To the Land of the Kiwis

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 15:  Melbourne to Queenstown
With a 9 a.m. international flight, we arrived at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport (pictured above) just before 7:00.  Drop-off procedures for Hertz were quick and efficient, allowing us to enter the nearby terminal by seven.  Our first stop was at an Air New Zealand kiosk to check in and print boarding passes.  Because we are not flying into New Zealand on round trip tickets, our attempt to check in online last night failed.  At the airport kiosk, we were still unable to obtain boarding passes, though our passports were scanned and we were officially checked in.  Finally when we presented ourselves to an Air New Zealand ticket agent, he issued the documents that would allow us to fly to Queenstown.  The key that unlocked this magic door was presenting evidence of our exit plan.  Before we could be permitted entrance to the country, the New Zealand government required proof that we had a ticket to leave the country and wouldn't overstay our welcome.

Security for this international flight lacked the "no worries, mate" nonchalance of domestic screenings we've experienced in Australia.  This time it was laptops out, liquids out, and present your passport and boarding pass to enter the screening area.  When I asked a question about where to put coats, the security agent manning our bag screening lane exclaimed, "Hello, Texas!"

In response to my puzzled look, he added, "You have a strong North American accent.  I thought you might be from Texas."  Pouring on the southern drawl, I replied, "Nah, I'm from Atlanta."  That produced a big smile.  After all, from his perspective, ten thousand miles away, Atlanta and Texas are next-door neighbors.

Once we cleared security we joined another queue for passport control, finally reaching the gate a little after 8:00.  After boarding our flight, a traffic jam on the runway kept us sitting at the gate and then on the tarmac, waiting for clearance.  Finally, at 9:47, we departed Oz on our way to Kiwi land.

Like our arrival in Australia, our entrance into New Zealand was not without biosecurity drama.  This time we were not confined and fumigated, but New Zealand is just as zealous as Australia about keeping their country free of non-native insect pests, plant diseases and animal infections that are common elsewhere in the world.  This time we were singled out because we were wearing high-risk foot gear—hiking boots.  Little did we know, we were expected to disinfect and remove any traces of soil from our shoes before entering the country.  No worries, a Kiwi biosecurity agent did this for us, after we waited in a special line for a few minutes.  Once we cleared this hurdle, we joined the line where our bags were x-rayed to ensure we were not bringing in any food that might be carrying pests or disease.

At last we were approved for entry.  Once we exited the airport and got a look at our stunningly scenic environment for the next two and a half weeks, we were wholehearted supporters of New Zealand's efforts to keep the country as pristine and beautiful as it is.

The view from our hotel room window
Before leaving the airport, we booked a helicopter flight to Milford Sound in Fjordland National Park for tomorrow.  These flights are frequently cancelled by inclement weather, so we won't find out until tomorrow if we'll actually get to go.

Road Noise: 

The legions of children and teens in the lines at Melbourne Airport alerted us to a break in the Australian school calendar.  Rather than individual school districts as in the U.S., school calendars are set by each state.  In every state, the school year runs from late January to mid-December and is divided into four terms.  Two-week school holidays are provided between terms.  Like American students, Australians have a long summer break, which also happens to include Christmas, at the end of the school year (December and January).
Daily Stats:
  • Started in Melbourne, Australia, ended in Queenstown, New Zealand
  • Mileage - 1,335     (Trip total: 13,093)
  • Weather - 41°to  49°, partly cloudy
  • School kids at Melbourne airport - 18,265

Our first view of New Zealand's Southern Alps