Never expected such a situation to happen to me once again given how much I looked after my stuff. I guess when one traveled for long enough, Murphy’s Law shall catch up, or maybe I had become too complacent, having stayed in New Zealand for near to 6 months without anything happening. Well, nevertheless, this was my first experience of having my belongings stolen from me while travelling.
How it happened:
I was in the public library at Auckland CBD on the morning of 30th August 2012. My original plan was to meet up with my friend Cindy at 11am for a walk to Mount Eden. As I reached the library early at 10am, I found a book, left my bag on the floor beside me and started reading. When I finished my book at 10.50am, I look at the ground and found my bag was gone. Below is a simplified floor plan of that scene as I remember.
My reactions & the immediate aftermath:
As I remembered, the sight of the empty space where my bag should be gave me a shock as well as panic. I was flustered over the fact that my bag was missing. My first action after looking around my area was to check with the people sitting nearby whether they saw my bag. When it came up negative, the dread came and the thought of my belonging being stolen gave me a tight slap in the face. With so many valuables in my bag, I had to take action fast although I’m slightly not sure what to do exactly. Next I went to the library counter to report that my bag was stolen and was first directly to the “Lost & Found” counter by the staff. I was definitely sceptical about it being found there, with my bets firmly on it being stolen because of the simple reason that I never left my seat when I was reading the book. Still I had to try against all hopes and was proven right when there was no sign of it at the counter, so I returned to report my bag being stolen.
Next according to the staff was for me to inform the security guard. While waiting for the security guard, my friend Cindy arrived and with her arrival, she assisted me greatly on matters which would otherwise took me longer if I was alone. The security guard arrived shortly after and I gave him the summary of what happened as I recalled, even showing him the spot where my bag was stolen. His reaction left me severely disappointed. I was hoping he would point me to the right direction on what I should do next but all he did initially was to launch into complaining mode over how people in the library did not look after their stuff, about how many times he had to inform them to look after their stuff etc etc. To make it worse, his speaking tone imply that I didn’t look after my bag well which galled and pissed me off simply because I had never left my bag unattended it was on the floor beside me all the time when I was reading the book and it was stolen just like that. I almost lost my temper there with him but I’m also at fault for having my bag stolen right under my nose and I wanted to know what I should do next.
So after the nagging from him, I managed to find out that I need to make a police report and pass it to them so they could release the CCTV footage for investigation. During the time when he was nagging non-stop and checking things up, I managed to cancel my NZ credit cards with Cindy’s help. Luckily both our phones were connected to the internet, enabling us to check up on the phone numbers to call. She also found the number of Singapore High Commission in New Zealand for me to report the loss of my passport. I was very grateful for her help because my mobile phone was running low on battery then, due to the internet search. After finding out the general direction to the nearest police station, we made our way there, during which I cancelled my Singapore credit card. Compared to the disappointment over the security guard, at least the bank staffs was more helpful and sympathetic to my plight, assuring me during the process of confirming my details before cancelling the cards.
At the police station, the process of taking my statement was smooth although I hit a glitch of trying to remember all the belongings I had in my bag. Did managed to give the most important ones though before I ran into an obstacle: To get the police report, I had to provide some form of identification which incidentally I had none because all of my identification was in my bag (highlighting another danger of my habit of putting my wallet in my bag). Without any proof of identification, I could only get just the case number assigned to my case.
Hence, it started off with another scramble to find some document to identify me to the police. Luckily I had 3 options where I could turn to:
1) My hostel room which had a photocopy of my passport but was also the furthest away
2) My hostel also had a scanned copy of my passport
3) My immigration advisor had a photocopy of my passport too
I went with option 3 as it was the nearest to the police station. After getting the photocopy of my passport (Cindy had returned to her room to get her computer as well as some money to lend me in the meantime), I returned to the police station to get my police report which I promptly brought to the library, passing to the security guard in hope of getting the CCTV footage asap and kick start the investigation. Time was the essential because the faster investigation started, the higher chance was it for me to get my stuff back, but sadly, as later events shown, it was a misplaced hope. Anyway, with the report given, I was given the assurance that the CCTV footage will be sent to the police once the facility manager returned later in the afternoon (he wasn’t around when I gave the report as it was lunch time then). Of course, I had to go through another round of nagging, albeit a short one from the security guard again. With nothing else I could do, I returned to my hostel to sort out the remaining items, having caught up with Cindy again before returning.
