Well it had to happen sooner or later: they’ve kicked me out of New Zealand.
Ok, not actually kicked me out. But yes, sort of. I mean I got that email from New Zealand immigration the other day: the one that was sent just to remind me that my visa is expiring and that if I want to stay longer I’d damn well better be making other arrangements. We hope you had a nice time, but now you need to get the hell out. That sorta thing.
So I left, of course, because I’m not one to overstay my visa and risk deportation. I’ve had to fill out many visa applications in my life that ask ‘Have you ever been deported from any country?’ and I don’t ever want to have to answer ‘yes’ to that question. It seems to me that would be an automatic visa refusal, which would pretty seriously interfere with my lifestyle!
But I love New Zealand. I have had a nice time. No, that’s not true, I’ve had an amazing time. I’ve hiked some fantastic trails. I’ve driven my little car all over the place, up and down some of the dodgiest roads, apologizing to her the whole way. I’ve seen hundreds of birds and spent hour upon hour taking photos of them. I’ve discovered mountains and lakes and rivers and beaches and flowers and forests and sand dunes and insects and crazy weird plants. I’ve met some incredibly lovely people, warm and generous and ridiculously hospitable. I’ve taken an obscene number of photos.
I would stay, if they’d let me. At least another year would be nice, because I feel like I’ve got more to explore and with my slow style of travel one year just wasn’t enough to see it all. Not that you could see it all: that would take a lifetime. The current visa regulations now allow 23 months for Canadians, but that’s only just changed and alas, it came too late for me. It is time to move on.
So, without further ado, here are six things I will miss about New Zealand, in no particular order.
1. Endless beaches
New Zealand has 14,000kms of coastline, and while it’s not all beaches, a whole lot of it is. I love that when I’m driving anywhere near the ocean there will always be roads going off the highway, leading to this beach or that beach and the thing is, if I follow those roads, I have quite a good chance of having a long flat stretch of sand and waves all to myself.
And if not, well, I can just drive a little bit further and there’ll be another one, and another, and another. Maybe I’m sharing with a lone fisherman, but he won’t bother me. With only 4.5 million people in this country, it’s simply impossible that even in the summer every beach will be filled with people. And while they’re not all safe for swimming, it’s easy enough to find one that is.
This sounds weird, but I am in love with the trees in New Zealand. The majesty of the Kauris in the North and Totaras in the South is counterbalanced by the spindly manukas and kanukas, which I always imagine that on a dark, misty night would have a Sleepy Hollow kind of creepiness about them.
I adore the elegant, twisting, sprawling pohutukawas. Then there’s the beech trees, hung with fragile lacy moss, the tropical nikau palms and the ponga: the silver fern that New Zealand is known for.
I can’t say it enough. I loved having a car in New Zealand. The independence it gave me has been incomparable and makes me think I’ll have to consider renting a car more often when I travel.
There are innumerable places that I have been in my little Skippy that I would never have gotten to if I’d relied on bus services. Buses just don’t go down those unsealed (gravel) roads to the end. And the ability to stop every 5 minutes if I want to (oh and I do!) has enabled me to take some incredible roadside photos of the spectacular scenery.
They’re just cute. All the time. When they’re newborns and they’re just tiny little specks sleeping in the grass. When they’re suckling on their mom and their tails are flopping around like a wiggling worm. When they’re frolicking with each other, hopping and jumping around in every direction. Even when they’re a bit bigger and just look like big squishy balls of wool.
And, well, I kind of hate to say it, but they also look great on my plate. Cute as they are, they’re also really delicious. And more readily available here than just about anywhere I’ve ever been. Yum.
Alright, so every country has birds. But the sheer variety of cool looking birds in New Zealand has me thinking I won’t find that anywhere else. Which probably isn’t true, and in other places there’s other wildlife to look at too, but I’ve really gotten into my birdwatching.
I love when the friendly fantails come join me on the path when I’m walking, announcing their presence with repeated quick chirps, flitting back and forth all around me, never staying still for more than half a second. I enjoy when the stoic white-faced herons cock their wary eyes at me, watching carefully in case I should get too close. I’m even amused by the squeaky-toy sound of the oystercatchers, freaking out because there is an intruder (me) on their beach.
6. The lifestyle
New Zealand is just chilled out. Maybe not so much in Auckland or Wellington, but there is definitely an attitude of ‘work to live’ rather than ‘live to work’. The people are careful to make sure they take time for families, hobbies, and the outdoors, and nothing really seems to be taken too seriously.
So I guess it’s time to go, leave this wonderful place. There’s so much I will miss about New Zealand but I have to move on. It’s been amazing and I hope I’ll be back one day to see all the things I didn’t get to this time!
Do you want to know what’s next for me? Look for my next post!
Have you spent time in New Zealand? Or have you stayed in another country for a long time? What do you miss about New Zealand or wherever else?