Got up fairly early today and had some breakfast before heading into town to return the rental car – our trusty red Corolla sedan that took us all around Southland. We actually got an $80 cashback deal when we returned the keys which was a nice bonus!!
Now that we were car-less, we had to walk back to our hotel…which actually wasn’t that far at all from downtown. We walked along the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu, taking some final snaps of the mountain range and lake along the way. Unfortunately the last 400m to the hotel was an uphill trek and whilst Seio (madman) decided to jog it, I took a more leisurely stroll there – I caught up with him at the top anyway, so….
When we got back to the hotel it was just before 10am and so we still had some time to relax before check out at 11am. Our shared shuttle bus came to pick us up at 11:35am and take us to Queenstown airport. I was surprised at how small the airport was, and how picturesque it was. The airport is situated right between the mountain ranges, and it only has about 6 gates in all – quite compact!
We sat in the waiting area before being called to the boarding lounge – but just before we got to security we were told we needed to pay a departure tax!! Typical….the amount of hidden fees that appear in flying these days is ridiculous, whether its for suitcases (allowed baggage at that!) or departure fees, it all mounts up…and that cheap fare isn’t as cheap as you thought it was!!
We paid our NZ$50 departure fee and were allowed through the security screening – NZ security is more relaxed than the US, there is no need to remove your shoes, jackets, belts and almost everything else you are wearing – it was quite a nice change!
Once through to the boarding lounge, we watched as our plane arrived and the previous passengers disembarked. We were flying with Qantas today – the first time since we started our trip , even though our round the world ticket is a Qantas ticket!! We have been traveling mostly with Qantas’ One World Alliance partners.
When our plane was ready, we were called to board and Seio and I tok our seats in the first row behind business class – Row 4. We had plenty of legroom, although we had to crane our necks to watch the in-flight movie!
Before long, we had taken off, but what a bumpy take-off it was. It was a steep take-off to begin with due to the surrounding terrain, but we hit some clouds almost immediately and were rocked from side to side and up and down a couple of times before things smoothed out!! I think it felt more scary because the mountains felt so close by. Once we had reached altitude above the clouds, the sky became a nice clear blue and it was a smooth flight from there on in. The landing was fine in Sydney too – although you come in quite close to the water which is a bit of a thrill in itself.
We knew we would have a bit of a wait at Sydney airport before our connecting flight on to Cairns. It was 3:55pm when we arrived and our next flight was not until 7:35pm. It was quite nice to have plenty of time though, because we had to clear customs and collect our luggage once before continuing our journey. Customs in OZ was even more relaxed than in NZ, a huge difference from the US and particularly Canada, where the customs officials do not even smile!! We breezed through passport control and received our Australia stamp, before going down to the baggage claim area and collecting our suitcases. After passing through quarantine, we went through the arrivals lounge and walked for what seemed like miles to the Qantas domestic transfers desk. We already had our boarding passes for the next flight, but we still needed to recheck our baggage. Once we had checked our suitcases again, we went through security screening once more before getting on a bus and being taken across the runways to the Qantas domestic departures building. It was a 10 minute bus ride away – which shows you how big Sydney airport is!!
After taking a walk around the duty free shops, we found Gate 1, took a seat and waited for another hour and a half before being called to board.
Our flight to Cairns was pretty full, and this time it was a smooth take off. In fact it was a fairly smooth flight until landing. Unfortunatley the weather in Cairns was not good – rain. clouds and string winds. This all added up to some extremely bumpy spells on the way into the airport!!
We eventually landed in one piece and were quite glad to be on terra firma again…
‘Nightmare on Sheridan Street’
It was absolutely pouring down with rain when we arrived, and so we decided to hop in a taxi and go straight to our motel. The hotel was only about a 10 minute ride away from the airport, and looked quite nice from the outside – apart from the ominous looking police car and policeman who seemed to be ‘investigating’ an old man with a long box!! We don’t know what the motel looked like on the inside, because we never actually got to check in!!
According to the big sign outside the motel it was a 24-hour check-in, but when we rang the bell for assistance nobody came out….After the 20th ring, we decided to give up and find somewhere else to camp out for the night. A young lad came to our assistance and told us that there were probably some spare rooms where he was staying. It was only down the road and as we didn’t really have any other options we decided to go and check it out. Luckily the old man in charge let us have a room at short notice, even though he charged us $15 over the going rate and wanted cash!! Although we were very grateful to escape the torrential downpour outside, we were a bit disappointed to say the least – first by being let down by the original motel and secondly by the state of neglect that this alternative motel was in…it didn’t help that I found a dead cockroach on the carpet as soon as i went in either…..After that discovery I didn’t really feel like touching anything in the room and wondered if I was actually going to be able to sleep tonight…. Oh dear!