Only a few more hours left until I head out, last of my trip preparations are underway. I’ve actually gotten a mini video cam thanks to my father so you may see the occasional short video clip pop up here during my trip.
This post will be a general travel update and first couple days thing until I have time to write a proper update with pictures and whatnot, I’ll update it with quick snippets as I find free wifi.
4am comes awfully early, doubly so when you only finally managed to get to bed at 11:30, triply so when your bedtime for two months has been more like 2:30am. Probably could have slept in another 45 mins though as the roads and airport were as deserted as you’d expect at 4:30am. The flight to Calgary was uneventful but dull, crammed into a CRJ with minimal luggage space. Calgary was even more deserted, with a ridiculous transshipment to usa trek across the entire airport, only to be told I couldn’t even go through customs until 2 hours pre-flight. Once I finally got on it the flight to LA was pleasant enough. Seatback movies and a ton of legroom on those new embraer jets they’re using, with the added bonus of no one right next to me.
LAX meant a 7ish hour layover of no fun trapped in a smallish terminal because they were renovating how security worked and leaving that area would have meant re-clearing security. I ended up reading 1.5 of my 3 books travelling with me and likely would have gone through more if it hadn’t been for the extraordinary conversations I began to hear from the telephone bank nearby. Turns out I was sharing the flight with a massive mob of mormon missionaries (aliteration!) and I guess they’d been at Missionary training for a while or something because they were all calling home before leaving. I’m not sure if these guys were all going to the same place, but I heard at least one member of the group mention Tonga. One big blonde kid was of particular entertainment value, repeatedly commenting on how he was looking forward to sampling dog and horse meat and how different the culture was. He proceeded to repeat this to at least 9 different relatives, clocking in an overall time on these payphones of at least an hour and a half. It wasn’t that I was trying to eavesdrop, but the kid had one hell of a voice. My heart kind of sank once I realized they were mormons though as I had little desire to be preached to if I ended up next to one of them on the flight, especially after the blonde kid started thanking his brother for all his ski stories, because he’d been sitting next to a professional ski photographer while flying into LAX and those stories had been his “segue into talking about the gospel.” I can smile and nod, but a 12.5 hour flight promised to be an endurance test if I lost seat roulette. Annoying they seem to planning to board a Virgin Atlantic 747 at the exact same time at the gate right next to mine so I doubt we’ll be getting out on time.
—— Arrived in Auckland earlier than planned after spending a trip with that holiest of holy, happy strokes of luck. An empty seat between myself and another broad-shouldered fellow. Definitely makes a 13ish hour flight more bearable to be able to throw some extra stuff on the seat beside you and stretch out. I do have to commend Air NZ though, fantastic legroom to begin with for an economy section and top notch service throughout. My only complaint would be the boarding process, but that was likely LAX’s idiocy in boarding two 747’s at adjacent gates that use the same entry hallway to get to their jetways, as if there was any chance we’d be able to do things properly. We raced the dawn all the way across the pacific and it was only as we crossed the international date line that we began to see a hint of pink behind us, real light beginning to illuminate what was below us just as we crossed the coast to watch Kiwis beginning to head to work. Speaking of that date line, I don’t care how many times I make this kind of trip in my lifetime, nothing will make it normal that March 9th just disappeared on me. I was at least able to grab a few hours sleep on that flight, something I rarely do.
Auckland at first sight is a beautiful city, I got a very Vancouver/Victoria feel at first until I realized how many dwelling roofs were tiled in a distinctly south pacific way. (see also a fair number of palm and gum trees once one began to look closer.) A quickie backpacker shuttle conventiently dropped me all of a block from my hostel where I’ve happily been upgraded to a double for the duration of my 2 day stay. I’m waiting for my three week tour of NZ to begin (and it leaves directly from this hostel.) As I write this I’m sitting in the sun room/bistro/kitchen watching several little birds nibble at crumbs. Mosquito screens appear to be nonexistant here, hopefully a bit more prevalent once I’m in the Dengue fever zone (especially this year I’m told) in Queensland. Oh well, now that my batteries are recharged it’s time to go explore round the harbor.
After some exploring it very much reminds me of a combination of Vancouver and San Francisco. It’s much hillier here than I first realized, most of them running down into the harbor where some beautiful yachts are parked. I have thus far managed to avoid being pancaked by looking the wrong way while crossing a street, but I have to say the flipped left and right way cut turns really play a number on your brain. Crosswalk indicators also seem to take an interminable amount of time to activate but I have thus far stuck to my travelling maxim of “Never jaywalk on your first day in a city.”
Many familiar sights to a north american as well, Wendy’s McDonalds and Burger King are all within a ten minute walk of the hostel. In a way, it seems very much like a retarded US/Canada. Here I use retarded in the sense of canada in the late 90s. There are phone booths everywhere (when is the last time you saw a cluster of phone booths on multiple street corners, even in the most touristy places in north america?), internet cafes are abundant (high speed internet is apparently still quite new and expensive in many areas of NZ/Aus, hence the no free wifi in every restaurant/pub/grocery store.) Everything seems very expensive as well, even with the exchange rate (I think I bought at 0.75 cdn = 1 nzd) some prices seem ludicrous. I’ve heard aussie gamers complain for years about prices and censorship, but I really wish I’d picked up another DS game before I left for rainy days and whatnot. Cocktails at a few places I looked at down by the harbour were at least $15, here’s hoping things are a little more reasonable at the places farther from the cruise ships. On that note I’m planning on doing a pub crawl for charity tonight, raising funds for earthquake relief in Christchurch.
As for the blog, for the next while at least I’m going to write a short snippet whenever I’m bored and have my laptop, but given the ludicrous price of internet here I’ll probably just do a batch upload every so often with pictures only being added when I have a cheap or free option.
Sorry for the wacky formatting, something weird happening.