Tag Archives: airport

The Great Auckland Drive

That’s right…this is NOT about the Rugby World Cup although it’s probably best time to write about Auckland. It’s about how to do the grand tour of this city in five hours. It’s about spending time with a cousin I barely know but who makes me feel like family because she reads Georgette Heyer too. And most of all it’s about figuring out why in the City of Sails, the first thing you see in the airport arrivals lounge is a plane hanging from the ceiling.

When there's no parking to be had...

 I flew into Auckland from Hamilton on a Beechcraft. I’ve never been on a plane so narrow that everyone gets a window seat. The co-pilot doubles as a sort of flight attendant, and the door is really a staircase – or is it the other way round? I survived – yes, this is important to note.

The Great Auckland Tour begins with my cousin Nithila and her family driving me from the airport at Manukau to a lookout point in the Waitekere Hills to the west of the city. We’re the only visitors to the spot, which is guarded by a giant frame and a Maori style totem pole featuring large, scary, and…um…rather virile wooden men.  Of course, I took photographs!

The view from the hills

As we drive back, my new-found cousins give me a condensed lesson on Auckland culture. This is very easy to follow. First, you will never ever under any circumstance cut down a pohutukawa tree, but you can go round a giant pohutukawa flower inside the city.


Second, there are no bicycle paths. So, if you’re a cyclist in Auckland you must be a) crazy and b) on the way to becoming an endangered species. Third, there is no shortage of Indian food in Auckland…or Indians…or Indians in turbans…or Indians running little grocery shops. Just to make sure that there really is a bit of India in Auckland, we stop for brunch at an Indian restaurant. There are idlis and dosas on the menu – things I haven’t seen since leaving Mumbai. The food is good, and the company better.

The Savage Memorial at Bastion Point

The last leg of our tour takes us along Tamaki Drive to the Savage Memorial at Bastion Point, via Mission Bay. There is no shortage of bays in Auckland, and no shortage of boats either to fill these up. It’s a beautiful day and finally, I discover the sails in the city. Bastion Point stands on Maori lands and is surrounded by windswept green lawns. A tall pillar commemorates a former prime minister. I spot my first real Maori lodge stands the distance. I’m also looking at the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  

And there it was...the city of masts

The grand tour ends at the airport and goodbyes are said. There isn’t enough time to browse in the shops so I scoot through immigration only to find that the flight is delayed. I also discover, to my disappointment, that I don’t have a visa stamp saying “Auckland” because NZ immigration uses an electronic system. And then I remember – I never did find out about the plane hanging from the ceiling.


Changi in Transit

Do people blog about airports when they travel? Airports are places too, even if you are technically “in transit” and have not entered the country. I think eleven hours (was it more?) in Terminal 3 at Singapore’s Changi airport certainly counts as visiting a place. I’m cheating a bit, really, because it’s been three weeks since I passed through Changi. Thinking back, it seems like a distant world and not a five-hour flight away from Perth.

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So what do I remember? I have a lot of firsts here – my first butterfly garden. Click. Click. My first airport sculptures – click. My first koi fish pond – click. My first piano recital at an airport – forgot to click. My first food court meal – absolutely not worth clicking. My first Chinese New Year horoscope display – everyone else is clicking, so why the heck should I?

After deciding that I’ve exercised my flight-swollen feet enough, I head for my windowless room in the Transit Hotel, with its exhibitionist (glass-walled) bathroom. Not that I mind really, the service is great. I can make my own tea and it’s blessedly quiet. Much fumbling with the automatic timer…click. Now I feel like a tourist. Eventually I check out and head for the departure gates. Annoyingly, the free Internet terminals are set to access Facebook and I want to use GoogleTalk to chat with family. After exchanging my passport details for wireless access, I sit with my laptop and give a running commentary of what’s happening around me.

Weird and wonderful in an Indian airport usually means the passengers – or worse still the many shapes and sizes of their luggage. Okay, so I’m not very understanding of People Who Can’t Travel Light. Everyone in Changi seems to be sporting a laptop or a backpack. Boringly efficient, but I approve. One lady is standing by a wall that has an art installation quite similar to something I’ve seen on the wall of a lecture hall in Perth’s Curtin University. Final click. It’s time to board my flight to Australia.

The Company of Strangers

A very visible Christmas tree and practically invisible passengers.

The thing I missed most on arriving in Perth was people. I’m sure there isn’t a street in any Indian town that has less than ten people on the pavements at any given time – not including the cobbler, the coconut seller, the newspaper vendor, the chaiwalla, and the odd beggar. You also have the company of a couple of stray dogs or a masticating cow that believes it has the right of way. I never thought I’d actually miss Mumbai’s maddening crowd.

Perth is quite empty of people – both human and otherwise. In fact, I was advised to be wary of strangers. This is rather unnerving for someone like me who is used to sharing the sidewalk with a crowd. There’s something comforting about the thought that if you fall over, there are probably half a dozen people behind you who will stop to help you up. At least, that’s what I hope will happen – in a city like Mumbai it’s just as likely that you will be trampled and trodden over by the said dozen.

Perth is apparently a dangerous place if you decide to take to the streets. One well-meaning person warned me to have a finger on the mobile phone while walking home and to watch out for ‘abos’. I nearly went cross-eyed during the first two weeks, trying to keep a lookout for suspicious characters. Was the person clip-clopping behind me a would-be mugger?

Also startling was the way cyclists and old people on go-carts whiz by without warning. The pavements of Perth may be free of the dangers of dung and dog poo, but you’re more likely to get run over by a pensioner.

Still, the strangers in Perth often turn out to be quite friendly. I was studying the Christmas decorations and historical displays in Perth International airport’s departure hall when I was politely accosted by a blue-eyed blonde. Horror and panic – on my part, I’m not used to being thought Interesting by five-year-olds.

Still, after polite introductions Lina and I studied a model DC aeroplane, and old photographs of the airport. It used to be an airbase during the Second World War. We also admired the towering Christmas tree.

The next step was the baggage check, of course. Lina examined the contents of my bag. I was carrying Sharpe’s Revenge(not interesting because it had no pictures), a hat (which we decided she still needed to grow into), and sunnies (that looked better on her, than her mum’s sunnies did on me). In all we had a good time admiring each other’s possessions. Of course, her pink bag with white bunnies and white dress with pink flowers was MUCH better than my faded jeans and leather handbag.

“Where are you going?” asked Lina, as I packed my camera and prepared to go.

“Well, I must get on a plane and go home to MY mum,” said I.

“When will you come back?” she asked anxiously.

“In a month’s time, if you’re still waiting here.”

I waved off her mum’s thanks and bid a disappointed Lina goodbye. I was going to spend the next 24 hours in the company of more strangers, and it was rather nice that at least one wanted me to stay in Perth.