Stu Ridley gives us his perspective on selling up and moving with your paddling gear to another country. Enjoy.
The reason I chose to immigrate in to a new country was not only to change my lifestyle to experience quality boating on the doorstep, I knew immigration was something on the horizon and within easy grasp. It was always a gonna be a life changing decision to make, leaving friends, family, jobs, morgages and my past behind. Stripping down my life paying of debts and getting rid of any assets to the point where I was sleeping on my parents floor with the only posessions left being my kayaking gear, laptop and a bag of clothes, stoked!
Now exactly a year on and I’m getting stuck in lifes picking up pace in a new country, new freinds, relationships, jobs, visas, speeding tickets, moving house, going to court, fixing vehicles, saving money. The whole experience is reshaping my perspective on life even so much more than anticipated.
New Zealand was an easy choice, they’ve got plenty of graft over here, and the country is breathtaking, the Maori and Kiwis are rad people, very hospitable, there’s not many people on the South Island only about 4.5 million compared to the UK’s 75 million, and everyone seems to know each other, or someone you’ve already met.
Sorting visas is not as complicated as it seems, I took a 2 year working holiday, enabling me stay in New Zealand for 2 years and work for 12 months. I’ve now got an Essential skills Visa which gives me 3 years in the country, during this 3 years I plan to apply for residency, as long as I have been here for 2 years and aquired the correct amount of points everything should run through fine but theirs always seems stressfull elements to the process. New Zealand Immigration are awesome and their website has all the information you need to start online applications immediatley.
Choosing to live in Christchurch has worked out sweet, there is a solid outdoor community with lots of social shenagains going on, awesome people to meet from all backgrounds, cultures from around the world crammed into a large town, (they call it a city), about the size of Carlisle (UK). Christchurch is on the east and about 2.5hrs drive from Hokitika, capital of the west coast kayaking Mecca, and fuel prices at $1.19 a litre for deisel and $2.10 for petrol with an exchange rate of £1.00 – $2.4 dollars it’s bargain logistics for boaters, access to cheaply priced Japanese 4x4s to get rough in the bush! I recently bought a cracking 97 Isuzu Bighorn for $2500 dollars, in river shuttle ready condition.
Working in New Zealand is easy for a construction worker, milder temperatures, a shorter winter, and a little bit more common sense towards health and safety in construction. Sometimes crazy shit still happens but it’s definitley feels like its headed the same way as the UK, maybe a few years behind. Be prepared for tools and materials with different names and people looking at you with the “what the f***k” face!
I came for the country and the people here are part of it, so take on their attitudes and join in, grow a huge beard, buy a 4×4, git r dun!
Most weekends we drop tools on a Friday and make the pilgrimage to the coast for everything it has too offer, after you dropped over the Otira gorge onto the coast the whole country changes, a lush green tropical landscape with green pastures snowcapped alpine peaks, long sandy beaches and cliffs. Everyone I’ve met on the coast is solid, and they are all here for what the coast has to offer.
For a kayaker it’s stacked with G4-5 alpine creeks, most of which are heli drop increasing the exposure factor, your definitley advised to go out with a gps beacon for any heli drop. Bruce Dando at Kokathi helicopters is a legendary local pilot who knows where all the landing spots local to Hoki.
There is plenty of boaters out on the coast, especially with 2015 season starting up and looking to be epic. Two locals I’ve encountered being Lawrence, aka The Grizzly and old Barny Young celebrating his 30th birthday this year and now nearly a senior coaster. He would be one of the first I’ve met out here and since has become a good a source of river beta and general banter, hit him up he’s always down for a few coldies down Franz. These guys are gonna be out in force this summer and worth following up on http://www.facebook.com/gradientandwater
There’s not just the heli drop on the coast though, NZ is stacked with rivers and creeks. Just a few are the Kawarau in Queenstown, Otago. Home to Retrospect and Nevis bluff rapids. A whole world of scouting and recce in fjordland, the rangitata local to the christchurch paddlers for weekend laps. Murchison is home to buller fest and rammed with G3-G4 trips, it’s also home to a popular park and huck Mariua falls. This is just scratching the surface of the south island, and the North Island is still left to explore. The guide book by Graham Charles edition 5 has everything you need to start with in it, and also the website. http://rivers.org.nz/ http://grahamcharlesnz.com/
Having good quality equipment is important especially on the coast, you need a solid boat and paddles that can put up with the roughness of the Coast. Bring what ever you can with your flights, however buying a boat isn’t a bad idea out here, you’ll have no problems in selling them on. I ordered my Zet from Canterbury Kayaking, and got exactly what I was after!
Words and pictures by: Stu Ridley