AUCKLAND—In a short while I’ll be casting off aboard the Bahia Blanca cargo ship en route to Manzanillo in Colon, Panama. I rather late in the game realized I hadn’t written anything publicly about New Zealand. This magical and marvelous country wore me out over the last month, and I feel a bit like a kid after a long day at the amusement park: happily exhausted and rather ready for bed.
You’d think the 16-day trip across the Pacific should give me time to do that. Instead, I’ll be busy working on the book proposal for Truly, Nomadly, Deeply (title suggestions?) and cramming as much Spanish into my already overstuffed brain as possible.
New Zealand is just spectacular. There’s no way to say it more plainly than that, and the people who live here are some of the luckiest people in the world. (Especially the South Islanders. Wow!) I’ll be writing much more while on the ship and possibly posting if I have access to email, which the captain has said he has already set up for me.
Speaking of the captain, he told me he already knew who I was before I got on the ship.
“Oh?” I said, a trifle alarmed.
He had seen news reports of me in the Guardian discussing the Iraq War, recognized my name from the passenger manifest, did a bit of research and discovered this slow travel project. He and the first mate seem delighted to have me on board and the whole crew has so far been the friendliest of all three ships I’ve been on.
That’s good because my worst fears were realized: I’m the only passenger. For the entire Pacific, I only have the crew and myself for company. Hopefully there are some Spanish speakers among the guys so I can practice a little bit.
That’s all that time and stringent data caps allow for the moment. A full account of New Zealand, including my 19,500-foot skydive over Mt. Cook—soon to be a travel article in the Wall Street Journal!—will wash up on your digital shores in time, once I’ve traversed the canal and gotten myself a little settled.
E noho rā, Aotearoa. You captured my heart with your soaring mountains, green fields, warm springs and warmer people. I will never forget you.
My favorite country in the world, New Zealand. And yes: South Islanders have it pretty sweet. Glad you enjoyed your time there, and nice to know you’re in good company on the ship crossing. Safe travels!