We Made It To New Zzzzzzzzzz..........

Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
Trip End Mar 19, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, January 15, 2011

The week leading up to the trip was a typical one for me. I worked through the day whilst my evenings were filled with checking off final details. Katie, on the other hand, had a very eventful week. Seeing as she was already on her leave of absence, she spent her hours updating itineraries, printing documents, and cleaning the apartment from top to bottom (and that's not an exaggeration!). She's the best. We also found some time to get a haircut. Mine was just a trim while Katie’s was an extreme chop, leaving only a mop top behind. Absolutely adorable.

So finally, after two years of researching and planning and booking, the day arrived. It was hard to believe, actually. We’d both fought minor bouts of anxiety about our trip over the past few weeks. For two months we would be out of our comfort zone. You’d think neither one of us would have slept the night before our flight to New Zealand, but that wasn’t the case. Thankfully, we were both utterly exhausted and had no trouble getting some shut eye.

In the morning we rolled out of bed and awoke to a gorgeous sunny day in southern California. So gorgeous, in fact, that it almost seemed a shame to leave. Almost.

It seemed our worries had abandoned us overnight. With methodical joy, we stripped the bed, loaded the laundry, and washed the dishes for the last time, all with a slight spring in our step. Katie made some farewell phone calls in the bright morning sunshine while I laid on the bed and did the same, all the while relaxing in the warm breeze blowing through the apartment.

We feasted on a scrumptious breakfast at Bee Bee’s with our friend Margaret. She'll be checking our mail and exploiting our washer/drying while we’re away (What’s ours is yours, M!). With food on the brain, snacks were quickly purchased for our flight over the Pacific. We told Margaret a few more important details regarding our apartment. Avoid the mice. Don’t shower on Tuesdays. You know, the usual stuff. Finally, 4 P.M. clicked into place and it was time to go. We’d estimated getting to the airport approximately three hours before departure. Some may think this excessive, but as I mentioned before, you’re dealing with Girl Scouts here.

As we made our way to the car, bags in tow, Margaret was given the task of taking our first official trip photos. We were giddy with joy. Fourteen years of wanting this trip and we were finally making it a reality. Life was good.

A fast zip down to LAX, some quick goodbyes, and we rolled up to the V Australia terminal with enthusiasm. The first thing I noticed about the check-in gate were the lights: Purple and red. They glowed softly from behind the counters. The second thing I noticed was the music: R&B. It pumped out from hidden speakers as though we were in a singles bar. As soon as Beyoncé started singing "Halo" I was hit with a realization – we’d unwittingly booked a flight on "Soul Plane."

Virgin America (and in this case it’s affiliate, V Australia) was one of those newfangled airlines that catered toward a hipper crowd. Who knew we were so cool? I certainly didn’t. Seriously though, the airline workers were literally dancing behind the counters while helping people. This was no Continental.

The briefest moment of dread hit us when the woman behind the counter asked if we had visas. Um, no. We knew we didn’t need them but it still made us uneasy. We then had to show her our itinerary for our return. We stayed very calm while she typed away on her computer for what felt like ten minutes not saying a single word. Finally, she handed over our boarding passes. We were good to go!

We decided to grab some grub at the only real restaurant in the airport. There was a wait, and also some confusion over how to put your name on the list and step away from the entrance so  others might do the same. Instead, a group of very obnoxious Americans stood in the way talking loudly and creating general chaos and confusion. It was in this moment that I decided to be a shining example of politeness on our trip abroad.

We took off at 9 P.M. and shot straight over the Pacific ocean for fourteen hours. After settling in, watching some television, and eating our in-flight dinner, we tried our best to sleep through the night. 40 winks, it was not. More like 3. 3 disconnected, spasmodic winks while sitting in a pretzel-like position. The upshot was we were able to watch the sun rise through the tiny plane window before eating our in-flight breakfast and touching down in Sydney.

It was 6am when we landed. The airport was empty. We’d been hoping to store our luggage and dash out to the Sydney Opera House during our four hour layover. Unfortunately, we’d have to go through customs in order to do so. Needless to say, we decided against it. It was most definitely not worth the risk of missing our plane to Christchurch. Instead, we contented ourselves with longing looks out the window and trying to eat more of the food we'd brought on the plane. You see, we 'd forgotten we’d get two meals on the plane, and we stupidly bought waaayyy too much food for the flight. At this point we had a bag full of food and two stuffed stomachs. We tried to eat as much of our salads as we could, but eventually no vacancy signs were posted on our mouths. And despite our next flight only being three hours long, we had a feeling we were going to get yet another meal between take off and landing. We were right.

