I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while. I’d anticipated writing about the change between cycling in Asia and being on holiday in New Zealand but, I’ve left it so flipping long that we’re about to start cycling once again! What can I say – so much fun to be had. I’m a bit under the weather, but after 2 weeks in NZ already, we’re bursting to get back on the bikes, even if we don’t make huge progress for a few days. So, what have we been up to?
We’ve spent a bit of time in Auckland, including meeting up with Ruth and family and participating in parkrun 🙂 🙂 🙂
We’ve enjoyed a campervan adventure with my parents, to the gorgeous Coromandel peninsula.
We’ve explored the equally gorgeous Northland.
We’ve spent lots of time with the wonderful Jihanny Baby.
I’ve even managed to compete* in a triathlon.
*possibly overstating things a wee bit…..the swim was a disaster and my chain came off, but I made it to the finish line and loved every minute!
However, the greatest story actually comes from our, sorry, my, somewhat traumatic entry into the country in the first place. Sigh. I suppose I’d better fess up on this one.
Those who have known me well for a while may remember that I had a small ‘mishap’ when backpacking in Australia as a naive 22 year old….namely that I inadvertently overstayed my welcome, and received an automatic exclusion from the country for three whole years. Oops. Which, considering how square and law-abiding I am in reality, has been a source of amusement ever since. To be honest, I hadn’t given the implications a huge amount of thought, other than fearing that entry into Australia at a later date may be more complicated…but they did say they would probably let me back in, and I’ve heard of others actually being deported, and still being admitted at a later date on long-term visas. I’ve also travelled extensively since that fateful trip, including to the somewhat picky US of A numerous times, and never encountered any problems….until now.
Turns out that the New Zealand arrival card has a box that I was obliged to tick. I also had to answer ‘yes’ to the fateful question at the e-passport gates.
‘Have you ever been excluded from any country?’
Yes. Yes I have. But…..it was so long ago! And I was just stupid! I am so boring and well-behaved, surely this isn’t an issue???!!! I’ve been to New Zealand THREE TIMES since this happened, why is it an issue now??
I was escorted to the naughty seats and left to sweat while my passport was taken away for further examination. Eventually, a somewhat stern lady came over and took me through the one way door. And left me to sweat a bit more. Someone else photographed me and took my fingerprints. And then left me once again.
Lady number 1 (who did introduce herself with her first name and was perfectly nice to me) eventually returned, and took me into the ‘interview room’. She informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I fell under section 51 of the immigration act, 2009. I fell into the same category as actual criminals, and New Zealand was not at all keen to let me in. With Ed sitting on the wrong side of the one way door, my parents already safely in their hotel room, and Jihan on her way to collect us, you could say that my heart sank a little bit. We went through everything: what happened on the trip to Australia, what I was doing in New Zealand, and how on earth I’d managed to enter in 2013 when the new rule was already in place (still a mystery). She wanted Ed’s details, my parents’ dates of birth and flight number, even Jihan’s date of birth which I didn’t actually know. She said we needed to ‘make a case’ for letting me in – did I have any really pressing reason to be there? Not really. A holiday and the expectations of others. Things were looking very bleak indeed.
Then, off she popped to ‘speak to her manager’ and left me to sweat once again. I was sobbing by this point – things looked completely hopeless and I couldn’t imagine breaking the news 😦
After what seemed like hours, she returned. And it was a bit like a switch had been flicked. We went through everything again, but her demeanour was more cheerful (I should say that at no point was she unkind to me – in fact she was pretty nice, considering the conversation we were having!) A six month visa was to be mine after all.
I am still unsure if the two hour ordeal was ‘teaching me a lesson’, or if my entry into the country really was in serious doubt. Apparently they deal with people like me on a case by case basis, so maybe I really did have to convince her that I was worthy! Either way, it was pretty harrowing for me, and possibly worse for Ed, stranded on the other side of that door.
Quite funny that we’d been so worried about the weight of our luggage, yet Qantas didn’t even weigh our bike boxes. We’d also fretted extensively about the state of our tyres and tent, knowing how strict New Zealand’s biosecurity controls can be. The guy DID look at our tent, and DID check that our boxes indeed carried bicycles, but was far more interested in chatting to us about our trip than giving us a hard time. It’s always the things you haven’t thought of that come back to bite you!
We were then in a big ol’ rush to get the bikes unpacked and ready for Jihan to collect us – good job we didn’t have to ride anywhere, as I wasn’t in any fit state to do a decent assembly job at this point!!
Two weeks later, I’m still heaving a big sigh of relief. And, in case you’re wondering, I applied for my Aussie visa as soon as we had a spare moment….success! I’m not counting my chickens, but all does seem to be well…..and I am am well aware of the conditions of said visa, like a proper responsible grown up.
Today we head south. We’re actually only cycling 18km, then taking a boat and a train to Papakura, where we’ll be staying with Warmshowers* hosts for the first time. We then have a couple more easy days lined up as we potter towards the surf town of Raglan and eventually on to Mount Taranaki for a spot of tramping (NZ-style hiking!) We’ve had blissful sunshine for most of the last fortnight so, of course, the weather is breaking today and rain is forecast. As my Mum would say, this is why New Zealand is such a green and pleasant land! Bring it on 😉
*Warmshowers is a network of people who are happy to host smelly cyclists in their homes. We are hosts in the UK so if you’re ever passing near Ottery St Mary, look us up!
Photos from the first stage of our Kiwi adventure can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/126636200@N07/h08G8h
ICYMI my round up of our SE Asian adventure can be found here: https://unprofessionaladventurers.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/asia-you-blew-our-minds/
The next blog will feature some actual cycling once again, fingers crossed!