Today began very early (for me anyway). I woke up at 6, made and ate breakfast and finished packing the clothes that were still drying when I went to bed 5 1/2 hours earlier. When I checked in last night they said that passengers with checked luggage needed to be at the airport 90 minutes before boarding and no checked luggage 60 minutes before boarding. I was a little surprised by this since it was an international flight and I had luggage to check (I expected 2 hours) but it said 90 minutes, so there you go.
Rick came downstairs and I told him 90 minutes and he said we would leave at 7:15 to give ourselves some extra time. My flight was at 10:15 and the drive to the airport is usually 1 – 1:15 so leaving at 7:15 gave us an hour and a half. Good deal.
We got on the road and everything was going well for about 10 minutes. Then we came to a 4 lane road with traffic as far as you could see and Rick said, “Ok, so it’s going to be one of those days”. Long story short, we arrived at the departures terminal at 9:15! Rick did the best he could but there was absolutely no where to go so it took almost 2 hours to get there! When we passed the 90 minute before boarding mark I thought, “ok, my bag may not arrive with me but I can just get it later”. Now, when we passed the 60 minute before boarding mark I thought, “ok, not only is my bag not going to make, I’m not going to make it”.
So Rick pulled up and we said our goodbyes and thank you (I huge thank you to Rick for driving me!!!) and I started running. Of course the Emirates check-in counter was at the other end so I was hurdling little old ladies and children and doing spin moves around old men with walkers and families pushing strollers. I turned the corner at the Emirates desk and they were removing the temporary posts for the lane markers and closing everything up and my heart sank. There was one lady standing at a counter with probably 15 check-in stations (all vacant) so I ran to her. She asked if I was on this flight, what my last name was and if I had checked in on-line. I said yes and asked if I could still check in. She said we were seconds away from closing, but we can check you in.
If I had been 60 seconds later she would have been gone and I would not have made the flight! Ok, even for me this is getting CRAZY! (reference the other what, 5 times this exact thing has happened on this trip…the latest being the ferry to Bruny Island). So she hurriedly checked me in and took my bag. Ok, first step complete, but for any of you who fly through major airports you know I am far from out of the woods (especially for an international flight).
So next I run the 3 miles (what it seems like) to stand in the customs line (or queue as they call it in AU). No normally this moves pretty fast for US citizens (and some other countries) in AU due to the electronic facial recognition they use; however, today they were having issues with the system and for those unfortunate enough to get a machine that was having issues (me of course) they put us into another line for manual processing. Are you freakin’ kidding me!!!! 🙂
So I finally made it through customs and then proceeded to the security line. Fortunately that did not take too long and I was once again hurdling small children and farm animals (ha ha, just wanted to see if you were paying attention) as I ran the 15 miles (again, what it seemed like) to the gate. And of course, the gates went from 1 – 63 and my flight was at….anyone….anyone….wrong, it was not 63 but you were close….it was at gate 61!
So I finally made it to my gate about 5 minutes before they started boarding…yay!
As for the flight, it was really good. In spite of the fact that someone (who wasn’t even sitting in my isle) brought a backpack the size of a small car (seriously) and took up all the overhead storage. Why do they allow people to bring carry-ons the size of a hot water tank….seriously, why? Oh well. It was a very smooth flight, the food was good and I had just enough time (2:30 hours) to watch a movie. All in all a pretty good way to spend an afternoon. 🙂
We landed on time and deplaned fairly quickly….Welcome to New Zealand! I have to say this was kind of funny to me…..I walked off the plane and through the tunnel and when I looked out at New Zealand through the first window I came to I saw 3 US Air Force planes…..
Along side our Emirates 777….
So I proceeded to customs and while they had the facial recognition systems for AU and NZ citizens all other counties had to go through the manual line. 🙁 That took a while. After that I proceeded to the next line, the declaration line. Those who travel internationally know this but over the past 10-15 years many countries have become very concerned (as well they should be) with what potential bio hazards travelers may unknowingly (or knowingly) be bringing into their country. So in most countries you cannot bring any fresh or unprocessed produce, meats, grains, nuts, etc. and they are very interested where you’ve been and if you’ve come in contact with any farm animals or even the ground where farm animals or wild animals (have you hiked in the wilderness) live.
So the customs and declaration lines are pretty common. But I did have something today that I have not seen before. There was a third line where you had to wait and have all of your luggage x-rayed. Now, this of course is standard before you board a flight. But I have never had my luggage x-rayed after I’ve flown and arrived at my destination. Apparently they do it to look for any food items that you may have in your luggage that you did not claim. They, they’re pretty serious about keeping out food born insects and diseases.
So I finally made it through the NZ airport gauntlet, got some New Zealand dollars and found my bus to get to my room for the night. After about a 50 minute bus ride and a 10 minute walk I arrived at my room for the night. After greeting my host and getting a tour of the place I walked to a Mexican restaurant and had some dinner. And as luck would have it this just happened to be “open mic” comedy night at Alvarados Mexican Cantina. So I sat, ate my dinner and listened to some (mostly) bad jokes. ha ha It’s funny because, while they do speak “English” here some of their accents are so thick and with their local saying I can’t understand some of them. But regardless it was still a good time and I enjoyed listening to all the references to the US and the jokes about American politics….one candidate in particular but I won’t say who (I’m sure you can guess). 🙂
And for those keeping track I am now 18 hours ahead of US EST (it was 16 in Sydney).
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