“Over half of the people in New Zealand live in Auckland,” an expat Brit living in New Zealand opined. “The others wonder why.”
Other than the fact that we had sat around naked in our apartment for hours, while the only clothes that we had rolled around in a locked washing machine, we found Auckland quite charming. Having arrived in New Zealand with the same clothes on our back that we’d worn when we left Missoula, over 48 hours, plus being stuck in airline economy seats for another 14 hours, it seemed reasonable that we would want to wash our stinking, crusty underwear, socks, pants and shirts. What we did not expect was a washer/dryer combination with instructions that had been obviously translated from Chinese to Russian to a sort of English in the manual. Every time that we tried to switch to the drying cycle it started all over again in the wash cycle. After twelve hours of laundering, the fucking door finally opened. However, the clothes inside were really clean.
Because of a sudden winter storm, our flight from Seattle to Los Angeles had been delayed and we missed the Fiji Airline flight. The Alaska Air folks thought that our two bags went on to Fiji and then to Auckland, but, of course, life is much more complicated.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed the city. After checking in to our AirB&B, we were pleased to learn that we were located conveniently close to the major visitor destinations. [Notice how I avoid the word “tourist?” I hate that word. I want to be a traveler or a visitor, anything but a tourist, even a communist. When I take tours, and I am not putting down tours, I will be a tourist.]
So, we started wandering around downtown Auckland in the lovely eighty degree weather wearing our cozy, Montana, winter clothing including thick socks and hiking boots (as well as my trusty wool beret). Everyone else was wearing shorts, flip flops and tee shirts as they starred at us, wondering what strict religious culture we represented. Actually, we were looking for a bar and a stiff drink to settle our nerves and forget about our bags for a while. It wasn’t long before we were lost and had no idea where we were going, but a young man took pity on us and lead us to Amano, a restaurant that was listed in our host book.
After a martini followed by a glass of Cabernet with my lamb (covered with goat cheese, caponata and rosemary), I felt quite calm. Warm, but calm. Sheila, remembering our friend Sarah Alley, ordered an iced Negroni but abstained from wine with her pasta.
We couldn’t leave Auckland without going to the art museum. Its works are housed in a modern looking building that belies its construction date of 1938. Inside, it has some fascinating modern sculpture and print by current Maori artists as well as a charming room where children and adults can express themselves by building miniature houses out of cardboard. There are hundreds, if not thousands of little structures on display. The fanciful creations vary from tiny houses, to space ships to a giraffe with windows and doors. [The one that I was particularly fond of had a little sign in front that said “Andre’s Toilet.” Through the open door, a little cardboard, white dumper was on display.]
Forty-eight hours after we got to New Zealand, Sheila got a call from the airport baggage desk reporting that our bags would be arriving from Fiji. As we had to get out of our rental flat by ten o’clock, we went to the airport and waited for Flight F11. While Sheila calmly read her book, I paced and chewed my nails up to my shoulder.
The small pack I carried with me had one more day of my prescription meds, but I could probably stretch them out for a couple more. This was the first time that I ever put my drugs in a checked bag, always having made sure that I had them within reach. But, in all the years of
travel, even going some places where I expected my checked luggage to disappear, never have my bags been lost. As the old saw goes, “There is always a first time.”
The plane landed on time at 1320 and the arrival/departure board indicated that the flight was “In Process,” whatever that means, but there was still no call from the baggage office. Finally, over an hour after all the passengers on that flight were in shuttles, taxis or busses on their way to Auckland, Sheila got a message saying that we could pick up our bags at Gate 11, just past the McDonalds Cafe on first floor.
And yes, the bags were really there.