Saturday November 27th 2010 - Departure
Having got Lady Arwen safely in her berth at the Fish and Duck Marina yesterday, we were almost ready for off. All the cases and the hand luggage were packed with everything but the galley sink and all that remained was to prepare the boat ready to be left unoccupied for the duration of the winter. First of all we had to drain all the water out of the holding tank and the hot water tank. This took an awfully long time! We had purposefully not filled the tank a few days ago, we just put enough in to see us through to today but nevertheless it took forever to drain it. Once that was done we then turned the hot taps on and the shower to ensure that no water was left in the pipes to freeze. The next job was to turn the gas bottle off and last but not least make sure that everything was pulled away from the boat sides and stand the mattress up. That done we were ready to abandon ship!
Vicki duly arrived in the hire car to pick us up and we soon had all our cases and baggage stowed in the boot. It was time to say goodbye to Lady Arwen! Oh dear, I hope she's going to be OK without us! I gave her a little pat and blew her a kiss - I know, I'm a big softy but she is after all our home! We left her in the frozen marina with only an old heron skating about on the ice to keep her company! Can you spot him?
We drove back to Vicki's house and picked Ben up then we were off, on our way to Heathrow. We were very fortunate that we hadn't had the heavy snowfall in Cambridge that other parts of the country had experienced overnight and our drive down to Heathrow was pretty uneventful. Not so for our son Gareth though! He had planned to drive up from Kent to meet us at our hotel in order to say goodbye but there had been quite a heavy snowfall where he was and he decided, very wisely, not to risk the drive up. We were disappointed not to see him of course but it just couldn't be helped.
We arrived at our hotel and got checked in then we all went into the lounge and had a coffee and a bun before saying our goodbyes - Vicki and Ben had to get back up to Cambridge to return the hire car by 6.00pm and then they were off to a wedding do in the evening. We were on our own and ready to start our new adventure! We got settled into our room then went down to dinner and after that we managed to have a chat with our granddaughter, Indeia, on the webcam and shortly after with Gareth too, which almost made up for not seeing him in person in the afternoon. Last but not least we also managed to have a chat with Clive's parents on the webcam too. Isn't technology wonderful! Then we set our alarm for 5.30am and went to bed!
Sunday 28th November
We were up with the lark and down in reception just after 6.00am with our baggage ready to catch the shuttle bus to Terminal 4. It was very, very cold! We had decided not to bother bringing heavy coats as they really wouldn't be needed once we arrived in New Zealand so we only had our leather jackets on and it was perishing! However we were soon on board the bus and on our way to the airport. Finally we arrived at Terminal 4 and made our way to check in. Our flight wasn't due to take off until 10.10am but we had decided to get there as early as poss so that we could get good seats on the plane - check in was due to open at 07.10am. Imagine our surprise when we got there to find that someone had checked in before us and pinched the seats we wanted - well really! We still had our pick though and got some decent seats. Then it was just a waiting game! We decided to go and do some shopping first as there were one or two bits and pieces that we needed and of course there was the Duty Free!! Once we had made our purchases we found a Garfunkels and had some breakfast. After that we made our way to the gate ready for boarding.
Unfortunately, due to the intense security at Heathrow, our flight crew were delayed by half an hour! Finally they arrived and boarding could commence. We had chosen to fly with Royal Brunei Airlines, one reason being it was the cheapest (!) but also because we quite fancied going somewhere exotic and the Sultanate of Brunei is certainly that!
Royal Brunei Airlines Boeing 777
We started boarding and it wasn't long before we were settled in our seats. We were both very pleased to see that there was plenty of leg room and we were really very comfortable. Eventually, an hour late, we took off at 11.10am!
