NZ 12 days later: I always think I’m leaving tomorrow

 Day 3,186 since October 10th 2013: 197 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic! 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Nobody wants to be stuck


I know NZ isn’t the worst place to be stuck. But it is not fun to be stuck anywhere. Time management is vital for the Saga. So is action. Do nothing and nothing happens.

Last week’s entry: 6 countries from home – Aotearoa New Zealand

Some people think that I am crazy. They tell me they cannot believe I’ve held out this long. Sometimes I cannot believe it either. The accomplishment of getting this far is however not resting on one man’s shoulders. It has been a group effort with thousands of participants chipping in over the past many years. It is this support which has made the otherwise impossible possible. And while the remaining six countries seem downright impossible to reach right now…we will certainly find a way. There are no ferries to the remaining six. This means we are once again at the mercy of those who can offer access to ships and boats. Furthermore, as per last weeks entry, all four remaining countries within the South Pacific are still closed due to COVID-19. Out here in this part of the world the pandemic is still very much a part of every day life. My friends in Denmark say they have long ago stopped speaking of the virus and are instead on more present issues such as the war in Ukraine. I have tried to reach out to the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu and the Press Secretariat in Samoa (so far, no reply). These two countries are most likely to open up soon. In fact, Vanuatu is due to open today (July 1st)! Let’s see if they open up in stages like NZ has. For now, it is still not permitted to arrive to NZ on a cruise ship, yacht, sailboat etc. Reaching the final six countries is a matter far more complex than what the average person understands. The good news is: we are no longer seven countries from the goal – we are six…with 197 behind us!


2008: exploring the North and South Islands of NZ together with Cam.

The Danish Red Cross (which I am a goodwill ambassador of) frequently states that they are “always present”. In spite of that I have rarely seen them present within Once Upon A Saga. The Danish Red Cross did not once reach out to me during the two years of the pandemic while I was stuck in Hong Kong. And they did not notice when I recently went offline for several weeks while drifting east of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. It does make me wonder how long I would be able to lie dead before they would know? A harsh topic, I know. Yet, I could have lost my life many times during the past years given the modes of transportation I have had to take and all the places I have taken you to. It is remarkable how absent the Red Cross has generally been for many years. While I donated blood at the Hong Kong Red Cross four times, they never made use of this in any way? Apart from a guided tour at Hong Kong Red Cross HQ in early 2020 I had no contact with them. The Australian Red Cross was informed of my arrival to Australia even before I had set foot on land. I requested for a meeting in Sydney but they pushed to have at least two hours of my time in Melbourne where their HQ is. I agreed to meet with them in Melbourne but also asked to meet with them in Sydney, which was a good thing, as the meeting in Melbourne never came to bear fruit although I spent twenty-seven days in Melbourne and much more in Australia. And now that I have been twelve days in NZ I have still not been invited to meet with the NZ Red Cross, although I have been appointed a contact person more than a week ago. And NZ Red Cross have known of the Saga’s arrival months in advance. Since October 10th 2013 I have become the first and only person to visit the movement in 191 countries. Within the Saga we have raised awareness and funds for the humanitarian work. We have inspired volunteers and staff, and gone to great lengths in symbolically uniting the movement across the world. This has clearly not gained much traction to my great disappointment. Yet, I do believe in the humanitarian work and will keep up raising awareness and funds. Trying to fight the good fight.


The "Pink Path" is a cycleway in Auckland. I generally think it's good when we make way for cyclists. Apparently a lot of motorists in Auckland disagree :)

It all feels out of control. I have control when I can buy a bus ticket, a train ride, or book a ferry to the next country. My control is highly diminished when we rely on container ships, yachts, sailboats etc. At times the Saga has reached an island nation and already had the next ship set up for a specific departure date. That brings great relief along with freedom as my time is not spent solving logistics and bureaucracy. It is the opposite when we’ve arrived to island nations and haven’t had a solution to leave. In such situations it all becomes rather labor intensive: networking, research, meetings, more research, and more networking. In the back of my head, I always think we will have it all sorted and be leaving soon. I would never have imagined that we would have been two weeks in NZ?! NZ is most definitely a great country to be stuck in if you are free to move about. But how can I move about when there remains no clarity about the future? If I head south for a few days then I might miss an opportunity to get on a ship tomorrow. Probably not - but there is no way to know. In the big scale of things two extra days in each country is 400 days extra within the Saga. Two extra weeks in NZ is two extra weeks until I see Denmark.


Inger to the far left. Robert to the far right. And Steen and Erik are in the middle. These were all great people! I bet you can't tell who's from Denmark and who's from NZ? ;)

Do you remember Inger who handed me my passport number ten last week? She is the Honorary Consul-General of Denmark in Auckland. She is also the wife of Robert and the mother of Erik and Steen. In the past she was also the president of the Danish Society NZ. She’s definitely a good example of the Saga’s motto: a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. While Danish Embassies and Consulates have generally not been very welcoming of this project, Honorary Consuls certainly have! There was Salah in Sudan, Leila in Tunisia, Rudain in Jordan, and now Inger in New Zealand. These four individuals have shown overwhelming support and kindness. Apart from being Honorary Consuls they are also private citizens with jobs and an affiliation to Denmark. They are unpaid by the Danish state until they carry out work within their consular capacity. Different creatures entirely. In my experience warm and forthcoming. Not cold, arrogant, and reserved. I do however have kind words to spare regarding the Danish Embassies in Mali, Ghana, Russia, Pakistan, and India. But that’s a different story for another time.


