Friday, February 16th found us arriving in Auckland, NZ very early in the morning. There is a Hilton right at the dock, but I would not want to stay there when a cruise ship comes in, since when unloading, there’s constant noise from the forklifts and large metal luggage cages being pushed around. This was disembarkation day. We were scheduled to get off around 8:15am, but our group did not get called until 9:22am. When you leave the ship, you join the long line of everyone else trying to get off, and there were people trying to cut the line, but no one was letting them in thankfully. We gathered our luggage, got through customs, then board a bus to do a “City Sights” tour of Auckland, before heading to our hotel. Our first “stop” was driving over the Auckland Harbor Bridge. We then headed to the Auckland Museum where the highlight for us was getting lunch, since we only had an hour and this was going to be the one chance to eat. From there we headed to Mount Eden, one of the 48 volcano’s the Auckland area is built on. We then headed back on the bus for our hotel, the Langham, a former Sheraton. After getting settled in we once again headed out for food supplies, at the local Foodtown. That evening we worked on getting our bags repacked for the trip home, since we were meeting with a friend of Ruth’s for some sightseeing and would not have time to do it then. Saturday, the 17th we met with Ruth’s friend Michele and her partner Simon. They picked us up in their Ford Ka and took us to Muriwai Beach and the Gannets Colony. From there we headed to Mount Victoria and the Disappearing Gun. After checking that out we went into Devonport and discovered they were having a Wine & Food Festival. Since it costs to get in, we skipped that and ate elsewhere. Later they dropped us off at our hotel, where we sat and waited for our bus to takes us to the Auckland International Airport. We were flying Air New Zealand, through United. While standing in line, someone from the Premier check-in came and took us into their area to check in. It was nice, someone to help with your bags, soft music playing, they even had their own customs agent to make that part quick and easy. After getting all that taken care of, we headed up this escalator to security. Well, since it was the premier member escalator, it dumps you out right in front of the xrays/metal detectors, so did not have to stand in line with everyone else. After clearing that area, you then proceed through the Airside Shopping Mall for those last minute impluse buys. One interesting fact is they do not announce which gate to go to until 1 hour before the flight is scheduled to board, so you find a place to sit and wait. Once our flight was called, we headed to the gate, only to find another, more strict security area, similar to US standards. Turns out any flight going to the US needs to go through this additional area. We did see a few people trying to skip it by claiming they had gone through the initial New Zealand standard screening, but they were sent to the back of the line. One thing I remembered, is if you’re not on your plane when they are ready to leave, you will be paged to come to your gate because “your flight is ready to leave”. From Auckland, it was onto Los Angeles, then Washington, DC. There was the first point the entire trip that we had an issue. The plane initially we were told was over booked, this was another of the EMB-145’s. Then we were told it would be too heavy if everyone that was booked, went. So they started taking a list of volunteers to be bumped if needed. Then we heard that seven people did not show so everyone could go. This only delayed us about 1/2 from our scheduled departure to Buffalo. We landed about midnight, headed to the Holiday Inn Express by the airport where we left the car, and crashed since we’d been “up” for roughly 36 hours. Saturday, February 18th, got up, headed home to wonder what all this white stuff was on the ground. Thankfully our house sitter managed to keep the driveway clear so we could get in the house. I still spent a couple hours clearing to make the driveway and walkways wider.

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