1992 Round World

Crossing the mighty Pacific Ocean

14 May 1992 Air New Zealand 1 London Gatwick to Los Angeles, Business

For the third time, we will take the Pride of the Pacific across the Atlantic. Before we do, it's time to check in. The amount of baggage we have has by now reached nightmare proportions. I cannot be sure, but perhaps eight pieces of checked luggage, five of which have just been retrieved from London Euston left luggage office, one from London Victoria Red Star office, containing items we had left behind at our last port of call. Together we struggled to get this lot up the stairs and escalator to the Central London Air Terminal and waited to check in. All passengers to the United States had to report to security and clear baggage first. We did that and then collected our boarding passes and First Class tickets on the Gatwick Express. After that, we took our time before going to the airport, before going through the security checks there and boarding the flight. With everybody in good health but very tired, I cannot think of much to say about the long flight to Los Angeles. Air New Zealand offers a good service which lacks any motivation for criticism. The food on this sector was, so far as I remember, the first on a long-haul flight which I have ever consumed in its entirety. Whether this reflects good food or hunger I cannot say.

Immigration and customs were as usual. After that, it was time to negotiate the wilds of Los Angeles streets, where we caught the Airport Shuttle to Anaheim. We were to spend five days in Anaheim at Disneyland, a place which would be of much more appeal to a three year old child than it had been two years earlier. I can recommend the Ramada Maingate Hotel, although there are obviously many more just as good in the area. Los Angeles had suffered street riots in the weeks leading up to our visit, but we saw no evidence of any damage at all while we were there.

I recall the Liverpool riots of 1981, which were in a very small area, yet resulted in people in Africa who had heard news that Liverpool was burning from end to end telephoning people about thirty kilometres away from the riots to check that they were safe.

To return to Anaheim, our impressions of Disneyland were different in a longer visit. We enjoyed Disneyland very much on our first visit, and now had two children. One was now almost three years and the other almost one year. Our sons, it seemed, would be at the age where Disneyland appeals. I suspect that with the right frame of mind, it appeals to everybody in some way, if only they can put aside any prejudices they have. As I mentioned in 1990, there is so much more than the characters. It is very hard to do justice to the place in a few lines or even a few pages, and to do more than that would lead to a very uneven narrative of my journeys. Those who dislike the cartoon characters should avoid Fantasyland. Those who dislike the United States would do well to walk briskly up Main Street USA. There are views and rides for all, but a book about the place would be better for you than my thoughts here. One day, I hope to have visited all four of the Disneyland theme parks, in Orlando, Tokyo, Anaheim and outside Paris.

19 May 1992 Air New Zealand 5 Los Angeles to Auckland, Business

Travelling to the airport and back to the real world, it was already quite late, and after we had checked in, we were again grateful for the Club Pacific lounge at Los Angeles. It still offered vast choice of cheese, biscuits, soft and hard drinks and juices. Cranberry juice is almost unobtainable outside the United States, we are told. It is, however, well worth drinking, and above all is supposed to be very good for you.

Again the flight tells its own story by my silence. Overnight flights never have much to say, especially the good ones. After breakfast, we arrived in Auckland, which was not hot, as one might say. Travelling again to the Auckland City Travelodge, the journey was as we might expect, but colder. The only slight hiccup we encountered was that they had no record of our reservation. Fortunately, we did. We were put in a room straight away, and very grateful we were too. Furthermore, having arrived just after 7a.m., we were not charged for the night just gone. This was good news for us. The next two nights we did spend there, and they were as good as any, considering the problems jet-lag has to offer. It didn't stop us going to some swings and to McDonalds on the United Airlines bus. This time we weren't to visit Kelly Tarlton's, however. The following day went on a coach trip to Waitomo caves, a natural wonder of New Zealand, where many thousands of glow-worms light up an otherwise dark underwater cavern. That doesn't sound much, but you should see what it's like before you judge. We didn't do much more except eat and sleep before it was time to go back to Vanuatu.

23 May 1992 Air Vanuatu 52 Auckland to Port Vila, Business

Having arranged a minibus to take us to the airport, there seemed to be little problem possible. Air Vanuatu check-in desks, we are told in all the leaflets, are to be found in the part of the terminal looked after by Air New Zealand, so it was here we were dropped off. One desk had the Air Vanuatu logo, and below it in lights were the words Check in at Qantas. So it was a bit like Hong Kong, and we trailed across the terminal to find the right place for checking in. The Qantas area had many check- in desks, but only two of them were for Air Vanuatu. Not being one keen to stand in long queues, I asked one of the Qantas officials where the Air Vanuatu Business Class check-in was located. He said that I could check in at his desk, and after a few keys on the keyboard we were furnished with our boarding passes as our luggage disappeared. As a bonus which I hadn't been expecting, he gave us invitations to the Air New Zealand lounge. Why he did this is not clear: we were not travelling with Air New Zealand and there is no formal arrangement between the two carriers. It seems most likely that we had been identified as regular Air New Zealand customers.

Whatever the reason, here was our chance to find out about the lounge which has been praised so highly by so many people. I found it quite average. It is a large lounge with a good view of the departure gates, but frankly has little to mark it out as special. Of course it is large: it is a major airline's major lounge. This does not in itself make it good. The supply of drinks is good: the supply of food is not. I do not put it in the same category as the Club Lounge at London Gatwick, nor in the same category as the Air New Zealand lounge at Los Angeles.

Soon, it was time to board the flight, so we did. Business Class was again fairly empty: apart from my family there were two other passengers in the cabin, both known to me as friends from Vanuatu, both employed in the aviation business and consequently not paying the full fare. It made for an interesting flight, and was also the first one since the outward journey on the same route on which we were able to visit the flight deck.

Before too much more time had passed, it was time to return to the earth. Vanuatu from the air is a beautiful sight, especially when it is home. Even so, it takes time to clear immigration and customs, but when we had done so, we were again met by friends. Friends count for a great deal for expatriates, because the family and other previous friends are such a long way away. Twelve thousand miles is reckoned to be the figure. Since last seeing our friends in Vanuatu, however, we had flown a total of twenty-nine thousand, one hundred and seventy-five miles.

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