Māori carvings remind me of the Greenlandic Tupilak.

Last weekend was spent at Valhalla which in Norse mythology is an enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. My weekend was spent at its namesake which is in Leigh some ninety minutes driving north of Auckland. More than forty years ago Danish Society NZ had the foresight to invest in a property in Leigh. It came with a house which has since been renovated extensively to form Valhalla. Essentially a home away from home for Danes and Kiwis alike. Yeah – New Zealanders are called Kiwis. The name 'kiwi' comes from a curious little flightless bird which is unique to New Zealand. Māori people have apparently always held the kiwi bird in high regard. So, it is not offensive to call people Kiwi’s. And it is rather cute, I think. Inger invited me to join her and thirteen others for a prolonged weekend in some extraordinary landscape. Staying at Valhalla was akin to summer camp in school. I got to share a room with Rolf who was a great guy, who enjoys running and adores Salomon. That works for me. A bunch of us got up before sunrise on the first day to se if we could spot Matariki. This year was the VERY FIRST year in which Matariki is introduced as a public holiday here in Kiwi land. Matariki is known as the Māori New Year in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view). It is signified by the Matariki cluster of stars (aka Pleiades) reappearing in the night sky, and is a time to reflect on the past year, celebrate the present, and plan for the year ahead. I didn’t see it due to clouds but it was a beautiful morning.



It’s unknown how many Danes live in Kiwi land. But it could be around 4,000. It was a pleasure spending a weekend together with fourteen lovely people in the outskirts of Leigh. Culturally our two countries get along really well and many within Danish Society NZ are married to one another living in Danish/Kiwi relationships. It was a great weekend in which we celebrated our version of Matariki which involved good food, friendship, conversations, music, and enjoying the wonderful nature around us. I also managed to fit in a run, and Inger and her family even brought me to see Goat Island and the coast near it. Another statement to NZ’s beauty. I even managed to fit in a personal challenge of getting to Panetiki Island (The Outpost) dry shoed. It was a small island which sometimes becomes reachable at low tide. I succeeded on the last day together with Robert and Todd.




Burning the witch! Burn her!! Buuuurrrnnn her!!!

In Denmark the solstice is known as Sankt Hans and we traditionally light a bonfire, burn a witch, and sing a few songs. We got that done too. Thanks to everyone for letting me tag along and making it a really nice weekend. Valhalla has held a special place in the hearts of many for more than forty years – and now it holds a special place within mine too.


Media has be generous this week. Here I am with Bjorn (left) and Sela from The Morning Wake Up (LifeFM). Gerat guys :)

Back in Auckland I’ve been busy with lots of interviews, obviously bureaucracy and logistics, I did a speaking engagement, I visited the Maritime Museum, I’ve done some sightseeing, and I saw an arrogant doctor regarding a yellow fever vaccine. It has been nice to see NZ catching up on the story. I’ve done four radio interviews, three interviews for an online newspaper, and two tv interviews including NZTV’s breakfast show. It seems so ironic how well liked the Saga is by many and how much I long to be done with it and return home. But I appreciate the love. I have received two yellow fever vaccines in my lifetime. Apparently, the World Health Organization (WHO) have adopted recommendation to remove the 10-year booster dose requirement and the vaccine is now valid for lifetime. The vaccine is required to enter certain countries and I have often been required to present it at borders, checkpoints, and during container ship travel. My latest yellow fever vaccine is coming close to its ten years and as such I sought to get a new one. Easier said than done. Having called several clinics in Auckland I found one which had one vaccine left. Not two: one! I booked an appointment and was told that for yellow fever it was mandated by law to be consulted by a doctor. I tried to talk my way out of it but it was not possible. I showed up for my appointment and a very arrogant doctor went on to explore some 25-30 vaccines I have received within my lifetime and comment in great detail. He also explained that I no longer needed the yellow fever vaccine and scolded me for being over vaccinated. When it dawned on me that I wasn’t getting the vaccine I saw to end the consultation which offended the doctor who let me know he was a very busy man with better things to do. It was all very strange and I was invoiced NZD 150 for the session. This was however compensated by a donation from Phyllis (thank you). Well, now we are wiser.


I spoke at Rohlig in Sydney and had the pleasure of doing it this week here in Auckland. I was asked to focus on mental health, mental fatigue, and stress. No problem. I know a thing or two about it. It was a real pleasure meeting with the Rohlig team and sharing my story with them.


NZ Maritime Museum. A great place to learn about NZ's history.


NZ Maritime Museum also explores immigration over the centuries.


The praise for Verandahs Parkside Lodge speaks for it self! 

I wish I was free to travel about and enjoy Aotearoa. But alas, I’m shackled to the Saga. There has been an overwhelming response from people across social media thanks to the many interviews and the audience has once again grown. The kindness of Kiwis apparently knows no boundaries. On a final note, I find many similarities between Iceland and NZ. Obviously, many differences too. But focusing on the similarities I can mention that they are both highly volcanic nations, they are both very isolated from other countries, they both have small populations compared to their vast natural beauty, they are both modern and wealthy nations, they both have the majority of their populations concentrated in one place, and finally: they are both countries I could see myself running too if I was no longer welcome within the Great Kingdom of Denmark in the High North of Europe.


Searching for the light at the end of the tunnel (photo from NZ with Cam, 2008).




I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - looking for a red carpet to be rolled out.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

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