A huge sense of grief erupted within my chest, moaning out, ‘oh god, no!’ as I came to the sudden realisation what lay in my hands. They shook, gripping tightly, the very thing that caused me the utmost heartache throughout my travels around the world. A bright-eyed girl opposite me, slaving away above the cooker, eyed me with amusement and said, ‘good night was it?’
Lips trembling, feeling pin-pricks in my eyes, I nodded sagely betraying the true thoughts that coursed through my mind and immediately took my breakfast dish to a quiet corner of the hostel kitchen room with ‘that’ piece of paper signifying the devastation that rocked me from within.
I was leaving New Zealand today. This very day.
Staring at my instant noodles that soon turned to mush and ignoring the huge dentist drill pounding against my head thanks to a raucous night out the evening before as part of my goodbye, I pondered why New Zealand meant so much to me. Why this young country that appealed to me? It was a huge deal for me. I never envisioned staying in another country other than my home country. Why did a country where I spent a very small proportion of my life become so attached to me, a place where the breath-taking scenery of the South Island is second to none; where the Kiwi people are ever so friendly and funny; where the best thrill-seeking activities are to be had that includes jumping off a ledge at 137m high, perhaps skydiving at 12,000 feet or hiking up the precarious Mount Doom of Lord of the Rings fame?
I looked at my round the world plane ticket in my hand. How about if I tear it up here and then and then live in this great country I could call home? That’s right, I want to live here. I wanted to get a place at Wanaka by the clear blue lake, get a dog for walks along the shore and I suppose a wife to do my dishes and ironing? Surely, New Zealand must be crying out for stunningly attractive, tall, dark and handsome men like me? I was surely tempted.
But having toured the land of the white cloud in great detail, I knew I was spoilt for choice. There were just too many beautiful places to choose from that appealed to the very adventurous spirit in me. So I had to make a decision now. As I bit into the cool kiwi fruit, my mind cast back to my journey of a lifetime over the last seven weeks. It was going to be a holiday to remember…
Fresh-faced from Australia, I shouldered by backpack from the entrance of Auckland airport and breathed in the twilight atmosphere that lingered over the City of Sails. Despite travelling for six long months on the other side of the world, the Maori claimed land of New Zealand was the country I was truly anticipated being in. The next few days saw me acclimatise to the easy pace of life that I couldn’t get over initially. I hiked up Mount Eden – an extinct volcano, I saw the southern hemisphere from its tallest structure at the Auckland Sky Tower watching the clouds streak across the sky, and I even made friends with the locals almost immediately thanks to our love of rugger. They knew Hull F.C and made me welcome with a few pints of the good stuff to see me off in my time in the Northlands where I connected with the environmentalist in me.
Reaching my way to Paihia, Bay of the Islands, I hiked plenty to crashing waterfalls, the land where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed (the birthplace of New Zealand) and made my way further up north where two mighty oceans met at Cape Reinga. This was one of my utmost favourite places in the world. There’s no describable feeling of seeing the Pacific Ocean crash into the Indian Ocean and that feeling was intensified as I screamed with joy tobogganing down the immense sand dunes of 90 mile beach with Sand Safaris. The eerily calm setting of the Northlands at Ahipara, the raw force of nature whipping my face into delight on the beach truly settled me into New Zealand before heading back to Auckland where I would join with Kiwi Experience for my grand tour of the rest of the country. If anything was going to be like the Northlands, I knew I would be in for a special time.
Touring the rest of the North Island, I hit up the seismic Hot Water Beach (hot springs under the sand) on the Coromandel Coast, the glow-worm sensational Waitomo Caves, the Maori Hangi Feast showcasing their cultures throughout the ages at Rotorua and ultimately launched myself out of a plane at 12,000 feet over Lake Taupo – a glittering array of clear blue water. White-water rafting my way down to the funky capital, Wellington, I checked out the best museum I’ve ever seen – Te Papa, and climbed Mount Victoria, one of the sets of The Lord of the Rings. Crossing the panoramic Cook Strait between the Islands of New Zealand, I was immediately wowed over by the Abel Tasman Park as I speedily shot along the coast, wind-whipped, on a speedboat.
Snaking my way along the Wild West Coast, a highlight being swimming in the freshwater Lake Mahinapua in literally the middle of nowhere, I reached the scenic wonder that is the Franz Josef Glacier. The ice cracked as I stepped over the blue hue of the glacier, and before I knew it, I was transported to another thrilling destination, Lake Wanaka where I desperately wanted to stay in the quiet and easy-going way of life. From there, I found myself in the thrill-seeking town of Queenstown, where I took a leap of faith, bungee jumping 134m high over the Nevis gorge, an experience that pushed myself to my limit.
Basking in the eighth wonder of the world at Milford Sound, a hidden fjord out of this world, I soon made it to the earth-quake hit city of Christchurch. The upbeat residents there soon made me feel welcome and showed me that Christchurch is still the best place to see despite its centre currently being renovated. Finally, it was time to make my way back to Auckland, but not before swimming with seals at Kaikoura and excitedly becoming a hobbit for the day at Matamata aka Hobbiton. Soon, Back in Auckland, I couldn’t believe how the last seven weeks had truly been the best days of my life. What should I do now that my stay in my favourite country was soon to come to a startling end?
So as I soon found myself at the bus stop for the airport, the plane ticket stared at me mockingly from my pocket. Should I? I took it out, and folded it flat on the bus timetable in front of me. I only had two more destinations left with this ticket. I knew I needed to spend more time in New Zealand. There’s so much more left to see and do. Could I take the plunge to stay? I tapped my foot impatiently, willing myself to make a decision immediately before the bus arrived. I boarded the bus. It still wasn’t too late. But I did the very thing that completely surprised myself. I cried. Bent over double in front of two alarmed backpackers, I looked up to the ceiling and thought, ‘Just give me a sign.’ I prayed to any deity I could think of as I saw the familiar sights of Auckland airport loom before me.
And what a sign.
Getting off the bus, I looked up to see the sign displaying where I was. ‘Domestic Terminal.’ Laughing out loud through my tears, I became convinced that New Zealand was trying to make me stay. Should I fly south to Christchurch and live on the South Island? The domestic terminal beckoned me inside with their gleaming front and breathing heavily, I drew away from the paling sight of the International Terminal.
An hour later, after checking in my backpack, I sat back comfortably in the airplane seat and smiled. I knew I was doing the right thing. As I settled in the plane journey, I looked outside the window to see the twilight view of Auckland go by as I headed…north.
Yes, I left New Zealand. But to this Tolkien-esque county, I thus thee promise.
With these memories, sooner or later, I will return.
Author’s note: This experience happened in 2012 and I have made the promise to return in 2015 for my 30th Birthday.
This article appeared in the June 2014 Edition of the East Yorkshire’s The Journal publication written by me.