I’m sitting in the passenger side of a Robson R22 and my fingers go “click, click, click” against the key. I then hear two blades spinning above like the windmills at sunset in the Mojave desert.
I’m feeling very Amelia Earhart at this moment. Like a boss. I completed my safety checks from the interior, pushed a few buttons, got us up in the air, and now I have full control over the steering.
Taking a helicopter flight lesson is the most exhilarating activity I’ve tried. Forget skydiving, jumping off of bridges, leaping from the world’s largest swing into large canyons, or swimming with humpback whales. This is it. This is my defining moment.
It did take me a little bit of research and thought about whether or not I wanted to get my fixed wing or rotor wing private pilot’s license (PPL). What helped my decision are the types of activities I could do with a rotor wing. But even before that, I got the idea about taking flight lessons when I thought it would be cool to be a skydiving instructor. Then I was thinking, ” Why be a skydiving instructor when I can be a pilot instead?” That later manifested into, ” Why be a fixed wing pilot when I can be a rotor wing pilot?”
Helicopters can go forward, backward, and from side to side. It doesn’t require a long landing or lengthy runway to get up. With a PPL you can take your friends’ heli-skiing (collaborating with RedBull adrenaline adventures is another dream of mine), go island hopping, or land yourself on a yacht.
I have this pipe dream of being a Divemaster, wino, and pilot. Imagining myself in Santa Barbara’s wine country (Solvang or Los Olivos) and parking my chopper there overnight with guests enjoying our favorite wines and then hopping over to the Channel Islands for some camping and scuba diving. Pipe dreams can become realities though. All you need to do is have a vision, take that first step, and see where it goes.
Do you have a pipe dream? If so, please tell me about them in the comments below.
It was a long travel day waking up at 3 am in Melbourne to catch my connecting flight in Sydney at 9:50 am to Auckland. I was pretty nervous I was going to miss my flight to Auckland because I was cutting it so close with a different airline. Jetstar is infamous for being late, but I took a chance because I knew it was the first flight of the day and I really had no choice since I was dealing with computer stuff over the last few days.
The timing ended up working out perfectly and I arrive into Auckland in the early afternoon. The airport is much smaller than I remember for being a big city in New Zealand. I didn’t see an area I could buy a SIM card, but in a way, I didn’t want to either knowing I’d only be around for 24 hours.
I had the option of taking the Skybus to the city and then catching a bus from there to my Airbnb but I was feeling lazy having my heavy dive bag. I couldn’t reach my host because the wifi was weak at SYD airport. So I had to wing it and hope he was home. I kept asking the taxi how soon before we’d get there. The cab was WAY more than I thought at about $100 NZD, about $70 USD. Ouch!
I don’t know that I’d normally choose a Chinese man as my Airbnb host but he said he was gay-friendly so I thought he might be pretty outgoing. I arrive at an apartment in a very residential neighborhood and it’s not as centrally located as I thought. I tried ringing the intercom but no answer. The taxi driver allowed me to use his phone and my host just got to the gym but said he’d turn back around. He arrived after 10 minutes and let me up to his apartment. It was on the second floor, and he helped carry my dive bag upstairs.
His place is clean, but I wasn’t as excited as I was about my stay in Melbourne. He shows me my way around and said he’ll be back in a couple hours. I get settled and noticed he had a bathtub. He didn’t mention where the hot tub was so I opted in for second best. I don’t remember the last time I had a hot bath outside of the massage I had recently at my Bali hotel, but it was really hard to relax at the Bali spa because I wasn’t sure how long was appropriate to stay after a massage.
I forgot to buy shampoo because I was trying to reduce weight in my bag and so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I used his. The water was piping hot and I just laid there soaking. I exhale long and hard. This feels amazing. I wish I had a bubble bath, but it’s good enough. I lied there thinking about my last few months on Flores Island and how exhausted my body really was from all of that hard laborious work. Being a divemaster is almost slave work, or maybe it was the company I was working for being overly demanding. Who cares. It’s over and now I’m in beautiful Auckland for a day, but I’m almost too tired to explore.
I let the water run out of the tub and then turn the shower on washing the rest of my body a second time. I turn the water off and see a squeegee off to the side and decide to be nice and squeegee the ½ glass door that covered the shower area.
The lights are still off in the apartment so I decide to venture out. I hate venturing without GPS. I guess I don’t hate venturing. I hate getting lost and like being efficient with my time.
There weren’t many close walking options to restaurants but Yang said there was a Japanese restaurant across the stop light. I decide to go there since it’s dark, wet outside, and I’m feeling lazy. I read a few reviews on Google about their service and food. It didn’t seem too impressive and rated 3 ½ stars out of 5 but I decided I’d go with it anyway.
