The plan: get into the wilds of New Zealand.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand- I went to Australia so I figured I may as well go to New Zealand too. It’s a cheap flight, and getting out of here is roughly the same price as exiting the region from Sydney.
I also used to have this odd habit of not visiting all the neighboring countries of a particular region, which kind of left these voids in the map of my travels that I would have to go back and fill. Why didn’t I yet go to Austria, Bulgaria, Bolivia when I’ve been around their borderlands multiple times? Why didn’t I step over their frontiers and take a look around? I have no idea. I guess I just couldn’t be bothered, which sounds silly to me now, as I’ve learned the value of even taking quick looks at new countries.
The customs inspection here was the most thorough and time consuming that I’ve ever experienced. Nit picky, nit picky. We weren’t given any problems after we convinced the agent that we really were not smuggling sandwiches from the airplane into their country, but it ate up a good forty-five minutes of standing in line for something that is usually streamlined and quick in just about every other country.
This excessive check was about preserving New Zealand’s biodiversity, or something like that — as though NZ is the only country on the planet with nature.
Although it should probably be stated that people have only lived here for like 700 years and it seems as if they haven’t had enough time yet to fuck everything up like we have almost everywhere else in the world. So maybe I’m being a touch ignorant. Or maybe I’m just irritated that I had to stand in line for an excessive amount of time, snagged up on the final approaches to a new country.
What I did find interesting about the customs inspection was how geared towards Chinese visitors it was. There were all kinds of special signs in Chinese explaining in explicit detail and photos many of the things that they could not bring into the country — more specifically, what “no food” really meant. There were no English or other language equivalents for these signs, and it was clear that they were geared towards remedying a very real inter-cultural issue.
For some reason, many people from China seem to have difficulty understanding customs regulations — and I don’t believe that this is due to a language barrier. First off, they tend to have this cultural tendency of carrying large amounts of food with them when they travel (sometimes resort towns that cater to them complain loudly about this) and they don’t seem to get — or care — that it’s generally prohibited to carry food items from one country to another. Or perhaps it’s just the tendencies of a culture that has a very healthy propensity for not following what it views as petty rules.
Eventually, we made it through customs. The gates opened and we walked into New Zealand. So I’m not in New Zealand, country number 82.
We got picked up from the airport by the shuttle for the company that we rented a campervan from. We picked it up, had a whole bunch of things about operating the vehicle explained to us that neither my wife nor I understood (I thought she was paying attention), and then we headed into Auckland.
We decided to only spend a single night in Auckland. After walking around there for a little while at night — eating a disgusting $3.50 roll of supermarket sushi for dinner to save money — I did not really find much that was going on. It seemed like a place that if I were to spend a few months I would find a few intriguing haunts and some friends, but for the traveler it seemed to be just a comfortable, hilly city that had the usual array of the usual city stuff.
But the plan here isn’t to sit around in cities. We are going to take the campervan that we rented and head out on the road, get into the wilds — I don’t believe there is any other way to travel in this country.