What would’ve been a pleasant drive from Te Anau back to Queenstown became quite tense at times, and even I wasn’t in the mood to take pictures. Although David was driving, my eyes were also glued to the road, and I held my breath as we negotiated several icy sections, crawling through the passes. We finally made it into Mossburn without mishap. But it was the Devil’s Staircase we were dreading. The switchback road demanded your attention in good weather, never mind bad.
The two-hour drive took three and a half hours, but we arrived safely at the airport in Frankton and survived the bracingly cold wind that cut to the bone as we fast-walked from the rental car lot to the airport terminal.
In the Air New Zealand lounge, I shed some of my layers and stuffed the clothes in my carry-on. It felt good to be warm. We hadn’t packed for such cold weather. We ate lunch in the lounge and caught up on emails or read. Due to strong headwinds, all flights had been delayed, but at least planes were departing.
Two hours after we left Queenstown, we arrived in Auckland. We went straight to the rental car counter and canceled our reserved vehicle. We would need a car the next day but would rent it from the Avis agency in town, a short walk from our hotel. David wasn’t in the mood for the hassle of city traffic, and I wasn’t in the mood to play navigator, not even to get from the airport to our hotel on the quay. We just wanted to sit back and relax, and let someone else complain about rush-hour traffic.
We checked into the Hilton Auckland on the Princes Wharf, dumped our bags in our room, and went down to the Bellini bar for a predinner drink. While we discussed our options for dinner, we grew less and less interested in leaving our hotel to find a restaurant and finally decided on room service. Our room had a balcony that overlooked the harbor and was the perfect alternative to a bustling eatery. We popped the cork on our bottle of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc and sipped our wine on the balcony, watching the lit ferry boats come and go while we waited for our meals to arrive.