Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Written by Ryan Yoong Ka Jun, Class of 2014, Form 5 Science 1



Traveling isn’t for everyone. For some, it’s an escape from the overly cluttered reality we long to seek refuge from but for others it’s a terrifying trip into the unknown and unfamiliar which can, admittedly, be frightening on occasions. I personally look at it as a mix of both, with a slight edge towards the former. Such was particularly true during my recent (well not so recent) trip to Aotearoa, or more commonly known to us all as New Zealand. If you personally know me, you’ll know that almost everything I do somehow has a twist to it; and this trip was no exception. 5525 miles away from home, I decided to embark on this trip alone - a solo mission to the near edge of the world just for the thrill of it. Out of his mind? I agree. However, having a dream and actually executing it are two entirely different things altogether. As you’d imagine, convincing my parents was nearly impossible (then again, we learn that nothing is impossible), and eventually, after much debate and discussion, I was 3000 feet in the air on a 10 hour flight to a country I had never been to before. Did I mention I was alone? 

Once you’re in the air, there’s no turning back. Did I want to turn back? Yes, several times actually. The thought of potentially having nowhere to stay, not enough money, difficulty in understanding the locals (yes, amidst the panic I seemed to have assumed that  the Kiwis only spoke Maori) among a billion other things actually frightened me quite a bit. But alas, there was nothing I could do but shrug it off and hope for the best. Besides, after what seemed like an eternity in the comfort (or lack thereof) of my seat, we finally landed at the Auckland International Airport. And so, it began. 



The daunting feeling, the pressure, the urge - to relieve myself. Much better. Now where was I? Oh yes, arriving at the highly anticipated land of sheep (which there were surprisingly few of). Checking out was easy; though being stared down by a Walter White lookalike was not highlight of my trip. What came next, was much more frustrating. Waves upon waves of people were queueing up to collect their baggage from the conveyor belts. Queueing - imagine how scary that was to a Malaysian like myself. The order of the rows, the synchronization of the personnel, the efficiency of the system as a whole. Some scary stuff. 

Now here’s the part where I write about how my trip was absolutely perfect with experiences such as bungee jumping from the Auckland Tower, walking the trails of the Hobbit set, reaching the peak of Cape Reigna or having a go at the SkyCity Casi.... no I shall not. Allow me to begin by saying, if you’re planning on doing this, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Amongst the transportation and accommodation fiascos I consider myself very lucky to still be in one piece. From motel to motel, with bus rides that last on hours ends, seeing New Zealand as a whole was going to be much harder than I had imagined. 

Alright, I lied. How can I not be inclined to write something good about an even better country? I guess if I had to sum up my experience in one word, it would have to be - unique. Not better than anything, but different on its own. When you take your first few steps on New Zealand soil, I guarantee you will be greeted with the freshest air anywhere around the world - the kind that rejuvenates you instantly (as evidenced above). A few more and you’ll realise how peaceful and calm the community is around you. A lack of bustling city life, despite being in the city, noisy cars and people hurrying left and right. Compared to Malaysia, it’s safe to say everything was on a constant slow-mo which was difficult to comprehend, let alone understand. Then you take a right, and you’ll notice how the shops and buildings are almost never more than two stories high making them look like cute piano keys in an array of different colours. Finally, you take a left and.... You’re lost!

As you can tell, navigating clearly isn’t one of my best traits (damn genetics). Being lost however, doesn’t always mean you’re off track. In my case, I ended up at a vintage-looking souvenir shop which was definitely enticing me in. Being a guy, and not knowing what to do, I settled to buy, a necklace which I wore the whole trip through.

Now that I had essentially completed what was meant to be the last part of my trip, I was set to enjoy the rest of it. First on the agenda of fun was to find a place to stay. In case it hasn’t become apparent to you yet, hear me out - you’ll never really appreciate home, until you can’t find one to stay in. For almost half of my arrival day, I spent most of my time running through the phonebook and directory only to find that every location that I had hopes for was either fully booked or had closed down. Great, first day on the streets it is! No, just kidding. After some frantic searching I managed to find a small motel which, luckily, had one more room. If the first day was an indication of how the rest of the week was going to be, I was definitely in for one interesting ride. As expected, the process repeated - 6 different times to be exact.

Finally, we come to the “real” fun stuff. You’ve probably either seen Lord of The Rings or the Hobbit at some point (if you haven’t, I suggest you crawl out of the hole this instant). Well, for those of you who are normal, you probably also remember the Hobbiton Village and the Party Tree. What you most likely don’t know is that it’s actually right in the middle of a sheep farm! Did you know that while the filming process was taking place, the sheep had to be moved daily to be hidden from the scenes. Some 4000 sheep were moved to and fro daily just for one day’s worth of film. And we complain maths is hard.

Further north from the humble town of Rotoroa was the massive tourist attraction of Cape Reigna, which was technically the north tip of New Zealand. There I was also greeted by a cousin of mine who was also traveling alone (yes, the whole family tree is full of daredevils). If you’ve ever wanted to see what the edge of the world looks like, this is the place to go - where the fog meets the horizon in perfect harmony and the colour of the sky somehow blends in with the colour of the sea beneath it, it was truly one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen.

Moving down south towards Auckland, I made a quick stop at the infamous sand dunes which seem like just a huge pile of sand. Well it is, but it’s certainly much more fun than you think. From sand surfing, to dune buggy riding, the activities on the dunes were plentiful. Once in a while, when the sand is moist enough, you’d even see people making gargantuan structures from the dunes themselves. I stuck to the humble cylinder, a feat I knew I could more realistically accomplish. 

Last on the adventurous trip around the North Island of New Zealand, was the bungee jumping from the Auckland Tower. “No! It’s not that tall!”, you’d hear the locals say. Then as you’d make your ascent to the tip you’d hear chatters and whispers of horrific accidents. Just great. Regardless, when you reach the peak, it’s a whole other feeling that takes over. I think the best way to describe it is when you cross anxiety, with fear, a touch of excitement and - woops! Before you know it, you’re flying down the tower at speeds that are not voluntarily possible. Screaming doesn’t really help much since your screams are usually answered with cheers from the ground as if wanting you to scream more. Then a tug and you instantly become a pendulum at the mercy of the rope. Now is the time to thank your lucky stars you’ve made it; and also decide how many more times you want to go for it.

A buffet and 10 hours later, I was back on Malaysian grounds with heat waves that last for eternities and food that simply blows others out of the water - it’s a bittersweet feeling. New Zealand is a treasure trove of activities for absolutely everyone. An amazing location for sights, sounds and fun. Whether you love the sea, the sand or even just sitting on a couch watching television, New Zealand has got it all. Perhaps the more important note I’m getting at here is that traveling alone may not be as scary as it seems, although I seem to have made it sound like hell above - I assure you it’s not. Go out and do it. It’s worth it!

by Unknown 20:56 68 comments | in , , , ,

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