There are few things as absurd as being ridiculed for “only going to Australia for two weeks” by someone who’s never ventured beyond the Republic of Texas, but it happened--multiple times--in the days leading up to my trip. Accordingly, I did not tell anyone that I spent exactly 79 hours in New Zealand.
It was supposed to be more like 140 hours, but I ‘missed’ a flight because it turns out that I’m every bit as incompetent in the southern hemisphere as I am in the northern hemisphere. I won’t digress into the ridiculous policies of some airlines for some multi-leg international flights--mostly because I can’t figure out how to describe them in under 1,200 words--so instead just imagine me, sunburned and even more pissed off than Weekday Cameron, lecturing some “supervisor” in a shiny suit vest about the concept of state sovereignty while my Boeing 737 to Auckland starts its take off roll in the distance. Don’t take advice from me, but also don’t trust people who dress like Eliot Fucking Ness.
I ultimately made it to New Zealand. At one in the goddamn morning. But the drug sniffing dog at the airport was actually a beagle so he and I hit it off instantly and the Kiwis achieved the national redemption that the Germans have been chasing for 75 years.
Auckland Airport is a hike from the city, so you’ve got to take a very large car known as a bus to get to the good stuff (for someone who fancies cars so much that he owns two, I have a deep and abiding love for functional public transport). You’ve also got to convince the extremely confused man at the hostel check-in desk that, yes, you are checking in and checking out today. This is commonly known as The Most Difficult Task In New Zealand.
With the hospitality trial of the century sorted, I walked. And walked. Which brings me to the hills. Legitimate hills. You have no idea how taxing it was to climb all of them and plant an American flag at the top.
What did I notice? New Zealanders aren’t as I-Just-Tripped-Over-My-Own-Feet Attractive as Australians, but they’re tall and intelligent and they don’t scream “fuck you and everyone you’ve ever loved” when you jay walk.
The weather is also incredibly dynamic. You’ll have rain at 1 PM and perfectly clear skies at 2 PM--with roiling, hurtling clouds in between. It’s fantastic, but I’m pretty sure that the suicide rate for meteorologists in New Zealand is the highest in the developed world.
New Zealand seems a bit poorer than Australia--but that’s not to say either country is doing badly, nor that the poverty line is carved into the asphalt like it is in the land of Cheeto Satan. If anything, it just means that a single person asked me for spare change. Fortunately, I had tons of change because both countries have the SAME EXACT BUT ALSO FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT currency. This is cool because it means you get the slick polymer bills, but bad because obviously?
The only variation between Australian and New Zealand currencies, it seems, is an almost-imperceptible difference in external dimensions. It’s weird and potentially expensive but also super cool (think sex). They also have different images and animals on them, but since every creature down there looks like it just emerged from the Cretaceous Period, this distinction means nothing (if you want me to trust your dollar, put a very dead white man and a squadron of eagles on it). I suppose they also say NEW ZEALAND in some cases and AUSTRALIA in others, but just like the 45th President of These United States, I’m not going to let basic reading comprehension get in the way of running an economy into the ground.
The only real thing I can knock NZ for is the fact that the entire country has 6 power outlets. I didn’t notice much else because I ‘accidentally’ got drunk one afternoon, turned on Charles Mingus’s “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” and boarded a ferry headed for Waiheke Island. We’ll come to that chapter eventually, but also hopefully never.