We left Sydney a little late as another plane had to come back to the gate as it had to pick something up that it had forgotten and was in our way! The flight itself was three hours and we touched down in Auckland. The plane was emptied pretty quickly and we headed off to Immigration/Customs and Baggage Reclaim. As Jono has a permanent residency in New Zealand he joined the queue for the locals while I was with all the other foreign nationals. Jono got through pretty quickly as his queue was much shorter and I had to wait for a while. When it got to my turn the officer took my passport and swiped it and he then asked “Do you know why immigration want to talk to you?”. I was expecting my passport to be stamped and be on my way, so was surprised at the question. I said “No” but I did think how would I know what immigration want with me. I knew there was no reason for them to want me at all. As a British Citizen I could stay in New Zealand for up to six months on a tourist visa.
Before I knew it I was being escorted to a room where I was told to wait. Jono was told he could not come in but the officer neglected to tell him what was going on. He went to get the bags while I sat closed off from the free world. It was an odd experience, not one I’ve had to endure since a trip to Nepal years ago. This time, I had Ellen on a TV to watch and opposite me a vending machine full of crisps and chocolates. I did feel it was a cheek that I had to pay for a snack as it wasn’t my choice to be there.
While I sat there I could not help but feel guilty, even though I knew I had done nothing wrong. And all the time I sat there I was acutely aware that someone was watching me on either the security camera or through the one way mirror.
Nearly a full episode of Ellen passed, serious looking officials came and went and finally I was approached and asked what I planned to do in New Zealand and where had I been up to now. I reeled off the places we’d been, India, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Loas, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. I think he’d had enough at that point and said let’s go and get you stamped into the country. I’m not sure what it was about but I thought better not to make a fuss or ask. I did notice, however, that once I was back waiting to get my passport stamped at the ‘special’ counter the others sat waiting were all dark skinned – most probably a coincidence!
Jono already had the bags by this point and we made our way through customs. Like in Australia, we declared that we had walking boots and had used them to hike in. After one look at our form by a custom’s official, we were ushered into a queue to have them inspected for dirt that may carry seeds and disease. Following this, we were in for a long wait in line, as the people in front of us in the queue had all sorts of exotic stuff to be inspected. One man had a box full of huge fish which I overheard him saying he’d caught the day before. Another lady had something similar but also was wearing a grass skirt – I did wonder if they inspected that too. At our turn the official took a quick look at the boots and we thought we were good to go.
Unfortunately we were then told to join another queue which was to have our bags scanned. I did expect another inspection after that but this time we were sent on our way free to finally enter New Zealand.
On the other side, we were greeted by Jono’s family. We weren’t sure who was coming to meet us other than Jono’s Mum, so it was really lovely to see the whole family turn out. For me it was great to arrive somewhere where no thought from us had gone into how we were going to get from the airport and where we were staying. I knew we were being picked up and that we would be staying with Jono’s Mum.
After some introductions we sat down and I got to have a lovely latte which helped me relax after the whole process of getting into the country. As I sat there listening to Jono catching up with his family, I could feel my head starting to hurt, my body starting to ache and my throat becoming sore. I didn’t realise it but I was getting my first cold in the six months of travel and I think my body knew that we had arrived somewhere safe. After the coffee we headed to Waihi where Jono was brought up - the place we would be making our base for the next 3 to 4 months.