The streets of Wellington were quiet at six o’clock on a Saturday morning. Few other cars, and nobody out walking, even with dogs. Something our taxi-driver took advantage of as he zipped around corners, undercut another white vehicle at the entrance to the Vic Tunnel, and generally played with the electronic bookings console mounted by his window.
“I’ve been on since four,” he told us in a soft voice. “I need to work. I can’t take holidays, not after a very long break recently.”
“Where was that?” asked Kate, sitting up with him and probably expecting an answer such as staying home to play with his grandchildren or jetting over for a week on the Sunshine Coast.
“Six years in all,” he said without compunction. “I went to relax in India and not worry about a thing.” He fiddled with the console again, a string of beeps and flashes. Then straddled another white line, powered up a ramp, and shot along the deserted motorway. He hadn’t told us he was Wellington’s fastest taxi-driver. Six years contemplating how to drive from Khandallah to Miramar in six minutes. We might have been safer remaining in bed and rising later.
We didn’t tell him we were heading for Sri Lanka. He seemed so intent on breaking some unofficial land-speed record and we didn’t want to distract him. And if he came from India, he might have in-depth recommendations on our destination. More console pushing, more beeps, too much after a poor night’s sleep.
“It’s been a bit windy this week?” he said as we flashed past Evans Bay. “Some planes couldn’t land on Tuesday. They had to send them back.”
“Yes.” I nodded grudgingly. We were hoping the same thing wouldn’t happen this morning, that our flight to Auckland would be operating and leave on time. And that it wouldn’t be too bumpy, at least not once we’d lifted above the Wellington wind-tunnel. Glancing outside, I could see there was still sufficient wind to extend the runway windsock, yet it had calmed greatly from the tree-toppling, wave-bashing gusts earlier this week.
A moment later – as if a racing steward had waved him in – the taxi-driver swung into a bay outside departures.
“Air New Zealand?” he asked, turning.
Together we nodded, glad to have arrived, to still be in one piece. Or maybe four pieces if we counted the luggage. Kate gave him her credit card while I manhandled the cases out of the boot.
The black one is mine. The red one, Kate’s. They each appear big or small by comparison to each other. I have the walking poles and first aid kit in mine, while Kate has a spare thermal vest.
The initial stage of our journey completed. Now only another four more to go.