Once a year I do a fly/drive training tour through the Taranaki and Manawatu areas of NZ
. I always look forward to this one as the “’Naki” is a pretty far out place, a big, round appendage, sticking out of the west coast of the North Island, in the middle a big f@#k-off volcano (Mt Taranaki), classically cone-shaped and surrounded by this vast gentle sloping apron of volcanic rock and soil, which ends up flatter by the sea.
Wherever you are in the “Naki” you can see the sea on one side and the volcano on the other, there is a road all around the coast and several radial roads that intersect this, making a GPS unnecessary, or any sense of direction…if the sea is to your left you will eventually reach New Plymouth, to right and you will eventually find Hawera and a road links the two, so “lost” isn’t in the vocabulary.
I fly over Mt Taranaki every time I do an AKL
leg and on a clear day one can see the entire region, it has long been my ambition to drive right the way around the coast but my previous NPL trips have either been day trips or timed in such a way that I have to hoof it to Hawera or Wanganui with indecent haste.
This time I scored the bull’s-eye, five days with only evening functions to run, so my days would be more or less my own.
Here is how it all went down:
It felt completely out of my comfort zone to be catching a 13:10 flight, leaving the house in daylight it felt like I had already missed the plane…and in the event I nearly did!
Due to a refit on my boat I was in need of a 12 litre fuel tank for the auxiliary motor and the only place to have one at a reasonable (very reasonable actually) price was in Manukau, which is 15-20 mins from AKL
Domestic but due to having to sort The Hormones car out before I left I was cutting it fine, the tank purchase went OK
but the drive to AKL
from there was one of those trips where, because you don’t need any hold-ups, the Gods transpire to make you work for it.
Every vehicle I got stuck behind was being driven well below the speed limit, ridiculously slow, as if the Old Folk’s home had let them all out on day release and their Steam Driven tourers where not quite warmed up yet.
It started to get silly and I had to pull a sharpish manoeuvre on Mr Slow of Mangere Rest Home for the Terminally Lard-Arsed, I got him on the inside of a roundabout and romped off up the road, confident of being on time but then realised that I needed to park in the long-term park at AKL
International or end up paying off Mexico’s national debt in parking fees come Friday.
Bugger! I endured the slowest traffic lights on the planet and at the first fading of the red, shot across the junction with the Nissan in sport mode and the overdrive off, hooning down the road I peeled off for the long-term with an impressive amount of body-roll and protesting tyres, swore my way past the drop-off zone because as usual, there was a 5 litre Ford Taxi being driven like an A340 on take-off (this is not fast) to keep the fuel costs down.
Almost apoplectic with impatience I got past him and into the park and found that the only space in the first section, nearest the exit, was way over in the far corner and there wasn’t a baggage trolley in sight!
Time was tight and advancing like a spring tide. I ran through the car-park, laptop over one shoulder, projector over the other, big fat suitcase (with wheels I’m glad to say) dragging at my heels and my portfolio precariously balanced under my arm…I felt and probably looked a total dick.
The God’s decided I needed a boost and I stumbled upon a trolley, slung the gear on and frog-marched the ensemble out the exit and down towards AKL
International to pick up the blue and white line on the road that leads to AKL
I was a bit stressed and a bit sweaty and the time was getting tighter still, as I walked past the Engineering Office, just outside the check-in area at International, I spied a woman, running towards Domestic, cellulite in full swing, trolley bouncing like a fat man’s guts and I got carried away in the moment, I ran too, the trolley helping to keep me upright as I hurtled along, scaring the heck out of a family of what looked like (by the loud short and unfashionable socks with sandals) Americans, I soon caught the woman and as she slowed down I came alongside and called “Run Forrest, Run!”.
She laughed and asked what time my flight was.
“One Ten” I replied, trying not to sound out of puff.
“Mines at One” she fired back.
“Ok, you go in front” I slowed the pace and let her go ahead, she took a random short-cut across the road and beat me into the check-in kiosks by about 28 trolley lengths.
But we both got checked in which was a good thing, although by now I was more than slightly over heated and after paying my excess baggage fee ($30NZD) I grabbed a pie and a fruit salad from the coffee shop and bolted them down just in time to make the boarding call, covered in crumbs and not in the best of humour.
But once outside in the corrugated-iron covered walkway to gate 43 I started to relax, I made it…just.
The Q300 looked very shiny and new, judging by the rego ZK
-NET, I reckon it was the latest to be delivered, she was blindingly clean and white and the interior (which always reminds me of a cheap radio-alarm clock I once owned) was spotless above and beyond the call.
