54. Auckland – Doha – Frankfurt – Hannover: Homeward bound

Wednesday, April 5: Auckland – Sunny to begin with, then clouding over, rain starting at the bus stop and then just becoming stronger

Was up around 8:00, and Tracy had already left & left a note for me. Breakfast was time to consume everything that was left over: OJ, milk (condensed and fresh) for the coffee, the yoghurt. Then it was time for the final packing.

And that proceeded step by step. The computer was left running until deemed absolutely necessary for it to join everything else in the suitcase. The main concern was the weather: Although it was fine to begin with, rain was forecast for later and I didn’t want “later” to mean when I was trekking up to the bus stop on Mokoia Road.

The backpack was rather light with two raincoats packed into the bottom compartment; batteries, a diary, and a clear plastic bag with a couple of liquids at the top, coming to a total weight of 6.8 kg. Everything else went into the suitcase: All of the vegemite, the camping equipment, the electronics, some clothes that still had to be thrown away. Finally it was time for the computer to be packed away; jandals and crocs had to be washed at the last minute (had stepped into some chewing gum in the rain last night…) so they were attached to the outside of the pack to dry, last thing to be retrieved from the fridge was the remaining ginger ale; then the case was closed, the boots put on and I was ready to go.

Tracy’s key was tried and could be taken out of the lock (great difficulty last night in doing so, but she had arranged for a locksmith to come & sort out the difficulties), and then locked away in the safe box, and the long trek to the bus stop could begin. Not that easy, although the suitcase was down to 28.8 kg and I had left fifteen minutes earlier than planned, I was sweating profusely and making more & more stops along the way. At the New World supermarket, one bus sped by, but that would have been two buses earlier, so I was unimpressed. Reached the bus stop just as the guy emptying the old clothes bins had parked his truck in front of the bus stop to do so; offered him my plastic bag with the clothes I had on yesterday which he happily threw in. Then it started to rain.

In town it was a short walk to the shuttle stop, a short wait for it, a couple of minutes through indescribable traffic to the main stop, a couple of minutes’ wait under the arcades as the rain intensified, then finally the Sky Bus itself. Printed out ticket was quickly scanned and the bus filled up. A couple more stops and the bus was practically full, then the rather slow journey out to the airport.

A long queue awaited us at the QR desk. Not sure that the online check in would have brought that much of a time advantage, perhaps only just (had observed the same thing in Frankfurt): The queue appeared to be shorter, but there were fewer desks for dealing with the luggage check in. A couple of people did the check in on their phones & crossed queues, but most of us stayed in the slightly longer queue.

At my check in was greeted and questioned; everything seemed to be OK, and by this time there was not much left that could be repacked. After checking out the eateries (and deciding on nothing), went through security and passport control to the duty free. Was determined to bring some Bundy back with me, and at the first shop was chatted up by a Maori who also spoke some German, but could find no OP; at the next shop (Loop) there was OP, but the question of the transit in Doha had to be clarified, as well as trying to import 1⅛ L of rum into the EU, where I was advised to declare the extra amount on arrival. With that sorted out I went to take a seat in the departure lounge.

Surprise, surprise, but here I was called to the desk yet again, this time because of batteries – all in switched off equipment – in the checked in baggage. If this continues, no one will be allowed to fly. In any case delivered up the code to open the suitcase, waited until we were called on to board, and was told that nothing had had to be removed from the suitcase and that all was OK.

Sort of undermines the concept of “Dangerous goods prohibited” when after an inspection they appear not to be dangerous enough to transport. In any case I was on my way on board, quickly changed out of the decaying Wolfskins into the end of the journey crocs, and allowed a Danish couple to reunite across my selfishly booked middle seat.

I wanted chicken for dinner but had to go for the beef instead. There didn’t seem to be much that I wanted to view on the entertainment system, but eventually settled on as many of the episodes of Midnight Sun that I could stomach (very perverse Swedish series with a refreshing Leila Bekhti), after trying one episode of Sherlock and deciding that I might leave the other episodes for the flight to Frankfurt. Dinner having been served, a snack box and a bottle of water was handed out to everyone and the place more or less shut down. Actually in the course of things a “sandwich” was also served (in reality a chicken sausage roll and a small muffin).

Sleep was there to be tried, and I did get a couple of hours of it. We seemed to be making our way directly to Doha, and after passing the southern tip of India, a brunch was served, which is where I got my chicken in the form of an omelette & chicken sausage.

On time in Doha, there was a bit of a walk to the center of the terminal where the security check took place: My batteries had to be inspected. Out on the other side there was not much time to do anything except brush teeth and drink some water; there was a precheck of the boarding passes which proceeded at a leisurely pace and expedited boarding no end, and eventually we were on the final leg. This time two meals again, and after the first I was fairly eager to sleep. Two guys on either side of me, so not too much conversation. Midnight Sun had disappeared from the program and only Sherlock was left but that was all that was needed. Some sleep followed.

As the sun rose another breakfast of scrambled eggs followed, and this airbus had onboard cameras so the eventual descent could be followed.

Thursday, April 6: Frankfurt/Hannover – Sun and clouds, a little fresh after an obviously early spring

Out in Frankfurt noticed that there was a double jeopardy of customs declarations: The first obviously designed for those travelling only with hand luggage. I declared my Bundy, was told, “Lassen Sie es Ihnen schmecken”, and having made one declaration didn’t feel a second one would be necessary. The suitcase took some time to reach the carousel: We had landed ten minutes ahead of schedule @ 6:53; the terminal had been reached @ 7:10, the luggage carousel ten minutes later, and the wait there was a good half hour. Another twenty minutes to the platform, with very confusing signs and a blocked escalator not making things any easier.

Was well in time for my train, and progress was smooth, if only a little delayed.

Green and white; and yellow, and pink.