At the hostel, the next item on my agenda was to inform the Singapore High Commission about my stolen passport in order to get a document of identity to facilitate my return to Singapore 2 weeks later. In a lucky way, this happened towards the end of my trip when I’m in the midst of sorting out my stuff in New Zealand to prepare for a return to Singapore after failing to secure a job, so most of the matter had be done like buying my air ticket. The process was smooth too after getting confirmation of my personal information from me. Afterwards, all I need was to fill in some form which they email me and to submit some documents to them to get the document of identify. As the Singapore High Commission was in Wellington (I did a check on where the Singapore embassy was before I arrived in New Zealand with the plan to inform them that I’ll be here for a while but the moment I found out that they were in Wellington, I dropped my plan to inform them since I was in Auckland mostly), I had to courier everything to them (including the administrative fee of $15 as well as the courier envelope for them to send the document of identify back to me).
After that, I use Cindy’s computer (to write on my blog) and whatsapp to inform family/friends of what happen as well as to reassure them that everything was under control. Basically, I had done everything within my means to prevent further loss although the loss of all my valuables meant that I had to totally revise my plans for the final 2 weeks in New Zealand. Next stop would be to go to the post office to get my courier envelopes as well as to the bank to withdraw some money (another lucky thing was that only a third of my remaining money left was lost in my wallet, the rest was safely in my bank). I still had enough money to last the remaining 2 weeks in New Zealand but I definitely had to cut back on everything. With the documents posted to the Singapore High Commission, everything I needed to do was done and I receive my document of identify promptly within 2 working days.
I was in a slight depressing mood for the next few days, replaying the absurd situation of having my bag stolen right under my nose in the public library again and again. I kept replaying it and going through all the “what ifs” scenarios that would have easily prevent the thief. To make it worse, the fact that I lost everything including my laptop meant that I couldn’t do much (I had initially planned to spend my final 2 weeks applying for more jobs as well as to catch up all the backlog on my blog but I couldn’t do it anymore) and the blow to me was made worse by the fact that all my photos from my South Island travel were lost.
With lots of free time at hand now, I was at a loss on what to do. I couldn’t go to the library as I usually do because it would bring back the painful memories of my loss. It hurt even more because libraries had always been a sanctuary for me where I could immerse myself in the world of the writers but now it became a painful place for me for a few days. Thus I went volunteering on Motutapu Island as many times as I could during my final 2 weeks in New Zealand, to do something constructive and take my mind off matters.
When I told people about the thief, one common reaction with people living in Auckland seemed to be the fact that someone would know someone who had their stuff stolen at the library. It seemed like there was a syndicate working at the library, committing these crimes. Plus one advice I gotten was to check online sites as the thief may post the items online to sell it off (I did that for a while but till date, nothing turned up).
On the investigation front, I waited patiently for either the library or police to get back to me but with no news, I returned to the library to check and came away with a blank, neither able to confirm whether if the library had pass the CCTV footage to the police nor if the police had received it. At least the security guard this time was more sympathetic and helpful although this can’t be said of the police. The staff I spoke to at the police station gave me assurance that a police officer was checking on the case and would contact me shortly. As days went by, nobody contacted me, resulting in me returning to the police station and starting some sort of “wait & see” game. Every time I went to the police station, the same staff would give me another date/time as the officer in charge of my case was not around when I visited. Then when the date came and went without anyone contacting me, I would return to the police station to repeat the whole process again.
The whole situation was frustrating me to no end, giving me the feeling that nothing was being done. I may be wrong (there may be more pressing case or they were short staffed) but this was the feeling I get, resulting in me having to visit the police station a couple of times to check up with them. Even worse, sometimes I felt that they just gave me another timing just to chase me away. So the whole matter just drag on and on till my final week in New Zealand. I also gave them my departure date from New Zealand, hoping it may help push matters forward but it didn’t helped much.
