This subject has become one of my favorites as I think it so accurately portrays what happens during travel. Life isn’t perfect and no amount of pre-planning, checklists, ocd and wishful thinking is going to prevent things going awry. And when that inevitably happens – it is fodder for some of the funniest stories.
As it turns out, the majority of the NZ WTDGAP moments happened not to me, but to my dear friend Lenore and she has graciously permitted me to tell her stories.
Before I get to those, let me start with a fairly generic WTDGAP occurrence: weather. A remarkable fact: EVERYPLACE I have visited seems to have had weather advisories that stated weather patterns are capricious – sunny and warm one minute – snow flurries the next. New Zealand was no exception.
Officially our visit to Aotearoa was during the beginning of New Zealand’s autumn cycle. One would assume this is an ideal time – mild temperatures, lots of sunshine, and few tourists to clog up hiking trails and points of interest. To be honest – it was as perfect as one could hope. Of course I had to be particularly careful of my skin, as New Zealand has almost zero air pollution and its positioning below an ozone hole makes the sun dangerously strong – so lots of sunscreen, rash guard shirts, hats and sunglasses.
However… one must remember New Zealand’s mountains and those ever-present long white clouds. As north-west winds reach the Southern Alps they have to rise up and around them. Once they hit higher altitudes, the air cools and forms those clouds which then drop lots of rain. You never know what the day will bring – so sun gear and rain gear is carried daily.
But there is more than sun and rain. On the day we set out by gondola to the 1576 foot tall Bob’s Peak in Queenstown (site of the Haka performance) it was cool and a bit drizzly. We got to the peak a bit early so got some cocktails and sat by floor to ceiling windows – but our view was obscured by fog. Then this happened:
In the background you can hear me marveling how no snow had been forecast.
No worries, as the Haka performance was indoors. And the next time weather, in the guise of steady rain interfered with a planned bike ride and boat excursion, we easily transitioned to a winery visit – making wine out of water (bad lemons to lemonade metaphor – forgive me).
The main attraction – or should I called it Lenore’s Trifecta of WTDGAP moments:
1 – THE RING CAPER – This could have been devastating. While neither of us travel with expensive baubles, Lenore does wear a wedding ring set given to her by her late husband. Every night she removed them and put them on the nightstand near her bed. One morning toward the end of our New Zealand journey, Lenore awoke and was understandably distraught when no rings were visible on her nightstand. A frenzied search ensued, with the opening, closing and reopening of suitcases and packing cubes and pants pockets and jacket pockets and backpacks and fanny packs with no discovery. This was not good and tears flowed.
Suddenly – Eureka moment – let’s open the safe where we keep our passports and extra money and sitting there innocently were the rings. I suppose there was some sort of ring vibe going on in New Zealand – after all, it is where “Lord of the Rings” was filmed:
2 – DIY FUTON – A crucially important factor in having a great adventure is a good night’s sleep but since mattresses can have varying levels of softness/firmness at times a person can find herself in a dilemma. The accommodations during my adventures are therefore always top-notch – but even the best places can have a conundrum as we discovered at one of the hotels we stayed at. I loved the cushioned feeling of my bed, but Lenore found hers less so and after a night of fitful sleep and a stiff back, she took matters in her own hands. Ala MacGyver using a mattress top, linens and blankets, Lenore fashioned her own futon and slept blissfully for the remainder of our stay:
3 – HALO GOODBYE – This final story is a heads up to all those who travel internationally – always be aware of what you are carrying into a foreign country – it can cost you. I usually bring some healthy snacks for a long plane trip – nuts, fruit and have never given any thought to whether these items might cause a problem in another country. Lenore also brings snacks and for our long flight to New Zealand she had among other items a couple of Halo oranges.
We received the typical customs forms to fill out which honestly we don’t take very seriously – as many of you may agree – feeling it is more or less a boiler plate blah blah blah that no one really reads. I have had some qualms when re-entering the US after an international visit about mentioning a farm visit or such but I have never thought about what I have going into another country. Sadly, neither did Lenore. This part of the form was answered in the negative:
We should have realized that things weren’t quite right when upon arrival we picked up our luggage, handed in our forms and proceeded to an entry screening area where our luggage and bodies were x-rayed again. After Lenore’s bags went through she was told: “Please step aside, madam.”
At the bottom of her bag there was one lonely Halo orange. It’s was confiscated and Lenore was fined $400NZ ($293US).
New Zealand, as I have mentioned takes biosecurity very seriously and so has many policies in place to protect against invasive elements – whether it be animal species such as rats, stoats and possum to plant or food products that may harbor spores, insects etc that may damage their natural flora and fauna. In previous posts I have written about some of these that we encountered, i.e. rock snot.
They mean business.
Be sure I will thoroughly inspect my bags from this point forward.