Monday, February 12, 2024

Last day in New Zealand

Our last morning in New Zealand (leaving Papamoa) was a little bit disjointed. We checked out of our AirBnb with the intention of going to Current Church, which we read met on the beach near us during the summer. However, in order to make sure we were on time for our flight, we needed to fuel up first. This ended up being a comedy of errors, including more confusion with payment for gas at the pump. Apparently, the credit card “tapping” technology is officially called PayWave, but when we saw signs saying “PayWave Not Accepted,” we didn’t connect the two. We did eventually find a gas station that would accept our cards, but it meant I couldn’t use my discount code from Pak’N’Save. Sad.

Despite being pressed for time at this point, we made our way to the busy beach to try to find the church. Unfortunately, despite expertly squeezing the Rangers into some tight parking spots, it appeared we weren’t clear on where exactly the church was meeting, because we weren’t able to find them. At this point, we decided to give it up and head back towards Auckland and the airport for our flight home. We did, however, make a quick stop for breakfast at the Canary Drive Thru breakfast stand.

We had one more run in with a gas station near the airport when filling up the rental (put a large hold on the credit card and received balance back in NZD), but, from there, we gave Sam the opportunity to check off “left side of the road” driving. Joe and I had made Justin and Sam (respectively) our backup drivers on this rental, since it didn’t cost us anything and in case we got tired late in the week. Sam drove carefully through the 50 KM/H zone where Joe had gotten pulled over previously and delivered us safely to the airport (with only one minor scare).

Almost home

We boarded our flight with plenty of time to spare and prepared for the long haul back home. For some reason (presumably psychological), the flight back to San Francisco seemed shorter than the flight to New Zealand. Our dinner was also better on this flight (likely because it was provided by New Zealand catering). Overnight, Joe and Justin broke the high score on one of the games built into the in-flight entertainment system. We arrived at the San Francisco airport to a sea of red and gold. Given the 49ers were playing the Chiefs in the Super Bowl later that day, their hometown airport was buzzing. They were playing the 49ers anthem at several of the gates, and one of the gate agents was rapping. We also realized the kickoff would be at 3:30 PM on the West Coast, which was a little bit of a shock for our East Coast mindsets.

The flight back to Raleigh was on a Boeing 737 Max 9 (which was recently grounded after the door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight in progress). At that point, it had been announced that that particular plane was missing several bolts it was supposed to have had to hold the plug in place. As we boarded the plane, we told Adam to check and make sure all of the bolts were there. We arrived back in Raleigh without incident, and made one more stop at PDQ before the final breaking of the Fellowship.

New Zealand is definitely one of the top three places (along with Iceland and Alaska) I have been in the world. Not only was it naturally beautiful (almost everywhere you pointed a camera was jaw dropping), but the people (kiwis and non-kiwis alike) were friendly, and the food was delicious. It also felt like a well developed country where adventure was easily accessible but so were modern services and conveniences. Food was somewhat expensive, but the exchange rate between the New Zealand Dollar and the United States Dollar helped. Many of us decided that this was definitely somewhere we would visit again, except, next time, it would be for longer, if we were going to endure that flight.

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