Hellway 45 | A Backpackers Tale

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

It's 7.45 pm, I ditched my job 3 months ago and have just spent my days surfing the Australian ocean, drinking in excess on most nights and buying a broken car. I'm at the airport. I'm 27 at this point and wanting a sense of direction and feeling the need to travel, if anything, I'm having a quarter-life crisis. 9 months earlier I woke up at home and realized the promises I was offered or sold at University were a lie and it was time for a change. I'm built to be spontaneous, in fact, I thrive off it, routines and day to day living is something that I lose interest in very quickly.

The airport is quiet, the air-con cools my sunburn and chills my hangover, it's quiet with only an announcement every so often that echoes the airport. I say goodbye to Jez, yet again, I've done it so many times we almost can't be bothered. "See you mate, let me know you got there safe!" He usually states with myself replying "I will don't worry." It always ends with a quick in and out hug. I'm not traveling alone this time; Mike is with me. Mike's cool, he's calm and doesn't feel awkward around silence, ask a question and he answers, it's not unusual to find yourself to be the first one talking. Jez drives off in his Mazda before his parking runs out, till next time mate.

Mike looks just as anxious as me, we wait in line to check into our flight, "I wonder if I'll have to pay for my guitar or will it be included in my check-in luggage?" I ask, "I'm not sure." Mike replies. I arrive at the counter, the check-in staff stares at me, not like a human being but more like an object, I'm probably her 137th person for the day. I hand my passport over and let her know I want to check in my guitar, I have to pay. We get our tickets and realize we are not sitting next to each other, probably for the best, we are going to be in each other's space in a van for the unforeseeable future so we should enjoy our space while we can.

Why do we get nervous when going through airport security? I'm guilty, it was me and I need justice for leaving my belt on while going through the detector. I have bad luck at airports, I genuinely believe that I have one of those faces security staff just want to fuck with. It probably doesn't help that even though I'm a frequent flyer, I still get startled and confused while going through security, hands shake, sweat pores and words murmur for a crime I never committed. We find our gate, it's dark outside now, I'm tired already and I know I won't sleep on the plane. The realization finally hits us, we are leaving our safety blanket and heading into the world unknown, I listen to music but not too loud as I don't want to miss my boarding call. "Attention passengers, the gate for flight EK362 to New Zealand is now open." There's no turning back now, just enough time to watch the luggage handlers throw our luggage onto the plane, my guitar has no fucking chance.

I have a window seat, bad luck for the person sat next to me as I pee every 12 minutes, I see Mike sat a few rows ahead of me, he is immersed in the screen in front of him, already choosing a movie. Just as I'm starting to unwind, I see two little legs appear from the corner of my eye, a 5-year-old child has decided to sit next to me. He's chilled, I don't get the impression this child is going to scream throughout the whole flight. He is carrying an Ipad which obviously has been given to him for his amusement throughout the flight, what's even weirder is that this child is watching Rambo on the bloody thing, RAMBO! The plane takes off and with some music, I close my eyes to try and get a nap. I catch the end of Rambo just as it all kicks off and John Rambo becomes a one-man army towards Burma terrorists, the child chuckles with excitement. We land and already I can feel the temperature drop. I catch up with Mike he looks just as tired as me, we head for our luggage.

We find our bags but there's no sign of my guitar, I search the other conveyors but still no sign of it, good start. After 10 minutes of searching and wondering, I see a luggage handler carrying my guitar, not by its handle but almost similar to how you pick up a big dog. My guitar is placed on a table, the handles broke, the case is dented in, this is what paid service gets you. I open the case and luckily the guitar is still in prime condition, frustrated we head to customs.

The line goes quickly as its now past midnight at Auckland airport, placing my fucked guitar case down, I had over my passport. "Are you here playing with Fleetwood Mac?" not the first question I was expecting the officer to say, "I wish, unfortunately, I'm just here on holiday." He chuckles and stamps my passport, "Enjoy your time here." I've had various interactions with airport staff and most have not been pleasant, by far the nicest customs officer and a positive start, what's the catch? Mike and I head outside, the temperature has dropped into the single digits, we look for the bus into the city.

There's a guy stood outside the bus smoking, grey hair, blue uniform and clearly works a lot of night shifts. "Where are you guys heading?" I give him the address of our hostel, "I know the place, the usual bus route doesn't go that way but I'll just drop you off outside." Again, what's the catch? Is he really the bus driver? I take a seat on the bus, I'm too cautious to put my luggage on the shelf so I keep my backpack on and hold what's left of my guitar. The bus journey is a quiet one, as stated earlier Mike does not get uncomfortable with silence, by this point, we are both exhausted.

The journey is a blur, street lights flash my vision as I try to make sense of which direction we are heading. "Here's your hostel guys." We are the only ones on the bus. A polite thank you and it's off the bus, the reception lights blind us as they form silhouettes on the wall outside, the silhouettes are smoking. Walking closer the light changes and the silhouettes now form into people, 3 women to be exact. The women are certainly not dressed for the weather, short skirts, tank tops, and their handbags. We are given an awkward stare, I keep my head down and avoid eye contact, one of the women almost mutters a word but stops herself, whatever she is selling, I'm not buying.

There's background music playing in the reception, almost similar to elevator music, there's a guy sat behind the desk, he's wearing a checkered shirt, glasses and a ponytail, he has to be in his mid 40's like a backpacker who never knew when to stop, each to their own. We hand over our details and we are given a key to our room, "How much do we have left to pay?" I ask, "It's 3am, just get yourself to bed and we will sort the rest out tomorrow." Again, what's the catch? At this point I'm too tired to take in my surroundings I enter the room with two single beds, we place our bags on the floor and crash into bed.