Our First Day in Zed

It’s cool to be in the Residents line for Customs, even though the wait is a drag. With our three trolleys of bags and bikes, we’re directed to inspection by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to make sure we aren’t bringing in any foreign matter on our gear. As I am explaining how carefully I cleaned everything since I knew we would go through this, the inspector picks off a blade of grass from a hiking pole.

We are forced to wait even longer while our poles, tent and boots go to some back room to be examined further. The inspector, an older blonde lady, helps push a trolley along as we are obviously burdened by all our trappings and she ‘doesn’t have anything better to do’. Fortunately nothing is confiscated so my cleaning job must have been acceptable.

Not surprisingly, the belongings won’t fit in the economy car we rented. The rental company fishes out a Subaru wagon for the same price and we are barely able to stuff everything inside it. Hurtling along the motorway we miss the turn to Auckland and find the road while meandering around side streets.

Once in town we can’t find the hotel. It’s one block past Grafton Road and when we get to the next block; it isn’t the street name we’re expecting. Around and around we go, wondering what they had done with the street the hotel is on. A resolute look at the map shows there are two Grafton Roads and we drive on to the second one to find the hotel standing right where the directions lead.

The hotel that I had meticulously researched and booked because of all the accoutrements they touted at such a reasonable price turns out to really suck. The elevator smells of stale B.O. trapped in the PVC pipe they had hung in some sort of mod decorative statement gone wrong. All the Asian students party there, cooking fish and giggling loudly to the wee hours of the morning. Internet is advertised, but not offered. Parking is nowhere to be seen and charged at eight dollars an hour when we do find it. We are, however, notified of an upgrade to a 2 bedroom with kitchen upon check-in.

We are desperately trying to get our affairs together; opening a bank account, trying to get a SIM for our U.S. phone to no avail, checking out some campers online at the library we want to look at, and other meaningless boring necessities.

Walking the same few blocks we get bullied by the wind; watching trees, signs, and other large detritus tumble down the road. Cars are veering and having trouble sticking to a straight line from the gusts.

International Flying – Unconscious Style

What a mess we have around us. All the gear that we’ve drug across the country is now spread around the floor of our friend’s apartment in Hermosa Beach. With the hazy conviction that comes from drinking the beers always necessary in any move, we’ve jumbled things in to four large piles of rubble sorted by weight and are busily stuffing it in to the check-in bags, trying to keep the weight of each the same.

It’s all zipped up and Dan and Danielle come home to whisk us off to LAX. It’s a very short distance away but with all the world’s hostilities I want to get there at the recommended three hours prior to departure to ensure we make it through any checks for contraband, like shampoo that someone might try to smuggle in its original bottle and delay the whole process.

The line is about four people long and we can see the airplane we’ll be riding on from the street. We get our boarding passes and our luggage checked in. We’re a little over the allowance, but so close we don’t get charged the extra weight, just the third baggage charge for our bikes. Outside I can see Dan and Danielle in a constant embrace, faking a long farewell to keep the cops from making them move the car. With passes in hand we find a hotel with Dan driving and order drinks and some appetizers.

Our theory for comfortable international air travel is simple. Find the best seats available for the plane on SeatGuru, keep drinking throughout the day, and after the first movie pop in an Ambien and say goodbye to consciousness for awhile. This theory is proven well. We have plenty of leg room, the rest rooms are right there, and we spread out in our seats on the last row. I can’t make it through ‘Click’ and Erica is not doing any better with ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ so she fishes out the sleep medicine. Are we landing all ready? Neither of us twitched until the pilot announced landing in New Zealand.