Perth to Auckland, New Years Eve Number One, Friday 31st December 2004
I am sitting here on New Years Day in Rarotonga looking at the breaking waves in the distance and I will try and remember what happened over the last couple of days. It was an early morning departure from Perth and I got up slightly early to have a shower and freshen up but the bathroom across the hallway was engaged at 3.30am so frustratingly I had to wait a few minutes. I stopped for noodles and a great view of the skyscrapers in Sydney. To Auckland I sat next to a lively New Zealand girl originally from South Africa who had worked in marketing in various places including London and loved London’s liveliness. Also there was a couple of kids on board who shrieked and giggled with delight on take-off and landing, and kept everyone entertained singing popular songs and carols on the airport shuttle bus into town. It was dark and there was plenty of celebratory traffic in town. I decided to get off rather than be stuck in traffic. The Indian driver handed me my rucksack and I headed towards the main central Queen Street. I thought I would just follow the crowd but people were moving in different directions, some towards the harbour, some back up Queen Street. I felt disoriented and needed to establish a base, even if it was just to dump my bags. After wandering past bars I found a designer backpacker place and secured the cheapest dorm bed in room 301, had a quick beer in the bar on the first floor, with the New Year countdown display and automatic DJ. I felt out of place with these young backpackers so ventured out. I actually spent the stroke of 12.00 midnight sitting on a bench eating a burger, listening to the sound of fireworks and watching people go by. Some shouted at the patrolling policemen from a window a few floors up “thanks for protecting us”. As I walked along, many people young and old started wishing me happy New Year, and this simple exchange made me feel more comfortable and part of this community. This Auckland is certainly livelier and more interesting than the Auckland I remember from the past. Maybe the whole population turns up for New Year. Some of the best travel experiences come from or are heavily influenced by the people you meet rather than the destination itself. I walked past the noisy Hare Krishna dancers to the live rock stage and food stalls that had been set up near the cinemas. I phoned home from a side street phone box and just basically said everything was fine. There was joy in my voice. I managed a few hours sleep in my dorm bed, despite a fight almost breaking out when some bloke came in smoking a cigarette – reminded me of the posturing in the seal colony.