Thursday 20/03/08
Currently sat in a shuttle bus waiting to hit my first hostel. Slightly nervous about the whole dorm/socialising thing, as it is my first time out on my own. Hope a pub/bar will still be open by the time I get in! It’s 12:20am already, hope I can check in!
Airports aren’t great for first impressions, but already I feel a bit more at ease, check-in was less intimidating than Singapore. No machine guns!
Didn’t quite sleep on the plane, just “rested my eyes” but I hope it doesn’t jet-lag me like in Singapore! I don’t want cat-naps; this is not Spain. Just writing to commemorate landing here actually. That, and I am bored waiting for the shuttle bus to depart… Anyhow, it begins!
Auckland at Night. Original Photogrpah by 111 Emergency @ Flickr

I hate it. Got off the bus in the middle of the ghetto. It was loud, horrible, messy. Presumably from all of the backpackers, part of whose ranks I’ve now joined. Still, checked in, got into room and had first dorm experience. I have bag paranoia. Maybe it was/is because I don’t know anyone (hopefully I’ll get a gang of some sort once the tour starts) but I couldn’t lock it up as there were no lockers (my allocated one was broke) so although our room was locked, I didn’t sleep well for worrying about by bag, passport, keys etc.
Heat, noise and a French guy singing IN our room meant no sleep for me, just more “rest eye.” Finally got over the fact that if you want to do anything, you have to make noise, so I went for a wee at 6:30am.
Still obsessed with finding somewhere to stow my bag, I was waiting for 3 guys I briefly got chatting with to leave on their roadtrip. This meant I could a) Stick my bag in their locker b) Go buy toothpaste, shower gel, etc. c) Have a shower before the rest of the hostel got up d) Get out to enjoy Auckland.
Instead, being me, I bumped into an absolute raving pill-head in the corridor at 6:30am. He could have been really threatening, but I joked myself away out of the situation, but the whole thing gave me the willies and pissed me off a little. I came here to escape this kind of drunk idiot.


I’m going to say it up front here, and then try to not repeat it throughout my subsequent commentaries. My diary entries do fall almost entirely on the negative notes on some days. Whilst I have no wish to contradict my past self (I was genuinely upset) the retrospective allows me a certain amount of alternative insight on what happened at certain points on the trip. But when you’re in that place, and feeling miserable, the stand-out moments and emotions of any given day gravitate towards the bad stuff. That’s what gets put on paper. So, one last time just to get it done with;

1) On this trip, being lonely was a major issue, but well over half of it (in retrospect) was spent in the company of some amazingly brilliant people.

2) I never, ever, really got over the invisible umbilical cord between myself and my bag. The idea that my money, passport, credit card, Sony PSP, clothes and anything else I had on my back, when not in my sight at all times meant that some bad people were going to grab it, meant I rarely ever truly switched off and relaxed. Other folks manage this, no problem. Part of this was due to me taking too much stuff (including a games console / movie player worth £100+) and partly it was (is?) just the way I’m wired. So yes, this “bag-paranoia” will be a running theme.

Back to Auckland. All this being said about my arrival, I do remember getting into Auckland around midnight, and immediately hating the hostel. I’d never ever stayed in one before, not with mates, or on my own. The picture I had in my head was from their website; pristine rooms, glorious sunshine, smiley happy beautiful people, and a place to lock your bag away securely. A dark, messy, smelly room full of stoned teenagers, in the middle of Auckland’s equivalent of Manchester’s Northern Quarter (if bordered with the red-light district) was not particularly welcoming at midnight.

All of the above could have been forgiven though, were it not for the encounter with the “raving pill head.” I had gotten up to go to the loo. All over the hostel were signs saying, “do not let anyone in, who does not have their own key-card”. Yet when I stumble out into the corridor on the 6th floor, a fairly large dude is knocking on the door that separated the stairwell from the corridor. I assumed (wrongly) that if he is on the stairwell, he must have gotten past reception, and so must be a guest who simply couldn’t unlock the door, or perhaps who had lost his key on another floor. So, stifling a yawn, I buzzed to let him in on my way to the loo. Error.

As soon as he stumbled into the corridor I got a “Hey! You!”
Oh shit. “Yeah?”
“Where’s the party?”
“Er, what party?” (It is 6:30am at this point.)
The party.” His eyes are rolling in the back of his head.
“Erm. I think there was a BBQ advertised on the roof, but that would have been hours ago?”
“Oh. Where are the pills then?” (Oh F***.)
“Pills. No pills here mate.”
“Where’s your room?” (Double F***).
“Down there… Sorry mate, I’ve gotta go loo pretty bad…”
“Who do you support? Do you like the military? Do you support our armed forces?”

What??? First of all, I just want to wee. Secondly, you are off your face. Thirdly, this is evidently some sort of alpha-male tribalistic trick question, which justifies you punching me into a pulp. Do I support our armed forces? I don’t even know where you are from! You sound South African-ish? Maybe?

“Well, obviously,” I begin, “I have the most tremendous respect for anyone, any service-man or service-woman, from any country, who dedicates their life and their service for their country. I mean, that is obvious. It goes without saying. Absolutely, nothing but 100% respect for anyone who does that.” A true statement, but probably more than what this guy was expecting?

“Ha! You were worried there! You’re alright! English yeah? You’re alright English!!” An unwanted bear-hug ensues. “I’m going to check this BBQ, then I’ll come back to your room for the party. I need to find the pills.”

He staggers off up another stairwell. I run for the fastest wee possible, then sneak back to my room hoping Mr-Armed-Forces doesn’t come back down and find out which room I’m in.

I spend the next hour and a half in the dorm bed, questioning all of my life decisions which have led to this point. As soon as seems sensible, I get up and go to reception to request a private room for myself later that afternoon, throw my bag in a locker until I can check in, and head into an Auckland morning, counting the days until I can go back home.