The sky is the most incredible blue, the temperature and humidity are perfect and getting off the plane here feels like a hug after a long day.
My spirits are up but my body feels super heavy as my muscles ache for sleep. I have landed in New Zealand without very much of a plan and to be honest I don't even know which part of what island I am on. I do know I am soon to see my amazing friend Alice though and I am now getting really excited to see her and have a good catch up.
I turn on my phone and look at a map of where I am. It turns out I am near the top of the North island :) This probably sound like I am a bizarrely clueless traveller, not knowing where I am etc but I arranged everything so fast, I didn't really have time to look stuff up :P You can see Auckland nearly at the top on this map.
I move through the airport, which the folks here have made dreamily easy and find myself at this impressive doorway into the world of passport control :)
They make you declare all your foodstuffs and so I am quizzed about my snacks and gifts by an official looking guy behind a small desk. "It's chocolate!" I tell him. "Nice, got to love chocolate." he replies in a friendly casual way that puts me at ease before the proper quiz begins:
"No dairy products?"
"Any plant matter?"
"So no fruit?"
"Not a single piece!"
"No!... Wait!? Shoes!? I have flip flops and some trainers?!"
"Been around any animals with those?"
"No... Well I held a bat wearing these sandles."
"Ok good! Have a nice time."
I come away feeling pleased I have passed the New Zealand test. They must like me because I don't have farmy shoes and always eat any fruit I have on the plane :) I'm clearly New Zealand material.
I am about to pick up my bag when I realise there are yellow tags on it. This isn't my bag... I look up the carousel and see there are a number of bags identical to mine on their way around. People clearly like this rucksack! It's a red Osprey and I can really recommend it. :) I find mine which has a yellow and black transit ticket attached which makes it look like my bag is a hazard of some kind.
Alice has given me instructions as to how to get the skybus down to the ferry terminal and so I decide to get some info before I leave the airport. I walk over to one of the car hire places and ask for a quote. I am given ths quote and then motioned to lean forward. I comply and am told "you can get a much better deal if you call Go rentals! ". I am confused. Was I really being told it was cheaper somewhere else? New Zealand rocks! I walk across to information and give this company a call. $35 per day for a car it will cost me there, which is about half the price of the other place. I walk over to get the skybus and everyone I greet on the way seems friendly and joyful.
I get my bus ticket and take a seat to wait. Shortly after I get comfy a lady comes and sits to my left. I am bad at judging ages but I'm going to guess early fifths. She goes into her bag and pulls out some pink knitting. "What are you making there?" I ask. "This is going to be a blanket. My daughter needs a bunch of them for decorating a shop so I'm just churning them out."
I love randomly chatting to people and our conversation goes on to discuss hobbies in general, her kids, her travel dreams, what I am doing in New Zealand, her recommendations on where I should go and how she is voting with regard to the change in flag.
New Zealand aren't keen in general on their current flag because it's too similar to the Australian flag and so after many suggestions were submitted one was chosen and now there is a vote on whether to change to this new flag or not. I'm not sure if they'll decide while I'm here but I personally like the change. The one on the right is their current flag and the one below on the left is the suggested new flag. They decide in February.
Our lovely chat and giggle continues during the bus ride and we get off at the same stop. I tell her my friend is meeting me there and she wishes me luck on my travels. She turns to walk away, hesitates and turns round again just as I am taking a seat on a bench. "What's your name?", "Peta, Peta Foster... Peta is a number, it means a thousand million million." I have to stop explaining my name like this but it has become a habit. "Aww that's nice! Well I am Virginia and it was really lovely to meet you Peta! Take care and have fun on your travels won't you." Virginia smiles and moves on with her day and I beam at having had such a lovely conversation with the first person I decided to talk to. A good start.
It is only a few more minutes before Alice arrives at the ferry terminal (in the photo above) beaming a huge smile from across the junction. We head to the supermarket for supplies and they have plenty of gluten free goodies for me to try :) After this we head back to her flat which is uphill most of the way. This would be ok apart from the combo of heat, hill and backpack mean that by the time we arrive back I need a shower.
We sit and chat and I eat some sushi and shower (not all at the same time) and we head to a local bar for some pear cider and good chat.
We can see the sky tower from where we sit and we watch the colours change as we have a good catch up. Lots of chat about jobs, life, men and human nature is the topics for today (or maybe everyday). I think Alice is pleased but maybe a little suprised that I'm actually travelling. She tells me that now there is no excuse for her other friends not to do it. "Come on, Peta's doing it! What's the problem?" she laughs. I am sort of suprised I am doing this too to be honest. Alice has travelled a lot and is someone who goes for what she wants looking fearless in the pursuit; I don't think she realises how brave she is compared to a lot of people when it comes to travel. :) I have just been taking the whole process one step at a time and trying not to beat myself up for my mistakes. :)
I have spent the previous month experimenting with mantras, one of which is "Whatever happens, I can handle it." and after a month of saying this to myself I find that I have started to believe it which has helped a lot. Mantras are powerful tools I think. :)
We get back to the flat about 11pm and get ready to crash out. I can not wait to close my eyes and after a brief bit of late night girl chat we fall asleep.
It was a really beautiful start to my New Zealand adventure.