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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Travel Haze

Well, it’s June 26 (again) and I am currently sitting in LAX waiting for my final flight home.  Some of you may not know, but there is a Chilean volcano in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano chain that has created an ash cloud over the Pacific.  This volcano began erupting over a week ago.  Since it was unsure what this ash could do to airplanes, most flights in Australia and New Zealand were cancelled, particularly international ones.  However, the cloud passed by and everything shortly returned to normal.  Not for long, however, as the volcano continued to erupt and spew more ash into the atmosphere.  

For my trip home I was scheduled to fly Air New Zealand from Palmy to Auckland on the morning of June 25.  That went without a hitch.  The next leg of the journey, Auckland to LA, was through Qantas.  Well, Qantas decided that they weren’t flying on the 25 due to the ash cloud.  Everyone else was flying, so what’s up, Qantas?!   Anyways, Kristen, my travel partner, and I were not able to depart New Zealand on the 25th.  Let’s just say that we were more upset at having to leave Palmy and being stuck in Auckland than being stuck in the country.  We happened to have a very emotional departure from Palmy and we just wanted to finish our journey.  But no.  At least Qantas was kind enough to offer complimentary accommodation and meals while we were stuck in Auckland.  

We were extremely lucky in that we were re-booked within two hours for a next day flight to LA via Papeete, Tahiti.  We had brief discussions with people who had been dealing with Qantas for over a week, trying to depart NZ.  Our new schedule was to leave the country around 2pm on the 26th, arrive in Tahiti around 9pm on the 26th (international date line and all) leave again around 11pm on the 25th, and finally arrive in the U.S. around 11am on the 26th.  Luckily we made it, even with dear Kristen, the problem child of our trip.  So we arrived in LA this morning after two days of travel and disruption.  We were quite surprised at the speed at which we were able to make it through customs which involved two security points and luggage retrieval.  I would say it only took about 30 mins.  Awesome!  We then meandered our way out of the international terminal and over to terminal 4 for our domestic flights home.

And here was when we started to lose patience.  We located the check-in area, which is all automated, and attempted to obtain our boarding pass.  That didn’t work the first time since we had almost no documentation due to our disruption the day before.  We then asked for help and managed to get our boarding passes.  From there we had to check our bags.  After getting them tagged, we then had to move them over to luggage screening and then wait to make sure they got through screening.  From there we walked over to an escalator to go up to security and the gates.  

There was a line for the escalator, don’t ask me why, but they were regulating people through security from the extremely busy check-in area instead of the relatively empty security area.  How does that make sense?  To make matters (aka our tempers) worse, there was an entire section at the end of this area strictly devoted to first and business class.  If you did not have such a ticket you weren’t even allowed in that area to sit!  Oh airport class systems.  It’s quite disgusting.  They even had their own escalator to security and were allowed to jump the line.  Kristen and I had an absolute field day bashing this process while waiting in the security line.  By the time we made it through security it was after 1pm.  

To wrap up our time in LA so far: 30 minutes in customs, 2 hours checking into domestic.  A couple of weeks back we began to plan our first American meals we would have upon reaching home.  Kristen and I decided the first thing we would eat, while in the airport and still together, would be a milkshake.  Why, you ask?  Because they are delicious and NZ ones are a serious disappointment.  They barely have any ice cream in them.  I had one good shake in NZ and that was at a tiny shop on a side street to Cuba St. in Wellington.  Even then it was classified as ‘triple thick’ and was the most expensive option.  I have a feeling that these sad milkshakes are a result of the expensive dairy products in the country.  I do believe I’ve discussed that before…

Back to today- We decided that the best way to make us feel better, and to fill our empty stomachs, was to find a milkshake.  We were in search of two key food joints- Mackers or Chili’s.  Well, for some reason, there was NO McDonalds in this terminal.  There was a Chili’s, however, but they did not have milkshakes.  It was the worst discovery of my extremely long travel day.

Basically Kristen and I were sleep deprived, travel-lagged, and hungry.  We were quite cranky.  Kristen soon left me to my own devices, departing for Dallas/Ft. Worth around 2:40.  It’s currently 4:33 and I don’t start boarding until 9:35.  Five more hours, yay.  After that it’s a five hour flight, arriving home at 6:30 in the morning.  

Honestly, right now, I just want to be back in Pamly.  Even with it’s doom and gloom weather most of the time.  New Zealand was absolutely amazing and I just can’t believe that five months went by that quickly!  After returning to the chaos that is America I just miss the quiet that is New Zealand.  The boy that I left behind probably has something to do with that…