Today was the day the real journey would start. The real introvert test was here. Was I ready? I had to hope so.
It was another early start (a recurring theme of this trip – travelling is not an afternoon pursuit it seems) so I could finish packing and reach the airport in time for my midday flight to Christchurch, New Zealand.
The flight itself was not the greatest experience in the world. I was flying with China Airlines, onboard an Airbus A320 which looked like it was past its best years. The interior was not unlike a third hand sofa bought off Gumtree, and it would not have surprised me if the engines were from an X-reg Vauxhall Corsa. I’m not scared of flying, but I do feel more comfortable when you know the plane is up to date, although there is such thing as a plane being too up date, something which I will come back to later.
Despite my concerns, the only breakdown all flight was the two Scottish women sitting in front of me. Apparently the film ‘Brooklyn’ has the capacity to reduce bonnie lasses to floods of tears.
The landing was also not the greatest experience in the world, and as aviators say, things got a bit ‘wibbly-wobbly’ thanks to a buffeting Christchurch crosswind. It was a mild relief to be back on the ground. And it was new, uncharted ground, for that matter.
Security was an interesting experience. I had no idea NZ border control would be a big step up from Australia’s. Firstly, you have to have clean shoes to make sure you’re not bringing any venomous Ozzie critters onto NZ’s shores. Secondly, they also had sniffer dogs unlike in Melbourne. A dog approached me and gave me a good sniffing, in particular near my pocket. The handler of the dog asked me to remove what I had in my pocket, because the dog could not speak and she wanted to check what it was I had in my pocket. I pulled out my wallet, to which she said ‘Have you got any food in there?’, to which I responded, ‘Well, no…it’s my wallet.’ If only there was some kind of wallet which you could store a sandwich in. Having confirmed that my wallet did not contain a BLT, I was directed toward the airport exit.
I was staying at a BnB for the night before embarking on the Stray bus tomorrow morning, so I got picked up by my host Miki from the airport. To be honest, NZ felt a lot like the UK so far, mostly thanks to the bleak multistory car park in front of me and the bleak grey clouds above me. Miki was an excitable Hungarian who picked me up in a white Toyota. I loaded Berghaus into the boot, and off we went on the short drive to his residence. He ran the M&Y Guesthouse with his wife Yan, which turned out to be a really great place to stay for the night.
I had a brief restorative rest in my room, and then decided I should go and socialise in the living room with other guests. I was unsure about this at first, but I decided it was better to start chatting with strangers sooner rather than later, as I was going to be meeting a lot of them. Also, because I had my own room, if I found the conversation too draining, I could always retreat back to my nest.
Upon entering the living room, I encountered a young Asian girl, with whom I struck up a conversation with. After exchanging names, up cropped a question which would consistently pop up on a regular basis over the next two months – ‘So where are you from?’
The conversation went like this:
Me: ‘Where are you from?’
Asian girl: ‘Japan’
Me: ‘Oh nice, whereabouts in Japan?’
Asian girl: ‘Hiroshima’
Me: ‘Oh the place where they dropped the…..it’s by the sea right?’
This was not a good start.
However, a few minutes later an Indian couple walked in and took a seat at the table. They offered me a piece of ‘chikki’, a sweet Indian delicacy made from various types of nuts to form a kind of brittle. It tasted alright, but it was also incredibly dry, so naturally when offered more I idiotically grinned and stuffed more pieces into my now Saharan mouth. I took my leave a few minutes later, having had enough socialising for one evening. Mixed results so far indeed.
I was pretty tired physically and mentally by this point. I cocooned myself in my duvet and contemplated where I was in the world. In New Zealand. How exciting. And tomorrow would bring even more excitement. As would the day after that. And after that.
(Apologies for lack of pictures/awful generic wing photo, apparently I just didn’t bother taking any that day bar that one.)
Track of Day 9 – Radiohead // House of Cards