Star Spangled Kiwi: The perks of living in Southland

Fascinating as Machu Picchu is, it's not Southland.

Fascinating as Machu Picchu is, it's not Southland.

You want to know something?

I love cheese rolls.

Ok, anyone who knows me knows that's not exactly a profound statement. So let me rephrase that: I've missed cheese rolls. 

Southland Times reporter Ben Mack.

Southland Times reporter Ben Mack.

This requires a bit of explanation. You see, I've just returned from a holiday in South America. After three weeks of misadventures with one of my best friends – among the highlights of which were meeting a feline known as "Tomb Cat", a thunderstorm during a 39-hour boat ride up the Amazon, a chili so hot people clapped when I ate it, meeting a random guy on a bus in Brazil and crashing at his house, climbing more than 1700 steps up to Machu Picchu​ before dawn, a trek through territory until recently controlled by a terrorist organisation (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, better known as FARC) to get to an airport, and a tattoo artist who wasn't really a tattoo artist – it's nice to be back in a place that's a bit… well, a place where cheese rolls are actually a thing.

Lost in translation
Hitting the road
Ball don't (usually) lie
Southland and sartorial self-consciousness
The road more travelled

Really, Southland, unless you've travelled as much as I have (which shouldn't be too hard – there's about 150 countries I haven't been to), you might not realise how good life is here. In fact, my 21 days of pretending to be Indiana Jones actually made me kind of miss it.

Honestly, it did. So without further ado, here's a list of a few of the perks of living in Southland:

- Non-existent traffic. Ever try navigating rush hour in Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo? Here's a tip: don't.

- Docile wildlife. Pretty as they are, no wild jaguars is a good thing.

- Short lines. Being able to be in and out of a bank, post office, or anywhere else within five minutes is pretty handy.

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- Good road conditions. Not only that, but drivers are quite courteous.

- Vegetarian options. Weird as it sounds, my friend and I had a bear of a time finding any entrees in Brazil that weren't dominated by chicken, beef, pork, or some other type of meat.

- No truly dangerous areas. Safety cannot be overrated.

- EFTPOS. Not having to remember to carry cash all the time – and often exact change – makes someone's day that much easier.

- No malaria. Fun fact about visiting an area with endemic malaria: it's still recommended to take anti-malarial medication every day for at least 28 days after leaving the area. Remembering to take the pills, I've learned, is easier said than done.

- Free WiFi. Makes 21st-century life simpler.

- Drinkable tap water. Not only is it refreshing, but it saves lots of money.

- Easily accessibly outdoor recreation opportunities. Beautiful as the Amazon and the Andes are, large parts of them are not exactly the easiest to get to.

- Low cost of living. Believe it or not, a cup of coffee in Invercargill is cheaper than in many large South American cities.

- No extremely large spiders. Believe me, knowing this is a massive load off my mind.

Alright, so there are some things about South America I miss already (for example, petting alpacas). As I told my friend during our trip, if things had turned out differently I'd think about living there. But the problem, you see, is that cheese rolls are completely unknown to what seems like 99.99 per cent of the people who live there (I explained what they were several times, and every time I was met with confused stares). Is home where the cheese rolls are?

Something like that. Maybe we can make it the new official slogan to promote the region?

At least it can take my mind off the... well, in my world, walking down the street and being able to see your breath constitutes a serious crisis.

 - Stuff


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