The world is panicking; The borders are closing up; and I may potentially be stuck. This all happened because of the decisions I made and the crazily uncertain future for me and perhaps the rest of the world.
Today is Sunday night and I am sitting on the bed of my (should be) final accommodation in my entire New Zealand working holiday. The past 6 days had been a whirlwind and I’m pretty certain the next 6 days will be too. In the past 6 days, I booked my return flight home (but I have a bad feeling that it will be canceled or perhaps rescheduled), I went on a somewhat backpack solo trip for 2 nights and I chose to abandon my cheap, clean and big accommodation and settle for this expensive room that I am in right now. okay let’s roll back.
Last monday, I stayed at home the entire day as the weather forecast said it was gonna rain. On tuesday, I went out for a while and bought bread which would be my breakfast for the next three days. I had to pack my bags too – differentiating my bag into the one that would be left behind, bringing only 2 backpacks which I had to carry only the essentials for my 3 to 4 nights adventure. However, on the evening before I was going for my adventure, I received news that my landlord specifically informed the house keeper that I was not allowed to leave my luggage behind while I was out on my little adventure. It came as a complete surprise to me as I usually had no issues with this in all my previous accommodation. This piece of information definitely caught me by surprise and despite somewhat begging and offering to pay money for luggage storage, he was adamant on his decision, quoting that things were sensitive because of COV-19. I couldn’t draw the connection between COV-19 and me wanting to keep my luggage behind but.. I had no choice and fell into the despair of helplessness. I can’t describe the feeling but it was perhaps only the second time that I had felt helpless. The first was when my car broke down and this time was.. me having to pay for a $50-80 taxi ride to a place with luggage storage as it was totally impossible for me to drag my luggage on my adventures. At that moment, I had two friends to rely on but it was rather inconvenient as they had to drive down to my place in the middle of the night, to do me this favour. Thankfully, a friend agreed and my luggage storage issue was resolved but.. guess what. I forgot about my bottle of riesling which was probably left in her car boot and exposed to the elements of weather. I guess I’ll be in for a surprise when I eventually open up that bottle of Pegasus Bay Riesling.
So now that the luggage issue was resolved, I was ready for my solo adventure by public transport. It was a cloudy morning when I departed and I took a 10 mins walk to the bus stop. Waited for the bus and.. guess what, the bus did not come after 10 mins! I started panicking as their buses came once or twice every hour and I had to catch my connecting intercity bus. Should I have missed the bus that I had to take (despite being 10 mins early at the bus stop), I would have to take taxi which would cost $10+. I looked at the timing and google map suggested walking to another bus stop to catch another bus and if I could make it, I would still be 5 mins before my intercity bus. I decided to walk off as.. I didn’t know if the bus didn’t come because the driver was on strike or something and.. just 3 mins of walking along the road= (looking really awkward with by 2 backpacks), I heard the bus come and turned my head with a huge sense of regret and sadness (for not being patient enough to just wait) and.. the driver saw me and stopped the bus beside me even though it was not a bus stop.
At that moment, I was like wow; the driver stopped for me.. or perhaps he realised he was late and was sorry that I had given up waiting for the bus. Anyway, that was my first or perhaps rare touch of kindness in Auckland. With that, I was in time for my 4.5 intercity ‘skip’ bus that brought me from Auckland to Taupo.
In Taupo, I visited the lake, the world’s coolest McDonald’s and sadly, I couldn’t board the sunset boat to see the maori carvings as the weather forecast said there was an incoming storm. The storm did came and I was stuck in my hostel the whole night. But I did have a can of beer to accompany me.
The next day, I took a bus to Huka Falls. This time, the bus was late again and I called i-site (their tourism information service at every town) to check if the bus is functioning. For whatever reason, I have the misconception that drivers could be on strike any time. Sadly, they told me that they were not the bus company but they hadn’t seen the bus that morning. Note, there are only 2 buses each day, serving the route. Assuming if I missed the bus (well I was waiting at the bust stop 15 mins earlier that scheduled), I had to walk 1.5 hours to the falls. Eventually, the bus came while I was searching for the bus company number to call. phew. The bus was 20 mins later and for whatever reason, it came in the opposite direction from google maps. why? i have no idea but the driver did honked at me to cross the road. Huka Falls was a beauty, but I’m not sure if it could win over the south island wonders in my heart. I did take the 1.5 hours walk back to my hostel. Grabbed lunch and took the intercity bus from Taupo to Rotorua, the city which smells like fart (due to the sulphur and volcanic activities).