The Sultanate of Brunei is situated on the island of Borneo and is an Islamic country. For that reason the National airline runs an alcohol free policy. Well that is they don't serve alcohol but we could have taken our own on board if we wished. We decided we would be far better off without it so didn't bother. The service on board couldn't have been better, the beautifully dressed stewardesses really looked after us, in fact I would highly recommend the airline to anyone. Even the food was edible!! Our first stop was in Dubai. We landed, taxied to the terminal and everybody had to disembark complete with all hand luggage and belongings. We handed in our boarding passes once inside and were given some other cards with a number on and told to follow a steward and that we had to be at Gate 105 to reboard in less than half an hour. Basically we walked almost the full length of the terminal then another guy told us to head back on a parallel route back the way we had come so that we ended up in the place we had started from but one floor down! We handed our cards in and were given our original boarding passes back! We then reboarded the same plane, in the same seats and got ready for take-off! What on Earth was all that about then!
Off we went again and flew for several more hours then touched down for the second time, this time in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. Once again we were told to disembark, taking all our belongings with us. We didn't have to walk as far this time and also we were changing planes. Our new seats were a couple of rows in front of the ones we were in on the first plane but this time there were only the two of us and the third seat in the row was vacant so we had a bit more space to spread out. It wasn't long before we were taking off again on the last leg of our journey.
Leaving Bandar Seri Begawan
By now we had been travelling for many hours and were feeling quite weary. Clive had managed to watch a film on the little individual monitor mounted on the seat in front, unfortunately my headset connection hadn't been working so I couldn't hear anything! However I discovered that there were arcade games available, including my favourite Bejewelled! That kept me occupied for quite a while. On the new plane I was delighted to discover that my headset connection was working so I did manage to watch a film. Clive also started to watch a film but after a little while he was nodding and in the end he put the arm rests up and stretched out on the two seats with his feet in my lap, covered himself with a blanket and promptly fell asleep - he slept for a good three hours!
I carried on watching my film and then tried to have a nap but I wasn't very successful, I might have had forty winks but thats about all! I have to say that during the whole flight, although I had played games on the monitor and watched a movie I spent an awful lot of time just looking out of the window. At one point through the night we were flying across India and although it was quite dark I am sure I could see the snow gleaming on the peaks of the Himalayas in the distance, wish I'd had a better view! Soon after that we flew into the dawn and the colours were absolutely spectacular. We also flew over Vietnam and Cambodia and the Phillipines and sometimes the view out of my window was breathtaking. As we were approaching Australia we could see banks of thunderclouds beneath us, huge white fluffy clouds bubbling up, causing quite a bit of turbulence at times! When I wasn't looking out of the window I spent a lot of time watching the monitor as you could follow the progress of the flight on a map. It also gave the altitude, speed and air temperature and estimated time of arrival etc. It was fascinating. Also, because it is an Islamic airline there was a screen which showed the distance and direction of Mecca.
As we were approaching Australia the sun was setting behind us and the colours were absolutely stunning, photographs just don't do it justice really!
Sunset approaching Australia
Finally we were on the approach to Auckland and the end of our journey. Just one more landing! At 1.25am we eventually touched down on New Zealand soil - we had arrived! We had been flying for 26 hours! Three take offs and three landings and I have to say they were three of the softest touchdowns I have ever experiences, altogether, apart from the sleep deprivation, it was a very pleasant flight. Glad we're not doing it again just yet though!!
We made our way through passport control and on to the baggage collection area expecting a long wait. Clive went off to fetch a trolley and whilst he was gone the first of our cases arrived! A few minutes later there was the other one, it was very quick indeed. Next it was customs and bio-control! New Zealand is very, very careful about what is brought into the country in the way off foodstuffs and plantlife etc. They are also very careful not to allow soil from other countries in either and thus when our big case went through the scanner the guy spotted my walking boots and asked us to open the case. Fortunately I knew about this regulation and before I packed my boots I had scrubbed them clean! He took one look and smiled then waved us through! We walked through into Arrivals and there was Lindsey waiting to greet us - at last, our New Zealand Odyssey has begun!
We loaded all our stuff into LIndsey's van, settled Clive on a big cushion in the back with the luggage and I got in the front with Lindsey for the drive to her house. We finally all got to bed at 4.00am - Lindsey had to be up for work later that morning, bless!
We have been talking about coming out to New Zealand almost ever since our last trip in 2004, now we are finally here, I can hardly believe it! Hope you will enjoy sharing in our adventures on the blog over the next few months.