12 February 2007

Seven league boots

It takes only 11 hours to cross the Pacific from Auckland to Hong Kong these days. As long as you can get to the plane, that is. The snakey queue to get past Auckland Customs takes an age, and could've taken even longer if any official-type people had noticed the unattended cabin bag that had been left in the queue by a long-gone traveller. Most of the queue occupants glanced at it and then ignored it; one portly German with a handlebar moustache shifted it closer to the front of the queue each time he passed it in the S-shaped waiting line. When I pointed the bag out to him, the Customs dude at the counter cracked a minor 'bomb joke' under his breath, which was quite a relief as I'd had to stifle the exact same joke a moment earlier, for fear of starting my journey in the penitentiary.

Cathay's A340 swooped me away from Mangere and over the city for one last view of the Harbour Bridge. Flying north-northwest, we crossed the coast over the Kaipara Heads (pic) and headed for Australia. The economy section was full of young Asian students returning from New Zealand. The one I was sitting next to, a young chap from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. He called himself Hank (a Taiwanese cowboy?) and was just returning home from a 3-week English course at Waikato University.

As the jet swept towards the Queensland coast, I took in The World's Fastest Indian, which proved to be an entertaining and likeable local feel-good story. Tim Shadbolt got three lines! This was followed by Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, which was fizzy but slightly superficial. Ending a movie about Marie Antoinette at the point she leaves Versailles in captivity rather misses the most important bit of the story, I would've thought. But for music fans, there's a nice bit when Bow Wow Wow's cover of I Want Candy soundtracks a montage of conspicuous royal consumption and giddy regal excess.

After buzzing over Whitsunday Island and crossing northern Queensland north of Cairns, we clipped the south coast of Papua and then crossed Philippine islands galore. A boiling golden sunset (pic) enlivened the evening, and justified my window seat decision. Cathay's flight service was okay, but their seatbelt policy was over-zealous, with really long periods of seat confinement in conditions that are typical in most flights around New Zealand. Turbulence? That's not real turbulence!

Arrival at Hong Kong's space-age airport was straightforward, and I was soon slicing through the big city evening on the rapid train to Central Station for only $20. The night sky was tinged orange from all the city lights, and a smoky murk limited visibility. Kindly cousin Alex Wilson met me (and more importantly, my four bags totalling nearly 40kg plus my full-length coat) and helped me board the ferry at the nearby pier, and we chugged off on the 30 minute trip to Lamma Island, where the Wilson family lives. We pushed my luggage through the empty alleys of quiet little Lamma (pic), as there are no cars (or, more importantly, taxis) on the island. Getting up the steep slope to Tai Ping Village on the crest of the hill required a fair bit of sweating but we made it in the end, Alex being used to the strenuous climb, and having very sensibly brought the family trolley along to ease the load.

I settled into the spare bed for the night at about 3.30am NZ time, happy to have got the first day of my new travels under my belt.

p.s. I did manage to sell my trusty Mitsubishi before I left. I took it to a carfair in town on Saturday morning and had it sold within 10 minutes of getting there. Later that evening I had the pleasure of attending a farewell BBQ at Jennifer & Andrew's place in One Tree Hill, and catching up with some groovy Auckland pals before I left (pic).
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