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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Chapter 1 ~ To Singapore, and Beyond!

Finally, it's time for me to spread my wings and fly to the farthest reaches of the earth. I've never been this far away from home, and neither has my father, nor his father, nor any of our forefathers before us. It feels like I'm writing history!

The trip begins quite nicely. My father accompanies me to the airport, we take the S-Bahn there, everything is right on time, and we get there super-early. I bid farewell to my father at the security check. So far, there hasn't been a single queue, and everything went quite nicely.

However, as soon as my father is out of sight, I come across this:

Fortunately, there is an express line for EU-citizens, so I manage to avoid the long wait... this time.

So now I'm in the terminal, and being the overly cautious fox I am, still have over two hours to kill. I decide against sleeping in a nap-box...

...and instead go to a place of great design...

...and eat some pizza there.

Some time later, I head to the gate where the plane is already preparing to be boarded.

It is there that I am encountered by Paul. Who's Paul? He's a fellow Work & Traveler using the same organization. We figure out that by pure chance we've independently booked two seats that are almost, but not quite adjacent. A knight's move apart, if you will.

We chat a little and before we know it, it's time to board the plane. Its been ten years since my last flight (that one was to Israel, the red sea to be exact, where I dived among dolphins), and I am positively surprised by the technical progress aviation has made in the meantime.

Even the meals are edible!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we take off, we go through the usual volley rounds of security instructions - which are no longer being executed by the stewardesses (who are wearing an elegant Asian flower-gown) - but rather projected as movies on the monitors in the seats.

And then, it's time to fly. The mighty iron bird lets out a fearsome howl, takes all its strength, and leaves its earthly bonds behind, abducting us to faraway reaches. I watch as the ground beneath me shrinks away. It'll be a year before I'll see it again.

We fly east, crossing the Black Sea lengthwise, and the Caspian Sea crosswise. By night, we fly across India, and the web of lights that unfurls beneath us is breathtaking. Regrettably, my camera is not good enough to capture impressions of this view. As we pass over the Indic Ocean, we are caught in bad weather and confined to our seats for several hours.

But eventually, we pass over the Malaysian Peninsula, and touch down in Singapore. Fortunately, the mighty iron bird (A Boeing 777 by the way) manages to brake before we crash into the water.

We emerge in a shopping-mall sized terminal of the town-sized Changi Airport. There are three terminals in total. So far. A fourth is almost finished, and a fifth is being planned. Buses and sky trains connect the individual terminals, which almost feel like sectors of a certain postapocalyptical shelter (yes, I'm looking at you, Robert). Only the atmosphere is much nicer, and they have all sorts of gardens.

The atmosphere inside the terminals is nice and cool. As for outside... Well, I got lucky and came here on a cloudy day, so it had only about 35° and 70% humidity. Since I have almost 14 hours until my next flight departs, I decide to join a guided city tour, which Singapore Airlines provide to all passengers which have to wait for over 5,5 hours.

For the longest part of the tour, we sit inside a mobile refrigerator disguised to look like a bus. The tour itself is rather uneventful. It turns out that while Singapore indeed does have some nice buildings in its uptown, that area of the town is a lot smaller than you might expect. In the end, a combination of explanations in what I believe was supposed to be English, cold air, and tiredness after the flight (I was only able to nap since a mother had her rather vocal baby with her, only four places away from mine) lull me into a state where I repeatedly nod off.

After we get back to the alpha complex Changi Airport, I take some time to warm up in the various gardens, taking the scenic route from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 via Terminal 1  (which logically sits between the other two). This takes me about an hour on foot (and with several short visits to the gardens).

I still have over four hours before my flight is ready for boarding. Paul was clever enough to pack his swimming trunks in his carry-on luggage, allowing him to use the airport's swimming pool. Meanwhile, I indulge myself in some quality turn based fantasy strategy. Much to my delight, I find out that Changi Airport uses a system of multi-nationality sockets, which allows me to use my NZ adapter. I also use the opportunity to transfer some photos from my camera to my laptop, so I'll have a full magazine available for the next flight.

We take off at 21:10. By that time, it's already perfectly dark outside. Since Singapore is located only 1° north of the equator, it has almost no changes in daylight length - night and day are always 12 hours each (give or take a few minutes).

Takeoff is spectacular! The mighty iron bird spreads its wings and soars above a sea of lights bright enough to stimulate even the meager cells of my little camera. Seen from above and at night, the city looks significantly more spectacular than during my guided tour.

I keep track of our course for some time while I wait for dinner. Only then do I realize that I've completely failed to eat anything while in Singapore. I haven't even spent a single $ there! Oh well. It only makes the dinner all the more delectable, and while I naturally shun the boiled vegetables, the remainder of the meal is truly delightful.

Before we reach Australia, sleep's sweet embrace has overtaken me, and when I wake again, the sun is already shining, and we have passed over an entire continent without my notice. A sea of cloud now spreads out before me as far as the eye can see, looking almost like ice-covered islands and an endless array of fjords. The final leg of my journey to New Zealand is nearing its end.

I have a hearty breakfast consisting of Bami Goreng, bread with salted butter and apricot jam, as well as raspberry yogurt.

In the far distance, the furthest reaches of New Zealand are already barely visible.

And as we approach the shore, fierce winds stir up the sea, whipping up crowns of white foam that can even be seen form an altitude of over 10.000m.

And then, we finally approach a lovely bank of stratus clouds holding the entire northern island hostage. I manage to capture a segment of a circular rainbow, but gain no glimpse of the land below the clouds.

Eventually, the mighty iron bird prepares to touch down, and we dive into a sea of white. Onwards and onwards it stretches, and already I am fearing that we might have ended up being lost in time and space. But then, not even 500m above the ground, the clouds begin to clear, and I finally get a good view on the land I am going to traverse these next few months. The landing is rather rough due to fierce squalls of winds buffeting our plane, but eventually, the pilots manage to bring it under control again.

Since I'm sitting on the very end of the plane this time around, I have some time to observe the unloading process while the other passengers leave the plane. I take my time and thank the crew for the wonderful flight. I am absolutely happy with Singapore Airlines, and can only recommend it to other travelers.

The airport itself is a bit of a letdown after Singapore - but the again, I cannot think of any airport that wouldn't be, counting Atlanta.

My next hurdles are the passport control, and customs. It takes some time, but I am finally recognized as Kira Resari, and allowed to enter NZ. A trained dog checks my luggage before I depart, and I have to show them my trekking boots. But eventually, I get out of the building, and am quite happy that I  have stowed away my coat in an easy-to-reach place: The outside temperature is lovely 8°C.

We  board the Sky Bus and head for Auckland, where we arrive at a youth hostel by the name of YHA International, where we are greeted by a friendly old man.

I befriend Rasmus, and we explore the city a bit before buying some ingredients and whipping up some tasty Naleiayafero in the hostel's public kitchen. Tomorrow at 10:00, we have an orientation session, and I've already contacted some fellow furries which I'm going to meet tomorrow evening.

And after that... who knows?
My grand adventure has only just begun.

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