My first scare in New Zealand: Stranded then found

I jolted awake as the bus slowed to a stop. I looked out, finding a fuzzy outline of what I assumed was the bus stop. The driver announced the stop, and I strained to make out the words with his thick accent. “….pu, anyone else?”

Silence.

He looked back once more before shutting the doors. “Moving on then”

I stared anxiously at no one in particular as the bus moved out of the now empty bus stop. I was headed for the tiny town of Waipu, a few hours outside of Auckland, and was confident of recognizing the bus stop. After all, I had repeatedly Google Mapped it prior to my trip, committing every detail of the Waipu bus stop to memory. I wasn’t so sure now, as the bus loomed ahead towards what looks like darkness, illuminated momentarily by the oncoming headlights from the opposite lane.

I knew it was winter, but I had grossly underestimated the daylight time, expecting the sun to only start setting at around 5pm. At 5.30pm, it was pitch dark.

I could hear light snores from the couple on the next seat, and a melody from the headphones of an American backpacker (he announced it rather loudly at the start of the trip), a few seats in front of me. They all seemed so at ease, like they knew what they were doing. In contrast, I felt like a drowning sheep. I had no idea where the bus was at, and worst, I feared that I might have missed my stop. The previous stop the driver had announced sounded sickeningly like Waipu.

See, I naively thought that like a tour bus, the bus ticket I bought would have sent me straight to my destination from Auckland. Little did I know, the bus makes multiple stops along the way, picking up and dropping commuters. Unlike Singapore, missing a stop is not as simple as alighting at the next one, going across the street, and taking the same bus back. In a country where there are just 4 million people compared to 60 million sheeps, public transport is limited. Public buses run perhaps once or twice a day (more for the popular routes). Most Kiwis own a car, and have no need for public buses. Each stop is made in a different town, meaning the previous stop could be 30,40,50 miles away. Taxis do not exist outside of the bigger cities. In other words, if I had missed my stop, that was it. There was no way I could possibly get back.

Heaps of sheeps, but no human in sight.

Heaps of sheeps, but no human in sight.

And not being able to see what is around, did not help calm my palpitating heartbeat. I have read enough travel blogs to know that the worst time to travel to a foreign location is during the night, because everything just seems all the more scarier when is foreign and dark. For the umpteenth time since booking the air tickets, I cursed myself for choosing to do this trip the hard way. I could have just went with a tour, and save myself the misery of being on the edge of breaking down enroute to only the first location of many more to come.

I vaguely heard the bus driver announcing the next stop before the bus doors swung open. I rushed down and approached him. “Excuse me. I am sorry, but have you reached Waipu?” Please don’t say I missed my stop.

“….Where is it you are going?” He replied in his none nonsense tone. I must be yet another foolish traveller to him.

“Waipu” I almost shouted. Blame it on the anxiety getting the better of me.

“We passed it.”

What?! I stared at him, fear creeping into every inch of me. I didn’t know how far away I was from Waipu, I didn’t know where is this goddamn place we are at now, and I didn’t know a single person in this faraway land. What am I going to do? My second day in New Zealand, and I have already managed to screw everything up.

He looked back at me, before breaking into what I will remember as the most devilish grin of the century (it was just a normal grin).

“I am joking! Waipu is coming up next!”

Whaaaaattt?!! That was not funny at all. I was practically moments away from a nervous breakdown, and this driver thinks is a joke? I jabbed him in the elbow, half in jest, the other half in anger. “God, you scared me!”

Just to be sure, I asked him again. “So I didn’t miss it. Waipu is the next stop? You sure?”

He nodded, before motioning me to get back on the bus. By this time, I had enough nasty butterflies inside of me to keep me alert of every turn the bus was making. I stared intently at the window, though I couldn’t see a thing, willing the bus to hurry and reach Waipu. Thinking back, my fellow passengers must have thought I was weird, looking at the window and muttering under my breath incessantly. I couldn’t care less about their opinions, having gone through the first major crisis of my solo trip.

And cows maybe. But no humans.

And cows maybe. But no humans.

I broke into a big smile as the bus drove into Waipu. My head was functioning again, and I recall seeing the tall statue in Streetview.

Finally. 

Though, except for a teenager who had alighted with me, there was no one in sight.

Shit. Wasn’t Claire supposed to pick me up? 

I had made prior arrangements with my host, and just before leaving Auckland, she assured me that we will meet at the bus stop. Yet, here I was, and there was nobody.

I fumbled for my phone, and dialed her number twice. It went straight to voice mail.

I zipped up my jacket, having felt a chill from the night wind, and from a sense of dread that I might be stranded. The teenager was still at the bus stop, looking at me curiously. For a moment, I contemplated asking him for directions, but he walked off before I could approach him. The streets were deserted. I was truly alone now.

30mins passed, and it was getting colder. I stuffed my hands into my pockets, hoping desperately that Claire would appear. I had no idea what car she drove, or how she looked like. But I could only trust that she did not forget about me.

I dialed her number once more. On the third ring, she picked up. “Good evening, Clansman Motel….”

Ohmygod. Saved. 

Didn't get the best "welcome" my first night in Waipu

Didn’t get the best “welcome” my first night in Waipu

Lessons learnt:

  1. Never travel to somewhere new at night
  2. Make sure your bus driver is not a jokester
  3. Bring a tranquilizer in case of panic attacks

Needless to say, I fell asleep really quickly that night. That was enough scares in a day for me.

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One response to “My first scare in New Zealand: Stranded then found

  1. Pingback: Is Workaway for me? | pin wanders·

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