Up till my final week, I still have to return to enquire on the matter. The final date I was given just 2 days before I leave with the same staff telling me that a sergeant will be contacting me regarding the CCTV footage. They couldn’t attend to it right away because the sergeant was on leave. Maybe I was too naive then, believing the reason given to me, went back and waited. Thinking about it now, I think it would have been better if I requested for another officer to look into the matter because I was leaving the country soon.
Alas, the day came and no one contacted me regarding my case, hence I returned once again, highlighting the urgent need for them to get the CCTV footage because I’ll be leaving the country soon and I won’t be able to help out with investigation unless they were willing to fly me back. Somehow, it seemed to work and another officer came to assure me that they will be looking into the case (2 weeks after it had happened). I checked with the officer if they needed my help with the CCTV footage since I knew exactly where I was sitting at the time of the incident. They declined after checking with me if the library knew where I was at which was an affirmative. Having declined my help, I couldn’t do anything else except to wait again.
Once again, I waited and on the day before I left, I received a text from the officer saying that they had look at the CCTV footage and I was in a blind spot (a fact that I knew all along. I even shortlisted a possible security camera that may assist in the investigation but the fact that they didn’t seek my help, I couldn’t do anything about it nor could I confirmed it). They then requested me to provide a description and preferably a photo of my bag to help in spotting it from the entrance CCTV footage. I rushed down to the police station, only to find it close (the text was sent to me a few minutes before the closing time). Again, there was nothing much I could do and given that I was leaving on a early morning flight, I could only request for my friend Cindy’s help again, emailing her the photo of the bag plus a description when I got back to Singapore. She helped me passed the photo to the officer and was told that my bag was in a common colour (black), hence it would be difficult to spot it. Well, all I could say is well done, Sherlock, I think anyone could have said that. Haiz… It was definitely not helpful at all.
Given that I’m back in Singapore, I had since given up hope that I would get anything back, holding on to a very small hope that the person who got the laptop may contact me regarding the photos inside the hard disk (afterall, my contact details were in the desktop) but I would rate such a thing happen as near impossible. Had to apply for all my lost documents (passport/driving license) and incurring more expenses for them. Applied for claims under my travel insurance, disappointed at the claims paid out (seriously, the insurance company took too much away using the depreciation factor. It sucked big time because I really took care of my stuff and they were as good as new) and now still waiting for the claims payment.
1. From this incident, I knew that I could really survive on my own despite such a catastrophe happening and going through a short period of feeling down. Of course, I’m very grateful to everyone who had supported, helped and advised me through this difficult period, easing the pain of the loss, especially all my South Island travel photos.
2. One reason why this had happened to me was because I had gotten complacent after spending going half a year in New Zealand without anything happening to me plus the fact that I had been slacker with my belongings during my travels and nothing bad had happened. As the old saying goes, “Low crime doesn’t mean no crime”, my lack of attention would had marked me as a target to the thief.
3. The frustrating experiences I had with the first security guard at the library and the police was slightly even out by the better experience I had with the library other security guard, the banks staff, hostel staff and Singapore High Commission.
4. Travel insurance: I’m kinda neutral on it but I guess if one is going on a long trip, it would be good to get one, short trips wise, it would depend on the risks one is willing to get. While the insurance I bought covered me, the claim for my stuff was disappointing.
After an absence of a few weeks due to the need to fulfill my reservist obligations (alas, the lament of being a Singaporean male), I shall resume posting on the blog to clear all my backlog of posts from the final 2+ months of stay in New Zealand.
I’ll try to write as much as I can remember although I’m sure the posts will be less detailed as I would prefer due to the loss of my photos. Usually I will rely on my memories with photos as a further trigger to chronicle my experiences in New Zealand which will give a good account. Now that the photo triggers were lost, I can only rely on my memories, hence the loss of certain details in all my posts from now on.
To make up for the loss of the photos, I’m looking to use images from the Internet to explain certain matters but be prepared to get words only posts too.
Not sure how fast I can proceed with the clearing but hopefully, I can put up a post once every 2-3 days.
