After a 22 hour journey and a full day later, I officially touched town in Auckland, New Zealand! Weeeeoooo! I had a mild panic attack in Vancouver when the agent unsympathetically informed me at the gate that I required a return ticket or I would not be able to get on the flight. Luckily, I had a printed copy of my visa acceptance letter and it was all good – phew! I arrived at 6:00am, hopped on a bus, dropped my bags off at the hostel and spent the day wandering downtown Auckland. I was surprised at how much it reminded me of Perth, Australia… mostly because of the familiar shop logos and downtown street layout. I didn’t see much of the city, but the downtown area is quite pretty being right next to the ocean. I bought a meager lunch at a grocery store and it cost around $18! Yikes – everything is pretty darn expensive here. I finally found my way back to the hostel, had the best hot shower of life, and casually chatted with a few fellow travellers. Fighting jet lag, a full day of walking, and with an alarm set for 6:30am… I was beat and thought 10pm was a reasonable and appropriate time to hit the hay. The other 4 gals in my dorm, on the other hand, thought that 10pm was a perfect time to take a small break from their partying to pop into the room with boxes of hot, garlicy pizza to vociferously discuss the unfolding events of the evening and who is ‘snogging’ who. Perfect. Picture this: a loser girl curled up in a fetal position on the bottom bunk bed with neon orange earplugs and her back towards a group of flailing armed girls shrieking and mowing down greasy pizza slices and pepperoni smells wafting through the tiny, humid room. Sweet dreams.
I woke up early, grabbed a coffee and some free wifi from the nearest MacDonald’s, and then hopped on the ferry towards Coromendal. I met a couple of the most lovely and friendly native New Zealander women. I’ve only been in the country a few hours… but I’m beginning to feel like there is a special something surrounding the generosity and genuineness of the kiwis. After about 20 minutes… memories of my relationship with boats begin to surface. Oh shit. I’m smiling and nodding listening to one of the women’s stories, but I can begin to feel a cold sweat developing under my hoodie and my face turning bit green. All I am thinking right now is thank god I haven’t eaten yet. I tell the ladies I am going to check out the scenery and stumble my way towards the back of the rocking boat nearly toppling over a small child. I politely apologize but in my head I’m thinking, “Get the FUCK out of my WAY KID!!” I plop myself down on a storage bench and am grateful for the windy fresh air. I feel a tad better, but remain at the back of the boat for the remainder of the journey. I am grateful to finally reach land and arrive looking like a bit of a mess with a soaking wet front half of my body and a crazy wind swept hair situation.
I wobble off the boat I am greeted by the most glowing, happy looking woman named Sarah. I hop into her big blue van and one of the first things she say to me is, “It’s a bit of a winding road.” Fuck my life. We have a very pleasant conversation and I am excited to finally arrive at the retreat centre… but I am also thinking of ways I may have to get this complete stranger to pull over and have her first impression of me being one of barfing 2 minutes after meeting. The views along the drive were absolutely STUNNING! A quaint countryside scattered with wee sheep, rolling hills, lush lime green grass against turquoise water and bright blue sky. Ummm… yes please! We pull up to the gate that reads, “Mana Retreat Centre”. I’ve arrived!