I was very organised when the time came to say goodbye to Knockelly and head for the airport. All the last minute snags had been sorted, lists had been made and bags had been packed. I should rephrase that. Bags were packed, then weighed, then unpacked again. And I went through each pile of sweaters, jeans and shirts and ruthlessly put half back into the cupboard. My problem was that I could fit everything in to the suitcases, but I was then well over the already generous 30kg emirates allowance.
Wendy had very kindly volunteered to drive me to Dublin airport, and we left in loads of time. My biggest worry was leaving my dogs behind, but as we drove off up the drive they did not give me a second look, so maybe my fears are misplaced. We got to the airport without incident, and Wendy insisted on not only delivering me to Emirates check in but also safely saw me through security. In other words, she made quite sure there was no danger I might turn back!!
The first flight was just over seven hours to Dubai. Uneventful, time passed easily, and I wondered what all the fuss was about over long haul flights. I watched the first three episodes of both “The West Wing” and “The Wire” and we were in Dubai before I knew it. I had an aisle seat, and availed of water or juice every time the trolley passed by. But was still very thirsty upon arrival in Dubai.
Went through security again in Dubai, and then decided to look for something to drink and water to take on the next flight. The long one. As I had no local currency, dirams, I ended up buying two bottles of water and a fresh orange juice and putting it on my credit card. Seemed a bit extreme for such a little amount. Drank the orange down and headed down to my gate to board. But just before boarding they check your bag for liquids again in Dubai. So my two lovely bottles of water had to be removed. Although I did nip round the corner and guzzle a whole one while the other one was chucked in the bin. I was not the only one caught out by this.
Boarded the plane and had a window seat, great for sleeping but not so great for getting up and walking around, or also getting a drink from a passing trolley – the problem is that you need to see the trolley coming in order to get a drink. I fell asleep before take off and awoke an hour later when they served dinner. After that I never managed to go back to sleep.
One thing I noticed on both the flights was the unspoken rule of synchronised peeing. By the time the first person in your row gets up to pee, the rest of you are all bursting. And even if you are not, you avail of the opportunity to get up and stretch your legs and freshen up a bit. If you watch during the flight this happens in every row. Once one person plucks up the courage to disturb his fellow passengers the others all follow the leader! And then you all sit down until the next time.
As the trip wore on I then began to appreciate why people had told me the trip to New Zealand was about as long as longhaul gets. Not to mention the strange things that happen to your body. My feet swelled, then my ankles. I was thirsty, I and I had a headache. I did not realise that I was actually becoming really dehydrated. By the time I got to Melbourne I was really feeling really rather ropey, and more worryingly, slightly nauseaous.
The change is Melbourne was very simple, in one door and out the other side. We were allowed to bring water with us on this flight. I had an aisle seat and we took off. No meal on this flight, however they did provide a goodie bag. But I was way past eating at this stage. I chatted to one of the lovely Quantas air hostesses and she managed to move me to the three empty seats at the back of the plane to be a bit closer to the bathroom, in case the nausea got worse. She also told me that for future reference the recommended amount of fluids to drink on a long haul flight was 1 litre for every four hours. I shall remember that for the flight home. Non alcoholic obviously!
We arrived in Auckland just before 5 am which was half an hour ahead of schedule. Uneventful passage through arrivals, they disinfected my Ariat boots, but thankfully paid no closer attention to anything else in my luggage.
My shuttle driver was waiting for me in the arrivals hall even though my flight had arrived early. He was very helpful and took my bags out to the shuttle while we waited for the other passengers. In case any of you are wondering about the “shuttle” it does not fly and most certainly is not supersonic. The airport shuttle companies operate within New Zealand providing a door to door service to and from all the major airports. It is more cost effective than a taxi service, and provides a convenient option for travellers to and from New Zealand. Sometimes you can be lucky and be the only passenger booked on your shuttle. I was not so lucky on this occasion. It turned out that I was sharing my shuttle with three other male passengers. I was to be the last drop off. My heart sank, I actually did not think I would manage three minutes in the shuttle, never mind an estimated three hours. The other three all lived in various parts of Hamilton, and I had a further 40 mins to travel after the last drop off. The trip in the shuttle finished me off – I managed to hold on until the last passenger had been dropped off. Half a mile later the driver heard the words that I am sure puts the fear of god into all drivers. “Stop the bus, now!! – and the inevitable happened. I left more than my dignity behind me on the grass verge. After that, much to my relief, the last part of the trip passed without incident and we arrived in Matamata about 10am.
