Monday, August 15, 2011
When the idea of visiting New Zealand was first mooted by my wife sometime last year, my initial reaction was nonchalance. The main reason for my disinterest was that it was a long haul flight and I wouldn’t be able to smoke in the aircraft during the entire 10 or 11 hours journey. My recent trip to Nepal changed all that. I realized that abstaining from smoking for a while was no big deal and that I’d be able to endure it.
So off I went to NZ on 5th August. My wife had left a week earlier to Australia where she was to meet her elder brother Mano who lives there with his family. From there, she was due to meet me in NZ where her younger brother Rajah has made home, having emigrated about 10 years ago.
The flight itself was eventless. AirAsia flights are pre-booked months ahead; so there were a lot of no-shows. I got a row of 3 seats all for myself; so in that sense, it was comfortable. Decided in having light meals during the flight so I settled for sandwitches. Hem Raj had recorded some movies on my mobile phone to keep company. I managed to watch only one movie and realized that the battery was nearly drained! When I landed at Christchurch at about 11.30pm (NZ time), I was virtually dying for a fag. Walking out of the airport building, I stood at the designated smoking zone, delighted at the prospect of eventually being able to ‘quench’ the crave as chilly winds smothered me all over from all directions. It was a sensation that I had never felt in my life ………ever. Temperatures were below 7 degrees so you can imagine the ice-cold effect the winds caused on the body. I spent the next 5 hours or so in the warm main terminal before catching my connecting flight to Auckland where my wife and brother-in-law were waiting for me.
From Auckland, it was a one hour’s drive to Hamilton where Rajah lives. But I had one thing to do in Auckland and that was to meet up with my childhood buddy Lalitha who has settled down there. We had communicated prior to my trip so she was expecting us. Initially we were to meet for dinner but since I was on a lightning trip, she settled to play host over breakfast. This was the first time I was meeting her husband Navin who hails from Seremban. They live in an effluent part of Auckland in a well appointed neighbourhood with their daughter and 2 cats. We caught up with so many things past and present and spent about an hour and a half before bidding goodbye. In the excitement of the much anticipated reunion, I had totally forgotten to take any snaps with her. What a waste!
The next couple of days were spent at Rajah’s place in Hamilton who also took us to show the outskirts of North Island. The rolling hills and blue sky was picture perfect. The clarity of the scene made you feel as if you were not short-sighted anymore. Sheep, cows and horses grazing on the hills completed the magnificence of the picture. We made a quick stop at the mouth of the longest river in NZ at its source where the water flowed from a massive lake formed by the melting snow from the surrounding hills. It was a beautiful sight, with columns of fog and clouds shrouding the background like a backdrop. We made it up all the way to the snow-fields and saw people skiing down the slopes. My wife and I had to wear 2 winter jackets each to endure the cold. While my wife could afford to play snowball with her brother, I chose to return to the comfort of the car as I could not stand the cold any further. My hands were beginning to feel numb. But it was an experience that I had never imagined I would experience in my life. Given a chance I would probably have chosen to get a feel of winter in some theme park some place, just for the experience. Never in a real snow covered country. But it was all well worth it. The snow flakes steadily floating down to rest on your jacket was simply exhilarating. After spending a good hour or so at the snow-fields, we had difficulty maneuvering the car out of the snow covered road down the slippery slopes. But we managed to drive out slowly without incident.
The people in NZ are so approachable and friendly. It’s a completely different culture actually. It was so refreshing to see cars stop for you when they notice that you want to cross the road, people don’t honk at you on the roads, they adhere strictly to speed limits and road signs, they overtake only at designated areas on the highways, they don’t litter and they appear to have the greatest respect for the human race. This has been such a short vacation but I vowed to return next year to see the rest of the country. Rajah of course is hoping that we would seriously consider emigrating, a prospect that I have kept at the back of mind for now.
During my return flight, I couldn’t help reflecting on all the areas that we have had to compromise by choosing to live in Malaysia.
Thank you Rajah & family for the wonderful time that we had in NZ.
Posted by aravind at 12:49 AM