“I’m leaving, on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again…”

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My life in New Zealand – The flight out

Nov 19th

I’m leaving! So long United States; I am heading to New Zealand to adventure around the mountains, climb the cliffs, and conquer the world. Ok, not actually sure how conquering the world and New Zealand fit together, but you get the idea. I’d been wanting to head to New Zealand ever since I learned that Lord of the Rings had been filmed there, and having my friend Mike move out there in early 2010 only made it worse. To finally be boarding a plane in San Francisco to fly across the Pacific (ok, fly to LA first, but whatever) was an amazing feeling that I’m not going to forget anytime soon.

My flight was split into three phases – first getting to LA to board the jumbo-jet that would fly me to New Zealand, then flying across the ocean to Aukland, and lastly flying from the Northern Island of New Zealand to the Southern Island and landing in Christchurch, where Mike was going to meet me. The first phase went nice and quickly, thanks to having a really fun plane-isle-mate sitting next to me – A professor of healthcare policy at UCLA, who happened to be really into rock climbing and hiking. Her and I chatted about politics and climbing, rock climbing with kids and living in California, and thanks to her the flight was landing in LA before I knew it.

The airport in LA was pretty simple in itself, but as I’ve learned, I have the worst luck with airports and leaving the country… and this flight was no exception. While I was at the gate trying to find out which city in New Zealand I would be going through customs in the airline scanned my passport to check on my visa (since I didn’t have a stamp). Well, they got confused, because “there’s no visa attached to this passport… you can’t enter New Zealand!”. Seriously. Thankfully I had printed out all of the confirmation information I had received from New Zealand, and with that information they were able to call NZ Immigration and check all of my information. The crux of the problem, it turned out, was that the visa was issued to my OLD passport, which had been stolen, and they had not transferred it over to the new one since the USA doesn’t hold information about foreign passports. Luckily I had gone to the help desk early enough, so they were able to work everything out, warning me that I may run into the same trouble in Auckland, but that all I needed to do was tell them the same story and it would be pushed through. I got the names of all the folks who helped me (hold-over from Sao Paulo – I learned that you should ALWAYS get the names of people, in case you need to call them out later) and boarded the plane to the Islands of the Kiwis’!

**Note – New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis’, so its not an insulting term like other national “nicknames” are. The more you know! **

Whew… a 13 hour flight is not a short flight, let me tell you. Fortunately I had prepared for this length of flight, and in my bag I had books, my laptop, lots of music for my headphones to blare into my ears, but most importantly I had a big bottle of Melatonin to help me pass out for most of the flight. I wrote for a while, read for a while, and ate for a while… and oh my lord did I eat. New Zealand air has AMAZING food… and free wine! I had figured out the time change for New Zealand, and decided that sleeping the last few hours of the flight would be the best way to make sure I didn’t have too much jet lag, and so after the meal I took a melatonin and curled up in the blankets to pass out for a few hours.

Sleeping through a flight does make the time go by, I’ll admit, but it also leaves you with a rather painful crick in your next. I spent the last hour of the flight reading and trying to stretch my neck back out, having only marginal success with either one thanks to the distraction of trying to to both… and the amazing scenery that I was seeing below me. New Zealand is… amazingly beautiful, to say the least. The land that we were flying over looked like the mountains of New Hampshire, except fully covered in grass and small trees with herds of sheeps grazing all over them. Amazing, to say the least.

After we landed in Auckland I brought myself through the gauntlet of immigration, which was just as difficult and annoying as predicted, thanks to my new passport. Fortunately all that needed to be done was filling out a few extra forms, talking to a few extra people, and waiting about a half hour extra… so it gave me a chance to relax and read a bit more after the flight. Once everything was sorted out I hauled my bags through customs, went through all of their bio-hazard screening (since I had outdoors gear) and finally made my way to the next terminal. I was actually feeling pretty good at this point, thanks to the nap I had taken on the plane, and so I walked the long way between terminals. A cool thing about New Zealand (or at least Auckland) is that the airport is large and sectioned off into multiple terminals, accessable by walking between the different buildings. So I took my time walking between the sections, admiring the plants and taking a few pictures of cool views.

Once I got to the next terminal I relaxed and cruised through the next stage of the flight; finally landing in Christchurch around noon New Zealand time. I chatted with my isle-mate while waiting for my bags to get through (he was a personal trainer specializing in Triathlons, cool stuff about training and working out), and once I had everything back in my arms I just hung out and enjoyed the scenery while waiting for my buddy Mike to get here after his classes were over.

It wasn’t a long wait, and before long Mike and I were driving down the street (on the wrong side… damn British Empire and your obsession with driving on the left) towards his place, and my next new adventures!

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