The rain cascaded off the awnings, bounced off the pavement, puddled in the street. I squinted through the rain-spattered window as the suburbs rolled endlessly by; and the bus stopped and the driver switched off the ignition and I realised that the last ten minutes of suburb had actually been the city centre.
I stayed on the bus and took it back up the hill and splashed through the puddles to my hostel. It was a few doors from a liquor store across from a strip club which was next to a brothel which was next to the Salvation Army. An old man tried to pick fights with passing cars as he shuffled up the street, swiping at them with his umbrella and shouting in Drunk English, “ay, yafaggincan-yafagger;fagarff!” But it was New Zealand, so there was none of the edginess which all of that implies.
I had been travelling for four months by the time I reached Auckland: two continents, four time zones, six countries, a dozen cities, twice as many towns, and more planes, trains, boats, buses, minibuses, taxis, tuk-tuks, songthaews, xe-oms and cyclos than I had kept count of. I had sustained the momentum until then but lost it as surely and rapidly as a car suddenly out of fuel. The rain did not help enthuse me.
I could hardly be bothered to explore the city, let alone work out where to go from there. Instead I skulked in the hostel reading, listening to music, doing laundry and non-jobs like tidying out my backpack: all the things you travel 11,000 miles for.
I tagged along with Fred from Brazil on one of his cost-cutting missions to the Countdown supermarket for the cut-price end-of-the-day sandwiches and a few cans of whatever beer was on offer, went drinking with Ernst from Germany to a bar called Cassette Nine, where – reckoned my guidebook – “Auckland’s most out there hipsters” go and the beer was on $5 a glass promotion and neither of us was fit to drive or operate machinery next day. It was still raining in any case.
Ernst and his hangover left for Coromandel and a Chinese guy moved in and told us we stank and opened a window, and found out our names, and where we were from, and what we did – or had done – for a living, and where we were going and where we had been, and sidestepped our questions of him. I never even caught his name. He told Fred that his English would improve if he stayed longer in New Zealand and me that I did not speak English in the way that most Englishmen do. Then, when he had insulted everyone, he said something about having work to finish off, left and never came back.
Pablo from Argentina moved into the dorm in his place at three in the morning, unzipped his bag, took out his laptop and tap-ta-tap-tapped for an hour. He turned out to be a nice enough guy, although his English was limited and my Spanish is pitiful so conversation was difficult.
Fred left and an English couple moved in; Pablo left and a Japanese guy replaced him. I carried on skulking in the hostel for a couple more days but eventually managed to come up with a plan and got the momentum back. It was still raining when I caught the Inter City bus to Rotorua.
© Richard Senior 2015