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New Zealand Trip Report

Day 1 of 24

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Thursday, February 28th
San Francisco To Los Angeles

Originally we'd planned to start from the south and work our way north. The idea was that the south is colder than the north, and might be better earlier in the summer. Unfortunately, when we called the New Zealand Department of Conservation in December to make reservations for the Milford and Routeburn tracks, we had to change our plans. The Routeburn isn't too much of a problem, but the Milford was already booked through to March 18th. The earliest we could start was March 19th.

So we changed our plans to start from the north and work our way south. Even so, we still had to prepare all our backpacking gear before we left the states. We could probably buy anything we needed in Queenstown, but it gave us peace of mind to have everything ready. And so there I was, on February 27th and 28th, sprawled out on the living room floor, weighing food and counting calories. There I was, packaging food for the Routeburn and Milford tracks which we wouldn't be doing for another 2-3 weeks. I was a bit concerned with the dried fruit and cans of tuna we were bringing -- I knew Customs would ask us about it. But I figured if it came to it, we'd relinquish that food if we had to and replace it. It wouldn't hurt to try.

One of the nice things about tramping in New Zealand is that staying in the huts allows you to hike without carrying a tent, stove, or fuel. We also left the bear canisters at home, since about the only big mammals on the islands are deer, cow, and sheep (all introduced).

The packing complete, we went to the airport early. For those of you concerned that extra security means long waits at the airport, don't be. At least at the airports we used, it wasn't an issue. At SFO, the security line was short and quick. They did pull me aside after I went through the metal detector, though -- they apparently picked me at random to check for explosives. They swabbed my camera flash and had me take off my shoes, examining them in some contraption. I sat patiently waiting, becoming amused when the inspector looked at my altimeter watch. What was amusing was when she tried to put it back -- she had to try 3 or 4 times because the velcro on my watch kept getting stuck to her gloves. I tried hard to keep from laughing.

I constantly worried about my film going through the x-ray machines on this trip. But I decided awhile ago that asking for hand checks is often more trouble than it's worth. Many inspectors refused a hand-check request on previous trips, and that was before September 11th. I just packed my film in a lead bag and hoped for the best. For the record, my film went through x-rays 8 times on this trip. I had nightmares thinking about all 8 of those the night before I got my developed film back, but they seem to have turned out fine.

The first leg of our journey was from San Francisco to Los Angeles. While waiting for our flight, Jean said she saw Jean Claude Van-Damme walk by. I turned just in time to see the back of a "Planet Hollywood" jacket so I'll have to take her word for it.


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