March 13 -- Christchurch to Westport, Massachusetts
Today was a traveling day, and rainy at the start, without too much scenery
to report. Checking out of the hotel at 10:00am, I took the shuttle bus to
the airport, and cooled my heels for a few hours, reading, until boarding the
plane to Auckland at about 2:30 pm. There was a brief spasm of
anxiety here, when I discovered my passport was missing after checking in at the
Qantas counter. Going back to the counter, it turned out that the clerk
had failed to return it to me. She was quite embarrassed--but I was
By 4pm we were in Auckland after a smooth flight over Cook Strait and Tasman
Bay. The Boeing 747 for Los Angeles, was scheduled to leave at 6:40 pm,
but was delayed for better than a half an hour. A crowded plane, I lucked
out (as it happened) by being seated in the forward economy section, between the
lower business class and in front of the stairs leading to the upper business
It was a smooth flight, but the plane did not make up the lost time before
takeoff, and we landed in Los Angeles at about 11 am (now Tuesday morning, after
leaving on Tuesday evening). So I had just 2 hours to clear customs,
collect my baggage, and get to a different terminal for the 1:00pm flight to
But to complicate matters, the jetway to the Qantas plane did not function
properly, and there was a delay before the doors were opened. Another
anxiety spasm! When the door was finally released (I was near the head of
the line), in the doorway appeared three LA Police EMT's. It turned out
that someone on the upper business deck had a health problem, and deplaning
could not occur until the EMT's assessed the situation. Another anxiety
But fortunately, the Qantas official on hand looked around, and decided to
let the few people in the forward section (me and about 20 others) deplane,
while holding the rest of the passengers hostage. Relief!
So I was one of the first to get through customs, and only the luggage
collection remained. After waiting for more than 20 minutes for the
luggage to appear, there was a public announcement that something had gone wrong
with the luggage handling system, and that only a small portion of the plane's
baggage had been delivered to the distribution point. But, that they had
made the decision to release what few suitcases they had. Anxiety redux!
When the wheels started turning, I realized that I had an angel on my
shoulder, for the very first suitcase out of the chute was mine! Grabbing
it, with only 45 minutes to cover a lot of ground, I headed out of the terminal
looking for a shuttle to the distant one that was the home of US Airways for the
flight to Providence. Unlucky, I got on the wrong shuttle bus, and hand to
endure a 15 minute diversion through the LAX parking lot system before getting
the US Airways terminal. Then my ticket was not a clean one, and the
attendant had to work for a good 15 minutes to sort things out (turns out I had
duplicate tickets). Where is that angel?
But I made the flight, and the connection at Charlotte to Providence could
not have been easier (adjacent gates--the angel is still there), and the plane
arrived in Providence right on time, with daughter, Melissa, waiting to pick me
up. We reached home by 12:45 am, finally on Wednesday!
What a fabulous trip! Anne Wellnitz and Down Under Endeavours
did a magnificent job of setting it up and facilitating this personal tour.
Not once did I have any problem with a hotel, rental car, or tour booking (the
US Air difficulty was a Travelocity problem).
I can't emphasize enough about how great a place New Zealand is to visit.
If you ever have a chance to go, GO!