Day 1Journal for 2014-10-20 | Published on 2014-10-20 11:46:55
Our New Zealand adventure has begun. Saturday, Matt was in full freak out mode. As we gathered all our supplies and made any last-minute purchases, I attempted to clean the house and get all the chores done before we left. Gwen and Dave came over for dinner, and we ate pizza and talked about how excited and nervous we were. Our flight was going to leave at 10pm, so we had to leave for the airport around 7. We took a moment to think about whether or not we had everything we needed, and once we determined that we were as ready as we could be, we loaded up the truck. Dave was kind enough to drive us to the airport and we were on the way!
Check-in for the flight was a breeze, and we hung around to watch our luggage go through the x-ray, as we were curious if the bags would fit through the machine. They did, but we watched the bike cases get pulled off for extra screening. I’m not surprised, because they’re cases full of metal tubes. We used two of our panniers for carryon bags, which are not the easiest to carry around, but since we didn’t have to go far, so it wasn’t too bad.
Air New Zealand flies out of terminal 2 at LAX, not the new Bradley International Terminal, which we were disappointed about. A second disappointment was the fact that our gate was a remote gate, so after waiting to board, they called us by rows, then we exited to a bus, which took us to the boonies where our plane was. The plane was massive. A Boeing 777-300ER, which I’ve never been on. We were able to look longingly at the business class seats, which fully recline, and the premium economy seats that mostly recline, before we found our seat in the exit row, which cost us $90/per person, with plenty of leg room and no one in front of us.
As we were waiting for the plane to board, I noticed one of the business class flight attendant (more like a butler) going into a cupboard to get some water. He noticed me noticing him, and grabbed a couple bottles and some nice full ear head phones and said, “You weren’t supposed to see me, now I feel bad!” The headphones came in handy over the long flight.
Our flight, which took off around 10 pm LA time, and got into Aukland around 7 am New Zealand Time, ended up being a great time to fly. We were able to eat dinner, then they dimmed the lights for about 8 hours, and then served breakfast. So we at least rested for a full night’s equivalent. It was very cold on the flight due to our proximity to the exit door, but other than that, it was about as comfortable as we could get without spending 3 times or 7 times as much as we paid for our seats.
As we watched the sunrise through the tiny emergency exit window (about the biggest disappointment about the seats, which were great because of the extra leg room, but had no view), I started to get more excited. We were going to New Zealand! And then, as land came into view, it hit me. This is really happening! The flight attendant prepared for landing, sitting across from us, and gave us some good pointers about what to expect in New Zealand. He was from the North Island, and I think there’s a rivalry sort of like Northern and Southern California. He was obviously prejudiced against the South Island, and recommended we skip it altogether and just stay on the North. We were very polite and thanked him for his advice.
Our first order of business was finding the right lane to go through customs. There were several lanes, and none of them were very clear about where we should go. Finally, we found the E-passports line, (they’ve got a symbol like a camera on them) and went to the lane which had self-check out kiosks. You just lay your passport down on a scanner, and answer questions, and it prints you a ticket. Then you go to a stall, where you look at a camera for a few seconds, and you’re good to go. Matt got flagged for extra screening, but that means he got to speak to a customs agent, and actually get a stamp in his passport. I’m kind of disappointed that I don’t have a stamp L After we got our visas, we went down to collect our baggage. There were a lot of people on the flight, and a lot of luggage. Finally, we spotted all our bags, and put them on two carts, and wheeled them over to declarations.
It was a fairly long line, but we got through it, and told the agent about any of our things that had potentially been outside on the ground, like our tent. He was impressed at how clean our shoes were, and asked if our bikes could go off road. We said yes, they could, but I mentioned how they never have, and he was satisfied with that. We took our bags to x-ray, mentioned the tent that had never been set up outside, and they were satisfied with our bags. They didn’t pull anything out to spray. A sniffing dog took a momentary interest in Matt’s bike, but it turned out to be nothing, and we were officially in New Zealand.
We were instructed to drop our bags off at the bag drop, and we decided to have them treated as fragile, so we took them to that section. Then it was pleasant 10 minute walk to the domestic terminal with the sun shining and birds chirping. It was a great introduction to New Zealand.
Domestic NZ security was very simple to go through, and although normally you don’t have to remove your shoes, since we were wearing our cycling shoes with the cleats, they put them through x-ray, and they asked us about them. We had just a few minutes before our flight to Christchurch.
The flight to Christchurch took about an hour, and we got a brief glimpse of the Island before the clouds closed in. Mountain, valleys, rivers, snow-capped peaks. It was all starting to become a reality.
Our Warmshowers host was waiting for us at the passenger pickup area, and we were surprised to find that our 4 bags, and the three of us, were able to squeeze into her hatchback. We made our introductions and asked questions about the city (which has about 350,000 people, so not quite a small town). She brought us to her house, and the sun was shining, and it was lovely and warm. We shared a cup of tea before starting to unpack.
First order of business was to get the bikes back together. It sure is a process, but we started with Matt’s, got his mostly done, and then got a good start on mine before our host called us in for a lovely lunch of tomatoes and cheese and mushrooms, and scones and tea. Delicious. Our host leads a fascinating life, she is very adventurous.
After lunch, we finished putting the bikes back together, and then had to start putting all of our stuff into the panniers and actually testing them out. We were so busy before the trip that we haven’t done a proper shakedown ride, so we were nervous to see if everything would fit and have a place. With just a few adjustments, we found a place for everything, and it looks like everything will work out just fine.
I showered, and then Matt and I walked down to the local grocery to get some food for the next couple days. It’s hard to make the adjustment to NZ dollars, and we’re not sure how much things are supposed to cost, so we don’t know if it’s expensive or not. Matt got a Sim card for his phone, so he’ll be able to make NZ calls and get on the internet if needed. We tried to get fuel for our stove, but unfortunately the stores carrying that close earlier then we are used to, so we’ll have to purchase some before we leave today.
Walking around was an adventure because of the traffic flowing in the opposite directions than we are used to. It is surprising how ingrained it is in us to look left then right, and it is difficult to wrap our heads around some of the traffic patterns. Of course this is going to be essential, and hopefully we catch on very quickly.
We got back to the house, cooked a dinner of pasta, and our host arrived home with a friend, and we had a lovely evening visiting. The plan was to stay up as late as possible, so to minimize jet lag. I think we ended up going to bed around 11 pm. It seemed to work out perfectly, because my body woke me up at 645 am, needing to use the rest room. I think we’re already adjusted to local time. Awesome.
So now we’re up, and I decided that I should probably write this journal entry and let everyone know we arrived safely, our gear is in good working order, and we are ready to start our adventure. It will probably be even colder than we expected, but I think we have the right clothing to keep us warm. We’ve been told that NZ is a country where you can experience 3 seasons in a day, so we’ll try to keep that in mind.
The real adventure begins today.