Monday, November 30, 2009

Halfway (?) There

After a long flight and a few adventures, we made it to Christchurch, NZ.

The fun started at SFO. I had no problems, but Qantas (Australian airline) had real problems with Thorsten's boarding passes. At the check-in counter and gate, we heard a string of improbable excuses: You need to get electronic visas for Australia (at a cost of $25) [even though we never went through Australian immigration], New Zealand Immigration thinks that your passport has expired, and, finally, there isn't enough time for him in Sydney between flights [then why did you sell us this ticket? Maybe they think I can run faster than him]. In the end, they gave him a SFO to Sydney boarding pass and told him to try again in Sydney. They also checked all 3 of our bags on my ticket [the alert reader will note a bit of literary foreshadowing here].

The flight to Sydney was as nice as a 14 hour flight can be. The plane was about 1/3 full so we had room to stretch out, there were only a few crying babies, and the food and entertainment system were a cut above most U.S. airlines [n. b. this was a code-share flight and we had "American Airlines" tickets, so satisfied the "Fly America" act]. Due to winds, we took a very westerly route, flying by Hawaii, and then south over the Solomon Islands. Unfortunately, the sun was just coming up,and we couldn't actually see any islands.

In Sydney, we had 40 minutes between flights - plenty if we both had boarding passes. The Qantas "Transit" Desk first ascribed this to NZ immigration, and then said "This happens now and again," and, after a few tries with unanswered phones, was able to reach a supervisor who could override the hold, and print a boarding pass. Thorsten was the last one on board.

After another 3 hours flying, we arrived in Christchurch, went through immigration, and waited for our bags. And waited. And waited. It seems that our bags like Sydney so much that they decided to take a later flight. Unfortunately, our oscilloscope, which requires special customs clearance, was in one of the three bags, checked in my name, even though the customs form listed Thorsten's name. And, we didn't even know which luggage tag it was. As a further complication, we used the same customs form for our carry-on network analyzer (no traveler should be without one). After some confusion, this was at least theoretically sorted out, and the oscilloscope will clear customs and our bags should be delivered to our hotel tomorrow morning.

Fortunately, the FedExed ARIANNA electronics box did arrive and cleared customs, and it scheduled to be on our flight South.

Christchurch hasn't change much in the past year and a half. It is still a very visitor-friendly (and generally friendly) place. Unfortunately, today is cold and slightly rainy (even though it is summer here). And my umbrella is still in Sydney.

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