We made it to Wellington without incident, connecting through Tahiti and Auckland, as planned. Up to now, we had always flown across the Pacific in a complete leap, starting from Los Angeles or San Francisco and landing in Sydney or Auckland.Â In order to get the cheap seats to make this trip possible, we had to fly Air Tahiti Nui, the national airline of Tahiti, which stops for a few hours in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, on the way to Auckland.
We expected to be locked away during the layover and held in some air-conditioned, sterile waiting area in Papeete, unable to get a sense of the paradise that awaited us just outside the thick double-paned glass. Or, at least, I expected that, as I had a similar experience in Iceland with Jeff Parker when we were AirHitching to Europe in 1994 and ended up looking out at what appeared to be the moon, just outside the airport. We both wanted to get out there, if only for the few hours during the layover, but not having a visa and having no place to store our bags held us back.
As in Iceland, Kath and I were restricted to the airport terminal in Papeete. However, we were able to go upstairs, open up a sliding window, and get a real sense of the island from our little perch. We saw huge waves breaking on the coral reefs that surround Tahiti, and we heard the call of a beautiful native bird that flew up close to use and sang to us for minutes at a time. It still would have been nice to have gotten out there, if only for a bit, if only “to dip my feet in the warm ocean water,” as Kath put it. But the entire experience made me happy that we did get to catch a glimpse of this happy little island, and it made me want to return, sometime in the future.
We are currently ensconced at the Worldwide Backpackers, near downtown Wellington. Upon arriving, we went to plug in our various electrical devices only to find that I bought and brought the totally wrong adapter for the job. (We have about five of the correct adapter at home, from our time of living in Sydney; I just picked out the wrong one because it was easier to carry. This led me on a mad dash to find a plug adapter, and everyone I asked in the hostel and in the nearby stores looked like I was crazy. Finally, I happened on an electrical supply place, which was closed. A man in a truck asked me what I needed, I told him, and he sighed and said, “My wife is going to kill me. I was supposed to be home for dinner a half-hour ago. I’ve sat in my truck three times, trying to leave, but someone’s always come up and needed something.” He perked up when I mentioned that I was from Memphis, and he related what a good time he had in the city when he visited 11 months before. He mentioned the joy of seeing the Mississippi from the top of the Peabody, tasting the ribs at the Rendezvous, and checking out Graceland with a friend. He found me the adapters I needed, and we had a good time chatting about what I should check out on the South Island. I’m sure he was just the first of many “good chaps” we will meet along the way.
Kath and I are off to check out Te Papa (the national museum), as well as a few other spots around town today. We also have tomorrow to roam around Wellington before we take the ferry across the Cook Strait to the South Island on Saturday. All is well, and we are having fun.