AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND — Today’s the day we left the United States. We gave our shoes and boots a final cleaning and then caught our 7 a.m. shuttle to the Honolulu airport. We had to get our boarding passes from an attendant, since we booked a one-way ticket and New Zealand really wants to make sure we don’t overstay our welcome! So we had to show our ticket from Christchurch to Melbourne, luckily also on Air New Zealand.
Air Zealand is one of those airlines where economy feels like first-class. We got a hot dinner, with lilikoi sorbet for dessert and a selection of New Zealand wines and beer, and then a lunch. In between, we watched nature films about New Zealand to get ready for our hiking, paddling and exploring.
The best thing about flying to New Zealand from Hawaii: Because we crossed the International Date Line on the way, there’s only one hour (and one day) difference. Which is to say, there’s no jet lag.
We were a little worried about getting through the airport, because New Zealand is very strict about seeds, plants and other biological contaminants that could affect their ecosystem. In specific, we were worried about the infamous beagles that sniff the luggage.
We never saw them, maybe because we declared our camping gear and were pulled aside to a special area, where they inspected our boots and made us hand over our tent, stakes and poles to be X-rayed in the lab. Not declaring used camping gear alone would have cost us a $400 fine!
We thought we’d pass with flying colors, but when we got the results 20 minutes later, they’d found a trace of dirt. Dang.
Then we picked up our car, an ancient Nissan Sunny with 175,000 km on it. It was an automatic, and at first Torsten was disappointed, but after a short while behind the wheel, he was glad he didn’t have to worry about driving on the left side AND shifting.
We missed our exit and drove through Auckland on city streets, which was an adventure: Left was the new right, and more than once, Torsten activated the windshield wipers when he meant to signal a lane change — classic!
Our Airbnb host, Gill, seemed nice, and we chatted a bit in the spacious kitchen over wine and tea. The conversation eventually turned to the orange-haired man with the big ego and the effect of New Zealand’s booming tourism industry on locals — in Gill’s view, both negatives. It was an interesting, if a bit depressing conversation.
Either way, we arrived in New Zealand ready to explore … and without jet lag.