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Wed, 01 Feb 2006:

For those who haven't followed the previous episodes of this story, my New Zealand visa arrived sometime before noon on 20th Friday. I had to report for my flight at 5 PM the very same day. It is a very near miracle which was accomplished by the helpful people at the New Zealand embassy and Mike Beattie and other LCA organizers who faxed, called and in general, made sure that I ended up on a flight to down under (and a little further down). Thank you very much.

So there I was with a visa and tickets in hand with nothing to carry other than my trusty sweater and a couple of books. I need clothes, shoes and something to pack all that in. spo0nman and premshree pushed me around and essentially made sure that I bought stuff I could actually use without paying much attention to the right hand side or the total. By around 3 PM we had bought all that I could probably carry on my back and a backpack to match. After a slight hustle with the currency conversion, minor panics and arithmetic failures (while counting notes), I was ready to go to the airport. So they pushed me into an auto and said airportu. Spo0nman even lent me his camera without which this entire experience would've been less of a nostalgia trip now.

with my bags

So I checked in and while in my security check, took out my phone. There were 6 unread messages. In all this hurry I had forgotten to acutallly read those. One of those turned out to be from toolz asking me to pickup Andrew Cowie's leather jacket (which he forgot here when he came for foss.in) from someone at work. Couple of others turned out to be saying things like did you remember to pack your sweaters, it might be cold there etc.. Anyway, while playing around with my phone someone sitting behind me gets a call. The ringtone is very familiar and then I remember the malayalam song it is actually playing. The owner of the phone turned out to be a mallu from Trivandrum who passed out in the same year as I did, but from a different college. There were lots of common friends that we shared (like Sreekrishna who also works in IBM). We found another mallu hanging around to take the same flight to singapore.

Singapore airlines is amazing. They have this thing called Krisworld which has on demand movies, so that you can stop, pause or rewind the movie with a remote in your handrest. I watched Sky High and then a bunch of Simpsons, 8 Simple Rules ... and a Duck Dodgers cartoon. And they remembered my Asian Vegetarian special diet, which meant that I really got something to munch on faster than anyone else. To save on space, let us say that I landed up in Singapore airport together with the other two and with lots of time left for our connection flights.

I had around 14 hours in the Singapore airport. I didn't actually want to wander too far mainly because I needed sleep badly. Found an unoccupied lounge and went to sleep sometime around 07:00 AM local time. I woke up a bit late, discovered an Indian restaurant in the mall, walked around a bit and went to the security check on time.

Finally, it is time to board my flight. I had wandered into the other segment and was trying to run on all those travellators to get to the correct transfer that I was supposed to be at. An important lesson learnt - always correct your watch to local time.

The Air New Zealand flight is of the duration of 10 hours. Interestingly the person sitting next to me is flying to New Zealand from Trivandrum. She's been in Saudi for a while but speaks malayalam. We had lots of fun discussions about travel and movies etc. The airplane plays Dukes of Hazzard over headphones with a single display on the middle. There was this group of young girls and boys from some school in Singapore who were headed to New Zealand for a trek near Christchurch. I got talking with an Indian kid who was trying to figure out C++ for the first time. Anyway, other than a few stares from a small kid whenever I laughed at an onscreen joke (Jessica Simpson with the These boots song). I got a few photos while on the flight by leaning over and taking a snap, but not too many while over Australia.

After the 10-odd hour flight, I hit Auckland at lunchtime. The feeling of losing 4 precious hours of sleep really hits home hard. Auckland is in the North island and the airstrip is defined by the curve of the bay. Amazingly beautiful to look at all the blue ocean in the bay from up in the flight - too bad they don't let you use cameras while landing.

The customs at Auckland actually unpacked my backpack because I had said that someone else had packed it for me. Anyway no big hassles in there - they even let me get a permit without even giving a residential address in New Zealand. Since I had four hours to waste in Auckland, I checked in my heavy backpack into the domestic transfers and moved around the airport. I ran into some interesting things around in the airport. After waiting till there was an hour to the flight and not seeing the flight in the display, I ask the help desk. They point me towards this one blue line which I have to follow to get to the domestic terminal. I take the distance in a run, pausing only to catch my breath and a quick snap.

Next stop, Wellington. Wellington's all hills all around. I don't think I could've got the entire picture without a panaroma stitcher. We pass over the end of the north island which is full of barren rocky outcrops which have a definite roughness characteristic of uneroded and therefore recent geological activity. We pass over a lot of beautifully rugged country before we get to Wellington.

The first glimpses of south island are of even more rugged wilderness, of the glaciers long gone by and inlets which remind you of fjords. The entire region is so full of such geological features unmarked by vegetation that it is quite amazing to just see what you had so far read about in some books.

And then you enter this green hills of Dunedin. Dunedin is a coastal town with lots of small hills, which would probably classify as mountains to most great plains folk. All over all these green and ofen yellow mountains you see small white specks which are sheep which are very near their shearing season. I arrive in Dunedin at 8:30 PM but it was still quite a lot of daylight left in the day and sunset was around 10 PM as further south as this.

Dave Hall, Rhys Weatherely and Andrew Mitchell were waiting in the airport to pick me up. They dropped me at the Unicol accomodation, where I was promptly handed my N 303 keys and directed towards my room. What I hadn't realized at the point was that this hostel accomodates both girls and boys, but more on that in another post. Anyway, I managed to find my way to my room and tried to sleep with the curtains firmly shut. I seem to remember that we tried to get dinner somewhere, but it is a little fuzzy round the borders for what happened late that day.

Rhys was staying at Unicol too and we met up the next day early morning. I woke up with sunlight pouring on my face and I was all like I'm late when I realized that my watch was showing 06:20 AM. I took a peek down the corridor and sort of realized that Sun had risen sometime near 04:30 AM rather than what I'm used to in the tropics.

And that is just the first part of my southern adventures. Watch my blog for more reports from the land of the white cloud - Aotearoa.

Isn't air travel wonderful? Breakfast in London, dinner in New York, luggage in Brazil.

posted at: 15:30 | path: /travels | permalink | Tags: , ,