26. Dunedin – Wellington – Nelson

Wednesday, March 8: Sunny in Dunedin but cold; clouds increasing as we flew north, then decreasing towards Nelson; stronger winds in the evening

Elizabeth’s (airbnb, $50)

Was up & about just after 8:00, as was Mike (first in his pyjamas) and had breakfast of three toasts with vegemite, OJ & coffee, which was followed by preparing two rounds of ham sandwiches for later in the day. Returned to packing stuff after visiting the bottle bank and found that Mike’s scales were quite variable in their performance. This meant that the distribution of the 38 kg was going to be more or less random. Threw some “really heavy” stuff (i.e. dense things like food) into the backpack and hoped for the best. Nothing much left to do by 10:00 except start listening to podcasts while waiting for the taxi. It appeared slightly ahead of time & I took my leave of Mike and took a front seat in the taxi to be able to see what was going on.

Quite a drive to the next stop to pick up a further passenger for my flight; and then just a couple of minutes to pick up the final one. I noticed that the taximeter was running all the time, although the manifest that the driver had visible the same whole time indicated that we had all prepaid $20. The last part to the airport itself was quite a slog, and the taximeter, which had been at just under $20 when picking up the last guest, rose to over $120 at the airport. Wonder why this is done, because no surcharge was necessary and we were let off to roam free in the airport terminal.

My case was well within limits @ 28 kg, but the backpack looked a bit overweight and its contents had to be reduced by at least 3 kg to get things moving forward. Batteries, food, anything heavy went into a plastic bag until the scales were satisfied and then I requested, but subsequently forgot to lock, the case after having negated the question of having uncapped aerosols, camping gas, etc. With everything on its way I went upstairs to have my free can of lemonade from yesterday and the ham sandwiches I had packed in. Then it looked like (and was indeed the case that) the flight was delayed by over half an hour (less wait in Wellington) and wandered around to kill the time. Finally, the previous flight landed, disgorged its passengers and soon we were allowed on as well. I was seated next to a Polish couple who appeared to need three seats, which they then occupied after takeoff, while I tried to get some photography done with the pol filter. A couple of shots of the coast, Mt Cook, and Wellington during landing. Let’s see how they turn out.

I had considered ditching the gas bottle just before checking in for the further flight (I know, they all say that) but an additional counter was opened just as I joined the queue and soon my case was on its way. I had repacked the plastic bag into the case & noticed that it had been “inspected” by security, possibly due to the batteries.

Wandered around the airport for a bit, saw the plane land and taxi to the gate and then it was time to board. And before boarding there was an announcement that passenger Mr Lee Traynor would kindly report to check-in again, a problem had to be resolved.

I knew how little time I had to pull this off without missing the flight for either a shorter or longer period and I knew it was going to be tough. But often the direct approach is the best and I dashed to check-in, from there to where the baggage was being held; was informed that I was carrying a gas can, a cooker, and batteries all of which were not allowed in checked baggage; would I please open the case because they had been unable to do so. (The case was not locked, just the corner latches were secured, so I have no idea what the problem may have been.) Opened the case immediately, threw a temper tantrum at myself for forgetting about putting the bottle in for the bus trip last week, complained that I had been able to transport everything so far by air from Dunedin; retrieved one set of batteries, the cooker, the gas can (which was officially confiscated); made a remark about a second set of batteries that I took a couple of seconds to find; asked whether the laptop with its battery could remain in the case. All the while I was subject to derogatory commentary by one male security officer who was obviously playing the bad guy, “This is the stuff that brings planes down … I wouldn’t like to be on a plane with you,” to which I reacted in a suitably terrified fashion.

All that out of the way I was allowed to repack the suitcase, was given the confiscation notice and allowed to board the plane, which left very much on time.

There are times for changing people’s minds, and there are times for leaving people’s minds in peace, no matter how mistaken they might be. This had been one of the latter.

Because of the relatively small size of the aircraft, and my large backpack, it was difficult to get it to fit underneath the seat in front of me. I eventually got it there, but the stewardess was inquiring whether the baggage hold might still be open so that it could be transported there. If I hadn’t gotten the pack under the front seat and it had had to be transported in the hold with all of its dangerous goods now inside, that would have entirely negated the whole battery thing. Irony.

It was a very short flight to Nelson, just long enough for the weather to improve. I could see snow-capped mountains whose lower flanks were under cloud on the eastern side, but in Nelson it was all sun & smiles. Got my Super Shuttle sorted very quickly and was at Elizabeth’s address around 5:00. Took a false turn to find the house (which is a little hidden behind the front row) & eventually did; the guest rooms are downstairs (inside the house: a narrow spiral staircase) so I went around the outside to get in with my suitcase. A fellow boarder, Tamara, studies art at the NMIT. I was given a cup of tea; Elizabeth had to go out and look after her elderly clients and I had enough time to spread some stuff around, get out my satellite backpack for the paddling, but not enough time for something small to eat.

In any case I had arrived in time for the Nelson Paddling Club’s pool practice night. Wandered around town a bit looking for something to eat and was down at the Riverside Pool just before 7:30. Met Bob, his mate Vince who would have been the only instructors but I joined them and gave some tips to Brian, Marie-Luise from Estonia, a Kiwi woman whose name I didn’t get, and Oscar, a ten or so year old boy. I gave the club $10 for the privilege of standing around in the pool for an hour, but there is promise of some paddling at the weekend.

On the way back home stopped off at the supermarket for something to eat (a couple of small baguettes for $2.8), and a cask of wine. Hung my stuff up on the line in the back garden to dry.

I don’t think there’ll be many more days like this in the near future.