In the weeks before I flew to New Zealand, I would look to the west and south, and imagine that I could see the tiny islands hovering in the Pacific, well past the earth’s bulbous middle and deep into the far reaches of the planet. New Zealand has always felt like one of the last outposts before the fury of the Southern Ocean and the icy extremes of Antarctica.
I couldn’t help fantasizing about the idea of sliding down a few longitudes, while smashing through the earth’s horizontal lines to arrive at a southern latitude nearly corresponding to the Bay Area’s in the north. The romance, of course, is the place itself, those who lived there first and those who stumbled onto it many years later.
Aotearoa, or New Zealand, has long been on my bucket list. As you might have heard, there’s quite the sailing culture down here, not to mention this little regatta set to go down next year. What better time to arrive than now? Not that there ever could have been a bad time.
My guide for this trip will be the late Tony Horowitz and his Captain Cook biography/travelogue Blue Latitudes. Of Cook’s expeditions vs. his own travel, Horowitz wrote, “If I’d been aboard the original Endeavour, the journey ahead would have loomed rather larger: 1,052 days, to be exact, assuming I was among the 60% who survived. This was a notion I struggled to wrap my mind around. I’d often felt sorry for myself when flying to and from Australia. 20 hours in the air! A forced march through movies, meals, and mystery novels. Almost the limit of the modern traveler’s endurance.”
I felt as if I had exhausted my heartiness for travel after catching the red eye to Auckland yesterday. (Or . . . what day is it, anyway?) With only 137 movies to choose from — not to mention the ever-important choice of red vs. white wine — I was ready to arrive and ready to experience what the country had always promised to offer. What is that promise? Tolkien-esque magic landscapes? Snow-capped mountains plunging dramatically into fjords? Exotic flora and fauna? Famously friendly people? Wine country? And sailing, sailing, sailing. Yes.
I was shocked, while taking a bus from Auckland to Northland, that (this part of) New Zealand does an uncanny impression of Marin, complete with golden, rolling hills, grazing cattle, and glimpses of rocky, wild coast.
And then, finally, the boats. So many boats. I’ve long heard a statistic that some 80% of New Zealanders own a sailboat, which seems easy to believe when you see the water.
At any rate, Latitude Nation, I am thrilled to be selflessly (ahem) reporting from New Zealand on your behalf for the next couple of weeks. Please stay tuned.