And now, onward to the final phase… the clearing of all the backlog
Now that I’m back in Singapore, the question on my mind would be what would I do with my blog. This blog was started initially with the aim of chronicling my time in New Zealand only with the wish that I may succeed and keep this blog going forever.
Now that I had failed, I feel that it’s time to end the blog as I had originally plan since I’m not in New Zealand anymore although I will revive it in the future when I attempt again on a Silver Fern Visa. As Yoda had said “Always in motion, is the future”, so nobody will know what will happen in the future.
But before I end my blog, I’ll finish up all the outstanding posts over my travels, my feelings and my experiences in New Zealand. Originally they will meant to be completed while I was still in New Zealand but the theft of my bag with my laptop (with all my photos inside), camera, wallet, passport etc threw a very big spanner in the plan, thus I have to delay it until I get back to Singapore.
I’ll resume my posting soon once I sorted out all my administrative matters arising due to the theft. Don’t expect much photos on the posts as they were lost with my laptop.
It was with a heavy heart that accompanied me to the airport to catch my flight back to Singapore. To think that it was just 6 months ago when I arrived in Auckland alone, armed with my working holiday visa to start off my New Zealand adventure and now, in what felt like a blink of eye, my visa is expiring soon, having been unsuccessful in finding a permanent job to get the elusive work visa which would have allow me to stay in beautiful New Zealand longer, thus the end of my adventure is near, with me departing once again from Auckland airport.
6 months is definitely too short for a stay in New Zealand. Time flies when one is enjoying oneself and this is so true of my stay in New Zealand. I have so many wonderful memories of my time in New Zealand, most notable being making new friends, volunteering on Motutapu Island, road trips and travelling around on my own in South Island for almost 2 months.
The beautiful scenery in the South Island, the grandness of the Southern Alps & its glaciers, the dramatic & awe-inspiring fiords of Fiordland National Park (Doubtful & Milford Sounds which I’m very lucky to be able to visit), the clear beautiful night sky of Mackenzie Basin, sunny Abel Tasman, tranquil Stewart Island, the various tramping tracks all around New Zealand… So many wonderful places… What makes the travels even more memorable were the people I met, both locals & fellow travellers alike, friendships were forged and the kindness of strangers all combined to make it a top notch experience for me.
Another highlight for me would be my time spent on Motutapu Island volunteering. Like a Greek proverb said: “A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”, this saying had been lodged in my mind ever since I saw it during one of my walks in the nature reserve back in Singapore and hearing the volunteers spoke about how much Motutapu had changed over the years, it further affirm this very proverb. I’m glad to have the chance to contribute to this wonderful undertaking. Whether it was weeding, tree planting or nursery work that I did, the friendly banter among the volunteers, the jokes cracked and even the impromptu lessons of New Zealand flora and birds, all these made the whole experience fun & enjoyable for me. The knowledge of the flora and birds which I gained help me to further appreciate the environment especially during my tramps and at times, I share the knowledge with my friends too. Although it is a pity that I will miss out some of the upcoming event on Motutapu (the kiwi birds release at the end of September & the round the islands races), I’m sure that I’ll have the chance in the future and definitely I see myself returning for more volunteering.
Even though I didn’t manage to succeed in getting a permanent job in order to stay longer in New Zealand, it was still a worthwhile and wonderful trip even despite the misfortune of having my stuff stolen from me near the end. As Mike Twain had said before, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” This saying is so true. I have no regrets on embarking on this 6 months journey, for I have changed, maybe for the better… While I may still be fumbling around in my life, trying to find out what I really want to do and trying to seek out the meaning of my life, this trip has clear some things up for me.
I may be back in Singapore right now but it’ll not be the end of me, in fact it’ll be the start as I have in mind some plans before returning in the future to try again. It’ll be farewell for now but I’m confident that I’ll be back.
To New Zealand which has given me so many irreplaceable encounters and memories…
And to everyone who has kindly watched over me…
Never in my mind that I will expect such grave misfortune to happen to me but it does and it strike me very badly.
I have a misfortune of having my backpack stolen from me today when I was in the library, the misfortune being further compounded by the fact that almost all my valuables as well as numerous important documents were stolen together with the backpack given that I had them all inside.