I was seated on the left side in 11A as I wanted a good view of the coast and the oil-rig, the flight was totally unremarkable, and the views were stunning as usual.
We had some light turbulence on the approach and swung in to land from the east, which I hadn’t done before; I got some prime views of the rivers and farms that typify this region.
“Boof, squeal” and we were down.
Once in the terminal I was pleased to find I had been upgraded to a Mondeo, nothing wrong with the usual Corolla but a bit extra room and some more grunt is always good to have.
I sat in the baking hot car park and texted Mrs Jafa, looked at the maps and headed off into town to book into my motel and then stroll down to Starbucks to have coffee with a fellow a.netter…NZ8800, I’d never met the dude but we had communicated by TR
comments and I wanted to say hi and compare notes from our Fiji trips.
Had a couple of hours with Chris as we chewed the fat and tried to keep the cheeky sparrows from snaffling our cakes…….
Good yarns and, like a true a.nutter, NZ8800 knows a staggering amount of stuff about NZ
aviation!!! He also knows all the wrong places to hang out in the Pacific Islands, so if you’re up for a weird time…..give the man an e-mail next time you go to Tonga or Fiji and get the low-down on the things they don’t tell you in the travel brochures.
I went off and ran my training event, slept like a dead thing and the next day took hours and hours to drive slowly around the coast
…..sea to my right, volcano to my left, stopping off to fish, sight-see, pick up litter and sun bathe in the black sand dunes
…and have an utterly marvellous time, perfect weather, bugger all traffic and good tunes on the radio.
After Hawera the need to arrive in Wanganui before 5pm led me to speed up a tad, from doodling along with the windows down and the radio up full blast at 70km/h I wound the Mondeo up to 109km/h…2km/h more and you get stopped for speeding…set the cruise control and had a hoot on the near empty roads, going round all the bends without slowing down, only had to switch off the cruise control twice when I happened upon some hairpins.
Wanganui was a gas went to the Stellar Restaurant and was served by the campest, gayest Kiwi I have ever met, the food was good, his manner entertaining and the Abba tunes playing in the background, highly suspect.
I did the training, crashed out and after breakfast headed to Wanganui breakwater for a spot of fishing.
This is a very civilised place to fish as you just park the car parallel to the water, shove in the rod rest, cast out and sit in the car eating Pringles until you get a bite….which isn’t a long wait, I caught an average sized Red Cod
and put him back, lost another on a reef and then pulled in the biggest “Red” I ever saw, which I gave away to a family who were sitting in their car watching the world go by…they were stoked, especially as I gutted it for them.
The it was off to Palmerston North to pick up Admin Bunny from the 12:30 WLG
and I timed it spot on, I saw the Beech 1900D on approach, caught it circling in to finals and was passing the runway at the very point it touched tarmac…only an a.netter would appreciate such synchronicity……
We stopped by the Hertz desk to put Admin Bunny on the car insurance and headed off to do lunch.
Now the Admin Bunnies of this world are not usually let out during office hours but this one decided we had to make her job more interesting or she would run away to sea and we didn’t want that as she is a tolerably good worker and we don’t want to have to interview the scary people that usually apply for such posts.
The upshot of this is that I am training her up to be a trainer/troubleshooter for the lower North Island and Upper South Island areas, which in theory means I don’t have to go to WLG
The Admin Bunny had spent the entire 30 min flight chatting to a young lad who had just been released from a 4 year stretch in Rimutaka Prison and was on his first ever flight….he was a bit disappointed at the lack of free drinks on board the Beech….
We ran the training as a double act and downed a quick beer each before heading off back to motel for a well-earned sleep.
Next day I was a passenger as we visited a school in Dannevirke, which is infested with Vikings….buggers keep popping up all over the place!
Our next training was back in WLG
and this allowed me to achieve a long held ambition….to visit Eketahuna!! Eketahuna is a standing joke in NZ
, it is generally thought of as the back of beyond and so every Kiwi must pay homage to this place, especially as it is where Tui Beer is brewed.
We stopped the car in the main street (only street?) and crossed the road to get a pic with me by the giant Kiwi that graces the entrance to town and to grab some sweets and fizzy pop.
Half way across the pedestrian crossing we were accosted by a tall thin man, looking a bit like Sir Edmund Hillary…
“Have you bought anything yet?”
“Have you bought anything yet?”
“Eerrr, we’re going to take a picture first and then go to the shop”
“That’s all good then…enjoy your day”
And he strode off down the road.
Admin Bunny and I looked at each other and giggled nervously….”WTF?”
