It's a long way from here to there -- Nov 17-19
Many of you know that in early spring -- months and months ago -- Jimmy and I signed with Road Scholar (RS) for a Downunder trip ... then we carried on with life, tucking the trip neatly "into our back pockets." We had other outings to make before thinking too much about this one. Serious events also took place that needed our attention and our concentration. The date to head Downunder seemed far away, and time sort of dragged along ... six months, three, then two, although you can bet this fabulous-sounding trek to "the other side of the planet," as my late brother, Rob, called it, was never far from our minds. Suddenly, when we were mere weeks away from departing, Jimmy began his official list, as in what to take and, equally important, what not to forget. No lists for me, too much bother! 😉 The funny thing about booking far in advance? -- the day to leave finally arrives.
I love descending over Los Angeles at night.
On Thursday, Nov 17th, Jimmy and I were packed and ready to go hours before our scheduled 6pm flight from Sacramento to Los Angeles, the first leg of our trip. We filled some of the time with lunch out and a sweet visit with Matt and Jen before Matt drove us to the airport. At LAX, we made our way to the Qantas (International) terminal where we met up with our New Jersey friends, "Ibby" and Bernice, as well as other RS folks. Boarding our double-decker Airbus A380-800 (upwards of 500 passengers!), all was ready for our 10:30pm departure ... and then it sat for an hour on various parts of the tarmac waiting for a slot for the huge aircraft to take off. At 11:30pm, we lifted away.
To say we dreaded the 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, would be a bit of an overstatement, but we sure weren't looking forward to it. Let's face it, that's a long time to be confined in a metal tube at 40,000 ft with 499 strangers (plus the hour on the tarmac, oh joy). A meal was served, ah, about 1am, PST. The interior lights dimmed, all window shades were drawn, and passengers prepared for sleep, even me. Jimmy was on the aisle, me in the middle, and a slender woman at the window. Jimmy, the lucky dog, can sleep standing up. I took a pill and dozed off and on. I remember the window seat lady climbing over me once or twice to get to the loo. We took turns getting up and milling around. The screens (above and below) at each seat are great tools. When I awoke from a doze to discover only six hours remained in the flight, I was jazzed. I could do this. I listened to Rachmaninoff and read my book.
One helluva long journey across the Equator, the International Dateline, and down into the Southern Hemisphere. Close to 8000 miles, in a somewhat straight line! We would arrive in tomorrow, such a strange experience!
Our adventure actually begins in Auckland, NZ, but RS has routed its people through Sydney ... then a hop on yet another (much smaller) jet for Auckland, two time zones east and after a couple-hour layover. Traveling west from the USA, we lose a day crossing the Dateline, but we've also lost a day by traveling further west (out of our way) to Sydney, and finally landing in Auckland 5 o'clock/ish in NZ on Saturday, the 19th! We're not sure why RS has us doing this, but our guess is economics. All the flights were easy, uneventful, and our guide, Albert, was waiting for us as we exited customs in Auckland. We should've felt beat up or completely exhausted, but adrenalin is a force to be reckoned with when Jimmy and I see a new country!
Irwin (Ibby) and Bernice, tired but happy, on our last flight.
Qantas fed us frequently and offered tasty snacks.
The Māori called New Zealand, "Aotearoa," literally the "land of the long white cloud." This is what I saw from my window seat as we neared Auckland. No, not meringue pie, just a bright blanket of snowy white cloud.
We are here. We have arrived. We are ready for Downunder! O Boy!