We had a quick breakfast of tea and biscuits (i.e. cookies) from the little pantry at Australia St, plus some various fruits and snacks we had been dragging around since the Lake House, knowing that if anything New Zealand's biosecurity is even stricter than Australia's, so we wanted to eat anything we had. We also went through our bags and purged any sort of dirt or plant matter or unpackaged food. One of the reasons I had chosen Newtown for our Sydney lodging was that it was on the right side of the city to be able to get to the airport fairly quickly, and it was true it only took about 15 minutes (on a Sunday morning).
… Which turned out to be a good thing, because not only was the airport crowded with folks going to all sorts of Asian and US destinations, but also we discovered upon check-in at the Qantas counter that Alex didn't have a ticket! Luckily, he had all of his confirmation emails with him, as did we, so we were able to show that all three of us definitely had tickets for this noon flight to Auckland. After the ticketing agent spent a half hour or so studying her computer and consulting other agents trying to figure it out, it turned out that apparently this is what happened: Alex had made his reservation for this flight back in the Spring with his original school travel arrangements, and then when I had made Al's and my reservations in July, the computer (or someone) assumed that the second AlexU was a duplicate of the first one, and they deleted Alex's original ticket! So luckily there was a seat available and they were able to re-book him! A little nail-biting for a while there!
The 3-hour flight to Auckland seemed very short (I guess relative to our flight a week ago), and we got through customs and biosecurity with no trouble really. Al mentioned that his boots had been worn in a rainforest (which we had debated whether to reveal), but we said that we were only on a paved track, which was certainly true (we didn't mention the leeches…), so we were passed.
There's a beautiful carved gate you go through when you leave the airplane gate area to get to baggage claim.
After getting through customs, we decided we should try to make sure Alex's ticket to LA for next Saturday hadn't also been canceled, so we headed to the customer service desk. And as we suspected, it had been! So we got all our papers back out, and they made him another reservation and printed out a paper reservation for us to present when the time came.
As we exited the international arrival area into the main lobby of the airport, we were surprised to see hundreds of people waiting… for us? Wow, how nice! But then we saw the banner that said Welcome Home New Zealand Rugby Team – World Champions!. As it happens, NZ had just beaten Australia in the Rugby World Cup the day before in Brisbane (which Alex could not believe – it was apparently quite an upset), and the team was arriving just when we were. It was very exciting! As I was at the rental car counter, the crowd kept breaking into Maori-type rugby chants, and finally the team appeared, causing great cheering and flag waving. Made it a little hard to get out of the airport, with all the fans and reporters crowding around the players, but it was a fun time to be there!
Once I figured out which car rental desk I was supposed to be at (Hertz this time, heh), we went out and found our car, a cute blue Mazda 3 hatchback, with a nice clear portable GPS. Much better than the car Avis gave us in Australia! We got out of the airport area with no trouble, and headed north through Auckland toward our first destination.