Friday 18/04/08

I had spent my last night in New Zealand back in Auckland, sat at the same quay-side bar, typing up yesterday’s final diary entry. Part of me desperately wanted to meet up with the girls for one last night out, but apart from not having any contact details, I knew that I had almost missed the bus that morning. I could not risk going out again and over-sleeping getting my taxi to the airport. I had to be up at 6am, and so I was playing it safe.

My credit card had stopped working a few days ago, but I had enough cash on me to get to the airport, to buy breakfast, and still have some change left over. The reason I was getting to Auckland airport super early, was partly because we are always told to get to airports super early, and partly because it gave me some time to wiggle and fix any issues such as a late airport-minibus, blocked roads or other traffic issues. I also wanted time to grab a decent breakfast, as once on the plane I would have no other choices but airline food for the next 26 hours. A few hours just chilling in the airport sounded like a good idea, a few hours to relax before getting on the plane, where I knew I would struggle to sleep. As it turned out, the roads were clear, and there were no other issues, and so I got to Auckland airport with almost four hours to kill before wheels-up.

I treated myself to a full-english breakfast. I also bought myself a few magazines for the plane. That was when a crazy idea hit me – “Why don’t I use up all of the spare change I have left, by buying gifts for everyone?”

I was probably down to my last 20 or 30 dollars, and figuring that I still had a few folks left to get nick-nacks for, I thought that I may as well get rid of the last of my kiwi currency on a few novel keyrings and the like. This is exactly what I did. By the time I was done, I had less than $5.00 dollars left in loose change, but could not find a way to spend the last of it. It was like a game at the time! What is the smallest thing I can buy to get rid of all my money? Getting down to those last few coins… I felt pretty proud of myself.

Thinking that was it, and drawing a line under New Zealand, I headed straight to passport control. I was first in the queue, as soon as the tannoy announced that the check-ins were open. I had been there for four hours after all, I was ready to go! In fact, the passport control was opening really close to the take-off time, there was only about 30 minutes left between the announcement and take-off. Still, it didn’t matter, I was first in the line, and eagerly approached the friendly looking Maori fella at passport control.

“Good Morning,” he says.


He smiles. “All ok. But you haven’t paid your departure tax.”

“My what?” – MY WHAT???? I go green.

“Departure tax. It’s $20.00, you just pay it over there. You get a little sticker on your passport.”

“I… I didn’t know…”

“Hey, it’s no problem mate. Just $20.00. Queue up at the bureau du change, just there, then queue up again, and it’s all fine.”

“But, I’ve got no money… And my flight is in half an hour…”

We both turn around. The airport had suddenly decided to fill itself up full of people. I swear that two or three hundred folks suddenly manifested behind me in the queue, all eager to get through the three or four passport control desks.

“I don’t think I’d make it back through that queue in time.”

As if the country had not been generous enough to me, this turned out to be yet another sterling and life-saving example of the generosity and cool-headedness of the Kiwi people. The guard sees the queue forming, and just says “No bother mate. Do what you can to get it paid, then when you’re sorted, slip the barrier there, and come straight back to me. Good luck.”
Thank you! One problem down, one to go…

But still, a complete cock up on my part, for somehow never stumbling across any information, anywhere, in any conversation, literature or media, or at any point in this trip or its research, about paying a bloody departure tax! How was I to know?

This would have been bad enough, but combined with the fact that I had literally just gamed myself into spending all of my money, just ten minutes before… What a clown! My credit card would not work, and I had no way to pay the $20.00!

I was on auto-pilot as I walked to the bureau du change. I had no plan, but I joined the queue anyway. It took me ten agonisingly slow minutes to get to the front. At the very last second, I was searching my wallet for the hundredth time, when some coins from Singapore fell into my palm. And that’s when I saw a chance! I may have just got rid of my New Zealand currency, but I still had some change from the two days I had spent in Singapore. That made me realise that I still had some British money in the very bottom of my bag as well. Turns out having the tax-office at the bureau du change was a lifesaver! I merged the shrapnel that I had between New Zealand, Singapore and English currencies, and I scraped the twenty dollars.

After getting up at six am, and after having nearly four empty and relaxing hours to kill, I sprinted for passport control, got waved through by my new Maori hero, and finally got on the plane with about four minutes to spare. One last adventure. Thanks a bunch!

I have a few vague memories of Singapore airport. I wasn’t staying over again, figuring that I’d just want to get back home, which of course I did. But two thirteen-hour flights, with only a two-hour break in Singapore airport, and without being able to catch a wink of sleep on the plane… I honestly, literally, have no memories of getting home. I don’t remember any sort of reunion with Hazel or my parents at the airport. I think I spent the whole of the following day in bed.

My own photographic library has no immediate pictures post-New Zealand. There was a "Welcome Home Col Party" at the house we were renting, which I thought I had suggested (remotely, whilst in New Zealand) be a 'back-in-black' party, in honour of Spider-Man's return to the black costume in comics at the time. My friends hijacked the theme and made it a 'dress as everything Col hates' party instead, which was sort of a nice welcome I suppose.

I think Hazel missed me, and so we whisked ourselves away to the Lake District a little over a week later. Yeah - I missed her too.


From the first minute, to the last, this whole trip had been one huge, colossal, life-changing, learning experience.

It had tremendous adrenaline-fuelled highs, and some cripplingly lonely lows. Zen-like moments of clarity, combined with beer-fuelled moments of hilarity. Unforgettable scenery, unforgettable people. Transient and true friendships, and all-to-brief moments of Peace, in places that I may never return to.
All of them, treasured memories.

I owe New Zealand a lot. A. Lot.

I left a little piece of myself there. But I brought a whole lot of New Zealand back with me.

I hope that I do justice to the Mana that I received on this adventure.

Ka Kite Ano. Kia Ora, Aotearoa.


Colin Warhurst – 14th March 2018