I was at the airport waiting to fly down to Christchurch for a coupla days, one of the random weirdness’s to be encountered on NZ
Domestic flights are large tour groups of Asians. One tries hard not to stereotype (except when the evidence supports it!) this lot fulfilled all my expectations.
Large crowds of tourists seem to exist separately from the rest of the world. If you are on a plane that is ferrying one to somewhere you suddenly find the departure lounge goes from calm and lounge-like into utter chaos in seconds. The group appears from nowhere and always seem to be talking very loudly and milling around looking both purposeful and yet lost, clutching many cameras and the ubiquitous plastic carrier-bags full of god-knows-what. Queuing and all things orderly appear alien to them.
There is always a grumpy stout lady with what looks like a back-stage pass round her neck trying to organise people and she is almost always ignored.
On this occasion the Qantas FA
, a very tall eastern European, who was attempting to restore order was surrounded by the tour party but none of them were actively interacting with him, they were just milling around his console and computer engaged in their own conversations and wild gesticulations, the noise was soo bad you couldn’t hear yourself think. His small but perfectly formed assistant caught my eye and flashed me her most dazzling smile, shrugged and tried to compose herself.
The Qantas Guy stood up tall(er) and said (loudly)
“please be quiet and sit down”….nothing happened…”Pleeesae be quiet and sit down!”….no change…..he tried another tack and bellowed:
“Sit the f**k down and for f**ks sake shut up!”
Or words to that effect, in Chinese and just to cover all bases, he did it in Korean too.
There was a stunned silence and all faces turned to him, an effect that can be replicated by clapping your hands (once and loudly) in a barn full of chickens.
Order was restored until the time for boarding came, this as you may well know is done by filling the plane from the back to the front and the rows are called in order.
As the first rows were called there was a stampede and many stout people clutching their carrier bags surged towards the air bridge.
The Qantas guy was looking at boarding cards and physically turning the members of the tour party around through 180 degrees and propelling them back away from the air bridge like so many clockwork toys, only to have them return. Those who were in the correct order were allowed on and after a few minutes of this he yelled:
“For f**k’s sake people, rows 23-11 only please!” (again in two Asian languages).
It went quite again, I was looking at him in profile and couldn’t see into the air bridge, he turned, looked down the tunnel and waved his hand at something invisible (to me):
“Go on, shoo! Go, ON
! Get on the bloody plane!”
A quick glance revealed a gaggle of carrier bag wielding tour party members standing looking forlornly back up the air bridge to the departure lounge huddled together as if for safety.
Another burst of Chinese/Korean and the long march started.
We eventually boarded.
The flight was memorable, the weather was perfect and we flew at around 20,000’ which is low compared to the 28-32,000’ used by Air NZ
(Jets are more economical at altitude so no doubt the FAA in NZ
has tried to make Qantas uncompetitive by giving them a lower flight lane on this route).
We passed directly over Mt Taranaki, an extinct (so the locals hope) volcano and got the most stunning views, I took some pics, they didn’t come out brilliant but one is attached so you can get the idea.
The views down the coast and over the Southern Alps were just jaw-dropping
As we passed over one large typical South Island River, all braided and alluvial I decided that I would go and stand in one and mill about in the flood plain as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Which is what I did, on day two of my trip I had 2.5 hrs between meetings so I checked the map and drove off west until I found the tiny village of Kirwee. I then headed Nth and found a gate marked “Anglers Access” I spent 10 mins off-roading in my hire car and just when I thought I was going to need a helicopter to get out, I arrived at the river where thankfully there was an area of compacted stones to park on and turn round, as the track up to that point was only about a Land-Rover wide!
I spent just over half an hour taking pictures, swimming, sunbathing (it was 29 degrees centigrade) and generally soaking up the ambience that can only be found when one is miles from the nearest human. The murmuring of the river was very soothing and as I lay there gazing over the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps I fell asleep for a bit.
Which is why I arrived at my next meeting 15 mins late, barefoot and covered in sand but this is NZ
and I was a Pom (been here 2 years) and for the next year or so I will be able to get away with such eccentricities (barefoot is however compulsory) until I have a year-round tan and my vowels become irrevocably distorted (“Sind us a Tixt Chrustine, and I will git tha fush and chops, bro”).
Now don’t let me give you the impression that Christchurch is paradise, it nearly is but the Motel I had was the foulest yet, everything that wasn’t gloss beige was a kind of nicotine/baby poo colour, it was dark and smelly and the Sky TV
was disconnected ( A major sin in NZ
Motels) it also had porno videos for rent at reception, not under-the-counter but there on display, in yer face, with titles like “Anal Alien, Scotty’s Butt Fest” and other tacky dross.
I fully expected a knock on the door in the night and the enquiry, “massage sir?”.
Getting home again was a bit of a mission; I arrived at the airport in good time and stuck my credit card into the express check-in kiosk, instead of a boarding pass I got a voucher asking me to go to the manual check-in as there was a problem. My flight was via Wellington to Auckland.
“There seems to be a problem with my flight”
“Let me see….yes..hmm….Wellington is marginal”
“I know that but what’s wrong with my flight?”
“Oh, sorry, Wellington is marginal for take-off and landing, due to fog, they may or may not close it in the next hour”
“Oh, what happens if we take off but Wellington is shut”
“You come back here”
“Ah, er…um..I really don’t need to be here in the morning”
“There is a later, direct, flight, you are a frequent flyer, we can move you to that one free of charge but it doesn’t leave for 2 and a half hours”
“I’ll take it”
I am not a gambling man and if watching those films like “Planes Trains and Automobiles” has taught me anything it is to always take the first guaranteed flight out of wherever you are.
Some people took the gamble and lost, they shut Wellington and plane loads of grumpy people were being returned to Christchurch. I sat in the pub watching the planes return and the sun setting over the Southern Alps, smugly patting my boarding pass and drinking “Copperhop Ale”.
Ha ha, I won!
The time passed quickly enough and the BLT sandwich was the best ever so I calmly made my way to the gate and noted that Air NZ
appeared to have borrowed a Freedom Air 737 for one of the AKL
flights, “must be chaos in WLG
” I mused
To my surprise we had a Woman Pilot on the flight (I mean actually flying not a passenger) in my 31 years of flights and who knows how many domestic NZ
trips, this was my first female pilot.
She did fly differently from most male pilots, giving it major thrust on take-off, nearly standing the 737 on end (I love enthusiastic pilots) but the landing was more like an international flight, none of this lob-it-at-the-ground-and-bugger-off-home-for-tea of the Qantas pilots or the sharp banking turns of the Air NZ
ones, showing off to the shoppers at Manukau Plaza, this was a gentle and very controlled descent, almost a glide, settling into the approach run from way out over the Hunua’s it seemed, maybe she had had a blonde moment and forgot to fill up with gas but it was very gentle and very nice and I emerged from the air bridge into utter chaos at Auckland, lots of delayed flights and grumpy business men but I slipped through undetected, happy to be home and not curled up in a corner in Christchurch fending off the massage girls and boys (and girlyboys!) in some manky Motel.
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....