Ok, part 2:
Now, bear in mind that when it comes to “Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences” I am (amongst other things) a “Naturalist” (No BAViscount, not a naturist!), I grew up in rural seaside England in the only county on earth where Political Correctness prescribes, rather than eschews, discrimination of its inhabitants (Norfolk) and now live in a part of NZ that even Kiwis think is “Choice”, you may be able to understand that despite my best efforts at being understanding and egalitarian, when I opened the curtains in the morning I closed them again with a swift “Oh my God!!”
For this is the view that greeted me.
Never, in all my days have I witnessed industrialist architecture on such a scale, OK
, some people like it and I know Chinese people who feel agoraphobic and exposed in even the densest parts of Auckland…I know how they feel but in reverse…
Forgive me if this seems harsh but this is a TR
of my personal thoughts and feelings, I’m just telling you how I felt, I felt a sinking despondency that anyone could be forced to live like this, I feel the same in “Industrial Northern Towns” in England and I feel the same about NY, I would far rather live in Serekunda in The Gambia than in a high-rise wasteland.
The one saving grace was the Vasco De Gama play park in front of the Hotel, 16 floors and a flight of steps below me.
What really horrified me was the haze of pollution and the report in the paper that Macau and HK
will miss their “Blue Skies” target by 28 days this year if things don’t improve.
At ground level things weren’t as bad, I love new cultures and to get up close and personal with the “Macacks???” was a truly remarkable experience, when not locked in a windowless air-conditioned room with our delightfully crazy Singaporean and Irish Trainers, or attending “Nodding and Smiling Functions” with a vast array of nationalities, I managed to escape one night with an Aussie (the one who didn’t bring his missus!) and a Pom from Japan.
We hit the Red Market but there were no Communists for sale, so we bought belts and handbags for our daughters and reeled with shock at just how cheap North Face down jackets were!!! And other such branded stuff that is made in China and falls off the back of lorries (trucks).
We had taken a Taxi to the market, on the way we concluded that the Highway Code for Macau contains only one page and on it is the Emergency services number!! So we headed out on foot looking for something that would correspond to our map, we bought 4 beers a piece at the supermarket and eventually located ourselves.
It has to be said that lurking through the dark and dusty back streets in search of a beer and some distractions we felt safer than we had ever felt in any city on earth.
This may be due to the fact that everybody is out and about, shopping, dog walking, riding scooters and generally bustling about.
We came to the conclusion that to pull a girl in Macau one must have either a black scooter or a large yellow dog.
The transition from dusty docks to brightly lit Portuguese style shopping streets and colonial buildings takes 2 seconds, you turn left and there you are on those distinctive square mosaic pavements and into the hum and bustle of late night Macau.
We three hoons went and sat on the steps of the ruins of Sao Paolo and drank our beers, watching the endless sweep and eddy of humanity, man with dog meets girl with dog, dog shags dog, girl and boy go off together, boy with microwave in box meets girl with tiny dog in Burberry jacket (the dog that is).
And so on ad infinitum, life, observed with the western eye, westerners observed with an Asian eye, greetings and felicitations with no common language…man, at times like this its great to be a citizen of the earth.
The Portuguese influence has left a legacy of intimate courtyards and precincts, a haven from the drab concrete sky-rise that from such an interesting pavement culture can be largely forgotten.
And even up in the sky one can find bizarre and intimate spaces, like the back end of Gormengast Castle.
On the penultimate night of our stay I began to feel most unwell, I had a racking cough and felt very light-headed, which may or may not have been the reason my closing speech went down so well.
Next day I had totally lost my voice and felt like crap and rising, it was discussed whether I should ditch today’s flight and go home tomorrow, I figured that if I was going to be ill I would rather be ill at home and if my temperature got to 38 deg I would be quarantined in HKIA anyway, so I was deposited at the ferry terminal to catch the 13:00 Turbo Jet to HKIA.
This means checking in at the Ferry terminal which has the enormous advantage that my 2 kgs excess baggage, although it still cost me $20, it was 20 HKD ($4NZ), choice!
I watched through a haze of paracetamol as the ferries plied their trade on the choppy grey seas, disappearing into the haze about 2 miles out, after first turning under the “MacDonald’s Bridge” (It has 2 sweeping arches).
