Sunday Jan. 29, 2012
Well...the first thing I gotta say is that Air New Zealand is awesome! As we board the plane at Vancouver, B.C., were greeted by smiley faces in funky uniforms. The guys don brightly-coloured ties, handkerchiefs and vests in hues of pink and light blue, while the ladies sport bright floral shirts and skirts. The cabin crews outfits were actually designed by Kiwi fashion maven Trelise Cooper and reflect the flora and fauna of the Land of the Long White Cloud. How cool is that?
Jay and I settle into our seats and prepare to watch yet another dry, dull safety demonstration - but Air NZ surprises us again, as their pre-flight safety video turns out to be anything but. Have a look for yourselves:
After a good chuckle (and after following Richards advice to the letter - safety first folks!) we try to make ourselves as comfy as we can, since our bums will be warming these seats for the next 14 hours. All the stories my brother has shared with me about jet lag and all the other fun things that go along with travelling great distances echo in the back of my mind, and I find myself becoming a bit worried as to how Ill feel once we land in NZ. We leave Vancouver at around 6 p.m. on January 27, and are due to arrive in Auckland at about 6 a.m. January 29 (skipping a day completely). Will I be totally out of it? Will I know the date/year?! Will I want to pass out right away, and will I have to do this passing out on a park bench since we cant check into our room till later in the afternoon? I decide to quit the worry, relax, catch some tely and chow down on my yummy supper. I dont know if the food is drugged or what (probably not), but I actually manage to have a pretty good sleep eventually - something I usually cant do very well on planes. At around 3:30 a.m., breakfast is served and shortly after, the first few bright lights of New Zealand come twinkling into view. The 14-hour flight actually felt more like eight hours or less. Any nervousness or worry I felt before is replaced by excitement and I feel wide awake as I gaze out my window into the dark and onto the place that will be my new home for the next while.
As we collect our bags at the airport, a sign catches my eye:
It looks like the Kiwis (like Newfoundlanders) are definitely a fun-loving bunch. I think Ill feel at home here.
After going through customs and moseying around the airport a while, we open the doors, bathe in the warmth and inhale our first bit of fresh Kiwi air. Smiles spread across our faces. At about 6:30 a.m., its a balmy 17 degrees or so (well, balmy by Newfoundland standards at least). I think of my family at home, shovelling themselves out of several blizzards, and decide I made the right move to take off when I did! Jay and I board the Air Bus to go to our hostel in Auckland City. Our first experience driving on the left-hand side of the road doesnt feel as weird as I expected. I take in all the houses, with rolling green hills in the background, as we roll along.
The bus pulls up at Base Auckland Central Backpackers on Queen Street in downtown Auckland and we hop off with our heavy backpacks strapped to us. The girl who checks us in at the front desk tells us shes from Ottawa and that shes been here about six months. Hooray! Our first Canuck encounter! After I talk to my parents on Skype, to let them know I'm still alive and all, Jay and I stash our bags in storage and hit the ground running, so to speak. We both feel rip roarin ready to go and not the least bit sleepy or jet lagged. Unfortunately, since most other people in the city are still asleep (or probably just waking up, as its still pretty early in the morning), nothing seems to be open yet, so we head on further downtown to explore. We walk around the waterfront and the Viaduct Harbour area and it soon becomes obvious why this place is known as the City of Sails. It seems theres just as many boats here as people. Jay and I drool over the yachts and pristine condominiums that dot the landscape. Everything is so bright and shiny and the whole city seems to exude light. I walk by and let my hands sweep the leaves of passing palm trees.
At around 10 a.m., we head to the Westfield mall and load up on cheap Chinese food (I guess our brains think it's dinner time) and then purchase cell phones and cards and all that exciting stuff. Shortly after, we spot the shark bus (which is owned by a local aquarium) for the first time, which is pretty exciting. Anyone who knows me knows that sharks - while Ive never actually met one in real life - frighten the bleep outta me, yet I find them fascinating at the same time. I was looking at some pictures of the shark bus online while we were staying with our friend in Vancouver, so to see it before me was quite awesome. And hey - what a cool bus, right?
Later on, we head back to the hostel and meet our new roommates - the German (an older man) and a young English guy named Riley. Shortly after, we head back out to purchase some locks for our bags (not because were suspicious of the German or Riley, but because we like our stuff to be secure - and also because there were signs around the hostel warning us about a thief). We meander around some more, and drool at all of the delicious ethnic food around, which lives at these food courts that seem to be as abundant here in Auckland as mosquitoes in Newfoundland in the summer. Here in the city at least, there seems to be 20 of everything. Whether its Indian food youre in the market for, Thai, Turkish, Lebanese, fish n chips, etc., theres something to tickle every taste bud a dozen times over.
We turn one corner and stumble upon a performance thats part of the Auckland International Buskers Festival. The Amazing Wally (a busker from Perth, Australia who now lives in Iceland) juggles a rubber chicken and straddles a tall ladder almost falling into a group of children. At the end of the show, he tells the audience he thinks his roughly 45 minute performance was at least worth a beer, and if we enjoyed ourselves, hed appreciate a few dollars, if we can afford it. If not, he says, he wishes us luck and hopes things get better, and to consider his performance a gift. A handshake and a thank-you, he adds, is also plenty payment. I stroll up and drop 10 bucks into his hat.
Further up the street, I am thrilled to find Vanilla Coke at a corner store (called dairies around here) - one of the most exciting moments of my day!
Me enjoying my Vanilla Coke!
Then Jay and I make our way to a nearby mall to finish off our day in a sweet way with a couple scoops of New Zealand Natural ice cream. When we get back to the hostel, we make our way to our room and meet another one of our roommates, a nice English girl, and have a chat. Later on, we meet our fourth and last roommate - yet another nice English girl named Chris. She leaves and as Jay and I lay on our bunks, English girl #1 returns. Its around 8 p.m. and Im reading a book, but soon realize Im not getting very far when I wake up with the book upon my face. Looks like all that travelling is finally starting to take its toll. When English girl #1 finds me with my book on my head, she asks if I want the light turned off. I play it cool, snatch the book from my face, tell her its alright and continue reading - when the pages slap me in the face once again. You win, Mr. Sandman, you win.
About me...Linda Browne
I recently quit my job as staff writer at Downhome, boxed up all of my belongings, sold the car and moved out of my apartment - all to hang out in New Zealand for a while. Will it all be worth it? Keep reading to find out!