Auckland Express

Hello again from the Big Blue!

I’m considering writing a new guidebook: “Auckland in 36
hours!”

Part I

The adventure began here, on the rock. I packed my bag
and hopped the plane to Raro at 4:40pm on Saturday, May 10th. The
date is important. New Zealand lies on the other side of the international
dateline and had it not been for my friend Moana catching a discrepancy in my
stated itinerary, I would have flown to Raro on Sunday the 11th and
missed my flight to Auckland completely.

As I did in October, I passed the eight-hour layover at
the Aquarius Hotel, which has clean bunk accommodation for cheap. Knowing I’d
soon be stuffed into a tin can for four hours, I went for a stroll. You know,
an X-ray would certainly show my hind end stuffed full of horseshoes because my
decision to go for a walk brought to light the fact that I’d neglected to pack
my one pair of shoes. I called Prez and he sent them over with the guests who
left on the last flight of the day.

I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to my
fellow Pacific Blue Passengers, as my one pair of shoes also happens to be the
shoes I’ve been running in for a year and a half and I don’t imagine they
smelled all that pleasant.

Not all my luck was aligned, however. I also forgot to
pack any sort of timepiece or alarm. This meant I’d need a wake up call. Said
wake up call would be delivered by the night security guard, who apparently
would somehow physically wake me up at midnight, providing he remembered to do
so. After dinner, I crawled onto my bunk and attempted to snooze, while images
of me waking at dawn to find the security guard sound asleep at the front desk
kept passing through my brain.

Needless to say, the wake up call was unnecessary. I
remained wide awake. It is likely the people in the other bunks did, too, since
I was getting up every ten minutes to run into the lobby and check the time.

At 11:30pm, tired of lying on my bunk, I changed into
some warmer clothes and headed across the street to the airport. The flight
left at 2:30am but I had a good book.

I’ve never flown Pacific Blue airline before. I now know
where the name comes from. Shortly after take off, I donned my eye mask and
blow up pillow, (which I’ve yet to find a perfect sleeping position with), and
went after some z’s. My guess is that the Captain was trying to acclimatize us
for the chilly, winter temperatures in Auckland, why else would the air
conditioning be set at “Comfortable for Penguins”?

All around me, passengers shivered and rubbed their hands
together. I’m sure I saw a group in the back using the shell of one of those
hard suitcases as an ersatz fire pit, in which they burned airsickness bags and
in-flight magazines to stay warm.

So, the “Blue” in Pacific Blue obviously refers to colour
your lips and skin will be upon landing.

Bear with me here because things get weird.

We left Raro at 2:30am on a Sunday, flew for four and a
half hours, arriving in Auckland at 5:00am on Monday. I’d lost a day but gained
two hours. International travel can mess with a gal’s mind.

Happy to be nestled in the warmth of the Auckland
airport, my next challenge was to find transportation to my hotel, which was
twenty minutes away. I priced out taxis and shuttles and was shocked at the
cost. A rental car seemed the wisest and cheapest option but I was now on
twenty-four hours, (or was it twenty-two?), without sleep, it was dark, I had
never driven in this city before, and everyone insists on driving on the wrong
side of the road. Hm. A decision this serious could require only one thing…

“One hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie, please!”

I sipped my cocoa and nibbled my cookie as I wandered
between the shuttle phones and the rental car desks. My drink had an odd
flavour and a distinctly gummy texture. I sipped again and again, trying to
place the taste. I was at the Thrifty counter when it hit me. You know the Big
Turk chocolate bar? Well, people in this part of the world have some weird
fascination with whatever comprises the center of that treat and now it was in
my hot chocolate. I suppose I should have been grateful they didn’t put a fried
egg in there or some beet root.

Annoyed with my contaminated chocolate and hopped up on
sugar, I decided to be adventurous and rent a car. It wasn’t until I was behind
the wheel that I noticed I’d spent an hour wandering around the airport. Funny,
it only felt like a few minutes, Kiwi’s do some strange things with time.

The twenty-minute ride to the hotel took roughly an hour.
On the plus side, I learned how roundabouts work and took a few unplanned side
trips into neighbourhoods I might not have seen if I’d followed the directions
correctly.

My hotel was chosen for its proximity to the radiology
clinic I would be visiting later that day. Being staffed with Chinese workers
with only a rudimentary understanding of English, this place made me feel as if
I was back home in Vancouver and I couldn’t help feeling a little melancholy.

Priorities are important and mine, having only a day and
half in this enchanting part of the world, was clear: have a bubble bath.

After the first of what would be four bubble baths over
the course of my stay, I checked out the local TV. Rugby, rugby, news, rugby,
news, yoga, news, rugby. Nevermind.

I’d made an appointment to have my haircut. My last real
hair cut had been in October and I was dying for some real coiffing. I drove
out to Mission Bay, a charming seaside area. I should say I imagine it’s
charming, when it isn’t freezing cold and raining. Frankly, I was enjoying the
cool temps but I seemed to be the only one who was.

Zoey was the woman in charge of taming my wild locks. She
was a lovely woman, as friendly as she was pregnant. I gave her a brief
explanation of my small island situation but I don’t think she really got it.

Zoey:
So, who cuts your hair there?


Me: Um, me.


Zoey: How?


Me: With some household scissors.


Zoey: *
Gasps and looks horrified*



Zoey: So, Princess, what kind of product are you using?


Me: Shampoo


Zoey: Oh. *
Starts scratching items off mental list of things she wants to
sell to me*
What type of shampoo do you use?

Me: The brand they sell in the store, I can’t remember what it is.


Zoey: *
Mentally removes me from mailing list*


Zoey: You’ll notice that I haven’t cut it quite as short as you showed me and
the reason for this, as you’ll see, is that when I blow dry and style it, it
will sit perfectly at the length you want.


Me: Uh…um…OK. *
Considers telling her that the only time I’ve used a
blowdryer on the island was to dry a pair of underwear, that got caught on the
line during a rain storm, before I went out for dinner but then think I’ve
probably hurt her enough for one day*

Before
leaving, I passed her a tip, which seemed to shock her. Later, my friend Jo
would inform me that it is not normal to tip one’s hair stylist in the land of
Hobbits but that I’d probably made the woman’s day.

Back
to the hotel and bubble bath #2. I still had some time before my scheduled
mammogram so I zipped over to the nearby mall at Sylvia Park. There really
should be some sort of warning label on places like this. “Warning! If you have
been confined on a small island for longer than a month and can count the
number of shops there on one hand, please enter this mall with caution. We
suggest you keep one eye closed and please alert mall staff if you feel dizzy.”

So.
Much. Stuff.

I
came out with a pair of warm socks for the flight home and a list of stores I
would ravage the next day.

Back
to the hotel. I grabbed my medical records and ambled over to Ascot Radiology
to have the girls squished and examined.

And
I will write all about that in the next installment!

QUESTION:
What product are you using in your hair?

Until
soon, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!

The
Princess

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