This trip has been a long time coming. Like crazy girls, we decided to cram finishing graduate school, finding a new apartment, and planning a 2.5 week trip on the other side of the world into the span of a few short months. Most of our trips begin with incomplete itineraries that we fill as our whims guide us. New Zealand was a bit different. Our itinerary listed every hotel, train, plane and automobile (on the left side of the road) that would lead us through the country. I would pat myself on the back, if it didn’t take me until 3 days before our flight to book the final rental car.
I decided to leave the computer at home, and hence these entries are horrifically delayed. The trip from NYC to Auckland, NZ is nearly 24 hours and our travels too convoluted to worry about electronics. The first flight lands in LA for a 4-hour layover followed by a 13-hour haul into Auckland. The flight attendants walked through the aisles with a wine bottle in each hand, like a liquid apology for spending half a day crammed into a shoebox seat with a scratchy airline pillow. Sip, sip, sleep (kind of).
About 3 hours before getting to Auckland, somewhere out at sea, I could see a deep prismatic sunrise out the airplane window. I zoomed into my in-seat TV screen to see us crossing the line between day and night on the world map. I have no idea what time it was or supposed to be, but we were flying over a rainbow horizon, peaceful somewhere in the quiet sky and far from home.
We got to Auckland without the faintest understanding of time of day or day of the week. New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of NYC, which means leaving on a Thursday gets you there on Saturday. By some miracle of the sky, we were awake enough when we got there to jump right into the city. I inhaled an avocado-laden breakfast at Giraffe by the harbor (avocados are on every menu here) and a gallon of hot coffee (liquid crack) and got pumped to wander. Auckland welcomed us with misty rain and brisk air. It was my first encounter with the unique and humidity-free atmosphere in New Zealand. When the air is still, it feels mild, but as soon as it gusts…its winter. Dress in layers.
Katie’s parents were traveling New Zealand at the same time as us, so we met up with them in Auckland before jetting off in different directions later in the trip. A large part of our Auckland portion of the trip was meeting members of Katie’s mother’s birth family for the first time since finding them a few years ago. The story is like something from a movie, but I’ll be respectful of those details. Let’s just say that this is the second family of Katie’s who I have met while severely jetlagged.
The family (cousins, aunts, and uncle) gathered and immediately filled the largest table available at a local bar, chatting and tearing through plates of food and cold beers. It was easy and natural with little effort. We ended the night at a bar playing live 90’s music that echoed off beer-scented wood walls. It became a competition to see who could get the next round of drinks before somebody else did (a tie meant that everybody won). Couldn’t have been happier.
That comfort of being away had settled in fast. Back in our hotel, it felt a little like being in the clouds above an overcast harbor. Everything was quiet and graceful. Welcome “home”.