I arrive and ask if I could take a seat at the sushi bar. She said they were full with reservations but had a place for me outside if I wanted. I accepted and she said she’d even put the heat lamp on. I started with a ½ dozen raw oysters and an assortment of sushi. Both were okay but not anything worth mentioning. I also requested a large hot sake. I didn’t feel like getting fancy tonight. Usually, I’d pair it with an Asahi but it was $8 and didn’t seem worth it when I could get a 6 pack for that in the States. I am still hungry and order some of the pork belly. It was okay. Then I ordered a plate of rice and minced chicken to go. I ask for one more saki while I wait for my to-go order. The food eventually comes out and I ask for the check. I ask a second and third time – eventually saying that if I didn’t get the check in two minutes I was going to walk out. That was after 30+ minutes of waiting of course. I understand all the reviews about the service. Needless to say, I finally got my check. This was the first time I acted in a very Western manner. If I were in SEA, I probably wouldn’t have said that. Funny how we acclimate to what we’re accustomed to.
After dinner, I walk back home and into my room. I hear the TV on in the living room and try being social with Yang. I ask him if there’s a place I can pick up wine around the area. He suggested a local convenient store next to the Japanese restaurant and then a supermarket about 10 minutes walk away. I decide to make the run and stop by the first store but they didn’t sell alcohol so I walked to the market about 10 minutes away. I was a little buzzed from the sake so it was a fun dancing sort of stroll. I get there and decide I was going to drink Porter Ale instead of wine. I pick up a bag of nuts for a late night snack as well.
I get back to the apartment and Yang is still there. I sit at the dinner table and try sparking up a conversation asking him if he’s from Auckland. He then tells his story how he’s from a small tribe in China. Fascinating. He has a Kiwi accent. He then shared his story about how he always loved learning English from middle school and kept practicing and getting great at speaking it. From that opened up opportunities for him to Bangkok and then his friends eventually brought him to Auckland where he’s been for the last long leg of his life. He gets a call in the middle of our conversation. He’s speaking lower as if he didn’t want his conversation to be heard and then excused himself into his room where he stayed the rest of the night. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was his boyfriend. I continued to listen to his Chill sessions music playing from his super large 70” flat screen. Then I decided to go back to my room and put on a movie via Amazon Prime (rental) and called it a night.
The next morning I wake up around 8:30 am and pack my things. I make myself a coffee and see Yang. I tell him I’ll be out between 11-11: 30 am. I guess he has someone coming in at 2 pm. I finish up earlier and call an Uber just before 11 am and decide to leave early. He helps me carry my bag and that was that. A very polite and also a private guy.
Auckland’s city landscape is breathtaking. It
maintains a balance between nature and modern structures. It is known for its
high culture, food, and beautiful sights. It is also the home of playful
dolphins and whales.
From the Airport
It is best to take the shuttle from the airport
to your hotel. This could cost you around $23.75. But if you are in a hurry, it
may be a good idea to take a taxi which could cost around $53 to $64.
You can exchange your currency at a reliable
money exchanger called Travel Money, which is located at the ground floor of
the Auckland International Airport. It is open from 4 a.m. to 12:59 a.m. every
You can buy Vodafone, Two Degrees, and Spark NZ SIM
cards at the airport. SIM cards usually cost $3.60.
The Auckland airport has a baggage storage system
that you can use to store your luggage which will cost you around $13 per day.
How To Get Around
You can go around Auckland via bus, train, taxi,
shuttle, or ferry. You can also rent a car. You can also check
https://at.govt.nz to find out which transportation option is best for you.
This website allows you to plan your day and get discounts. The Auckland
Transport System also has a text messaging service which you can use to find
the next bus, train, or ferry.
Auckland is a car-dependent city. So if you want
to get around the city easily, the best option is to rent a car. New Zealand
laws allow you to drive in the city for one year if you have an international
license or a license in your home country.
Auckland is the land of sophisticated people. If
you’re into performing arts, it’s best to visit Edge. Edge is a series of
performance venues where you can catch the performance of prestigious cultural
organizations such as the Auckland Philharmonic and the Auckland Symphony
Orchestra. You can also visit Galatos if you’re into edgy video art and cinema.
Spots for Foodies
and Adventure Seekers
If you love food, you should definitely visit the
Auckland food neighborhood called Mt. Eden or the Maungawhau Domain. It
features beautiful cafes such as the Ironiqu, Frasers, and Circus, Circus. You
can also visit the Return of Rad.
If you’re up for some adventure, you should
definitely go canyoning and rafting in Canyonz. You can also try Auckland’s
skywalk and sky jump. You can even do bungy jumping and skydiving via Skydive