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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 3

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007

We’ve picked out a restaurant called “The Fireplace” for dinner – no particular reason except that the menu looked varied and interesting. The main course was excellent and we shared a platter of local cheeses and homemade wholemeal crackers for dessert; needless to say, all washed down with a good NZ white wine.

Day 44 – Our Last Day in NZ

Well, this is it; our final day, the final packing of suitcases, the final loading up of the car, the final crumpets and boysenberry jam breakfast. The sun’s out so we have our breakfast on the sun deck overlooking the bay, sipping tea – what a pity it all has to end.

We take the SH-25 to Coromandel Town but this time we turn to Thames/Auckland – it takes us “down” the Peninsula (south) and all the time alongside the Firth of Thames. We’re in hurry, so we regularly stops are in order – our first is besides the Firth at a convenient WC location. There’s an amazing notice from the NZ Dept of Fisheries. It advises that if you are collecting NZ Green Lipped Mussels, you are limited to 25 per day per collector. The tide’s out so I check out the beach and, sure enough, there are plenty of mussels just ready to be collected by anyone who takes the time pick them up.

Since it’s much to early to head for the airport, we make our way to Pukehohe for lunch – it’s about 15 miles south of Auckland, and it keeps us clear of Auckland’s traffic and any parking problems.

It’s a nice enough town and we sit down at a local café A chatty waiter recommends the Red Snapper in Stella Artois Beer Batter with homemade tomato and tartar sauces. Since we’ve told him it’s our last meal in NZ, he says he’ll throw in a couple of seared scallops for good measure. Sold – we order it.

Again the choice proves excellent – 4 pieces of filleted snapper, three seared scallops on the side, and chips. The fish and chips are served in newspaper with top slit open to give access to the food – the scallops are ‘piled’ on top. We’re stuffed!

Pukehohe has more than it’s fair share of good car registrations. We spot I-WORK, 61 MK2 (on a 1961 Mk 2 Vauxhall Velox) and OLD BOY (which I sympathised with).

We eventually make our way to the car rental return, and from there to the airport. We’re 6 hours early so there’s plenty of time for shopping, snacking, topping up with nicotine and the like.

Since it’s hard to say anything interesting about 24 hours in the air, I’ve resisted writing about the return flights except to say that LA Airport (LAX) is, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst first-world airport I’ve ever used. It lacks everything a traveller needs: decent food and drink outlets, comfortable seating, convenient WCs, friendly and helpful staff, and a pleasant environment. Since the Dept of Homeland Security took over, transit passengers must now go through the US’s slow and laborious emigration procedure, collect their own luggage and go through customs just like an arriving passenger!!! You then have to check in to your onward flight. If you couple these two things together: poor facilities and lengthy procedures, it adds up to a very miserable time in LAX. Enough said.

Now, that was the report on LAX I’d expected to write, but things turned out to even worse. Firstly Air New Zealand managed to lose Chris’s main suitcase – it never arrived at LAX’s luggage carousel. (It turned out that our flight from Auckland was Air New Zealand’s London flight and Chris’ bag had been mis-handled into the ‘through’ luggage. It was waiting for us at Heathrow when we got there).

Secondly, Virgin Atlantic’s planes are now gated away from the terminal building, so it’s a 10-minute bus ride from the departure lounge to the plane – it’s stuck out at the end of the main runway. Just another annoyance to add to all the others.

But, redemption for LAX! The Virgin Atlantic rep at check-in told us about the Tom Bradley International Terminal and advised that we kill time there – we have 5 hours to kill, so we take his advice. We find decent shops, sensible rest areas, a couple of good restaurants and a roomy atmosphere. But, in summary, don’t use LAX. If you do, use US airlines because they have plane access directly from the terminal building. If you have time to kill at LAX, go to the Tom Bradley Terminal to kill it.

4 About….

The intention of this section is to give more detailed information about specific subjects. I’ve put it here so that the Day-to-Day account of the trip is not too cluttered.

About: Driving in New Zealand

A few facts first. You drive on the left. The national speed limit is 100 km/hour (about 63 miles/hour) on all roads that do not have a lower limit. In towns and cities it’s 50 kph (just over 30 mph) and there are 70 and 80 kph limits in built up areas approaching towns and cities. Around schools, the limit is 30kph – about 19mph. Seat belts are compulsory. Spot fines apply to anyone found speeding or not wearing a seat belt. However, you’re free to use your mobile phone while driving!!!

Now about driving ….. Most NZ’ers stick to the speed limits. The average speeds you can expect to do on a long distance drive in New Zealand is no better than 75 kph (about 45 mph). This sounds very low, but there are many reasons why: -

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