Darkness and a blaring alarm start my day: an early and rude awakening. Fogginess prevails in my half-asleep brain, as I stumble to pack my things. Purple toothbrush. Phone. My falling-apart glassons wallet. A drink bottle. Some weetbix and milk make their way down my throat. Ready to go. My way lit only by the moon in the pre-dawn darkness, I trip into the car. “You’re lucky you’ve got me to drop you off”, growls my father. He’s big on gratitude – grew up poor and maintained his stinginess all the way up to top level management. We drive in silence to South Auckland and the airport. “Do you need me to help you find the terminal?” Despite his grouchiness, he’s a softy really. I decline out of pride and then spend a panicked 10 minutes worrying that the last boarding call for flight 239 blaring over the intercom is for me. A pyramid of bags topped with two familiar blonde girls calms my fears.
My friends have been waiting here for an hour. They didn’t have frequent-flyer fathers to tell them that domestic flights don’t require an early check in. I check my privilege. Both of them are showing the little sleep they had the night before in their lacklustre expressions and irritability. My gorgeous friend, (you know, the one who you never want to meet guys with because you won’t stand a chance) is for once not the star of our little posse. I secretly revel in the bags shadowing her eyes that give her unusually un-eye-liner-ed-eyes a sort of crack addict, homeless look. And then there’s the hippy, happy-go-lucky friend who is lovely 90% of the time, but when she’s tired or hormonal, you’d better watch yourself. Apparently I’m late, and they’re pissed. The cracks begin to show. None of us can sleep on the half hour flight, and by the time we land it’s light, and we only have about 5 hours combined sleep between us.
Young, over-dressed and wide-eyed, we’re walking stereotypes as we board the shuttle into Wellington town. The coastal city is unimaginably picturesque. Face pressed to the window I take in the view; colonies of houses which are colourful, quirky and interesting as I imagine the type of people who live there to be. Happy-go-lucky says she knew I’d love it here. She takes us to the famous Cuba St – i.e. the K rd of Wellington to grab a much-needed breakfast. Things are on the up.
Inexperienced travellers are as easy to spot as an obese midget, and the smirks we get from backpacking Germans and Swedes let us know they know our game. A large bakery-cafe hybrid draws us in like flies to a carcass. My rumbling stomach commands me to get the poached eggs, and the aroma of coffee is like Caribbean sunshine. I must have it all. Reaching for my wallet, I realise with a jolt of panic that it is absent from my repertoire. A sinking feeling pulls my heart down to my toes as I re-arrange my bag, check, and double-check. Gone. Gone like MH317. Except we know where it is. The shuttle. Too busy daydreaming and fantasising about sleep, it had fallen out of my unzipped bag at some point or another. I would laugh if I didn’t feel so stupid. This is not the first time something like this has happened. I’m kind of known as the ditzy one of my group.
Using over-tiredness and the cold air as our fuel, we embark on the rigmarole of circular investigation. Lost property tells us to call the bus service. The bus service tells us to call the individual bus we caught. Nobody picks up. We’re directed to the bus service. Things start to get stressful. If I don’t have my wallet, I don’t have my ID. And if I don’t have my ID, I can’t get into the New Year’s festival we flew all the way down here for. We resort to stopping random buses, asking if they can help us. We’ll just have to wait until our original shuttle driver gets back into the station, we’re informed. One kind soul eventually phones the bus I left my wallet on through his intercom, and we’re told our best bet is to go to the bus depot. So, on another bus we hop.
Mid-morning and a fair wad of stress later, we are directed to a small office opposite the bus stop. They stare at us like we’re foreigners and roughly ask me to describe my wallet. After a tense few minutes of waiting, the security guard returns from the locked room where lost property goes if it’s fortunate. “You’re very lucky”, he tells me. My tattered, faux-snake skin wallet is intact and in his hand. It almost sparkles with an ethereal beauty. There’s nothing like getting back something you’ve all but given up on. The $70 I’d planned to splurge on food is gone, but everything I need to have a good time at the festival remains. Minus three hours of our time and a waste of a morning, we have half an hour left at the Wellington train station before our bus leaves to Masterton, and the farm we’ll be camping at. “We’ll laugh about it later”, I tell my friends. They grimace.