It's been more than 20 years since I left the country in a meaningful way that required a trip through customs. (I don't count Canada because they are a neighboring country.) Australia required a 16 hour flight from LAX and it was pretty darned uncomfortable.
You see, there was a dear, sweet old lady sitting in front of me who JAMMED HER SEAT BACK AS FAR AS IT WOULD GO from almost the moment we took off from the ground. This woman was determined to lay her head in my lap. I literally had about 3 inches of clearance between my nose the back of the seat in front of me. Needless to say, I didn't get any work done on that flight. The only reason I was able to eat was because the flight crew made her pull her seat up for meals.
So, I slept. Or attempted to sleep. I was uncomfortable and crunched. But, during one of the times I was asleep, Jeff woke me up so he could go to the bathroom. I wrestled with the arm of the seat, got it open and did the limbo to get out of my seat. I turned back to Jeff and he was twisted funny in his seat. Partly like he was trying to get out of the seat and partly like he was reaching for something on the ground. I waited. And I waited. And finally, I stopped waiting and poked him in the leg. He started. Yes, my husband fell back to asleep in the 30 seconds it took me to figure out how to get up and let him out.
Then, we arrive in Australia and have to fill out the customs form. On one line it asks, "Are you carrying medicines, firearms or illegal drugs?" What? Are you carrying something that most people carry or are you a bad guy? Jeff has asthma medicine (a steroid) and I have heart medicine. Yeah. I knew we were going to get searched.
One of my bags came out of baggage claim last. While Jeff was getting a cart, a customs agents ask to look at my custom's form (which I put away) and then nodded when he saw that I had marked the "Please search my bags" option. Jeff and I thought nothing of it until we were put in the never-never line off to the side and they made us scan our bags again. It was then I noticed that the customs guy had followed us over and had a friend with him.
That last bag? Yeah, apparently "the drug sniffing dogs got excited about this bag…did you leave any lollies in it?" Uh. No. "Well, we're going to have to do a thorough search." Oh yeah. All I could think was "Well, at least it's new underwear," because it was spread all over the counter for the world to see.
As the custom agent was checking out my Costco sized bottles of ibuprophen and Excedrin (and finding nothing), I mentioned, "Well, this is the suitcase that all of my cats sleep on when the luggage comes out. She smiled briefly before sending the empty suitcase to be scanned. Then, when there was nothing to find, she walked over to the customs agent that had followed us and told them it was a false alarm.
Welcome to Australia.
New Zealand customs was funnier and more interesting. Jeff's hiking boots were examined as a possible biohazard and then washed just to make sure they weren't while my Costco sized bottles of ibuprophen and Excedrin were examined again.
Welcome to New Zealand.
Getting out of New Zealand really wasn't bad considering the amazingly bad earthquake Christchurch had the week before. But, it was also the first day of school. So, the taxi driver, was full of facts and opinions (esp about mothers driving their kids to school when, in his day, he rode a horse). He was also really good at hitting the ninja routes throughout Christchurch even with the city center blocked off. So, we had an unplanned tour around Christchurch and got a good look at the destruction. It was pretty amazing. Though the New Zealand government jumped all over getting to work fixing everything.
The flight back was much more comfortable and less cramped. I did a little reading and dozed but it is harder to sleep on a plane when it is the daytime for me. I will say that customs for the US was a piece of cake, even if the customs agent there did barely more than grunt at Jeff and me. We got waved through without having to open up our bags and displaying our underwear to the world.
More stories about the trip soon. Short version: Australia is pretty cool even if the flora and fauna is actively trying to kill you. New Zealand, on the hand, is love. Love-love-love. I want to go back. I want to spend more time there. "Beautiful" doesn't even begin to cover it.