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Auckland Travel Blog

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Hong Kong from the Peak
I love layovers. Not really. But that's where this journal begins, so...

I decided to leave the airport and spend the day in Hong Kong.. weird place, but I had an 8 hour layover and I like weird. I tried walking up to the highest point on the island, but after an hour the way got too windy (wine-dee) and steep, and eventually I got lost, so I made the shameful walk back down and took the tram up like a normal person. When it got dark (and I hate myself for doing it) I ate dinner at the McDonalds.. just to see what it was like. And it was a far cry from Japan - no mayo!! It was the first time I had tasted thousand island on a burger since I went home in the summer.

On my way back, I was walking along the promeanade that overpassed the main street, and suddenly there were cops everywhere below, blocking off the street and fucking up traffic. I really didn't think much about it, just made my way back to the airport. After I checked in, as I was walking to the gate, I saw three hong kong airport police carrying ak-47s (those naaasty looking machine guns) huddled around the TV at one of the electronic duty free shops. And more so because my morbid curiousity overtook me and I wanted to sneak a closer peak at their guns (they were definitely real) I went over to check out what was playing on the TV.. It was CNN showing "breaking news" from Hong Kong, where a Korean nationalist protest had gotten out of hand and turned into a riot that police were having difficulty trying to contain.  Had I barely just missed a riot on my way back to the airport? Crazy...

Anyhow, that 6 hour flight to New Zealand was really a 10 hour flight. No worries though, air travel gets less paranoid the more you do it. I slept pretty soundly. I sat next to a Korean high school girl visiting some family she had here. She refused both the dinner and the breakfast, which was a little strange, but her English was fairly decent. Incidentally, as we were going through customs, she got busted for bringing dried fish into the country, and that was the last I saw of her.

So as I'm walking through the airport figuring out the easiest way into the city, I see an atm, so of course I might as well hit it up.. stick my card in.. hover over the buttons for a second or two before I realize.. I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT MY PIN NUMBER IS. First: waves of irrational panic, followed by a calm mature wave of rational panic as the implacations of this blunder sink in. Fortunately I had exchanged what little I had left of my Japanese money into NZ dollars already, so I had something to work with for the time being. And in the meantime, I would be able to use my card for credit transactions, so I knew this wasn't the end of the world.. but how could I be so...

I noticed airport security noticing my extended presence in front of the atm machine, so I walked outside to smoke a cigarette. I thought hard and long about my pin number, but I knew it was pointless. Earlier that year I had returned home to California to visit my family, and on the second-to-last day I lost my wallet at a bar. I spent my last day running around LA reapplying for all my vitals: social security office (2 hours), Japanese embassy (1 hour), DMV (2 hours). I was not a happy man, and if you ever see my current driver's license, you can see it on my face. However, my new atm card was sent to me in the mail 2 weeks later by my mom after I had returned to Japan. I never even bothered to look at my new pin number because I never used my American card there...

So the jolly in my trip completely vanished, I shelled out some of the precious cash I had for a bus ride into Auckland, booked into a cheap hostel.. (BASE backpackers - I highly recommend them, especially to women) and went to work figuring out what I was gonna do on my own for 3 weeks in NZ with hardly any cash in my pocket and no way of getting more. I called mom (god bless moms) and she had a pin number written down and gave it to me (but I was pretty sure that the number had been changed since then). I couldn't really think, so I took a walk around the city.. which helped a little. I got kicked out of a casino by a woman Maori security guard for wearing flip-flops, and I told her I was only looking. She replied "Even better reason for you to go." Hah! how can you argue with that? I tried using my atm card again, but naturally the pin didn't work. I went back to the hostel, finally broke down and talked to the travel agent.

Behind the counter was this pretty l
ittle thing (a native from Fiji it turned out) and I was a little reluctant to lay my troubles on her.. but I spilled my guts and it turned out to be a good decision, cuz she was just patient enough and reassuring that I gained some of my wits back and made some decisions. I used my credit card to sign up for a backpacker bus tour that slowly makes its way down the country and back, leaving the option for anyone to get off for a couple days and catch the next bus coming through. Kind of a cool idea, I thought, but I was a little disappointed that I wouldn't be going at my own pace and to my own destinations.. Anyhow, fools can't be choosy. In the meantime, I could arrange to have my mom wire me some cash to a city I'd be hitting on the tour.

So with a little peice of mind, but still a little uneasy, I forked out a few more precious dollars for a much-needed beer and sat up on the roof of the hostel. I chatted with a japanese couple who were shocked that I could speak Japanese.. and with a couple of other randoms, and started feeling a little better as I realized that I was on my own in New Zealand talking to travelers from all around the world. I went back to my dorm feeling pretty uplifted, met two guys from holland who were sharing my room, and they turned out to be pretty cool, especially one who was a bit of a deep thinker.. nothing like a good psycho-philosophical conversation to pass the time and make you hungry. I went out one more time to get some food and hostel-mingle for a bit longer until I realized that if I kept going I was going to start drinking - and I had to be up early in the morning to catch the bus, not to mention I couldn't really afford to go nuts in the bar (bummer, I know).

I returned to my room, just as the two dutch dudes were calling it a night. But we got one more dormer just then, a guy from England who had just flown in from Fiji.. He was cool until he found out I was American and stopped talking to me. Thanks Bush.

I woke up in the morning feeling refreshed. The two dutch guys had already left and the Englishman was snoring. I packed my stuff as loudly as I could and walked outside to start my tour.

The company was called the Kiwi Express, or more fondly refered to by those in the know as... the Fuck Bus.

carpefunk says:
Thanks. Great to see this journal is still making people smile
Posted on: Jan 12, 2016
harem says:
Great story mate
Posted on: Dec 03, 2015
carpefunk says:
Thanks! I needed that
Posted on: Mar 04, 2015
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Hong Kong from the Peak
Hong Kong from the Peak
photo by: Fulla