Our First Day in Zed

It’s cool to be in the Residents line for Customs, even though the wait is a drag. With our three trolleys of bags and bikes, we’re directed to inspection by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) to make sure we aren’t bringing in any foreign matter on our gear. As I am explaining how carefully I cleaned everything since I knew we would go through this, the inspector picks off a blade of grass from a hiking pole.

We are forced to wait even longer while our poles, tent and boots go to some back room to be examined further. The inspector, an older blonde lady, helps push a trolley along as we are obviously burdened by all our trappings and she ‘doesn’t have anything better to do’. Fortunately nothing is confiscated so my cleaning job must have been acceptable.

Not surprisingly, the belongings won’t fit in the economy car we rented. The rental company fishes out a Subaru wagon for the same price and we are barely able to stuff everything inside it. Hurtling along the motorway we miss the turn to Auckland and find the road while meandering around side streets.

Once in town we can’t find the hotel. It’s one block past Grafton Road and when we get to the next block; it isn’t the street name we’re expecting. Around and around we go, wondering what they had done with the street the hotel is on. A resolute look at the map shows there are two Grafton Roads and we drive on to the second one to find the hotel standing right where the directions lead.

The hotel that I had meticulously researched and booked because of all the accoutrements they touted at such a reasonable price turns out to really suck. The elevator smells of stale B.O. trapped in the PVC pipe they had hung in some sort of mod decorative statement gone wrong. All the Asian students party there, cooking fish and giggling loudly to the wee hours of the morning. Internet is advertised, but not offered. Parking is nowhere to be seen and charged at eight dollars an hour when we do find it. We are, however, notified of an upgrade to a 2 bedroom with kitchen upon check-in.

We are desperately trying to get our affairs together; opening a bank account, trying to get a SIM for our U.S. phone to no avail, checking out some campers online at the library we want to look at, and other meaningless boring necessities.

Walking the same few blocks we get bullied by the wind; watching trees, signs, and other large detritus tumble down the road. Cars are veering and having trouble sticking to a straight line from the gusts.