Last week I left the End of the World (aka Paradise on Earth) with a little lump in my throat. After riding a magnificent ½ year long wave of luck and friendships, bureaucratic regulations finally put an end to my legal stay in New Zealand and so here I am in Sydney, contemplating my next move.
It’s going to be very difficult to match anything like what I experienced in New Zealand. In fact, I am even finding it hard to stop thinking about all the beauty and the good times I saw across “the ditch” – the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.
On the edge at the end of the world.
What makes New Zealand so special? The innocent and incredibly ingenious people? The absolutely STUNNING countryside? The friendly presence of freshwater everywhere – and ditto absence of poisonous critters? The crisp, clean mountain air? The unique mix of Maori and European culture?
It is, of course, all of that in a perfect blend. Yet I think the main reason behind the country’s magnificence, is its isolation. Since New Zealand broke free from ancient Gondwanaland, there has always been a couple of thousand kilometers to the nearest mainland – Australia.
Almost everywhere you go in New Zealand there is a creek, a lake, a waterfall; the sensation, sound and life of water is never far away.
As the last large land mass to be populated, New Zealand just hasn’t had that much exposure to the destructive human civilization – or mammals in general for that matter. There are no overgrown temples in the rain forest, no millennia-old trade-routes cutting north to south, just bush and mountains and beaches, and lots and lots and lots of it.
It is such a new place for us humans,that we are still exploring it. Here is space to live. About a thousand years ago, the Polynesians who first arrived in their Waka’s from the pacific islands, must have marveled at the size of these new islands. Today, immigrants marvel at the low population density.
Even the parliament building (the so-called “beehive”) has a backdrop of wild bush!
There is a promise in the air of unpolluted nature, sustainable lifestyles and egalitarian politics. Following the global trend, all of that is rapidly being undermined by corporate governments. But when the shit hits the fan New Zealand – with its low population and relative isolation – strikes me as the perfect hide-out for survivalists and doomsday opportunists.
Leaving this land of lushness and opportunity was a strange affair; part of me was sad to say goodbye to all the amazing new friends. I also haven’t seen more than a fraction of what I wanted. But another part of me was thrilled to be going back to places with more people and more of a cultural flow.
No matter where you are coming from, New Zealand is just far away. Nearest neighbours are Australia and even more remote Antarctica.
But perhaps this could be a place for me to settle down one fine day, just like my 67-year-old Danish friend Walter who moved here 15 years ago after more than 30 years on the road. I like the way he put it: “Once you have seen all the gurus and all the holy places and the monuments and you have found your spirituality inside you, New Zealand is where you go. Here is only the spacious, gentle land as a beautiful blank canvas, quietly supporting you and accepting who you are”.