Monday, April 07, 2008

What I Did On My Holidays

Day 1: Traveling. The plane from Edinburgh to London Heathrow was cancelled, but British Midlands had already put me on the previous flight. It eventually left Edinburgh 15 minutes after the scheduled departure of the flight I was meant to be on. Got to Heathrow, switched from Terminal 1 to 3, got on plane to Hong Kong. Soon afterwards some nutter climbed the fence at Heathrow, launching a security alert, but it didn't affect my departure. Phew.

Day 2: This was the Thursday I never had, it vanished en route to Hong Kong and Auckland.

Day 3: Arrived in Auckland to be blasted by the shock of actual sunshine. There'd been a hailstorm as I left the house in Scotland and temperatures close to zero; now it was 20+ degrees and scorching hot. Switched from international to domestic terminal, and got flight south to Christchurch. Meanwhile some nutter tried to hijack a bus at Auckland International Airport, but it didn't affect my departure. Phew.

Day 4: After a restful night in Christchurch [including a visit with old school pal Vincent and his family], got flight to Queenstown. Plane came in over the Remarkables mountain range; stunning scenery. No nutters went wild in either location. Phew.

Day 5: Begin the Milford Track, a legendary New Zealand hike that spans five days and four nights. Aside from the guides, I was the only Kiwi on New Zealand's most famous walk. Australians made up the largest group, closely followed by Japanese and Koreans. First day involved a coach, a boat and a short walk.

Day 6: Ten miles of walking, most of it easy going, notable mainly for blazing sunshine and stunning scenery. The Milford Track is renowned for the amount of rain it receives every year, so walkers are advised to carry thermal underwear, microfleeces as an intermediate layer, outer layer fleeces and waterpoof gear too. I carry it all, but don't need any of it.

Day 7: The most challenging day of the walk. Nine and a half miles, half of it going up the MacKinnon Pass, the rest coming down. Take forever coming down, making sure now to protect my dodgy knees and dubious ankles. Atop the pass is amazing, with just a light breeze and glorious sunshine.

Day 8: The longest day of the walk - 13.5 miles. Still exhausted from the previous day, serious discomfit from chafing in all the wrong places, but overjoyed to have finished intact. Wish I'd done more training. Still no sign of rain. Atop the MacKinnon Pass it's blowing a gale, vile weather - but it doesn't affect me. Phew.

Day 9: Last day on the Milford Track. Taken out by boat on Milford Sound. Day is overcast and gloomy but still a joy to be alive and not walking. Long coach ride back to Queenstown.

Day 10: Fly to Christchurch, pick up rental car, drive to Nelson at the top of the South Island. Spend the next five days staying with family I haven't seen for the best part of five years - a happy reunion.

Day 15: Drop off rental car, fly to Wellington, meet up with old friend for tour of New Zealand's capital. See a new play called Shoes at a venue called Bats; show was funny and heartfelt, thoroughly entertaining.

Day 16: Shopping in morning, followed by a business meeting in Miramar. Not sure if anything will come of it, but enjoyed putting my brain back into action for an hour.

Day 17: Get Overlander train from Wellington to Auckland; 12 hours of riding the rails. Was not accused of murder, no assassins tried to kill me but neither did I get seduced by Eve Marie Saint. These things balance out, I guess.

Day 18: Reacquaint myself with Auckland, the city where I grew up. It's changed hugely since I left in 1990; not sure I'll ever consider it home again. Went to see legendary NZ rock band Split Enz play the final gig of the reunion tour; brilliant show.

Day 19: More family reunions, including a first sighting of my latest nephew, Mister Rex [say the name quickly a few times, you'll get it].

Day 20: Had been staying an upscale hotel in downtown Auckland, where the toilet always smelled of Chinese cooking. Switched to an arty B&B in upscale suburb of Remuera. It's been glorious sunshine in every other part of the country, but Auckland persists with showers and overcast skies. Still over 20 degrees everyday, of course.

Day 21: Go mental shopping day. Bought a shirt that defies the eyes.

Day 22: More family reunions. Everybody's that bit older. Reunited with my two brothers, the banter flows freely, as if we've never been apart - despite the fact I've seen them for little more than a month over the past 18 years.

Day 23: The holiday ends at one minute to midnight, catching a plane from Auckland to Hong Kong. Time for a last family gathering, some of the world's best fish and chips from Al 'n' Pete's Takeaway and a glug of L&P. Sweet as, bro.

Day 24: Fly onwards from Hong Kong to Heathrow, then Heathrow to Edinburgh. Happily, the domestic flight is with British Midland again, so it avoids the Terminal 5 baggage fiasco. Arrive too late for book connecting flight, but get a seat on next plane to Edinburgh. Get taxi back home, arrive a few minutes after 9pm. Forecast for the weekend - snow. Phew.


PJ Holden said...

I know you were on the wrong side of the world - but that Christmas tree in the first photo is upside down.


- pj

potdoll said...


John Soanes said...

Welcome back to Blighty - we laid on the snow especially.

Jim Campbell said...

That there is one beautiful country from which you hail, Mr Bishop ...