Saturday, November 28, 2009

En Zed

Our quick trip to the south island of New Zealand (En Zed as the Aussies call it) started with a bit of a flurry at the Sydney airport. The ticket agent told us that we could not enter NZ because we did not have a valid visa to re-enter Australia. Our plan was to exit Australia on the expiration date of our visitor visa (Nov 4th) so that we could apply for a 3-month ETA (a sort of automatic electronic visa). In order to apply for an ETA, you must be out of the country. So, here we stood, with a flight to NZ in order to get an OZ visa, but NZ wouldn't let us enter without an OZ visa! Perhaps if we would have been more savvy about the potential strict visa requirements of NZ, we would have realized that this wouldn't work. We spent some time running around the Sydney airport trying to find an immigration office . We learned that the immigration office was beyond the security gates, and that we would have to go into the city if we needed an immigration office. Plan B: We decided to have another chat with the airline folks and beg for their help. Scott managed to get the 3rd JetStar employee to admit that the work-around to our dilemma was simply to purchase a 1-way ticket from NZ to USA to prove to NZ that we wouldn't stay in their country indefinitely. Apparently Air New Zealand had seen this situation many times because they were pretty quick to issue us a 1-way, fully refundable ticket. So far, this workaround has still cost us dearly because Air New Zealand hasn't issued us a refund. They require loads of documentation proving that we still aren't in NZ. You'd think the fact that we asked for the refund AT THE SYDNEY AIRPORT would be enough proof that we are no longer in NZ.

Although our trip to NZ was only 1-week, we managed to see a fair bit of the south island. Rugged mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, ocean... kinda like our sorely missed home of the great Northwest, USA. The first morning we woke up to see snow-capped mountains that had been covered in clouds on our arrival. The feeling I had was hard to describe. Mostly, I felt extremely nostalgic for for some cool (as in temperature), mountain-y type adventures. We are looking forward to braving the winter in NZ this year with our split-snowboards in tow. We are a little bit worried about the rugged and exposed conditions of the mountains, but hope that we can find something that will suit us. We just wanna rip up some powder (sans crevasses, avalanches, and ice). The winter days in NZ are also quite short, which will test our adventurous spirits while living in a van.

On our way back into OZ, we were harassed at immigration because they were suspicious of our intentions as tourists. What, most people don't go on a vacation for... ever? We assured them that we were tourists and were told that we needed to go to the immigration office in the city if we didn't want to be hassled again at immigration. Turns out, it was really easy for us to get a 6-month tourist visa (minus $500 for the "application"), so we get to stay down under until May 4th.

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