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Disorientation down under February 28, 2012

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

The view from high atop Rangitoto Island. Well worth the climb!

No need for concern, I tried telling myself, if my bearings are slightly skewed. I mean everything is upside down for goodness sake. Although the sun still sets from east to west, its trajectory now hangs in the northern sky. Welcome to New Zealand, Paul!

I arrived in Auckland on a Monday morning after nearly 13 hours in the air. In fact, when I left Los Angeles, it was 10 p.m. Saturday. Having crossed the international dateline, Sunday simply evaporated. How’s that for skewed?

I have to give myself some credit. Mr. I-can’t-sit-still-for-20-minutes managed the lengthy confinement like a champ. But it was great to finally exit the plane and greet my friend Kevin Ptak at baggage claim.

Kevin digs his 'thank you' gift - an RIT hockey jersey

Kevin is a 2004 RIT grad and the very first co-op student I ever hired as director of University News. It’s not surprising he parlayed his incredible talents and sense for adventure into a successful career in public relations here in New Zealand. During a trip home to his native Buffalo last summer, he paid me a visit and encouraged me to check out his new digs for myself. It’s an offer I never considered turning down.

Departing the Auckland airport, I reported that I was feeling good and ready to stretch my legs. I told Kevin I was anxious to begin my first adventure. After a brief tour around Auckland, Kevin encouraged me to take the harbor cruise over to Rangitoto Island. Visitors are encouraged to hike the dormant volcano and enjoy a panoramic view of Auckland from the summit. “Perfect!” I thought.

After we dropped my things at his apartment, Kevin drove me to the downtown pier. Along the way, he explained how I would find my way back, pointing out the Countdown supermarket where I needed to exit a transit bus. First, I would find my bus at the transit center a block away from the pier. “Take any green-line bus that says, ‘Go West,’” he told me. Seemed simple enough.

I hopped on the ferry and marveled at the gorgeous day I’d been give. Shortly after the boat departed, I struck up a conversation with a young man from Seattle. Among his many interests, Chris shared that he is a budding wine maker and he planned to spend the next few months working at a New Zealand winery while waiting on word of a potential Fulbright fellowship in Germany. We agreed to make the hike together, and I enjoyed having his company.

Looking back at Auckland from the ferry to Rangitoto

As promised, the view from atop Rangitoto was spectacular! Chris and I were exhausted from the hike as we boarded the return ferry, but we decided to grab a bit to eat upon arrival at the port. After a cider and a plate of nachos, we parted company, and I boarded a waiting green-line bus.

I could immediately feel myself growing anxious. Having been in Auckland for merely eight hours, I obviously knew nothing of my surroundings. I had no map and no device by which to communicate. And what was the name of that supermarket again? Shit!

“What an idiot!” I thought. I’d grown so complacent in my navigational abilities I had failed to take the minimum precautions for an excursion in a foreign land. More than 45 minutes into the ride, as the bus winded its way through suburban neighborhoods far from downtown, I knew I was in trouble. I took my dilemma to the driver.

“I think I’m on the wrong bus,” I explained. “Are there other green-line buses that depart from Auckland?”

A friendly gentleman, his thick kiwi accent made it hard for me to understand, but his reply seemed to indicate that all green lines follow the same route. And the fact that I was supposed to get off the bus at “some grocery store” didn’t give him much information to work with. I agreed, feeling humiliated, and told him I’d stay onboard for the return trip downtown.

Along the way back, as I sat in the front row kitty-corner to the driver, he continued to mull over my situation.

“You know,” he said, “I’m pretty sure there’s a supermarket up here in Grey Lynn.”

“Grey Lynn? That sounds familiar,” I replied

“It up here off Williamson Road.”

“Yes! I think that’s it!” Suddenly I’d been injected with hope.

As he pulled alongside the store, I knew I was off the hook. And reflecting on my ride from downtown, I realized I should have been looking for my landmark to the right, not the left. I thanked the driver profusely, and he smiled—genuinely pleased he could help. I jumped off the bus and made my way back to the apartment. Kevin could only smile as I relayed the details of my ‘eventful’ first day.

Note to self: As you look ahead to the remainder of your New Zealand adventure, maybe take a little more time to properly orient yourself before the next excursion a half a world away from home.



1. Lauren Vicker - February 28, 2012

Paul, Where is your hat and sunglasses? the sun can be brutal down under.

2. Pattie Stella - February 28, 2012

Do what I do on a new trail. Tie ribbons every so many feet to a handy tree. You can follow them back home 🙂 Got to work fast though, if you are on a Tram or Bus. (Ha)

3. paulstella - February 28, 2012

Took the hat and glasses off for the photo, Lauren. You know how vain I am. 🙂

4. Jon R. - February 28, 2012

I’ve seen you strike that same pose in front of Rich Stadium. The backdrop has improved significantly. Great post, keep ’em coming!

5. Cynthia - March 1, 2012

Paul, I’m insanely jealous of your adventure! Have fun. I look forward to future posts.


6. New year and no fear « Stellavision - January 6, 2013

[…] experiences, and I found great enjoyment in recounting my journey to family and friends through a series of blog posts here on […]

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