Tomorrow I fly back to the UK from New Zealand…
…to resume a somewhat normal life for a few months and prep for The Big Adventure. I’m looking forward to going home and seeing Mickey. I’m full of cold right now and I’m not looking forward to the flight or the after effects, not that I was before I got ill (in my more extreme daydreams I travel the world on a bike and never again need to fly…go figure!). But I have a mountain of teaching prep to get through and I need to be home. I’m really going to miss this place though. And the last two weeks in the company of old friends has been a real salve to the soul, I forget how much I miss people until I see them again. When I originally took up this job offer it was with the hope that I would earn enough to keep the savings safe and also to stock up on mental fortitude for the coming adventure. I will, after all, be returning to New Zealand albeit by a different route and I’m not kidding myself it’s going to be all fun and fairy dust so I knew it’d be great to have an idea of what I was heading towards during those tougher times on the road.
I’m happy to say that my plan paid off. New Zealand, what can I say? It’s been amazing. I know that there will be times when the great times I’ve had here will keep me moving and the thoughts of what I’m heading back to will lift my spirit. The beauty of this country is simply breath-taking, the pace of life strikes this work-worn Brit as a happy balance of healthy lifestyle, ample outdoor pursuits and working productivity. New Zealand seems to have all the bits of the developed world that make life easier but fewer of the down sides. A notable exception however is central heating…and it gets cold here! I’ve seen stunning vistas, awesome sunsets, endangered and astonishing wildlife and all manner of geological wonders. And I’ve only scratched the surface. But as is so often the case when travelling, it’s the people who have made the experience. To friends old and new who have welcomed me into their home to live, eat and laugh, to those who have generously loaned me equipment and given me their time to allow me to experience NZ to the fullest, to the lab-mates who have made me at home in and out of work, and to those who have introduced me to and shared with me amazing new experiences that I never would have tried alone – thank you. You’re too numerous to name but you know who you are. I hope one day I can return your hospitality. I’ve learned a lot from you NZ and I can say with confidence I’ll be back. Thanks for the experience, the memories and thank you for your generosity.
Other than the wonderful hospitality I’ve experienced, here just a handful of things I learnt about this wonderful country I’ve lived in for the last two months (For a more in depth description take a look at the rest of our blog).
1. Kiwis get sarcasm. I asked a group of Kiwi friends do they do sarcasm? I got the response ‘Nooooo of course not…’ They also often have quite a dry sense of humour. These things make communication just a lot more relaxed for me.
2. Kiwi’s have a well-developed sense of adventure.
3. Hiking is called tramping here
4. New Zealand has nine Great Walks forged through the wilderness by intrepid settlers so that your average person could head into the wilderness and feel a bit Bear Grylls.
5. You’re treated like an adult here. Ignore the warning signs at your peril, if they’re warning you about it, it’s probably serious!
6. Flying around New Zealand – or more accurately, landing and taking off – can be a bit hair-raising. Wellington is extremely windy, Dunedin airport resides in a wind tunnel whose direction is prone to change and Queenstown involves navigating between two large mountains – not for the faint hearted! I like to comfort myself that this means their pilots are really good at what they do!
7. New Zealand is quite prone to natural disasters. While I’ve been here I experienced an earthquake, a tsunami warning, and an avalanche. All firsts for me.
8. The landscape here is varied and all of it so beautiful it makes it hard to stay on the roads. In two short months I been in a rainforests, forests, farmland, alpine mountains, fjord-filled lands, wine country, bustling cities, volcanic hills, coastal seascape.
9. The roads here are almost as amazing as the scenery. Sweeping bends, the long straights, the dearth of other cars…for the first time in a LONG time I have enjoyed driving again. And just as fast they revert to unsealed gravel tracks for a bit of off-roading!
10. Be prepared for others enjoying themselves on them too though, tailgating seems to be treated as a compulsion and overtaking is conducted as if it’s a sport.
11. There is so much SPACE here. Unless you’re in Auckland. With only 4 million people residing in an island that’s bigger than Britain, and 1.3 million of those tucked in Auckland, people can afford to be nicer to each other. Often, you’re quite grateful when you see someone!
12. Hitting a small furry wild mammal in your car here is not greeted with the usual horror. All non-flying mammals were introduced by European settlers and are now a threat to the indigenous wildlife.
13. Their birdlife is enough to motivate even the most disinterested person towards twitching. And the names are inventive. There’s are tuis, kakapos, pukekos, morporks and piwakawakas, keas. And the birds are often as interesting as their names.
14. Finally, Wellington is the capital city…I only learned this after 4 weeks in the country, I thought it was Auckland. I never claimed to be good at geography 🙂