In Rotorua, I didn’t really know what to do and I ended up going for this Maori village experience which came with dinner and a kiwi sanctuary. It was pricey at $140 but I really didn’t know what else to do there. It was nice learning about the Maori culture and I was happy that I helped to fill the seats of their halls, obviously made empty due to the lack of asian tourists. I was the only one from southeast asia and perhaps one of the three from Asia (there were 2 other Japanese). The whole tourism industry is suffering so so so badly.
The next day, I did nothing much – went to the grocery shop and ate mc nuggets for the underwhelming sze chuan sauce – while waiting for my friend to pick me up. I ended up joining the friend whom I didn’t want to join last Sunday as I had travel fatigue. I was really happy to join my friend as we went to the mysterious hot water beach! It is definitely one of the most unique beaches in the world. During low tide, you get to dig the sand and the water emerging underneath the sand is hot, at about 60 degrees, but the water that comes in from the waves and tides remain cold. It was fun trying to enjoy this mystery of the earth. We ended up playing so much that by the time we checked into our hostel which was 1-hour drive away, it was almost 9:30pm and reception was closing. By the time we had dinner and bathed, the lights of our hostel rooms were turned off and we were only left with upper bunks.
On saturday, we were on the beautiful coast of coromandel and took a beautiful but winding drive down and back to Auckland. First stop, we visited the casino for free parking (new members joining on same day) and went back to the restaurant where we could feast on $3 bluff oysters. After that, I met a friend for thai food and visited the saturday night market which we didn’t spend a single cent; as expected.
On Sunday, I moved to the more expensive house which was a lot more expensive ($30/night @ $210/week vs $130/week) but it was at a location where it takes me only 10 – 15 mins to get to CBD whereas my previous accommodation will take me 1.5 hours. I don’t know if I made the right decision but now my rent is committed for 8 nights and I am on the verge of leaving for home early as I am very scared for border closing. On a side note, my landlord ain’t exactly the kindest person out there. Apart from having to pay $250 bond (apparently discounted as usually it is 2 weeks bond for her) and $240 for non-refundable rental for 8 nights, she wanted to charge me $10 for using the bedsheets and blanket as ‘washing fee’ even though I offered to wash it before I leave. That’s not it, toilet rolls were not provided and she wanted to charge me $1/roll even though I’m only here for such a short time.
Auckland landlords ain’t exactly treating me (or my friend who has an even more complicated back story which is too complicated to type out) well and I’m not sure if this is a representation of the harsh city. Perhaps I had been too lucky in all of my previous rental experience and now everything just feels crappier in comparison.
Alright let me continue this on Monday night.
(Continued on Monday Night; it’s actually past midnight on Tuesday cause I got hooked on Netflix)
I spent Monday climbing up Mt Eden, a hill in Auckland with two strangers. They just arrived in New Zealand and they have just started their New Zealand working holiday stint while I’m about to go home. I feel like a proud senior sharing my knowledge and experiences with them. Like how I had to break all my pre-sets and expectations I wanted to set for myself prior to arriving. These 9 months had been a whole whirlwind of emotions and I think I did mature quite a bit (or so I thought) by learning how to be independent and self-reliant and.. probably learned some life skills like pumping petrol, pumping air for my car and cooking.
On a side note, I made a rash (or perhaps logical) decision to return home early. I only have 2 more full days here in Auckland and I guess it will be more eating, shopping and walking for me. I do dread to go home early but at the same time, I don’t want to deal with the stress of COV-19 and the potential flight cancellations anymore.
It’s time to face reality; and it doesn’t care if I’m ready or not.
The next Monday I’ll be typing my final recap in the comfort of my own room, on my huge 23″ computer screen. I’ll say hello to my air conditioning and fan plus the bears on my bed. There are so many things (or perhaps food) I know I missed and I can’t wait to be back.