Boarding time came, I waited until I saw a gap and made my way by stealth to the front of the queue, not easy when you’re one of only 2 white people there and by far the tallest!
I was allocated 14H on the Ferry which was just like an a/c.
The sign said “Please ensure you fasten seat belt”….but there wasn’t one!
We shot off across the turbulent grey waters with a relentless surge of power and pretty soon the apartments opposite HKIA hove into view.
At the Sky Pier I was briefly re-acquainted with my baggage and checked in at desk 1, the very lovely Asian FA
(aren’t they all?) had my pre-booked 37B ready (no C on a 767, why is that?) and mentioned that at present there was no-one in 37A, “I would really like it if you could keep it that way” I told her, flashed her my most devastating smile and was rewarded with more good news.
gave me a slip of paper, because I had only been in transit in HKIA I was entitled to a refund of my airport taxes, good news indeed when you consider I didn’t pay for the ticket, it got even better at the refund desk when the nice lady pressed $120HKD into my hand, awesome!
She flashed me an enigmatic smile, my heart fluttered.
Then it was ordeal by queue as we waited for the bus, boarding the bus was another example of Asian efficiency, we were herded on board, and as the doors shut a security guy put a sticker on the doors where they joined, you might lose your baggage from time to time but you will never lose yourself between the Sky Pier and HKIA!!
The final part of the bus run involves a road that is tucked in between the enormous terminal buildings and the noses of a/c as they line up at their gates, the waving of bats to guide the a/c in is done from a small balcony on the terminal building itself, I was gawping in wonder at the efficiency of it all and saw a chap hold up a big flouro orange disc to tell the BA
744 captain that it was time to put the handbrake on.
Someone came to take the sticker off the doors and we all piled in through gate 10, the same one I left through a week ago, I followed the signs to the shops, I had 5 hours to kill and a fistful of HKD to get rid of and eventually I found my way to the “Clinique” counter at the duty free perfume shop.
I bought Mrs Jafa something she wanted but was always afraid to ask for, it was very cheap compared to buying it in NZ, cheaper even than AKL
duty-free….all good mate, all good.
To pass the time I sought out some good spotting places, there are funny little bits around the backs of the shops where you can hang out undisturbed, getting your Boeing or Airbus kicks, the sight of serried ranks of CX
744’s and A340’s was simply gob smacking.
But after a couple of minutes of this I was overcome with hunger and sought out “Popeye’s” again, yum!!! The food brought on a feeling of utter weariness so I found me a quiet place to sit, I took some more paracetamol and sat down, the chair was comfy but my body screamed for horizontal, I contemplated the 11.5 hour flight ahead and suddenly the floor seemed a good place to be.
I lay down, rolled a T Shirt up and put it on my laptop case, stretched out and drifted off into a deep sleep, I was woken by the far away sound of clapping, something was going on, somewhere in HKIA but I was still not ready to go upright but I was a bit cold, I considered my options and regretted putting my light raincoat in the checked baggage….and then an idea hit me!
In my laptop case (along with my laptop) were my flight socks, wrapped up in the thin plastic bag my suit came back from the dry cleaners in. I took it out, ripped it down both sides and opened it out, I pulled it over me and stretched out again, looking like some over-stuffed vagrant but I was warm, comfy and oblivious to the world again.
A woke again at 5ish and decided I needed water and some drugs, both were found at “Watsons” I chose some “Extra Strength Flu Remedy” and stashed them with the perfume for later.
All the bimbling around that was required to locate the correct shop had eaten up the best part of 45 mins and I happened upon a free internet service (Yay!) and posted on a thread about Christmas Trees, here on a.net, checked my e-mail and figured it would be a good time to head for gate 35, where my flight would be ready to board in 30 mins.
I took the very fast underground train to the “Gates 30-80 Area”, pausing to take a picture of the Christmas tree, I thought the Chinese were pretty much onto the Christmas thing and everybody wished people Merry Christmas as they served in shops, the USA govt and states have much to learn about equality I fear.
