After a weekend where almost everything had to go wrong the first attempt, it seems that things are better after arriving in Auckland, New Zealand. But let me start at the beginning. When I missed my bus to Sydney on Saturday morning, I booked another bus later that day straight away and spent the day reading ‘The Age’ (Melbourne’s newspaper) and looking for waterproof pants in half a dozen outdoor stores. I could not find what I was looking for however, so I am going to give it another try here in Auckland tomorrow. According to the two German guys in my room, outdoor stuff is cheaper in New Zealand anyway.
I arrived Sydney on Sunday morning at 7.30 after getting a little bit of sleep during the 11,5-hour bus ride. I was not feeling too tired though, so after breakfast at the hostel I took the ferry to Manly, a beach suburb on the other side of the harbour. From Manly a 10km scenic walkway starts which I walked all the way to the end, passing some nice secluded beaches and getting great views of the Sydney harbour. I went back to my hostel by bus, ferry and train. In the evening I had to burn all my photos on CD, since my 512MB CompactFlash card was almost full and I wanted to have an empty card before arriving in New Zealand. So my last night in Sydney I went to half a dozen internet cafes before I found one that offered CD-burning. But there I wasted at least one hour, because as soon as I had uploaded all my photos, the computer would crash and I had to start all over again. Another first attempt that went wrong. Sometimes I really regret not having brought a laptop, but I am glad I did not when I have to walk with all my bags. Anyway, I found another internet cafe with a CD-burner, and I managed to burn them all on CD twice (backups are essential after all).
On Monday morning I managed to get to the airport in Sydney in time for my flight, but at checkin I was told the flight was very full and I might not be able to get on. I was put on standby and had to wait in the checkin area until half an hour before departure. Another first attempt that went wrong. At least I got a 5 euro voucher for food, so I had a small breakfast at the airport, pretty nice since I left my hostel too early to get breakfast there. Half an hour before departure it was pretty chaotic at the standby counter, but after a while I heard I was on a priority list and was able to get on the Qantas flight (others were booked on an Air New Zealand flight or had to wait for 2 hours till the next flight). I was on a priority list because I showed my British Airways frequent flyer card upon checkin, so even if I do not get enough miles for a free flight, I do get priority when a flight is full. And since nowadays you can apply for almost every frequent flyer card for free on the internet, why not collect miles when flying with flag carriers? There are really only benefits to collecting miles, even for non-frequent flyers. Just make sure you only use one card for each alliance (Star Alliance, OneWorld, SkyTeam), otherwise you end up like me, having collected enough miles for a free flight, but not able to get it because the miles are spread on 3 different cards from Star Alliance (Lufthansa, Air Canada, SAS). Clear case of a luxury problem.
The Qantas flight to Auckland was pretty good, aside from a little turbulence. And I think I had one of the best airplane lunches ever: chicken with rice (maybe that is why), salad, chocolate pudding and Bundaberg rum with Coke 😉
I was already warned about the airport in Auckland by a backpacker magazine, and they were right, the airport just cannot handle all the traffic. After landing, it took more than 1 hour to get to the terminal by bus, clear immigration, collect luggage, and clear customs. Mainly because the queues before immigration were really long, and I just had to laugh when the immigration officer looked at my ticket, noticed that I left from Amsterdam, and asked if I brought any pot with me. That really is the first thing people think about when they hear Amsterdam.
After I checked in at the Fat Camel hostel in Auckland (some hostel names are pretty funny), it was about 6 PM and all the shops just closed, so I was not able to do any shopping. I hope I find some time in the morning, before I have to go to the airport to pick up my parents and sister. They are coming to New Zealand for 3 weeks and want to see the entire country in that time, so I reckon the next 3 weeks are going to be quite intensive, driving at least 200km a day, but also a lot of fun. As a consequence of the hectic shedule, I probably will not be able to frequently update this website for the next 3 weeks. Then again, who cares, right?
One more thing: at the moment New Zealand is GMT +13, so there are 12 hours of time difference with mainland Western Europe. This is almost the furthest one could get away from Europe; any further, and one would be going back. And no, I am not digging a hole to find a shorter way 😉