Momona, New Zealand
I walked from the airport to the Kiwi airport hostel. Which was a great idea for the first km, wide pavements stretching out along the side of the road, leading to the state highway.
A mirage. Soon those pavements turned into sandy tracks, neatly laid out and surely showing where pavements will appear, but that wasn’t much good to me. My pack didn’t get any heavier, but the little wheely case did. I carried it a while, dragged it a while, then took a detour onto some dirt trails and picked up the pavement again near an industrial estate.
Only that was a mirage, too, the pavement lasting to take me round a corner to the highway, then becoming a cycle lane. Fine, but it was soon as much hard shoulder as cycle lane, and I was conspicuous, ending up dragging the bag along the grass verge for a few hundred metres before I turn get back onto to quieter streets. Should have stuck with the back street past the warehouses, lesson learned.
I made it – about 4.5km, if you fancy it, with a few hundred metres of dirt track before you get to the back streets and can wheel again. The hostel lounge was very chatty, people on the verge of travel all over, though a slight majority heading home. The Brits doing so felt they were going home a bit early (weather wise) and weren’t especially happy about it, the Chilean was keen to be home after nearly three years away. The hostel itself is an odd one, it’s a converted motel room or three within a motel, attached to a hotel, so very smart staff, not quite ideal conditions. I was lucky enough to be assigned a non bunk bed, but we all had to deal with noise from the lounge, which was a bit too close. Or the nice man from Norfolk just had a very loud voice.
I was up early to get a run in. The surroundings seemed prosaic, to say the least, in this unlovely suburb of Auckland*, but nearby is a park and The Mangere coastal walkway, 45 minutes one way and 1hr 20 the other. The walkway is gravelly rather than track, and the beach is volcanic rock not sand, but still-I ran into the sunrise along the coast, rabbits and pukeko birds scattering if I came too close; can’t be bad. I took the shorter route and that was about right, taking a total of something like 40mins once I’d added in the side route to a bird hide and the odd loop, for a total run of 55 mins.
My shuttle was at 8, with checkin closing at 9.30, two hours before takeoff – just the way it is for US-bound flights. I checked in using a terminal, dropped my bag off and without rushing was through security and strolling about the shops by 8.50. Not quite the 30 second checkin I’d had at Dunedin, but not far off. Lovely, friendly airport-even the extra security check man was friendly, and several people asked where I was off to and said they hated me; for airport staff, having any interest in passengers is unusual, given they deal with them all day every day, I was impressed.
8 or 9 hours to the island. Wonderful.
Reading: Mary Renault, The King Must Die.
* I learned later, watching a documentary on Jonah Lomu^, that South Auckland is the rough part. Lomu comes from Mangere.
^ Great documentary. Interesting to hear the thoughts of the French team from 1999, before the WC semi final against the All Blacks-they knew they were going to lose, they decided right, let’s fight, let’s not be humiliated. They won-one in the eye for mindless positive thinking.