'The City of Sails'

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Saturday, September 11, 2004

So, we were headed for New Zealand, sort of South East again but this time much further beyond Australia, even closer to Antarctica. 'The arse-end of the globe' as I heard someone say. And I'd got Brian's window seat which was a brave move for him if you think about it considering his vocal range and how exposed he had now made himself.

A few minutes in to the take off we had circled Brisbane and were leaving the East coast of Australia heading once again across the South Pacific. I was looking out of Brian's window for quite a while and then through the window behind as Australia's 'Gold Coast' gradually disappeared into the horizon.

Well it was real now. Up until then I'd not given much consideration to what was 'beyond' Oz. But we were going further. A lot further. This is when it dawned on me how far away I was actually going. See, after New Zealand, if we were to carry on a bit more South we'd be in Antarctica. A bit more East and there would be little else other than the vast expanse of Pacific ocean that would last for what would seem like an eternity. It's the largest ocean on the planet. It occupies just under half (46%) of the total ocean area of the entire world, the next main land after that would be back round to South America. So really what I'm saying is, in home vs global terms, I was heading for a place that was as remote as it was going to get - and didn't I know it!

As we started our gradual descent, Brian pointed out that the very long thin strip of white cloud I could see lingering high over, and completely separate to all the others was the one that originally gave New Zealand (Aotearoa) it's original Maori name. Well I had read about this, but to be honest assumed it was more a mythical labelling, certainly not so abundantly visible. I could see it real clear and how 'ever changing' it was. It was set at a very high altitude, not low and interfering like I had assumed.

As we approached the West Coast of Auckland, I started to fill in the NZ entry card like you have to before you can pass through immigration. Straight away you could see how strict it was. There was an official looking 'bio-security' section which had to be filled in specifically in a kind of 'declaration' kind of way. According to Brian it was a chance to declare anything suspicious beforehand so that you don't have to pay the $2000 fine or endure the possibility of a five year prison sentence. Well bloody hell, I was alright! - it's not like I was the sort to try and 'get away' with anything serious like that, let alone smuggle anything in. But it wasn't like that. It was real specific. Basically, anything from outdoors/camping (I guess cos' of 'foot & mouth' and other diseases), food, wood, wool, animal products of 'any' kind would need to be declared. Real strict. Reminded me of being back home! Before I knew it, I had already ticked the outdoor and the wood sections. I'd got my hiking boots from Kili packed right in the bottom of my pack - 'clean as a whistle' I might add (thanks mum!), and I'd also got a bracelet made of wood on my wrist that I had bought in Bali before I left. So I ticked the boxes in preparation and got ready to go.

The first greeting we received as we got off the plane and entered the airport, was a couple of friendly looking officials standing with sniffer dogs, who also looked quite friendly and very enthusiastic.

We walked past and through to immigration. Brian said his goodbye's and gave his best wishes, then walked through to his queue of three. I wished him the same and joined the multitude of foreigners that occupied the other 95% of the immigration 'warehouse'.

I went through fairly quickly really. I got a very warm welcome at the desk, had my passport stamped with the official visa 'commencement' (I've now got twelve months to love and leave NZ) and a brief friendly chat about my plans while I'm here. I passed through and went to the next section where a couple of friendly middle aged kiwi women serve you a free cup of tea or coffee with a smile, to welcome you to New Zealand. I had a brief coffee, exchanged a couple of kind words and went across to carousel five to collect my pack.

Well there it was, swinging round the second bend, the first one off the plane. That really was a first!

I took it with my entry card over to the 'bio-security' section. I explained to the official as to why I had ticked the appropriate sections. He said nothing, only gestured me towards the x-ray machine. As I handed my pack to the burly security guy who put it on the conveyer, I noticed that the lock that was holding my pack inside the 'airporter' had been smashed. My mind went in to overdrive as I watched it disappear into the flaps. Bloody hell that could have been tampered with. Anywhere. Could've been Kuala Lumpur, Bali, anywhere. What if it has been? Stuff damaged, stuff nicked. Stuff that - stuff added! Drugs?! It's gone through the flaps now mate. Shit.

'Scuse me Sir!'

It was the woman checking the X-ray images on the screen. Oh my god, that's it.

'You've got some sort of boots in here, hiking boots - when were they last used? Are they clean?',
'Er yeah they're immaculate, I used them last in 2001. July 2001.'
'And where was that?',
'Tanzania, East Africa.'
'I'd better have a look at those if you don't mind Sir?'

I swallowed and reached for my pack. When I said right at the bottom, I meant right at the bottom of my rucksack liner with everything stacked, pushed and wedged very strategically on top and in between. It took a while but I got there in the end. She was happy, not that she really looked (though I did get a sympathetic look from the guy who was on the same shift as her). I quickly packed up and made my way out of the airport despite the fact that the pack weight was now uneven and made me walk quite rapidly towards ten 'o' clock. I stopped and carried it out by the pick up loop cos' I could see what was going to happen. Got myself on to a 'shuttle' bus with about seven others and sat at the back, heading to 'Base'. Mine was the last drop off.

As I walked in to Base, I was VERY impressed but too ill and in too much pain to take in too much of it. I checked myself in and explained to the girl on the desk my situation and requested to upgrade to a twin room with en-suite just for tonight only. She understood and kindly gave me my coded key-card. I made my way up to the room and dumped my belongings. I was having an early night tonight. It was also going to be in a calm, peaceful room in an attempt to somehow get rid of this jetlag/tonsillitis combo from hell. It wasn't going to be done in a room of six or seven screaming piss-heads jumping around like nutters. Not tonight. Not while I felt like this.

Before I did though, I did had a quick walk around the general area simply because I had come this far and just had to have a quick look at my new environment. I wouldn't have slept otherwise.

I walked for a short while until I was impressed with it enough to sleep with a smile on my face and went up to bed. It was 7.30pm.
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Where I stayed
Base backpackers
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erickandmarie on


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