Feb 23-25 - Toronto to Christchurch

I was all weirded out this morning. I un-packed and re-packed all my stuff - twice. I wandered about the apartment, trying to remember what one vitally important thing I was forgetting. (I remembered - I left the pictures of my motorcycle. Drat.)

Flight from Toronto to L.A. (5 hours, 20 minutes).

Had no problem getting to the airport, and was met, as planned, by my entourage (my friend Annalisa). She has already toured New Zealand by bicycle, and has thoughtfully provided me with a Lonely Planet guide book, copiously marked with things to do (and not do). I got my electronics marked as "originating in Canada" by a nice lady at Canada Customs - she was astonished at the size of the PictureBook, and baffled by the MP3 player. She commented that "Every day [she] works in [the airport] office, [she] sees something new".

Checked in with no trouble, bid my entourage "Adieu", was barely noticed by U.S. Customs, and read the tour guide until boarding.

The plane was less than half full, and I ended up with a row all to myself. Yee-ha! Of course, across the aisle is a couple with two children (5 and 3, about) whom I hated from the moment the first one threw her pillow at me, and the other kept yelling "22" in French. (Yeah, it's your row number, good, but shut up, O.K.?)

Flight from L.A. to Auckland (12 hours).

Well. The 747 was overbooked, causing Air New Zealand to declare their draconian carry-on policy (one bag per person, must fit standard carry-on test size, under 5 kilos), seconds after I wrote in my notebook "ANZ has repealed the draconian carry-on policy I was warned about". The Darwin backpack was O.K. for all of those except weight - I'd estimate it currently at a pudgy 8-10 kg. I waited till the weighing guy was distracted, and went on through.

After a brief time seated next to a guy of my weight, and about a foot shorter, I ended up in a seat next to a woman who was quite put out by my ruining her plan to stretch out. But since there was no way I could stand another hour, much less another 11, next to the first guy (nice older guy that he was), I was polite and helpful, and ignored the daggers she sent my way occasionally. After a pleasant supper, I sacked out. I would like to take this moment to highly recommend those blow-up neck pillows. They're great. Anyway, I got five or six fitful hours in, and felt really good. So did the woman - after she woke up we chatted over breakfast. It turns out she was on her way back from England, from attending her mothers' funeral, and that this was her second 12-hour flight of the day. No wonder my little plan irked her.

In any case, we arrived on time in Auckland, where I stood around for a while waiting for baggage, contemplating whether it's better to have important stuff in one bag, so it can all be lost at once, or in two so you'll have at half of it on hand. Once again, Customs gave me nary a glance (but the doggies liked my boots), and I was off on the last flight of this leg.

Flight from Auckland to Christchurch (1 hour).

Small plane, on time - and that's all I was going to say, until the sun came up and the clouds broke. And then I said "Why is my camera not accessible?", for the orange light revealed a landscape the likes of which I had never seen. We were flying over the Arthur, and then the Hope ranges. The light was just barely above horizontal, so one side was green, and the other black. We'll be riding through there next week!

And so I was delivered unto the hotel, at about 9:00 a.m. And they have no room for me till 12:00. Guess I'll go for a walk...