The immortal words of Ernest Henry Shackleton

Jan 16, 2020. This is the day we leave New Zealand.

We rode the Skybus to the airport at 7:15 in the morning. It’s almost an hour ride.
Pretty crowded. After a few stops, the driver started refusing passengers with big luggage, as we were starting to clog the aisles.
We were dropped off at the international terminal.

I checked the Chinese leftovers that we had packed from last night. The gai lan with oyster sauce had leaked all over our other food, making all wrappers and boxes greasy and sticky.

What a mess.

I called the shuttle for Economy Car Rentals, and it went to voice mail twice. Then I got a call back from the shuttle driver. He said that he’d be there in 20 minutes, and to stand by door 3 of the international terminal. We kept watching for him, but none of the shuttles said Economy. I asked the airport police whether there might be another door 3. Nope. We called again at 35 minutes, and he said he was coming. Didn’t see him. I spoke with the driver for the Ace rent-a-car shuttle, whether he could tell us what the Economy shuttle looked like. He didn’t know. Actually, it seemed like he didn’t even know the company. Called Economy again at 55 minutes, and he said he was 2 minutes away. Merrianne asked what color his van was, and he said it was an SUV. We tried the middle island instead of the curb, and a red SUV pulled up. It looked like an ordinary car. That was him.

Pretty weird when the shuttle dropped us off at this small lot in an industrial park. The red SUV was what he picked us up in.
Our shuttle driver ran the whole operation himself. He did the paperwork, and brought us our car. That explained the slow service. It’s a penny-ante operation..
A few of the lovely cars they had for hire.

Merrianne did all of the driving. The car designed for left-hand driving means that an American driver often turns on the windshield wipers accidentally instead of the turn signal.

Piece of crap GPS kept falling off the windshield. I finally got out a napkin and water and cleaned the suction cup.

Traffic was slow. I called the Glow Worm tour from the car, advising that we would be late for our 11:30 reservation. They said that they had another tour at 2 pm, but as others were late, too, it would be first-come, first serve. There was no self-guided tour, or way to catch up with an existing tour. 2 pm wouldn’t have worked for us. But we decided we would drive to the entrance, anyway, just to see it.

The number in the red circle is the speed limit, 100 km/h. The other number is our present speed.
One of the many slowdowns was traveling through construction, such as this fresh gravel.
Finally cleared the gravel, and sped up to 100 km/h (60 mph). But look at the traffic going the other way. That will be us on the return trip.

We also made a few wrong turns, at which point the GPS decided to make us go on slow country roads with lots of roundabouts. A human would have just told us to make a U-turn and get back to the highway.

I had calculated the midpoint of our day – the time at which we would have to turn back in order to get to the airport in time. That time was 1:00 pm, or 1:45 pm if we didn’t allow any margin. After 3 hours on the road, we were still perhaps an hour from the Waitomo glowworm caves. The whole distance was supposed to be 2.5 hours, according to Google. I recalled a quote from Ernest Shackleton, when asked whether he regretted turning back after coming within 97 miles of the pole, a decision now revered as one of the wisest ever made by an exlorer: “A live donkey is better than a dead lion, isn’t it?”

We abandoned the mission, and stopped for lunch at a cafe (the weren’t many food places available). Merrianne had avocado toast, and I had a pork and apple burger.
I just took this picture on the way back because Merrianne said the clouds looked like a painting.

Back at the rent-a-car place, the guy used the same car we just rented to shuttle us back to the airport. But first, he took us to a petrol station, where I filled the tank with gas. While we were driving, he got a call on his cell, and told the customer he’d get back to them in 20 minutes. I felt sorry for that customer.

We reached the airport in plenty of time, and decided to go through security togther so that we could have maximum time together before our flights, which were 3 hours apart. Merrianne had forgotten to pack her Manuka honey and Lush body scrub into her checked bag, so those got confiscated.

We had a bit of airport food, and I finished the Chinese leftovers.

At the gate for Merrianne’s plane, which left for Brisbane at about 9 pm. Mine will leave for Hawaii at about midnight. We’re still in good spirits.
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