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Friday, December 30, 2011

And now for something completely different....

Our transition day from Fiji to New Zealand began at 5am on Thursday the 29th.  We were originally booked on an 11:30am flight out of Savusavu to Nadi then to Auckland.  Pacific Sun canceled that flight and informed us about a week ahead of time that we would be flying out of Labasa at 830am on a flight to Suva on the mainland and then to Nadi and then to Auckland.  Labasa is a little over an hour’s drive away, and Pacific Sun wanted us to be at the Copra Shed at 6am to be taken, we thought, by bus to Labasa.  Our taxi driver Sirah picked us up in the darkness at 5:40 and we got to the Copra Shed about ten minutes later.  Instead of a bus, Pacific Sun sent several taxis to handle the twenty or so passengers being taken to Labasa.  We lucked out and got a fairly new Ford SUV where Marley and Ben piled into the third-row seat and Annie and I squeezed into the middle row and two girls from Australia filled out the rest of the seats with one sitting next to me and the other in the passenger seat in the front.  The drive to Labasa was very scenic,  with the two-lane road winding through the mountains, giving us misty vistas as the sun slowly made it’s way into the sky.  The road went through a few villages where people were beginning their days and dogs and chickens scurried to the side of the road as our taxi passed by.  The scenery was reminiscent of Hawaii at times and the highway was in decent shape, with a few single lane bridges and the occasional guardrail along some of the higher stretches.  After about an hour and twenty minutes, we made it to the airport at Labasa, which had a “terminal” area slightly bigger than the one at Savusavu where we had arrived in Fiji two weeks before.  It had two openings, one marked “entry” the other marked “exit” and inside were about four rows of around 20 seats. 

When we checked in, we were met with the dreaded words, “indefinite delay.”  It was about 7:40am and our flight was scheduled to leave at 8:35 but nothing would happen until the plane we were due to fly out on arrived and there was no indication at all of when that would happen.  As time dragged on, I started to get a bit concerned about our chances of getting to Suva and then to Nadi in time for our flight to Auckland, which was scheduled to leave at 2:10pm.  I really, really wanted to get to Auckland that night, since we are only going to be in New Zealand’s largest city for one week. After a few announcements of delays, we were treated to the sight of the twin turbo-prop ATR-42 500 approaching Labasa around 10:20.  We boarded and took off about 25 minutes later for the quick 30-minute flight to Suva. 

The airline required us to get off the plane, go into the terminal and then re-board the same plane, which lifted off around 20 minutes later for the even shorter flight to Nadi, where we arrived 25 minutes later.  It appeared that we had plenty of time to catch our flight to Auckland, until we got to the counter and the agent said she needed to see our itinerary, which we didn’t have.  We were doing everything electronically, and she said New Zealand required proof that you were booked to leave the country, or she couldn’t book us on the flight.  After whipping out a laptop and buying an hour’s worth of Wi-fi, I got on gmail and tried to find the record of our ticket that would take us from Auckland to Melbourne on January 25, but couldn’t find it.  As I was on gmail, I noticed that our ticket consolidator, Ted Groat from Rivertravel was available for chat.   I quickly opened up a chat window for Ted, and summoning up all the writing talents I could muster, I typed “help!”  He asked what was up, and I explained the situation.  He promptly emailed our itinerary to us, and the Pacific Sun agent went out of her way to give us an email address of hers where we could send her the itinerary and she could print it out, which she felt we could need when we got off the plane in Auckland.  By now, we had about twenty minutes before our flight was due to board, and famished, we grabbed some sandwiches and chips at a food stand close to the gate and looked forward to getting in the air to our next destination.  But, as happens so often with air travel, we were informed that there would be a delay of an hour.  After a little more than sixty minutes, the passengers on the 737-300 filed onto the plane and we found ourselves in the second-to-last row.  The plane arrived in Auckland around 6:40, more than 90 minutes later that first scheduled.  The process of claiming our luggage was smooth and painless, no questions were asked about our departure date, and we quickly found a turban-wearing (onion-head hat for Cake fans) cab driver, who took us to our apartment-hotel in the university area of the central business district in Auckland, within view of the Sky Tower. 

It’s a small 2-bedroom with a veranda, but conveniently located within walking distance to the main attractions in this bustling, modern city, quite the contrast from the Fijian village where we had spent the last two weeks.


  1. enjoy !! keep your eyes open for me :)

  2. Wow, what a journey! Glad you are safe and so is Mimi half way to Florida. Happy New Year!!!!