Small rain cells drift across the tarmack as we board flight FJ413 with service from Nadi to Auckland departing at 6:10pm local time. This flight is on a smaller plane and I sit closer to the front in a seat with more leg room making the flight more comfortable.
The meal service is the same so I have the opportunity to try the chicken option. It is much better than the vegetarian option but still just ok. The total flight time is about 3 hours and 30 minutes and I manage to get some sleep.
Note: Jet lag doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue. Despite crossing the international date line the time change is effectively only 3 hours. YMMV.
Customs is quick but my hiking gear sends me, or more specifically my tent, to biological security. Even this process is quick, taking only fifteen minutes. I imagine on a day other than Sunday at a time earlier than 9:40pm things might be different.
TIP: Declare it. If you’re not sure then ask. Customs is polite and will help you figure it out. Lying or failing to claim something could cost you 400NZD with their stated “Instant Fine” and that is just the beginning of the trouble.
The next two hours are less enjoyable. The budget hotel near the airport is booked and with a flight to the south island tomorrow I don’t want to stray too far. The comfort inn 10 minutes away is closed so I end up at the gateway hotel across the street. The Gateway cost me 150NZD and has clean rooms, basic amenities and a few flaws which I won’t get into. The staff is friendly but uncompromising and breakfast is not included. The continental will run you 10NZD or you can pay 18NZD for access to the buffet. They do run a shuttle to and from the airport. WiFi is free but you are limited to 200mb every 24 hours.
Bottom line, if you need a place to stay, this is a place to stay and I do get a full night of sleep. The following morning is back to the airport and a two leg flight to Invercargill on the south island. The domestic terminal is busy but security is a breeze (less than 5 minutes to get through).
Note: Air New Zealand has a 7kg weight limit for carry on bags. Checking a bag costs 60NZD at the counter.
The best part of these long airport trips is that I have time to write these blog posts a close second is the people watching. Plus these Air New Zealand planes have nice paint jobs!
The New Zealand domestic departures area (post security) have water bottle friendly fountains. They also have showers available (B.Y.O.T.) which is something I also encountered in Nadi but have not seen in a United States airport.
Auckland domestic also has free WiFi which is limited to 1gb or 45 minutes.
Two more flights, the second in a propeller plane, and I’ve gone from sun and heat to overcast and gusty. I am in Invercargill. The town center is about 15 minutes on foot and there are two hostels available. I am staying at the Southern Comfort Backpackers Lodge. Tomorrow is a day for running errands, final preparations and to find a ride to Bluff.