The long drive through the Wairarapa was pleasant enough, being a passenger I got to look into everyone’s gardens and paddocks, we suddenly noticed I hadn’t filled up since picking the car up in NPL and did a panicked gas stop for 11.5 gallons of the hard stuff.
Well, the next day we were both knackered and I had to do lunch with govt bods and have conversations that would be denied if I was rash enough to quote from them, Admin Bunny had to go to Kapiti College and yawn in front of the students while I tried to remain awake through my steak and chips.
Come 16:30 I was back at our HQ
in Lower Hutt and losing the plot, so I offered to give Admin Bunny a lift home as she had taken the hire car home that night, but really I was needing to be outside as I don’t do well in offices, Admin Bunny was yawning fit to bust and as I drove up the motorway I got a phone call from Qantas..
“Mr Jafa…about your 19:30 flight to AKL
“There is a delay, it will be 20:30 now”
...thanks for telling me”
Hmmmm, I now had time to fill. Admin Bunny offered me dinner at her place and somewhere to flake out for a bit but I was so tired I didn’t really want to make nice to her family, not that there is anything wrong with them and usually I would have accepted but I had the thousand yard stare and anyway….I need to do poo’s and didn’t want to stink up their area.
Instead I chose to do something stimulating to wake me up, I headed out up to Upper Hutt and took the fearsome Akatawara road to Waikanae whilst listening to the last 20 results of the Rock FM
top 1,000 tunes vote.
The Akatawara road is a honey, it starts off as a swoopy back road and then grinds its way up into the clouds, over new bits of tarmac where the road has crashed into the gorge below and had to be stitched back together again with girders and concrete, towering cliffs loom overhead and small rocks lay in the road, where they fell just that very morning.
In places it is barely a car wide and I picked my way through the mist and gloom to the sounds of Metallica and AC
-DC, down the other side to Waikanae, a quick trip to the beach for a restorative stroll and off on down the highway back to WLG
, an interesting journey which ate up the time better than languishing in WLG
for 2 hours.
I handed back the hire car and got to Qantas check-in at 19:50, they were handing out food vouchers….not a good sign…my turn came and they claimed a 20:45 boarding time for a 21:00 kick-off and gave me a $10 voucher.
As I sat at Wishbone, eating my Chicken and Chorizo Paella and Choc Brownie I heard an announcement mentioning QF4045 but couldn’t make out what was said, the screens to my left soon changed and showed a 21:00 boarding for 21:15 departure……ho hum, WX
, they didn’t offer an explanation.
There isn’t a whole lot going on in WLG
at that time of night but I managed to catch a few landings and take-offs as well as a power nap.
At 20:45 a QF
734 landed…hooray!! I hoped the pilots wouldn’t bugger off and leave a big DO
NOT FLY THIS PLANE IT IS
BROKEN sign in the window.
There were a lot of Fire Trucks about and they seemed unduly interested in the a/c (ZK-JTR
) but I couldn’t see much so I went through security into the departure gate…there were lot of tired and relieved looking people emerging from the plane.
A Fireman came in and used the phone:
“I have been calling you but there has been no radio response….we need an ambulance at 21 airside and have done for some time, it is a status 3-4 at this point, we’re bringing her off now”
???????? This was curious, anything to do with the delay I wondered??
And then, out came an FA
helped along by three burly Firemen…pushing her in a wheelchair, not looking too happy either…a bit crook in fact.
Eventually the Fire Trucks left and we boarded, I hadn’t flown a 737-400 before and so it was a bit of a treat, it was nearly empty too but I feared I might nod off before I got the chance to move seats.
I was hot, tired and impatient; I was ending this trip as I started it but for different reasons and it seemed to take forever to get the plane ready to go…..
The Captain promised the quickest WLG
we would ever see and in the end we were back rather quick but I slept through the whole thing.
Finally! We got airborne at 21:25, the climb out took forever and I was uncomfortable, being in 17D and in the only block of 3 seats to have 3 people in it!
The seat belt sign went out and I rushed down the back, had quick slash in the lavs and lay down across 25 A, B & C….knackered….but at least I had somewhere to crash out…zzzzz……zzzzzz…..zzzzzz
I woke up on approach and found $2.50 on the floor…mmm, lucky, I stuck it in the charity collection bag and gathered my scattered wits.
On landing I asked about the FA
and it turned out she had come down with apparent appendicitis enroute from AKL
….not good, poor thing…..sick on a plane sucks big time.
And then it was time to go, grab my bags, load the Nissan and drive with the windows open to stay awake.
I got to bed at midnight and made damn sure the alarm clock was not set to go off…at all!!!!! It had been a long week……
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....