Today I am all excited - I am going to a place so remote and so exotic that I have never even dreamt of seeing it with my own eyes. I was originally planning to go there when I was in Japan at the beginning of the year but I had to delay this trip a bit. But now it is coming!
Yes, bags all packed and ready to go. But where was I going? Try to guess… The trip involved a trans-Pacific flight and a stopover in not one, but two cities in a certain gorgeous country where people speak a funky sort of English.
Any idea? No? Ok, here’s another hint. The country is also known as Middle Earth and even the flight was full of strange creatures.
Yes! New Zealand! But it was just the second stop of my trip, with Japan being the first. I flew there on a direct Air New Zealand flight.
It was a very full, but quiet flight. To be honest, I found it quite boring. Twelve hours of just eating, sleeping and watching movies. And then it was time to buckle up and prepare for landing. We stopped in Christchurch first, where most of the passengers, mostly outdoorsy European hiker types, got off, and the rest of us then continued on to Auckland.
In Auckland I disembarked and prepared to spend the night. I didn’t explore the city, because I knew I would be stopping there again on my way back to Japan. The next morning, bright and early, I made my way to the Air New Zealand check-in counter at the International Airport in Auckland.
The line was long. Very long. Every passenger had extra luggage, bags and boxes of all shapes and sizes. Most of the passengers seemed to be families traveling back home for the holidays. And bringing back goods, lots of goods, that are hard to find in their home country. And there was I in the middle of it.
The lady sitting next to me on the plane asked if I was going to finish my in-flight meal, and when I said that no, I was full, she asked if she could have the rest of it. I felt bad so I shared my pack of granola bars with her. She seemed quite old and hungry. And the in-flight meal was a paid service.
Where was I going? Still no idea? Ok, another hint. The flight was relatively short – about 4 hours. Go ahead, grab that world map and draw a circle with Auckland at its center. I’ll wait.
Yes, all those tiny little specks in the ocean. The South Pacific Islands. One of them was my final destination.
Nothing but ocean in all directions. Soon we were handed our immigration forms. The forms were full of warnings about bringing fruits, nuts and vegetables into the country. And dirty hiking boots. I quickly made sure that my hooves were clean.
Now you know! The Kingdom of Tonga!
Yes! That was my exotic destination and I was really looking forward to seeing and experiencing the country firsthand. Or, firsthoof.
Getting of the plane we were welcomed by hot, humid tropical air. The line to the immigration booths was the longest I’ve ever seen. And probably the slowest moving as well. One of the passengers, seeing my impatience (I was really eager to see the capital city of Nuku’alofa), said: relax, take it easy. You’re on island time now.
Two hours later I finally left the airport and was very happy to see that my hired driver was patient enough to wait for me that long. Island time, he said and smiled. Yes, indeed. I could get used to it, no problem!
The next report will be from Nuku’alofa!