As winter sets in, I got thinking of all the unfortunate souls who are homeless and how dreadful sleeping on the street, being cold and alone must be. That thought awoke a Wandering Memory eight years old, whereby I had a taste of sleeping rough in the streets of Auckland.
This was upon my return to Auckland, after previously visiting and leaving to travel the rest of New Zealand. On my initial visit I had clicked with a group of like-minded travelers and made friends with a lady called Emily who was settling into a year away. Through my New Zealand adventure I had kept in touch with the majority of them, and Emily and I decided to meet back up when I returned to Auckland.
Upon my return we met up, and she offered me a place to stay, this was great news as I was fast running out of money and still had trips to Fiji, America and Canada to finance before arriving home. It was also nice to have a house to just chill in, after a number of days swapping from hostel to hostel.
My second night back, she went to work and I went into town, we agreed we would meet at 11pm and head back together. 11pm came and went, and no sign of her, midnight came and still no word. I text, I called but her phone just rang and rang with no answer. It suddenly dawned on me, I didn’t actually know where she lived – I mean I knew the bus route vaguely but the busses had already stopped! I tried again, but still no answer… I went for my wallet and upon opening it found that I had safely locked my cards away in my bag before leaving her house. Safety first and all! I had the grand total of $1.50 on me!
What do I do? The night was upon me and it was cold… the longer I stayed outside the colder I got… The internet café I was in had long closed, the streets were quiet and apart from a few clubs that I couldn’t pay to get into I was pretty much stranded.
Do I ask for someone’s help? I mean what do you say without looking like your begging or untrustworthy? Who would believe my naivety? I couldn’t call anyone – it was too late! I had no money for a hostel and the only one I knew was security locked. So I made the decision to snuggle up in the corner next to a shop window and try to ride it out. It soon got to 2am and I was still awake and I was freezing! The streets were completely empty – it felt like nothing was open – not even McDonald’s. I sat there freezing just watching the clock tick, getting colder and colder every minute.
Just imagine this every night, especially now it’s winter? I just can’t comprehend how people do it? I know they have no choice in many circumstances – but my heart goes out to them all.
I caught a glimpse of a group of young lads heading back from a night out, and took a guess that they maybe returning to the local hostel I had once stayed in. This was it – this was an opportunity… I closely followed them down the street, and my dreams were answered when they turned into the hostel opening the security gate with a pass. I know it sounds dramatic but I caught that door within milliseconds of it shutting.
As I didn’t look like I belonged on the street, the security guard just thought I was another part of the group and I passed him, up the stairs and into the lounge. I looked at the clock and it read 4.30am and a temperature of -2 degrees, I warmed myself on a radiator and passed out a few moments later.
I was awoken by Emily calling at 8am, I just didn’t know what to say – she had completely deserted me – and didn’t show any sign of guilt or remorse. I caught the bus to her street with my $1.50, collected my stuff and checked back into the hostel I had just left. I never found out how or why she did what she did? But from then on I was definitely less naive.
That experience has stayed with me all of these years, as I think it was the coldest and most alone I have ever felt.