I have landed

. . . but only in LAX, which surely ranks up there with Heathrow as one of the world’s worst airports. Huge, sprawling, jammed with crawling traffic, and offering only very expensive food, it’s to be avoided at all costs—and I’ll do that the way back, as I fly through SFO. And there’s not even TSA PreCheck (which I purchased a while back) to move me through security faster.  The only upside is that I didn’t get groped!

In an hour I’ll board Air New Zealand; they already said “Kia ora” to me (the Maori equivalent of “hello”) when I got my boarding pass, and I’m looking forward to flying that airline to Auckland. After I arrive there at 6:30 on the 17th, I have an 8-hour layover  (OY!) until I catch a 2-hour flight to Queenstown in the afternoon.

It will be a long day, or two, or three. I don’t really know how many hours are involved in this journey; perhaps some kindly reader can calculate the number of hours that elapse between 11 a.m. on March 15 in Chicago and 4:30 p.m. on March 17 in Queenstown.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of keasNestor notabilis, an indigenous parrot found only in the forests and mountains of New Zealand’s south island—destroying a police car at Arthur’s Pass. It’s the world’s only alpine parrot, and I’ll surely see these destructive but endearing birds. Their beaks are capable of stripping chrome and rubber from cars, and that’s exactly what they do.

I didn’t realize that there are only 1,000-5,000 keas left, and they have been declared endangered. Populations are crashing as individuals are being eaten by non-native animals, poisoned by lead from human dwellings that they nom, and killed by sheep farmers (they have been known to rip open the backs of sheep and dine on the fat, meat and blood). For a long while people debated whether they really did attack sheep, but here’s the proof:

Finally, keas are among the smartest birds tested; they quickly learn to use tools in the lab even though they don’t do so in nature. Here’s an Attenborough video showing both their brains and their brawn:

This bird must be saved!


  1. Randy schenck
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I believe you are looking at 53.5 hours total. I learned a trick some years ago if you can do it, but not likely to NZ. Flying out of Dallas I would be headed for Korea or Japan. I would take Delta because I could get flights through Portland or Seattle and avoid both L.A. or San Fran. Customs is much better at those other airports on those return flights.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      It is roughly 17 hours ahead of Chicago time in NZ so subtract 17 hours from the 53.5.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      I would paddle/sail a canoe – well, the Polynesians did!

    • bluemaas
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Oooo, utterly timely for me, Randy, to know;
      I am bound 01 June y2017, for Japan !

      Thank YOU !

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think the advantage was much less congestion in places like Portland. Of course I was doing this pre- 9/11 so things might be a bit different these days. I think my traveling days are over.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      It’s about 18 hours from Toronto to Auckland with a change of planes in Vancouver. I hate that trip so now I stay in Hawaii for a while.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        That’s a good idea. I stayed there about 5 years.

    • Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      I wrote a Python program for a class a few years ago to calculate such things, but following is from a calculator you can find by searching the phrase “travel time calculators” (timeanddate dot com)
      Total Actual Traveling
      Time 1 day, 11:30 hours
      Clock Changes +18 hours
      Apparent Traveling
      time 2 days, 05:30 hours
      Total Distance 8,743 mi
      Average Travelling Speed 246.3 mph

      • Randy schenck
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Hey, thanks for that added info. Good to know I was just about spot on with my calculator, (10 fingers) and a rusty head. 53.5 hrs sounds just about like 2 days 5:30 hrs. I may have been off an hour on the time difference but that is because by little plastic card with the spinning circle does not take into consideration, daylight savings.

  2. Draken
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I guess this would be the place for a stupid joke about Scandinavia’s indigenous family member, the iKea.

    Even more clever, they don’t use tools, they make you use the tools.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 17, 2017 at 6:10 am | Permalink


  3. Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Kea vs. Raven in a chess match. Who wins?

    Also a flock of Ravens is called a “murder”. What is a flock of Keas called?

    • Linda Calhoun
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Chop shop?

      • darrelle
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        That’s good!

    • Draken
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink


    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      @ok2av8 According to the Kea Conservation Trust there’s no plural form of “kea”, and…

      It’s a “circus of kea” or a “curiosity of kea”

      Source: http://www.keaconservation.co.nz/kea-information/general-description/

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Kea is both singular and plural. There is no “s” in Mäori. All nouns are both singular and plural.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        That is what I wrote Heather 🙂

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 17, 2017 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      A disassembly? Destruction?

  4. polly3yr
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I’m just happy that you share your adventures with all of us…thank you 🙂

    • Dominic
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Let us hope PCC[E] is not eaten by keas! 😦

      • rickflick
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        Not likely eaten, but maybe some trim damage.

        • darrelle
          Posted March 16, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          Kea lipo-sculpting?

          • rickflick
            Posted March 16, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink


      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        ….carried off.

  5. darrelle
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Just a couple of nights ago my wife and I watched a documentary about New Caledonian Crows and Keas that we found on Netflix. I’ve seen a bit about Keas on other documentaries, but this one had much more information and footage, of Keas than anything I’d seen before.

    Amazing creatures. Intelligent, social, apparently insatiably curious, not easily scared and very destructive. If you go skiing in New Zealand take a rental car to the ski resort!

    One segment was about a restaurant owner who had a mystery thief getting into his kitchen at night even though he carefully closed all interior and exterior doors. Setting up cameras caught the culprit. It actually took 2, the 1st unwittingly helping the real thief. The owner’s own cat would open the door to the kitchen, purportedly patrolling for mice. Then a Kea would come through the cat’s door set in one of the exterior doors, waddle through the restaurant, through the kitchen door the cat had opened, find the giant tub of margarine, rip the top off and then feast its fill of margarine.

    Going by this documentary, the adult Keas are not normally at risk from the invasive species introduced by humans. The problem seems to be small mammals finding the underground sites where Keas lay, hatch and raise their chicks for a relatively long time (up to 2 years), thus trapping the mother and the chicks and killing them.

    • boggy
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      I saw a kea eating the contents of a discarded baby’s nappy (diaper). Evidently an omvnivorous bird.

      • darrelle
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Well . . . I guess there is no accounting for taste. Or smell.

  6. Karen Bartelt
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Just flew through SFO. No precheck there, either. Zoo, expensive food. Hate flying.

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      There’s precheck at SFO – it’s my local airport.

  7. Dominic
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Sheep there are clearly very very stupid!!!

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Undoubtedly. Sheep have been bred to be the most stupid, helpless, useless animals. Not even good for eating.

      If you’re driving through a paddock on a narrow gravel back road and there are any sheep nearby they will, on seeing your car, rush frantically onto the road in front of you and run panic-stricken down the middle of the road. You slow down to give them room, they just slow down. It never occurs to them to head off to the side of the road.

      Almost every other animal has more ‘road sense’ than a sheep.


      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 17, 2017 at 6:18 am | Permalink

        I’ve said this here before, but it’s my opinion that in the north of Scotland, where there are many sheep and unfenced roads, I have seen in my lifetime a decline in the number of suicidal sheep. Nowadays they are less likely to run across the road in front of a car, compared to fifty years ago. I put this down to natural selection.

        I often wonder if this type of selection is the answer to the complaint that wind farms destroy birds – perhaps the birds will eventually be selected to avoid wind turbines.

        • rickflick
          Posted March 17, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          This reminds me of a time I was thinking of traveling to Scotland. I wanted to get a preview by going on Google Earth and checking the lay of the land. I zoomed in on a stretch of road in the West. Very rural. I went into “street view” mode and moved along the winding road ’till I came to a man shepherding sheep across the road with a sheep dog. I could see that the Google car was stopped there for some time waiting. I felt I’d had vicariously gotten a good glimpse of what it would be like to travel on the high and low roads. I ended up not going, but I think I would have enjoyed it immensely.

  8. Kevin
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I’ve had my shares of heartache at both SFO and LAX. Bad weather included, LAX is better than SFO.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      I’ve found SFO okay. LAX sucks & I avoid it like the plague!

      • Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        SFO is relaxed, it seems more like a hotel lobby than an airport.

  9. Posted March 16, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    LAX sucks, we usually use Burbank to fly in/out

    • Randy schenck
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Not International.

  10. Redlivingblue
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Safe travels!

  11. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Keas are great. Gorgeous looking birds. Highly inquisitive and very good at taking things apart. (Just not so good at putting them back together. I know a few kids like that).

    They sometimes hang around stopping areas on roads like Arthurs Pass or the Homer Tunnel at Milford Sound, mooching titbits from tourists. (I can’t remember if there are any signs ‘Do not feed the keas’ but if so they’ve probably unscrewed them and thrown them in the ditch by now).


  12. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m saddened to hear that the kea is now endangered! I have met several while on walking trips in NZ, even had one attempt to dismantle mt walking boots while I was in them and sitting down near the top of Routeburn falls with my legs outstretched.
    The kea is likely my favourite NZ bird with the possible exception of the forest robin that will approach one when stopped on a track and play with one’s bootlaces.
    I agree that LAX is the pits and have decided to abjure travel to the US because of that and the Trump effect. One of these, but not both, is barely endurable!

    • Posted March 18, 2017 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      See tomorrow’s post: I had a South Island robin jump on my hiking shoe this morning and try to steal my bootlace. Why do they do that?

  13. Igor
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Queenstown the adrenaline capital! I have lived in NZ for a year in 2011 and bungy jumped at Nevis Bungy just outside Qweenstown. NZ is an amazing place. I loved my times over there.

  14. Richard C
    Posted March 17, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    This won’t be an option for international transfers, but if you have to fly into LA itself see if the Burbank Airport works. As much as LAX is one of my all time least favorite airports, Burbank is one of my most.

    It’s smaller, well serviced (domestically), and is one of the few airports left where you go exit the plane down stairs onto the tarmac instead of waking through that big tunnel contraption.

    Back when I lived 10 minutes away, I could get from my front door to my gate inside the airport in 20.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 17, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      The huge advantage of walking down the stairs is that, if the airport has two flights of steps, you can get off the plane from both ends in half the time.

      It always used to amuse me, flying to Rarotonga, that disembarking was twice as quick and easy at Rarotonga’s minimal airport as it was in Auckland’s gigadollar terminal.

      But I notice that Jetstar here (Auckland) have taken the hint – when my A320 arrived from Christchurch, they connected up the terminal gangway tunnel thing at the front and brought a set of stairs to the back door. Whether out of consideration for passengers or to help turnround time I don’t know, maybe a bit of both.


  15. Posted March 17, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    What a trip! And it is only starting!

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