While still in York River, Jenny took a side trip to New Zealand
Trip Back to NZ
Although the boat was given an 8 month cruising permit when we arrived in May, my US visa only allowed me to stay six months in the country, after which I had to leave for a “genuine absence” before returning. The definition of this was vague, and seemed to vary depending on who you talked to at US Immigration, and also other foreign passport holders.
We talked about taking few days trip to Canada, or the Caymans, or Mexico, but after pricing flights, hotels, meals etc., it turned out to be cheaper for me to use my existing ticket back to Auckland, enabling me to spend time with my mum, catch up with some friends, reconnect with my work colleagues at AMP, and arrange some medical appointments.
My existing itinerary started in Ft Lauderdale so I needed to fly from Virginia to there, to pick up my connection through to Houston and on to Auckland, then Christchurch. Ted drove me to Richmond airport to start my 30 hour trip back to NZ. Flights were smooth, and on the 14 hour sector on Air NZ from Houston to Auckland I scored three seats to myself and was able to get a great night’s sleep.
Coming out of the international terminal at Auckland I’d intended to walk the short distance to the domestic terminal but it was cold, and I took the bus instead, checked in and went to the Air NZ Koru Lounge where I was able to hang out enjoying their big breakfast buffet and a couple of decent cappuccinos. I figured I would see some familiar faces there, it is always a who’s who of Auckland business, and sure enough I bumped into an old boss from EY who was travelling to Queenstown with other EY partners. He had heard of our adventures from our good friend Gordon, who is a regular golfing buddy of Andrew’s.
I should have thought to switch to an earlier flight to Christchurch, as I watched three flights board and leave ahead of me, but in the end my flight took off and landed on time, and it was good to finally get out of an airport and see my mum waiting there for me.
Visiting Christchurch always produces a mixture of emotions for me. It was my home town for 30 years before I moved to London, and I guess in some ways is still home. But the city that I grew up in has gone after the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, which obliterated almost all of the old buildings that gave Christchurch its distinctive English character. This included my old high school, which at the time I attended, was located in the central city in number of old stone buildings. Although the rebuild has now started, and there are new, low rise, earthquake resistance buildings rising from the debris, much of the city is still derelict, and some buildings still stand mangled and decaying – seven years on.
But my time in Christchurch was to see family and to spend time with my mother who is still relatively fit and healthy at 86. I had only two days in Auckland, staying with Gordon two nights while spending a day at AMP. My last full day in Auckland was filled with medical appointments but had a great break at lunch where I met up with my former manager at AMP – Fleur, who was still on parental leave. We enjoyed a glass of wine laughing about the fact it was the day of the AMP Scholarships dinner which was always a frantic day for us in the office.
My last evening in NZ was spent with our good friends and old neighbours, Pete and Reg, out in Beach Haven. They cruised their sailboat from Canada to NZ many years ago and we had a great evening reminiscing about their travels and ours.
Unfortunately by this time the cold weather in NZ had taken its toll on me and I’d picked up a throat infection. I’d picked up some antibiotics and started taking them but my flight back to San Francisco was pretty miserable, and I arrived feeling awful. This was frustrating as I’d routed through SFO to see my bestie Jill. I took the train out towards Oakland where Jill met me and took me to their fabulous new house which they had bought only a few months earlier. Fortunately Jill had arranged a quiet few days and we spent time together either at the house or watching Jackson’s soccer games.
I had a full day of travel from SFO back to Virginia, and still feeling rough I was glad to see Ted at the airport and head back to Southern Star.
Before leaving for NZ I had wondered if it would feel like I was back home in either Christchurch or Auckland. I had similar thoughts when I lived for so many years in London. And while Auckland felt familiar, and parts of Christchurch did as well, when I stepped back on board Southern Star after two weeks away, this felt like home.
When I was in NZ, I found some people were very interested in what we are doing, the highs and lows, our adventures and plans, while others showed no interest. It is hard to explain to people what this life is like – it is our dream, but it isn’t everyone’s dream.
Right now, I cannot imagine living anywhere else, or doing anything else, than what Ted and I are doing right now. We feel so fortunate that we can lead this life, but remind ourselves that it has come after years of planning and saving. We know it could end at any time – one of us could have health issues, we could run out of money, or something might happen to us or the boat. That makes the experience all the more precious and exciting, and makes us even more thankful for each other, and for Southern Star.