I turned round to find gate 35, it was my end of the longest….well, the longest anything man-made I have ever seen! The departure wing looked like it stretched to AKL
The gate sign gave the messages in English and Chinese, if you ever wondered how you write “Auckland” in Chinese………
I changed into my flight socks and after perving at the purser, who was 50 if she was a day but in a state of preservation that made me realise I had been away from home too long, I looked out into the darkness to sight ZK
-NCK, just seeing the 767 made me feel that I was already nearer home, the ambience of NZ colours and the FA
’s blazers, the colour of the sea, made me feel more relaxed.
The call came, we boarded but no Zoo this time, the flight was only 40% full at most!! Which posed the question, if the outbound flight was full….how did all those people get to AKL
in the first place?
Of the few people on board only about 25% were Asian, the rest appeared to be Israeli backpackers, returning Kiwi back-packers and me.
Catching sight of the Male Maori FA
was wonderful, I had been missing the sturdy Teak-coloured features, those expressive eyes and cheerful manner of Pacific peoples.
“Almost home” my weary bones sighed.
There was no-one in 37A, as predicted, no-one in 37 anything, or 38, 39 or 40!! The rear of the a/c was deserted.
The swift boarding meant a slightly early push-back and we taxied up to the end of the runway for ages, lights marked the way, two Malaysian Airbuses followed us and a Dragonair A330 roared over our heads, climbing north as we pottered south, the sodium lights over by the Cargo hard standing showed orange cones of polluted air, everywhere there was this grey haze, it had been with us all week, I think it is permanent, I’ll be honest with you bro, I wasn’t sorry to be leaving.
We roared off and overflew Macau, I noticed the ferry terminal and spotted a few places I recognised from my short (7 day) stay, then the clouds enveloped us, we began our long and lonely escape from the northern hemisphere, there was silence in the cabin as if all pax were contemplating what had been, what was to come and what might have been.
I made a Jafa-nest out of 37A & B plus cushions I had sneaked from repeated incursions into unoccupied territory.
But after a short trip to the middle lavs for some “exercises” where I witnessed the appalling spectacle that showed two things, 1: How empty the flight was and 2: how polite Asian people really are, get this.
THE ENTIRE EXIT/BASSINETTE ROW IN
THE MIDDLE OF
THE A/C WAS EMPTY, NO-ONE SAT
THE NICE CHINESE COUPLE IN
BEHIND STAYED PUT AND
DIDN’T MOVE FROM THEIR ALLOCATED SEATS!!!!
How many a.netters would have sold their teeth to be in a situation like that???
Anyway, staggering back, reeling from shock at this sight the Maori FA
“Man, just grab yourself a row, get some sleep, eh bro”.
Best not argue, eh.
I woke at one point and noted we were crossing the Equator, I ambled over to the window to see if I could see anything, there was a light far down below, I blinked, looked again, checked it wasn’t our wing light but no, it was really there, for about half a minute, hmmmmmm.
I necked a couple of the “Chinese Flu Remedy” and lay down across row 38, switched the headphones to the Classical Music Channel and drifted off to the sounds of a piece called “Waiting for the plane” very apt.
I awoke with a start, fighting for breath, seething with adrenaline and in the throes of a major panic attack, bugger, it seemed that I was having a recurrence of the sleep disorder, caused by a bad day at the dentist, that I had only recently shaken off.
“How could this be?” I pondered, then I was gripped with an urge to do “no 2’s”, I just made the lav in time..
I felt very strange, I hadn’t felt this bad in years, my pulse was racing, I was white and clammy, my pupils were dilated, I felt sick.
“F***k, how am I going to survive the rest of this flight?”
I grabbed the sink for support and then I had a realisation, my flu symptoms had gone completely, to be replaced by something far worse, I whipped out the packet of “Chinese Flu Remedy” and read the ingredients with a sinking heart.
Not only did they contain heaps of caffeine (which I had stopped taking to beat the sleep disorder, it worked) but there were a variety of other chemicals ending with “ine”.
So that was it, I was having a major rush from my pills!!
This in itself was reassuring and I returned to my 2 seater Jafa-nest to implement a variety of stress management techniques, ranging from Reflexology to Meditation, at this point I thought it wise to draw the line at Masturbation, effective though it may have been, the large girl and the delightfully sulky purser may have misunderstood and I might have got my bits felt, this would not please Mrs Jafa, no matter how attractive the proposition seemed at 35,000 ft, or I might have got a slap from either one of them, also not good for a man in my position.