Incident summary: I arrived at the library at 10am, found myself a nice seat with the back facing a pillar and sat there reading a book with my bag on the ground ot my left. When I finally finished the book at around 10.50am, I found out that my bag was missing when I reached down to pick it up.
First reaction was to check with the people sitting near me but no one seen anything. Next was the library counter where I file a lost report before I was directed to the security guard. The security guard wasn’t helpful although he did point me to my next point. It looked like I need to file a police report in order to go through the security camera. Managed to get this information from all the nagging and redundant information from the security guard (Yes, I know that I should have keep a good watch on my bag but it’s not helping me to hear about people not taking care of their stuff and leaving things unattended. All I like to know is what I have to do). Definitely have to keep my cool.
Luckily I was meeting with Cindy, a fellow working holiday friend at the library, because with her help, I managed to make all the necessary calls to cancel my local and overseas credit cards before making our way to the police station to file a theft report.
Made the police report and I would have to provide some identification proof before I could get the report, otherwise I can only get the case number. This left me in a bind because all my identification proof were stolen with my backpack while the nearest possible proof would be in my hostel room (the keys were stolen too). Luckily I managed to remember where I could get my identification proof a short distance away, so went there promptly and got my police report.
Returned to the library and passed them the report but unluckily, the caretaker wasn’t around at that time, so I couldn’t access the security footage, having to leave my contact number with them and hopefully they will get back to me either today or tomorrow.
Next important matter for me would be to contact the Singapore High Commission to get a document of identification given that my passport was stolen with the bag. Reached them with ease and received instructions on what to do next and managed to complete all the instructions by mid afternoon and couriered the necessary documents to them (they were in Wellington).
Right now, I will have to go through my memories and try to confirm what I lost and do all the necessary steps to tighten up security and hopefully all gaps have been covered.
It really hurts with the laptop stolen as all my South Island travels photos were still on the laptop and given that I’m now using Cindy’s laptop to post this as well as to clear up various matter online, this may be the final post on this post for the time being until I’m back in Singapore. I’ll try my best to complete the blog on my travels although as of now, I feels that it may be hard as I could only rely on my memories (instead of complementing it with photos and it would be just pure words given that all the photos from July & August had been lost). Still we shall see how it goes. Until the time come, take care and take care of your belongings (don’t get complacent like me) >.<
Reached Wellington in the morning at around 8.30+ am, the ride was uneventful once I fell asleep although I woke up at around 4.30am when the bus reached Palmerston North to allow the lady sitting on the window seat to alight. It seemed like quite a substantial number of people alighting in Palmerston North. Luckily for me, instead of the bus stop I was expecting to alight, there was an alternative stop, much nearer to the backpacker hostels area. Given that I still have Yvonne’s snowboard with me while she went couch surfing at her host’s house, I was glad for the shorter walking distance to my hostel from the alternate bus stop.
Alighted at the bus stop but I took a while to orient myself to the city and I failed. Turning to Google Map on my mobile phone, I finally managed to get my bearings before making my way to my hostel. As it was too early for me to check in, I left my luggage at the hostel and went out exploring Wellington.
Typically of me, my first stop was at the library to check its collection out as well as to do some reading before making my way to museum, Te Papa. It was such a big place, easily one of the biggest museum I had ever been. Due to its size as well as its layout, walking around the museum felt like walking in a maze at times but with time, I got used to the layout.
Kahu Ora/Living Cloaks exhibit
No photos could be taken inside the Living Cloaks exhibit
The exhibits in the museum were interesting, especially the ones on Kahu Ora/Living Cloaks where I got a chance to observe a weaver in action as she got the fibre from the flax plant using a shell. The exhibits on the fight for rights as well as a non-nuclear stand were an eye-opener.
Skeleton of the kiwi bird with its egg inside
The portion on nature was interesting too, with the preserved giant squid being the highlight plus I also seen a skeleton of a kiwi bird with its egg inside it, fully given me a good sense of how tough it was for the mother kiwi bird (I knew before that kiwi bird egg was the biggest, taken in proportion with the bird itself). The video on the plight of the kakapo caught my attention too. There were exhibits in art although I had to admit that I couldn’t really appreciate them. I also took the chance to see a replica of the Treaty of Waitangi while I was there.
