We could not board the four trains that arrived at Panmure station because they were full of passengers already. We then walked to the busstop and got a bus after waiting 20 mins. We were almost the last passengers the driver stopped for, because the bus was packed. We also had ample time during the bus trip to note that Auckland buses are not made for standing passengers.
When we reached the city, my daughters’ friend was to join our group but with the cellphone networks jammed, it would have been like searching for a needle in a haystack. Thankfully, earlier in the day, they had texted each other and decided that we would meet near the Britomart Train station. Even so it took us over 40 harrowing minutes to find her.
We enjoyed the atmosphere for a while and then decided to have a light dinner in the Westfield food court. The food court must have made the profit of a lifetime judging from the crowds. The bins outside the mall were inadequate and the place looked very messy indeed.
At 7:30 we made our way to one of the big screens. It felt good to be part of such a large group of people. Everyone was having a good time. One problem we had was that we could not see the screen much because some of us were too short. I had to raise my hand high up in the air to take pictures like this one.
Soon it was time for the fireworks, which did not disappoint.
After the fireworks, we thought that we should start moving towards the busstop because we knew that transport arrangements were not adequate. Suddenly the whole crowd started to move, and whichever direction we tried to move in, we found a current of people moving against us. Our group comprised eight people and we all held on to each other like a chain. One of my daughters started feeling claustrophobic.
As soon as we came to an area where we could breathe again, she asked to wait, but a mother and 13-year old daughter in our group who were ahead of us did not know this and began to work their way through the crowd again, followed by two men in our group. When we attempted to follow them, we nearly fell because of the pushing and shoving, so we backed off and stayed safe in ‘the area where we could breathe’. We soon heard several ambulances in the vicinity and wondered what was going on.
After a while we found another route and got to the busstop, fearing much for the safety of the others. Because of the poor state of the cellphone network, we had no way of assuring one another of our safety. We learned later that the two men of our group had found the near stampede difficult and one of them had almost been strangled because his bag which was slung over his head was caught in the crowds. After more than half an hour, we found each other again.
Another problem we faced was because several people had not bothered about the liquour ban and were drunk. As a result, there was coarse talk and annoying behaviour that was intimidating at that hour of the night. With so many children about, it was not a good thing.
We could not go anywhere near the first two buses going to our part of Auckland because of the crowds attempting to board them. When the third bus arrived, because it was parked at an odd angle, we had to make our way between two other buses to reach it. This was not a bad thing, because it made us form a sort of queue, something that was lacking near all the other buses. The following photo was taken from where we were in the “queue”.
The buses had no one other than the driver to manage such large crowds. Surely they needed to have some more help. Anyway, after over twenty minutes, just when our part of the “queue” made it to the door of the bus, the driver closed the door. Here is a photograph I took of the girls a while before the door closed, which shows you that for all that happened, we were having a good time.
We then decided to try the trains. When we went to the station, we were asked to go to the Westpak building. When we reached the Westpak building, we found a queued crowd, if there can be such a thing, for 75 meters or so. So we went back to the busstop and eventually got home.
I do not regret having gone to the city, but the arrangements were pitifully inadequate. I am writing this post before retiring to bed, although I am very tired, because such experiences need to be recorded before the new day dulls the sharpness of the events of this evening. Just in case someone wants to learn from experience. I thank God for giving our city an evening of fun, in spite of everything.