Once the initial rush had subsided I felt good, damn good in fact, so good that I threw the pills away, lest I find them too pleasing…
The upshot of all this was that I was wired for the sunrise, I wanted to see it happen and as I gazed out of the window I noticed what I thought was light from a window spilling onto the wing, on closer inspection it turned out to be the very first glimmer of a new day, the wing was the black bit underneath.
I watched transfixed as some dude sang a song about weary travellers on the headphones.
Night was gradually ousted by a new Pacific day as we cruised through the middle of Australia, heading for Brisbane.
In a matter of minutes things got a bit darker for a while as we cruised over massive anvil headed thunderclouds that must have reached to 30,000 ft, I was rewarded with flashes of pink lightening which lit up the clouds from within, what a sight! Utterly fantastic, nature in the raw, just doing what it does best.
And soon we were past this massive architecture of vapour and electricity, maybe it was the pills but I was on a high, I really was loving it.
Finally, the sun appeared and spilled pink all over the layers and layers of cloud, at the moment I took this shot, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was singing “the Coventry Carol”, I could have died right there and not felt cheated.
As usual the camera doesn’t do it justice, but then hallucinations are hard to capture on film!!
As we headed towards Brisbane I caught a glimpse through the clouds of Australia, my first glimpse and I was disappointed that what lay below me was green and not red, bummer, now I’ll have to come back and try again!
Then breakfast was served, the lack of pax meant the FA
’s didn’t bother with the cart, they just delivered by hand and then, the full effect of the pills became manifest as I lost all control and photographed my breakfast.
There! Happy now????
After Breakfast the clouds went away and I was treated to excellent views of Brisbane and the Airport, too high to identify any a/c but I bet there was an Airbus down there, and a Boeing.
Brisbane looks like a nice town, the beaches are huge and it seemed pretty much idyllic for a city, dunno what the reality is though.
A while after pondering Brisbane I noticed some clouds on an otherwise clear sea, as we drew nearer I noticed it was two Coral Atolls, all ringed breakers and a sky-blue lagoon in the middle, there was not much land on the nearest one, just a large sand dune, I wondered if it was possible to go there, all in all it was the coolest thing I have ever seen, sitting there all serene in the middle of the Tasman Sea…choice!
As the pills wore off I felt less well but appreciably saner and was thankful of it, I gazed upon the perfect blue sea until I spied a “Long White Cloud” my pulse quickened, I saw land, the very tip of the Northland, we followed the deserted West Coast down towards the Kaipara Harbour, gradually losing height.
At the mouth of the harbour the Captain threw an enthusiastic left, we banked over a long way and the feeling of space and movement was just awesome, after 11 hours in a straight line this was something to savour.
We crossed from West to East, the Captain announced we would be landing to the SW
, clouds obscured the view but suddenly we were over the coast and they cleared, I looked down and noticed the Tor that gives Torbay its name, Waiake Beach, the Reef where the Snapper hide in winter and further north I could see the beach-scalloped finger of land that I call home, a mile further north and I would have seen my house!
Everything looked so clean, so open, so pure and so uncrowded, the a/c swung out over the Hauraki Gulf, over Waiheke Island
and sorted itself out for the finals, I spotted a Helicopter far below, buzzing along some jungle-filled gulley
We crossed South Auckland, some would say not the most desirable place in NZ but after HKG
it looked like a rural backwater.
And then, not a moment too soon, we were near the threshold, Puhinui reserve came and went
“Bump, Sway” and we were down, I looked up and saw the Warbirds DC3 about to cross the runway at 500 feet, this reminded me of Noelg’s impending visit and our proposed trip in this fine beast.
It took seconds to disembark, being a resident I got to do the short queue at Immigration and only 30 mins later I was on the tarmac outside the Airport breathing in deep lungfulls of warm, scented air, the Pohutakawa’s were in bloom, the sky was blue and I was home, back in the arms of my beloved New Zealand, my Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud, for, as the saying goes:
“Home, is where the heart is”…..Eh, Bro?
We, the undersigned, do hereby consent.....