Te Papa was interesting, full of fun facts and knowledge and one could easily spend a day or more there. The museum shop was large and had lots of souvenirs and books available for purchase. I spent more than half a day there, only leaving in the mid-afternoon, going back to my hostel to check into my dorm room.
Wellington Cable Car tunnel
Wellington Cable Car
Coming out of the cable car to Kelburn lookout
View from Kelburn lookout
My next stop for the day was at the red iconic Wellington Cable Car, located in the CBD area where I bought myself a return ticket, setting off for Kelburn lookout where I had great views of the city and harbour. Typically of Wellington, according to my friends, it was very windy at the top and the wind chilling me further, so I didn’t stayed outdoor for long.
Inside the Cable Car Museum, looking at a restored original Wellington cable car
Looking at the seats. The seats were slanted because the cable car was always moving on a gradient
Retreating into the warmth of the Cable Car Museum where I watch videos about the history of cable cars in New Zealand, history of the Wellington Cable Car as well as modern private cable cars present around New Zealand. Quite interesting and informative but possibly due to my overnight journey as well as the warmth, I felt asleep during parts of the videos. Luckily for me, the videos were being played in a loop, so I had the chance to watch the parts I missed.
The historical gun. Its position on top of the hill allowed it to command the harbour
The special sundial that allowed you to tell the local time using your own shadow
Looking down at part of the Botanic Garden
After the museum, I wandered around the hilltop, checking out the historical gun, Carter Observatory where there was a very interesting sun dial near it (I didn’t went to the observatory because I knew that I’ll get the best night sky when I’m in Tekapo in South Island) before wandering around the Botanic Garden.
I returned back to the CBD as it got dark, dropping by some bookshops along the way back to my hostel to grab my free dinner snack (one reason why I chose that hostel. LOL). I went to bed early to recover from the overnight bus trip although with a club beside the hostel, it was quite noisy.
The only one clear photo of my toe infection from my Tonga trip, taken the day I arrived in Wellington, having gone through 1 course of antibiotics and in the process of completing the 2nd course. The infection was still present at the bottom and on the right side of the toenail. The surrounding flaky and new skin showed the extent at which the infection was at its worst.
Found only in New Zealand, the kakapo is a critically endangered bird with only 126 of them left in the world, making it one of the rarest parrots in the world. It also holds the distinction of being the heaviest parrot and with a possible lifespan of 90 years or more; it’s possibly the oldest living bird around. Like many native New Zealand birds, it’s flightless. And every year, countless of people from around the world give their time and energy to try save them from the spectre of extinction.
I came to know about the kakapo during my South Island travel, when I was in Te Papa in Wellington on 6th July, preparing to take the ferry over to Picton to officially start my travel. The exhibit on the kakapo piqued my interest, especially the video on them where I saw for my first time, frisky Sirocco trying to mate with a human. hahaha..
The next encounter was when I was in Queenstown with nothing much to do on 20th July, so as per usual, when I had nothing to do, I visited the library. In the library, I saw the book “Rescued from the brink of extinction: Kakapo” by Alison Balance, with a kakapo on its front cover. Once I picked up the book and started reading, I spend the rest of my afternoon reading that book, learning more about them as well as the conservation effort that was put in place in order to save them. It was a pity for me that I couldn’t finish the book before the library closed but my interest definitely was piqued.
When I was in Te Anau on the 22nd July, I visit the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre where there was an exhibition about the kakapo, focusing on the kakapo, Richard Henry. And when I was on Stewart Island when the rain prevented me from doing much tramping on the 29th & 30th July, I went to the DOC Visitor Centre and watched a documentary on them.
I never thought I would have a chance to see a live kakapo with my own eyes, being under the impression that all of them were on far-flung offshore predator free islands. Yet, today when I was volunteering on Motutapu Island, Jackie talked about being able to see Sirocco at Maungatautari, raising my hope on the matter. According to Jackie, we would be able to see him for a limited time at Maungatautari as DOC is flying him there for a 6 week special assignment. It is really tempting me but to reach there, I would need a car and I have to consider my budget too. >.<
More about Sirocco: