. . . 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 keas—Nestor 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!