My Mother in Law, kids, and I were supposed to fly out of Wellington on Sunday morning, very early, so I thought the best course of action would be to drive down on Saturday, spend the afternoon in Te Papa, enjoy a hotel room for the night, and have a nice, short drive to the airport. Well, the first part of my plan went off without a hitch. We spent a lovely afternoon exploring Te Papa. My MIL really enjoyed the exhibits, and loved watching the kids play in all of the exploration areas. We got a nice hotel room and actually all got to bed at a fairly decent hour, though Ceirdwyn didn’t seem to want to sleep much. We were up bright and early…well before sun-up…to drive to the airport. And that’s where things started to go downhill.
We found out in Wellington that MIL’s ticket had been booked with no checked bags, and she had to pay an over-priced fee to check her bag. Wrangling all three kids was also a chore…it was WAY too early for them to be up and they were NOT in a good mood. It was rather stormy in Wellington that day, so takeoff was rough. That didn’t bode well for MIL, who has serious motion sickness issues. Otherwise, the flight wasn’t too terrible.
We arrived in Auckland and had a REALLY long layover. We were going to be spending most of the day there. We ate and found a play area for the kids. My MIL napped a bit while they played. When we got to our 2-hours-before-takeoff window we went to check in. The line was long and the kids were not sitting still. We got up to the counter and I found out that we “weren’t allowed to enter Australia because we didn’t have visas.” I think I must have turned completely white (not that I’m not already about as pale as you can get). MIL had already checked in with no issues, so I was completely blind sided by this. I thought that having a vacation visa was something I would have had to get back in the US and that we were now stuck in Auckland with no way to get back to Wanganui and no way to get to Australia and and and… I think the man behind the counter must have realized what a tailspin he put me in because he quickly let me know that I could buy visas THERE at the airport. It would only cost us $30 per person (that’s $120, y’all). It took another half hour or so for them to get the visas into our passports and we were finally ready to go through security. At that point we were informed that we had to fill out exit sheets. That took up another 20 minutes or so. Finally on to the x-ray machines, where there was another long line, and we always need extra time for security checks because Zollie’s meds have to be hand checked. By the time we made it out of security we had to literally RUN to get to the gate. They started boarding about a minute after we walked up. I’ve never been so relieved in my life!
Once on the plane, we found out seats, stowed our things, and buckled in. And waited. And waited. Eventually we were told that there were a couple of planes ahead of us and that we would be departing “shortly.” I think “shortly” doesn’t mean the same thing to a pilot as it does to a mother who has a 1 yo strapped to her with one of those idiotic infant-seatbelts. (Spin-off: Seriously, what is WITH those?? They dont’ stay tight, and honestly, if I was in a crash, I would rather her be in the mei tai. It is infinitely more secure than that dumb seatbelt!) Finally we got up into the air, almost an hour behind schedule. We were then informed that the flight, which was supposed to take about 3 hours, was going to now take over 4 hours because of a very strong headwind. I think that might have been the very moment that my sanity began to break.
Keep in mind that we were supposed to arrive at the airport before The Doc, his dad and sister, and were supposed to get our bags and then go wait at their gate for them to arrive. At this point we would be arriving about an hour and a half AFTER them. Ug.
Finally, eventually, at about 11pm, we arrived in Melbourne. The boys had slept a bit on the plane, but Ceirdwyn didn’t which means that I didn’t either. Everyone was a whiney mess as we made our way to Customs. When we got there, we discovered that we had no contact info while we were in the country. I had no idea what hotel we were supposed to stay in. After some negotiation and tears (literally, y’all…I cried in front of the Customs officer) he said I could put down The Doc’s cell number. Whew. We were through!
I went to an information desk to find out what time The Doc’s flight had arrived. We had hoped he would figure out we were late and come to our gate, but he was not there. I finally decided that we should just go to where he told us to go int he first place, and lo and behold, there was The Doc, smiling and walking towards us! Since my wedding day I don’t think I’ve been more relieved to see that man in the place where he was supposed to be. I think my first words to him were something like, “I will NEVER fly with these kids again without you!” Anyway, we found FIL and SIL and then had to figure out transportation. That took another hour or so and by this time it was about 1am. The kids were a mess. I was a mess. I just wanted to lay down somewhere! There is more to this story, but it involves me totally losing my cool and acting in a horrible manner for which I have apologized, so let’s just jump ahead to the good part…we FINALLY made it to our room!
We stayed in a neat little apartment type place. We had a suite and next door were MIL, FIL and SIL. We crashed. Hard. The next morning, we walked down the street to a grocery store and bought enough food for the three days we would be there. On Monday, we drove out to a Fairy Penguin colony. You can sit on bleachers by the beach and at sunset, the penguins come ashore and waddle across the dunes to get to their burrows. They are so. cute! But we couldn’t take pictures of them because the flash would scare them. I do have one picture from inside the info center, which I believe sums up the way everyone was feeling after Sunday’s ordeal:
We spent the next day exploring Melbourne. My MIL really wanted to see where The Doc had lived and gone to school when he spent a semester at the University of Melbourne back in 1999. We walked around town, saw the amazing market place, walked by his old apartment, and toured the campus. It was quite chilly, but a really lovely city. One place The Doc showed us was a mall. The mall was built around an old building which I believe was some sort of mill. In the center of the mall, the old building still stands – it’s quite odd to see a building within a building!
Just across from the old building was the thing we REALLY came to the mall to see. The singing clock. My MIL’s favourite song is “Waltzing Matilda” because her father used to sing it to her often. When The Doc was first in Melbourne, he told his mother that there was a clock that sings “Waltzing Matilda” every hour – so we knew we had to see it.
On the hour, the clocked opened up and played the song, while the parts moved and danced. It was fantastic! (and that’s a big clock, too! That rail it is in front of is the guard rail for the balcony, so that’s probably 3 feet high, making the clock 10ft+ in diameter).
While in Melbourne, we also went to the zoo because MIL and FIL didn’t want to leave Australia without having seen a real, live kangaroo! And they were not disappointed! The kangaroo/emu area of the zoo was an open format. You just walked through the gate into that area, and all of the roos and emus were free roaming. You could get right up next to them!
And some of the other neat animals we got to see:
An echidna – one of the VERY few egg laying mammals!
Terribly adorable koala!
kookaburra – if you’ve never heard a kookaburra laugh, click here.
Before we said goodbye to both Melbourne AND my in-laws, we took a few last pictures of Melbourne at night. This is a shot of a mini Eiffle Tower that is all lit up.
We had such a fantastic time with The Doc’s family, and we are so blessed that they got to come see us and stay as long as they did! It was so hard saying goodbye at the airport (and also very rushed, as they had an early flight and we were running a bit behind.) We praise God that we had a wonderful visit and that everyone got home safely.