The cab dropped me off at the Sydney International Airport and my Air New Zealand flight left on time at 9:40 am. I sat next to a fellow on the flight who is from Hamilton on the North Island of New Zealand. It is a few kilometers south of Aukland. We had a nice conversation over lunch on the two and a half hour flight across the Tazman Sea to Aukland.
Going through customs and biosecurity in Aukland was not quick. It was actually almost as much hassel as going through customs in Cairns when I arrived in Australia
. No visa is required to travel to New Zealand from the US, but you do have to fill out an extensive questionair. Then a customs and immigration agent interviews you about why you have come to New Zealand, how long you will be here, when are you leaving, why have you come here, what will you be doing, etc. It is like a game of 20 questions. Then the biosecurity guy interviews me about my snorkeling and diving gear, about my camping, about my hiking boots and where I have been hiking, about what food I am carrying, etc. He was not happy about the fact that I was carrying two jars of honey which I had purchsed on Kangaroo Island. Apparently, there is a disease affecting bees in New Zealand which can be spread by contact with honey from other places that have the disease. They have a ban on importing any honey from anywhere into New Zealand. They told me I had two options: throw away the honey, or have then store it for me for $20 NZ. I opted to store it. They took my money and gave me a receipt. I was told I could claim the honey when I was ready to board my flight back to the USA. After all that, they finally cleared me and I was able to enter New Zealand.
I went into the terminal and got some New Zealand currency from and ATM. Then I wheeled my baggage along a sidewalk for a ten minute walk to the domestic terminal. I sat down there for a while and checked my email
. Then I made a call to Christchurch to confirm my whale watching trip there tomorrow. I wrote in my journal for a while and then I ate some dinner at place there in the terminal. Then I made my way to the departure gate. Shortly after I got there, they made an announcement that my Quantas Flight was going to be arriving late. It was 30-45 minutes late in boarding, but we finally left for Christchurch a little after 8:00 pm. It was a short flight and we arrived in Christchurch a little after 9:00 pm. I claimed my bags and took a cab to the Heritage hotel. They were expecting me and while I was checking in, the bellhop took my bags to my room for me. They are quite efficient at this hotel. The room seemed nice, but I was so tired, that I hardley noticed. I climbed into bed and was asleep in a matter of seconds.
I got up at about 6:00 am and got my stuff together. I have really loved my time in Australia and it is with a touch of sadness that I am heading to the airport to leave for New Zealand. It is not that I am not looking forward to visiting New Zealand. I am. However, I will always have a special place for Australia in my heart.