Hello from the other side of the world! After enduring a 5-hour flight from Dulles to LAX and another 12.5 hours to Auckland, I have arrived in New Zealand!!!
The flight over was a true red-eye. Whole flight in complete darkness over the empty Pacific Ocean. Left Monday night and arrived Wednesday morning -- let me know how Tuesday was because I didn't experience it!
First step upon arrival (we landed early at 5:10 AM NZST) was to remedy my daypack situation...the National Press Club sackpack just wasn't working out. It didn't organize my stuff at all and was already starting to tear at the top. Fortunately Auckland International is a clean and lovely facility, and I found this excellent luggage shop outside passport control and the "biodiversity" area* called Carri-On Essentials that had the perfect satchel to carry all the little things.
I took the bus into town from the airport before sunrise so I haven't seen a whole lot yet besides the morning fog, but it's rather temperate here for late autumn (exact opposite seasons compared to the Northern Hemisphere) and sort of feels like arriving in San Francisco with the palm-like trees and the cool hip storefronts on the drive into town. There's even a place called "Burger Wisconsin" I saw which I will need to make it back to!
Air New Zealand was terrific and all the Kiwis I have encountered thus far have been very friendly. The people here are sort of like the Brits except they seem more laid back, but same language and same bloody teeth issues! What is up with British orthodontics??
Time for me to explore now. It's 20 minutes past 8AM here now -- I'm 16 hours ahead of you East Coasters!
* A stricter form of Customs which doesn't allow food to be brought in, and even scans for foreign dirt on your hiking boots!