17 Inaka Place, Matamata is my home for the next five months.
My new housemates were all up and welcomed me and my luggage – but I was not up to having a chat or even a cup of tea. Those of you that know me well would have been seriously worried as I never turn down a mug of tea! I headed to bed and slept soundly for four hours and woke up like a new person, much to my relief. I got up and had a bath to freshen up and wash away the grime of the trip. To my dismay, my ankles had disappeared into a pair of tree trunks that used to be my calves. Hard to believe that 24 hours of travel could have such an effect on a person. Honestly, I think I would have looked better wearing Nora Batty’s stockings than I looked that day! It took nearly 48 hours for the swelling to fully subside, and that was doing plenty of walking. I was also amazed at how much I needed to drink during the next day or so before my bladder actually refilled – if you have read as far as this make hydration your number one priority on any long haul trip you might be planning. The problem arises as you are in a climate controlled environment where the relative humidity can be as low as 15 – 20% – this is three times drier than the Sahara desert!
I spent Saturday afternoon unpacking and had a wander down to the town to pick up a few groceries. Only a five minute walk. My housemates had left out for me upon my arrival a phone, charger and set of car keys. I had, much to my surprise, been lent a car. Or rather a “Ute”. But as I did not know the area I decided to leave the motor in dry dock until the next day when I should at least be able to find my way back again.
So on Sunday I got acquainted with my motor. Drove out as far as the Equine hospital where I was to be working the following day. And drove back. Simple. So why did I get lost four out of the next five days when I tried to find my way back home? I felt slightly better when two of my housemates told me exactly the same thing had happened to them. They have already been here three weeks, so were able to point out some of the potential pitfalls to me.
Sunday evening I got myself organised and ready for my first morning at work. I knew that the first week was not going to be an easy one. Bit of an understatement, but I survived!!
My first thoughts on New Zealand in no particular order
There are orange and lemon trees groaning under the weight of fruit. There are plastic bags full of fruit being given away at the end of many of the private driveways. Please bear in mind that August in NZ is the equivalent of our February.
The roads are straight
The roads are wide.
The cattle and horses remain out for the winter
They get roughly the same amount of rain as we do in Ireland, like us wetter in the west and drier in the east. I am in central North Island. So why are the fields here not like ours at home in the winter? Knee deep in ****? The soil must be much more free draining here is the only explanation I can come up with.
Even if you have a front drive, everyone seems to park out the back on the lawns/grass verge behind the house, and it does not make a mess.
Most houses are detached and rather flimsy looking. Many are wooden. All are cold.
The houses are not centrally heated. This should really be number one on the list. I was like an iceblock when I arrived, and thought I would never feel warm again. On the days where the sun comes out for any length of time the house warms up very quickly. But on the more gloomy days the house stays pretty jolly cold. And it can get quite cold at night. Most houses do in fact have a log burning stove, if you have timber to put in it and somebody home to light it. Also, no house has an open fire. It is now illegal in NZ due to their strict pollution controls.
They have a type of cider that is not made from apples. Strawberries and limes to be exact. Rekorderlig it is called. I am becoming rather fond of it.
Kiwi fruit got their name for a reason.
Fruit is very expensive over here. They do not import any to give the locals a better chance of making a reasonable living. But when you are used to eating as much fruit as I usually do it ends up being quite costly.
For those horsey friends of mine, New Zealand rugs are still the norm over here on all the horses, stabled or turned out. No fancy horseware or bucas rugs here. Just the green canvas ill shaped, badly fitting rugs I was familiar with before the more modern rugs became available.
Lastly, but by no means least my good friend google was in use again this week. I am sure many of you will already have known the answer to this question, but to those of you like me who are less well travelled, you might learn something from this. The wc’s (I am being pc here) all have two buttons. A smaller one and a bigger one. Yes, I hear the giggles starting already. So I could pretty much work out the basic concept, but was not really sure if you had to just press one button, two buttons, or actually hold them down to create a megaflush in an emergency!! Luckily for me I was by no means the first, and will surely not be the last to ask this question online. I found a wonderful blog article which asked exactly the same questions as I was pondering.
The responses to the article cleared the muddy waters for me somewhat. No pun intended!!
Next blog will update you all on my first week at work – stay tuned!!