And just like that, I am back in Auckland. Six weeks have flown by, and yet when I think back at the things I’ve done, it feels like I’ve been here for months and months.

Time is elastic. 3-hour bus rides can feel like 10 hours. Saying goodbye to people you met two days ago feels like saying goodbye to a long-lost friend.

Things that struck me about New Zealand:

1- The water is crystal clear. Even puddles are clear. And the sea.

Clear water in Queenstown.

2- The public toilets are everywhere. And they are weirdly clean, have toilet paper, and soap (except for in that town that one time). And sometimes funny signs.

Hostel toilets are sometimes as funny as public toilets. This one had amazing 1970s lino and a bottle opener between the toilet and shower.

3- Activities are extremely expensive (as is almost everything here- it’s not uncommon to see tomatoes for $12.99 a kilo). But sometimes you splurge on something really worthwhile (kayaking, freaking yourself out on a swing) and sometimes they’re not (going on a boat to see whales, but mostly just feeling seasick, though the sperm whale was pretty cool, if a bit sleepy).

Kayaking in Abel Tasman.

4- The best things are often free.

Making art in Punakaiki.

Walking on the windiest beach in the history of the universe. Reward: sea lion!

Seeing my first icebergs after a gorgeous walk near Mount Cook.

Being surprised by the local wildlife (and thinking you might become a bird-watcher after all).

Just looking at things.

5- It’s all about the weather and the people. And the mountains and the birds and water and happy hours and so many lambs.

And sunsets on the beach with local wine and good company.

Next stop: Australia!