I was wondering if the day would ever come, but after seven months my two-week stay in New Zealand has finally come to an end. All things considered, it was a pretty good place to see off the initial phase of the Corona pandemic. The way the country was lead during the crisis was impressive. So was the way the nation responded to the serious restrictions placed upon both work and private life. If I had left Australia a couple of weeks earlier I would have been in South America when the borders started closing up. That would have been a very different story.
I’ve had an up and down time here in Aotearoa, and have definitely had a whinge from time to time. Winter weather in New Zealand is truly shithouse. I’m quite convinced that if more New Zealanders went overseas, and subsequently realised they don’t have to spend six months of every year in abject weather-induced misery, there would be a biblical-scale exodus from the Rainy Isles.
Six weeks of lockdown isolation in Auckland was also a low point, though necessary under the circumstances. The easing of movement restrictions around New Zealand was a great relief, however not knowing the timeframe for the reopening of international borders made it hard to plan. Keep wandering NZ? Stop somewhere, find a place to stay, and try to find work during the worst recession on record? Chuck it all in, give up the odyssey and return to Australia? At times I felt aimless, and that I was just treading water. These feelings always lead to nagging unease and agitation. However I am well aware that my problems are insignificant when compared to just about everyone else’s experiences of Corona.
Apart from the bummers, I have had some great times here in Aotearoa. Camping, hiking, kayaking, surfing, and the country’s world-class museums have been highlights.
In the last few days I’ve been getting a bit nostalgic about things I shall miss about NZ: the super-friendly people; being called ‘bro’ all the time; hearing people say ‘yis’; that fuel pumps still have the little clip on the nozzle so you don’t have to hold the handle; and the fact that no-one cares what the female leaders of the two biggest political parties are wearing or the way they style their hair.
Still, it’s time to move on. In half an hour I’m boarding a plane in Auckland, and 27 hours later I will disembark in Islanbul, Turkey. I’m joining a crew of three other blokes on a 46 foot catamaran bound for Tunisia. Borders are open in Turkey, and no quarantine is required. Travelling by private boat will limit our exposure to Corona, and may be one of the most practical ways to travel during the ongoing pandemic.
Thanks for your company during my travels in Aotearoa, and I’ll see you on the jetty in Istanbul.
Until then, remember this Maori proverb: ‘As man disappears from sight, the land remains‘.