Dona had been looking for long bike tours and she found one that looked pretty good in New Zealand, so that moved it to the top of our winter excursion list. Then circumstances dictated we catch a plane to Australia. New Zealand, being "on the way," or on the way back, depending on how you look at it, got bumped to the top. I've never been to New Zealand, but Dona spent a year working in Wellington and loved it.
We packed as light as we could, which wasn't easy. It can be hot or cold, very dry or very wet. And we wanted to do some camping and hiking.
When we got to the airport in Missoula we were informed that the Salt Lake airport (SLC) was having a weather delay, and our flight to L.A. (LAX) (which went through Salt Lake) was cancelled. The flight from SLC to LAX was not cancelled, but that didn't do us a lot of good. The agent rebooked us on a later flight which got in too late for us to make connections with our flight to Australia.
Airlines don't make things easy anymore, at least U.S. giants like Delta. We had international tickets, flying Delta from Missoula to L.A. and return, and Air New Zealand from L.A. to Hobart, then back via New Zealand. We hadn't booked them all through Delta, or in a single booking on the internet (because we couldn't; we tried) so they (Delta) deemed this not an international trip and limited our Missoula to L.A. baggage to the domestic rules and charged us $25 for each of our bags. To further impress us, they "couldn't check our bags all the way through." With service like that, why would anyone voluntarily fly Delta? We paid the extortion fee and passed our bags through the security scanner into the bowels of the Missoula airport.
Dona got on her phone to check out the other airlines (United and Alaska) that fly out of Missoula. We realized that we'd have a real mess if our bags went out on the Delta flight and we went on some other carrier, so I headed back to the Delta counter to try to retrieve our bags.
The Delta agent who had checked us in she was busy, so I got a different guy. When I explained the situation to him he said "Wait a minute. There are lots of flights delayed into Salt Lake, so you might get on stand-by on the earlier one." Earlier one??? The original agent hadn't even mentioned that there was an earlier flight than the one she rebooked us on. I had asked her if our continuing flight from SLC to LA was delayed; she checked it, but only after I asked her. It never occurred to her to wait-list us on the earlier flight. For some reason the new agent couldn't even look at the stand-by list for the earlier flight, but he did manage to get us on the stand-by list, and he put our bags on that flight so they would be there if we made it. He also told us that since we had an international flight we should get bumped to the front of the stand-by queue. By this time Dona had ascertained that there were no other options to get us to LAX in time to make our outbound flight. We crossed our fingers, then called Air New Zealand to see how we were going to handle our soon-to-be-missed flight.
The Air New Zealand agent was a dream to work with. No problem; she held two seats for us on the next day's flight without cancelling the ones we had in case we made connections. Dona had originally booked the overseas flights on Air New Zealand because she "likes flying with them"; they now get hearty endorsements from both of us.
As it turned out, all the flight delays into Salt Lake freed up enough seats so we got on the earlier flight; our bags were there, and we made our original flight to Australia. We were off!
We spent a few days in Hobart, Tasmania, visiting friends, then flew to the South Island of New Zealand. Our plan was to start at the south and work our way north. We had some lodging and appointments nailed down, but in-between we were flexible but had an idea of what we thought we wanted to do. Having some flexibility turned out to be a good thing. We had a pretty good set of maps we'd borrowed from friends who had spent time in New Zealand about ten years ago. The maps were from the New Zealand Automobile Association, and they had purchased them when they were over there. Their website sucks, in that it has a link for "Maps" but nothing about obtaining the maps themselves. So here's their contact info if you're interested in obtaining maps before you head over.
The images below are links to where we went, in order.
|Hobart||Southland and Stewart Island||Taieri Gorge||Otago Rail Trail||Mt. Aspiring Area|
|Haast Pass||Aoraki (Mt. Cook)||West Coast||Nelson Lakes||Abel Tasman||Wellington|
|Hawkes Bay||Whanganui River||Bushy Park||Tongariro Crossing||Mt. Ruapehu|
|Taupo||Rotorua||Tree Walk||Waihi Rail Trail|