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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 268: NZ to the USA: Going back in time!

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 30 July 2008 | Views [1309]

Wednesday 30th July

I got up at 08.00 and made breakfast with the last of my groceries, happily putting the rest of the food that I wasn't able to use up on to the free-food shelf in the hostel. I imagined that this aspect of my trip – carrying two bags of groceries about with me and cooking for myself – was going to be a thing of the past as I made my way to North America. It's not the most glamorous aspect of backpacking, but it is certainly economical and generally healthy, if you want it to be.

I checked out of the hostel and stored my rucksack in their storage room, while I went back to the library to send a few more emails and make sure that I was prepared for the entry into the US, an experience that has proved to be far from the warmest of welcomes (although I had never had as much questioning as I had when I had arrived into Perth three months before).

It was a grey and drizzly kind of day in Christchurch, and it made me recall how wet it had been in Auckland and the Northlands area when I had arrived into New Zealand with my folks six weeks before. I was now very excited about jetting back to the summertime and getting some sun and heat to warm my bones.

I got back to the hostel to pick up my bag, and then walked into Cathedral Square to get the bus to the airport, arriving there at 13.30. My flight to Auckland was scheduled to leave at 15.00, so I was in plenty of time, something that I had gotten better at over the years. These days there isn't so much of a panic, and I am almost sure to make my rendezvous with all forms of public transportation.

The plane took off on time and arrived into Auckland as scheduled at about 16.30. It's a bit of a stroll from the domestic terminal to the international one, and it came as no surprise to see the rain pouring down in Auckland. I did a bit of shopping in Duty Free and went to the departure gate to find out that the American Airlines fight to LA was delayed by an hour. It was no big deal and I waited about, checking out the people that were heading on the same flight. There were more than a few young people on their way back to the US from Australia, via New Zealand, as many of them carried red and yellow backpacks with 'World Youth Day 2008' enscirbed on them, and some of the crazier types even sporting t-shirts with Pope Benedicts picture on them!

We eventually boarded the plane and I took my seat beside a woman who lived near Wanaka. She was nice and we chatted about some of the places that I had visited. We were also lucky to have a free seat between us and this made the journey all the more comfortable. The flight was about eleven hours in total, and the time passed nice and quickly for such a long trip. I managed to get some sleep, and I was also quite occupied by the inflight entertainment and the food.

We arrived into LA at 12.30, and the contrast in the environment with New Zealand couldn't have been any more marked: the mountainous, green terrain and cold, wet weather had been changed for the flat urban sprawl of LA, while the sun blazed down and the thick blanket of smog made me feel like choking just looking at it. It was such a huge difference, and the scene that was greeting us in LA was nowhere near as appealing as the one we had left, even if it was sunnier.

The entry through US Immigration was no hassle at all, and their approach seemed to be much better than on previous visits to the US; a woman walked through the line of people, making sure we had filled their forms in correctly, even doing it with a touch of humour, which I thought I would never see.

However, the delay in arrival and the sheer number of people waiting in line to be 'processed' meant that I missed my connecting flight to Chicago. After speaking to the AA staff, I was put on the next scheduled flight that was to leave at 15.30, and given a $15 lunch voucher to placate me (although I was in no way put out by the delay, this was just another part of the experience). There were very few options for lunch, and I had a choice between Starbucks and Burger King, and I was determined not to settle for fastfood at BK as my first meal in the US. It was my intention to try and avoid that kind of shit for as long as possible.

The AA flight left Chicago on time at 15.30 and I enjoyed the view as we flew over what must have been the Sierra Nevada. We arrived into Chicago at 21.00 and I took a train and then a cab to Ingrid's apartment near Lincoln Park, finally getting there at 22.30. It was really good to see her, and we sat up for a while and chatted before I conked out on the couch, ready for a decent sleep after another long journey.


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