Thursday, 26 April and we have now been in the UK for 2 days. Just about recovered from jet lag and the Landie is with Gumtree 4×4, our local Land Rover specialist, for final modifications. The fitting of a snorkel, new shock absorbers and a secure, lockable box for valuables being the main ones.
Our journey did not, however, start well. We live just about at the end of the runway in Rotorua, so never leave much time for checking-in. On arrival last Tuesday, we were met by new check-in machines which issued Dennis’s boarding passes without any problem. I received a slip of paper asking me to contact a member of Air New Zealand’s staff. On enquiring what the problem might be with issuing my boarding passes, I was advised it was “because I have a British passport!”A further member of Air New Zealand’s staff was summoned and 10 minutes of puzzlement ensued. Eventually I was asked if I had a copy of my ESTA (Electronic Service Travel Authority for the USA). I did and knew it was valid until October, 2018. The light then dawned, and horror with it, as I realised I had just renewed my passport and so the passport number on the ESTA did not match my new passport. This meant I could not travel. We returned home and I submitted a new application for my ESTA and checked my emails every few minutes to see if the new one had been approved. Being unable to sleep for worrying, I got up at 3am to check again and found, with much relief, the approval had come through.
The following morning I called Air New Zealand to try and rebook our flights for that evening. This was successfully achieved, but at considerable expense. A hard learned lesson. Second time around we had no problem at check-in and thought we were on our way. The time for the incoming flight from Auckland came and went and concern once again raised it’s head. Then texts from Air New Zealand were received telling us our flight would be delayed by 20 minutes due to the late incoming aircraft. We already had a tight connection and the last time we travelled to San Francisco we had a similar delay and finished up being re-routed via Los Angeles, our least favourite airport. We rushed like mad things from the domestic to the International Terminal and fortunately got through passport control and security quickly. All was well until we reached San Francisco. While waiting in an immense queue at immigration, an announcement came over the tannoy asking Dennis Brown to go to the Air New Zealand desk. Once we reached the immigration desk and having heard the call several times, we ascertained that it was the desk in the baggage reclaim area. What could be wrong? Perhaps some of the oddities in Dennis’s case – tools, various bits for the Land Rover, a catapult and a bag of marbles, could they suspect they were dangerous? Soon we discovered that this was not the case, the bag had not been loaded and was still in Auckland! A promise was made to deliver it to us the next day. This happened but not until 10pm and much chasing.
Our Virgin flight San Francisco/Heathrow was comparatively uneventful, This unfortunate start is now becoming a distant memory with the excitement of preparing for the next part of our journey.