March 1st, 2010
It was one of those slightly disconcerting descents when all you can see is solid grey murk outside. They’re not the worst approaches to airports, I don’t think. Approaching a coastal airport after dark from the ocean end is worse, when all you can see outside is pitch darkness right until you’ve crossed the airport perimeter is worse. Done that into both Wellington and Hong Kong before. Freaky. The worst solid grey murk approach I’ve had was into Hong Kong when the odd, fuzzy shapes in the grey turned out to be ships – the murk had reached the point where there was no visible difference between sky, sea and air.
But today, after some seriously disconcerting shapes of shadows in the murk, we popped out below the cloud – and I breathed a sigh of relief to see that we were not already below treetop height (that’s what the shadows looked like for a bit – tree tops). And there was Beijing spread out in all its glory – glory dimmed by the solid overcast, but the air reasonably decent for that late in an overcast afternoon, with good visibility right into the central city.
We landed on the runway east of T3. We were bound for T2, meaning we had to cross another runway. I hate it when they do that, land aircraft on runways that require them to cross other runways to get to their terminal. It doesn’t help that I find the taxi from runway to terminal the most frustrating part of a flight. After all those hours in squished into an aluminuim can breathing increasingly skanky recycled air, we’re on the ground again at last – can’t we just be there?! But childish impatience aside, we got off the plane quickly enough, and through customs in record time. Back in Beijing.
I don’t want to complain, because it is good to be back in our apartment, but having spent most of the last two weeks based in the Waikato with side trips to Auckland and Rotorua, and the remainder in Wellington, it is a bit of a shock to the system to get back to the greybrown of a wintry north China, especially with snow that started to fall exactly as I climbed in the taxi at the airport.
Emerald Isle? Ireland can’t’ve been that good if my ancestors packed up and left. Early mornings looking across the gently rolling, deep green of the Waikato as the sun rose golden over the other side of Hamilton were simply magic. Those Wellington mornings, when we were staying in old family friends’ bach (pronounced ‘batch’, meaning ‘holiday home’, traditionally built out of whatever was available, these days often pretty nice; also called a ‘crib’ south of the Waitaki River) in Waikanae, walking barefoot out the backdoor and straight on to the beach, Kapiti Island a few short kilometres offshore, the sun rising over the ranges behind, the ragged northern ends of the South Island more often than not lurking in the southwestern distance.
It felt good.
And there’s much more to write, but that’ll have to wait for now.