could have used some mile markers, and a we even spotted a lunch/water stop on the way. Just glad it wasn't raining, and the stream crossings were minimal….

Looking at Queenstown from the plane. Wendy pushes are huge luggage cart in Auckland...

Then at the Cathay check-in counter, we were surprised to find a checked bag allowance of 23kg/person, and 7kg for carry-on. We were over by 9kg on the checked baggage! So it was back to wearing boots, jacket, scarf, and extra sweater around the waist, with pockets full of snacks and heavy articles. After using a test scale, and re-packing, we returned, and barely cleared the 46kg limit for us. It helped that we could cheat on the carry-ons by loading a separate purse and laptop bag with lots of stuff, that was not weighed. I later checked and Wendy's extra purse was 4kg (8.5lbs)! We cleared security, and headed to our gate.

As I walked through the terminal, I thought I caught a glimpse of Frodo and Sam crouched behind some seats, and heard them say:

Sam: "Look, it's Matt and Wendy!"
Frodo: "They're heading to Gate 2. They're leaving Middle-Earth, never to return again."
Sam: "I don't know why… It makes me sad…"

Alas, we are moments from boarding the huge plane to Hong Kong, but the door needn't be shut on a return to NZ, Sam.

6:15pm (NZ time), in flight to Hong Kong

Had time to charge our phone/laptops at the gate, due to a delay. However, seats on the plane have their own power supply available too.

Took off a bit late, and made a giant U-turn around Auckland, giving us a good glimpse of the sky tower from afar. We could also see Mt Eden, which we visited on our first day in NZ 6 weeks ago.

A couple of view out the window, after taking off from Auckland. You can make out the sky tower in the 2nd pic...

Just watched the movie "Red". Fun Bruce Willis action flick. Had white wine with the peanuts, and red wine with the chicken based lunch. Now time to work on more journal transfer from paper. Wendy's having a blast watching movies (she just gave me the thumbs up sign and a smile).

1:04am (NZ time), in flight to Hong Kong

Man, now I know why I'm tired, it's 1am NZ time. But just 8pm Hong Kong time.

We watched another movie, this time an Asian period film with lots of grand sets and good action. Detective Dee. Also watched a couple episodes of The Simpsons, before working on my journal. I just spent the whole flight typing up my notes from the Rees-Dart hike. Quite fun to re-live it. Wendy watched some more movies. We also had dinner, which was a pretty bland fish on pasta dish, though cookies and cream ice cream cup was fun.

Have a bit of a headache after 3 glasses of wine, and not much sleep last night. Will try to catch a nap during the last hour of the flight.

Our in-flight dinner and TV consoles...

10:28pm, (Hong Kong time), Hong Kong airport

Landed on time. Have to walk to a transfer station and go through security again. Flight is delayed to Taipei. Gonna be a late one. Free internet at the airport. Wendy says the water is probably not safe to drink here.

2:13am, (Taiwan time), Hero House Hotel, Taipei

Made it to our hotel! Nice place for ~US$47/night.

Slept most of the 70 minute flight to Taipei, but managed to rouse at just the right time for the served snack (pretzel like dough stuffed with a little chicken). Upon landing, we grabbed our bags and smoothly walked through the "nothing to declare" customs aisle. It took a few tries to figure out how to get cash from the ATM, but I ended up with 5000 Taiwan dollars (~29 TWD to 1 USD). Followed signs for a taxi, where a friendly man waved us down and routed us through the terminal to his car. His rate was the standard $1200 to Taipei, but I don't think he was an official taxi driver.

Regardless, he was friendly, and could converse with Wendy, who knows a good amount of Chinese. We had the name and address of our hotel written in Chinese by Wendy's mom, which helped. It was lightly raining out. He delivered our bags to the hotel desk. We gave a tip (not sure if tips are standard here… There is no tipping in NZ…).

Wendy took care of our reservation at the desk. Good thing she knows Chinese. I'd be clueless out here. Our room is quite spacious, and cheap, at $1400. Also includes a breakfast buffet 6:30-9am.

Time for showers, and sleep to be up in time for breakfast. Wendy's mom and sis will arrive tomorrow evening. We'll have Valentine's Day to ourselves tomorrow.

Wendy's happy to have our own private bathroom (unlike hostels in NZ).

We're in Taiwan! A whole new world compared to New Zealand. The Hero House hotel will be our base in Taipei for the next 4 days...

Yikes, it's 7:30am NZ time right now! Long day...

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