I was back in a Westernised world, that was for sure. The ride on the AIRBUS from the airport into Auckland, New Zealand passed by structured, tree-lined streets, boutique shops and money dressed people, and cost $16NZ for the fifteen minute privilege.
I hopped off at Mount Eden shops and with the help of stranger with a clarinet, I found my hostel. ‘No beds’, said the girl on reception. ‘You’ll struggle to find anywhere in the city tonight’. ‘What do you recommend?’ I asked. ‘I’d suggest getting the hell out of town’. Helpful. I could have cried. All this travelling and flying, and now this? – this broken promise of a bed in this cute little hostel put me in a negative mind-set. Thanks very much, Foo Fighters, so damn inconsiderate (that, and the fact that tickets cost over $100NZ so I couldn’t even drown my sorrows with a beer and bounce about to Monkey Wrench, although they probably don’t even play that song anymore and I’d just get more pissed off).
There turned out to be no room in any inns, until I finally stumbled upon a girls’ dorm in NOMADS. Last couple of beds in a party hostel extraordinaire filled to the brim with a younger travelling crowd with a taste for liquor and late nights.
I wandered around Auckland, up streets full of Louis Vitton and Subway and Rip Curl, passing by the Sky Tower and pondering why the hell I had left South America for such a nondescript city. I could have been anywhere really, but dammit! – it was raining and England felt like an all too recent memory. I wasn’t ready for this.
My netbook had broken in Peru and the nearest service centre to Peru was in Brazil. Repair over there, therefore, wasn’t an option. So now, here in Auckland, the time had arrived to finally get it fixed. I jumped on a train at the Britomart Transport Centre and headed out into the industrial suburbs.
Two somewhat worse-for-wear guys got on with a bicycle and a bottle of wine, one wearing a raincoat made from a black bin bag. ‘Do you want me to teach you to talk more intelligent so that people understand you?’ said one to the other, ‘Do you want to do some rapping?’ They started with some Dr Dre lyrics, breaking to laugh and chat in a slurred Maori-English mix. The drunker of the two suddenly got to his feet, tangled up in his bike and fell to the floor. ‘I need you to take a seat, please’, said the conductor, ‘so you don’t fall again and hurt yourself’. Not ‘so you don’t hurt others’ (it was close) but ‘yourself’. Caring, non-judgemental. Felt good.
Twenty minutes later I was in Penrose, or rather I was in the middle of nothing save a few random industrial buildings. A garage worker pointed me on my way. ‘It’s about 3km down the road and over the bridge,’ he said, ‘are you walking?’ ‘Uh huh.’ I was walking, of course. No taxis for me anymore, no siree.
The return journey was delayed. Melancholia was trying to befriend me. My clothes were damp, I was jet lagged and I’d had a fight on to get my computer mended under warranty. And everything was so damn expensive. Not a happy head space.
‘Pleased to have you on board!’ rang out a chirpy voice over the speakers, ‘Merry Christmas! If you’re going away, be safe, if you’re staying in the city, it’s all good.’ Another happy conductor. ‘Relax and have a fantastic afternoon’, he continued, and people on board smiled at each other and I thought, yeah, snap out of your misery girl, this is all good indeed, you’re in Auckland. Enjoy it.
A new challenge: get over my sadness at leaving South America prematurely, manage money without obsessing and damn well enjoy what promises to be an amazing country. Yep, New Zealand, I am ready to meet you with a smile. I just need a good sleep before the adventures begin.
Ka ora means a number of different things but in this context it means ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. For some more Maori words, take a look at 100 Maori words every New Zealander should know.