Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Zealand Trip: Melbourne-Sydney-Auckland

Thursday 26 August

Yes I went the long way. My day started with a domestic flight from Melbourne to Sydney.

My first ride for today. Qantas 767 300 VH-OGN

My aircraft for this leg was the venerable Qantas 767, when I booked it was supposed to be an A330. I was allocated a seat in the forward economy cabin with all the important business people off for a days work in Sydney, usually I have to slum it down the back. It was an ordinary flight although we took a slightly different route to what I am used to. From what the pilot said we had to slow down due to congestion in Sydney. We made an early left turn and then turned right and headed straight for the coast some way south of Sydney. The usual route is to fly straight past Campbelltown and then commence an 'S' turn over Lucas heights to the Royal National Park and out to sea to line up with one of the parallel runways somewhere off Cronulla (Usually looks a bit like this).

In Flight en-route to Sydney

One highlight for me was watching a Virgin Blue aircraft slowly overtake us, must have been at least 10 kilometres away.

Virgin Blue 737 overtaking us

Arrival at the gate

In Sydney I took the domestic transfer bus to the international terminal. This involves heading to a desk near gate 1 scanning your boarding pass and heading down an escalator to a lounge where you wait for a bus. For Domestic to International transfers on Qantas or from Qantas to a One World partner airline there is no need to collect any luggage and re check it. Having done the trip in reverse last year I knew the ride over would be interesting so I got my camera out. Its like a private tour of Qantas' maintenance hangers. Sadly there were no A380's to be seen anywhere.

Once over at the international terminal you are deposited "landside" and have to pass through passport control and security like any other passenger. That is when I entered shopping world. Not only do you get routed through the Duty Free shops before you reach the gates, you get to walk through what could pass for a Westfield shopping centre if it didn't have aircraft instead of cars in the car park. All tax free of course.

I slowly made my way to the gate which was right at the end of one of the concourses. As I got closer I could see the aircraft hadn't shown up yet. Strange as there was only about 10 minutes to go before boarding. The aircraft for this flight was meant to be one of Qantas's new trans Tasman 737-800s with AVOD (Audio Video On Demand). At the adjacent gate I spotted just such an aircraft, a New Zealand registered Qantas 737-800 but it didn't look like it was going anywhere soon.

Not going anywhere, Qantas 737-800 ZK-QXC
This aircraft should be taking me to Auckland

Sure enough a staff member soon appeared at the desk and soon made an announcement stating that our departure would be delayed due to a faulty aircraft and that boarding would not commence for another 40 minutes. With that I decided to go for a wander, stopping at a window to watch some comings and goings when I spied an aircraft under tow. It was another 737-800, but a regular domestic one. And sure enough it was towed into our gate.

The substitute aircraft for my flight.
737-800 VH-VXP "Logan"
(named after the City of Logan in QLD)

Busy times, a Cathay Pacific A330-300
and Air Pacific 747-400

Unloading containers from the hold of the
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330

There is no mistake here. The classic lines of the Boeing 747

In the background the tail of an Aerlineas Argentinas A340

After wandering a bit more I arrived back at the gate just in time for boarding. I had selected a window seat and thankfully it wasn't a full load, so the middle seat next to me was empty. Soon enough we pushed back and began our taxi. While I was waiting I noticed that a lot aircraft were using the east west runway and we would be no exception. So we taxied back past T2 (the Domestic terminal used by Virgin Blue, Jetstar, Tiger, Rex and Qantaslink) to the end of runway 25 and took off to the west. Our route took us over some familiar Sydney landmarks before heading out over the Tasman.

A quick right turn after take off.
The airport is still visible in upper right.

Sydney Olympic Park.

Also visible are the Flemington markets, the large
sheds in the middle right. Just bellow that are the
Flemington rail workshops, and in the lower right
hand corner is Lidcombe station. The Sydney CBD
is also visible at the top of the photo.

General view over the inner west of Sydney towards
eastern and southern suburbs . Botany Bay and
the airport can be seen as well.

Cool view directly overhead the CBD, the main landmarks
visible are Darling Harbour and Hyde Park.

Approaching Auckland. Typical green
hilly Kiwi North Island countryside.

The flight went really fast and in fact we "made up time", a great piece of airline captain speak that. (Reminds me of the Jerry Sienfelds take on it 5th paragraph). We didn't even get to finish the movie. The flight couldn't have been more than 2 hours. I was off the plane and walking to immigration in no time. The smart gate is a great invention. You don't need to go to a desk and deal with an official in a bad mood, instead you just go to a kisosk, scan your passport, answer some questions and take a ticket Then you approach a gate, insert your ticket, smile for the camera, take your ticket, walk through open gate and away you go. The best bit is that so far it is only available to Australian and New Zealand passport holders. Apparently you can go to a kiosk to get pre clearance before you fly, but I didn't see them in Sydney, or in Auckland on the way back for that matter...

I arrived at the luggage carousel only to find my bag was one of the first off. Can't argue with that for service. Sadly they weren't filming Border Patrol in Auckland that day, but then I didn't do anything wrong so breezed through customs. And with that I was out in public in Aotearoa. First order of business was finding an ATM for some cash. Next was to find the bus to the Auckland CBD.

In a matter of minutes I was on the bus heading for the City. The fare was NZ$18 which compares pretty well with what you would pay in Australia (I worked on approx NZ$1 = AU$0.80). I love that first ride from the airport in a new place always eye opening. Things I noticed were firstly:

  • English style pedestrian crossings black and white stripped pole topped with illuminated yellow bulb. They are classic.
  • Speed limit signs, same as ours except ours are rectangular with red circle painted on. Theirs are just round to start with.
  • Lots of wierd Japanese cars, particularly Toyota and Nissan
  • Bunnings Warehouse, Mitre 10.
  • Countdown supermarket is the same as Woolworths.
  • Saw at least one "The Warehouse - where everyone gets a bargain"
  • Lots of small bottle shops in local shopping strips.

After getting off the bus at the right stop I was quickly checking in to my hotel. The All Seasons Auckland. Conveniently located in Wyndham Street just off Auckland's main drag Queen Street. Up a very steep hill, right next to a sex shop. Great location. Don't be fooled by the name, the All Seasons was a Motel Formulae 1 in a previous life, I'm not sure why Accor changed the name. The photo of the room on the website makes it look a lot larger than it really is, a common problem with hotel websites. However the room was more than adequate for my short one night stay. I would be back latter in my trip for a further two nights, that would be the real test.

Anyway after dumping my stuff I was keen to get out into the fresh Auckland air after spending all day in a/c environments. Deciding to walk down towards the waterfront the first thing I was confronted with was a fight about to break out in front of a bar. Great first impression there. I quickly slipped past

As it was after 7pm by this stage all the shops were closed, and there was very little in the way of food apart from Subway and Burger King. Down at the waterfront I walked around for a while but the area was dead quiet and none of the restaurants really appealed to me. I went back up Queen Street and got take away from Burger King and bought some supplies for the following day from a convenience store. Back in my room I sat up in bed and watched some TV before calling it a night.


Andrew said...

Always enjoy your adventures Ben. Look forward to the rest.

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