In The Sun Also Rises, Barnes tells Cohn that going to another country doesn’t make any difference. “You can’t get away from yourself by moving one place to another”, he says. That’s true in an existential way, but practically speaking, by the time you get to New Zealand from the East Coast of the US you’re as close as one can get to getting away from yourself: instead of winter, it’s summer; two days have passed thanks to the 16-hour time difference and crossing the International Date Line; and you’re a shell of yourself from sleeping on planes.
When the jet lag fog clears and you see the landscape in all its grandeur, you become even more confident that Barnes got it wrong. There are 8,700 miles of coastline bordering the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. There are alpine lakes the color of polished turquoise. 18 mountain summits rise above 10,000 feet. A single whisky company sells rare bottles from what was once the world’s southernmost distillery. There’s much to be explored and, relatively speaking, people are just getting started: New Zealand was the last habitable land mass on earth settled by humans. It’s totally foreign ground; a place to recalibrate.
We traveled there this winter to see what adventure looks like on the opposite side of the planet, making our way from the culture-rich North Island to the sparsely populated, adventure-rich South Island. We drank good strong coffee, ate the first oysters of the season, rode our bikes from the mountains to the coast, swam naked in very cold water (more than once) and caught trout in the rivers of the high country. We were still basically ourselves, but we got away for two good weeks.
Over the following two weeks we’ll be sharing our these stories.