Our second flight was on Emirates, and at this point we were living zombies. We’d had next to no sleep and were suddenly eating Moroccan chicken. But we endured. Hell, we’d be there in no time, have our hotel room, and crash on a bed sometime soon. In the meantime, we enjoyed watching the landscape from the plane’s bird’s eye view camera. On the television screens we could watch the ground below the plane as it flew. It was quite beautiful as we got our first glimpses of the New Zealand landscape. Snow capped mountains and meandering rivers.

All was was well until we landed, tossed our uneaten food in the garbage (such a shame), went to the bathroom, and ended up being at the ass-end of the most gigantic customs line you ever saw. I’m telling you, this line was HUGE. The calming images of rolling waves and dolphins swimming were nice. Lovely, in fact. But at that moment if I got any more calmer I’d be passed out on the floor and drooling. As it was, I found myself napping on any stationary object I could find. Eventually, one hour after we landed, we got to the front of the line. Stamp. Stamp. Done. Excellent. Except for now we had to have our tent and shoes examined! Yes, we had to claim these things on entrance to the country (It’s a foreign soil thing). When the friendly Kiwi gentleman came up to me with his hand out I happily shook it. "Hello!" I said. My enthusiasm to meet him was greeted kindly, however, he wasn’t trying to shake my hand, he wanted our claims papers. He was amused and turned out to be a very nice man who only wanted to erect our tent and wash the bottom of Katie’s boots. They have strange "customs" here in New Zealand. ;)

Now we just needed to get our rental car before heading to the hotel. Dear Lord, could I do it? Could I speak intelligibly to someone at such depths of exhaustion? Apparently, yes, but only with deep concentration. With some time and patience we made it to Scottie’s car rental. The woman was very helpful and even called our hotel so that she could give us proper directions to it. She knew the recent earthquakes in Christchurch had blocked some roads, so she wanted to make sure we didn’t get lost. How nice!

Thus started our mantra: Stay on the left. Stay on the left. We had to keep that idea locked in our minds as Katie wove her way into the city center. Things went smoothly aside from the occasional unexpected windshield wiper cutting its way across our view.

, we checked into our hotel room. We made it! From the moment we left our apartment to the moment we arrived in our room, 29 hours had passed. Needless to say, that bed felt like heaven…

UPDATE! Alice and Katie are now embarking on a Round the World trip!
Visit aliceintraveland.com to follow along on their continuing

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Dawn on

Thanks so much for sharing! And what a trip so far.. it is making me miss NZ more than I thought : ( KT very very cute haircut : ) You are there .. now relax and ENJOY!!! love you tons

Leslie on

So glad you made it safely!!! I love these posts- great idea!

Patty on

Yay!!! You made it!

mike on

nicely done! thanks for the hilarious narrative alice. and i finally got to see katie's haircut, which is great! looking forward to hearing more now the the "real adventure" is beginning....

Sue on

Alice Great narrative!
KT love the haircut!
this is a super idea to keep us up to date on the trip. Hope you are catching up on sleep and having to repeat the mantra less and less.Love you lots!

Uncle Barbara on

You have me in tears! So funny! Shaking the custom agent's hand???Seriously, the driving thing is intense at first, but will result in some good stories. Alice, your writing is wonderful and Katie, I'd like to see the back of that cute haircut. Thank you for your blog. Love to you both!

mommy! on

WOW...Alice this is great!!! I also love Katies cut but will always love my Katie Curls...Alice you could actually make a book out of this trip with your writing. I miss you both and wish you sweet dreams!!! Love, Mommy!

sawah on

yay!! ok i want to know what movies you watched on that loooong flight! jk, don't waste ur time writing about that. go pet a sheep. xoxoxoxoxo

Ellen on

I find the mantra "head in the middle" quite useful- the driver's head is always closest to the middle of the road!

mom/mary lou on

All other travel writers look out... a new star has appeared! Thanks for the latest update and the perfect photos. Excellent haircut, KT!!! Have fun at the Akaroa music festival. xxoo mom & dad

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