New Zealand: The final hours
It’s our last day in New Zealand and we rise early to check out of our hostel, have breakfast and do a quick email-check to make sure nothing catastrophic or interesting has happened back home in the last week. Nothing crazier than the last time we checked and saw that Obama was getting a Nobel Peace Prize (what the hell? an in-joke we missed?) We then haul our bags out to the nearest bus stop and wait for the airport bus we were promised would show up every half an hour. We flag down the first bus going in the right direction and make it to the airport without any problems.
At check in we go through the usual questions and answers that we can practically do in our sleep now with the same bored tone as the check in staff. “You know about the liquid restrictions?”. Hell yeah. “Do you have a visa for Australia?” Brief pause as I mentally review which of our numerous destinations I acquired visas for, before assuring him that yes, we have electronic visas supposedly registered to our passports. Satisfied with the responses we get one final question – “Exit row alright?”. Yeah, I think we can live with that!
We’ve plenty of time before we’re due to board. We’ve only ever missed a flight once before, and that was a painfully expensive lesson involving spending a night in Stansted airport sleeping on the floor with the rats, and extortionate charges from Ryanair that we never want to repeat. For once, I count all the change in my wallet and total it up to an exact amount. New Zealand efficiency – the smallest coins I’ve received have been 10 cent coins and invariably at tills they’ve rounded up or down to avoid the ridiculous amounts of small change I’ve been accumulating in other countries.
After surveying the cafe options, I part with my remaining currency for a bottle of water and cup of tea. We sit in the departure lounge with our headphones on trying to ignore the sudden influx of screaming children that are trying to wear out their lungs. The airport is a small one with a relaxed atmosphere. The staff at the cafe banter with the customers, passing numerous insulting comments about the Brits that are carefully timed to be heard by the English girl at the cash register who has obviously heard it all before. New Zealand folk are a friendly, jovial lot. There’s a strong British influence here, obviously, and the people have a manner that’s strongly reminiscent of the well-known British grit and aplomb, but a more toned-down version that steers well clear of becoming pomp and grandeur. The people are refreshingly down-to-earth and any immigrants we’ve come across genuinely enjoy their new lives here.
It’s hard to believe that as we reach Sydney this weekend, we’ll just be passing the halfway mark in our time away. We’ve already covered a lot of ground, reaching our southern-most point somewhere between Kingston and Te Anau, and fitting in a lot of sights and activities along the way. From here on it’s mostly travelling north on a long return journey with many diversions and stops. We’re leaving the colder climates behind and can start shedding surplus heavy clothing. Over the next couple of days flights and accommodation will have to be booked to get us as far as Cairns on time. By then it will seem like the last flight home is only days away.
For now though, it’s almost time to go through yet another security scan, pay departure taxes (New Zealand is so good, you have to pay to leave) and find our gate. A premonition of upcoming change, a feeling is building in the pit of my stomach – that mix of expectation and curiosity about what’s around the next corner. Regardless of how long the road has been, and how tiring the travel is, there’s always a growing excitement at starting a new leg of the journey. Time to see what happens next…