08.01.2011 - 13.01.2011 25 °C
The day arrived with a sigh. 352 days after our entry into New Zealand, we gazed out the window of the Boeing 747-400 and watched the bitumen blur and then drop away as we climbed upwards from Auckland. Talk about your strange feelings - we're very excited to be heading back to see our family, friends, and the snow, but we've had a truly amazing experience in New Zealand with absolutley no regrets - and it's tough to leave in many ways.
Picking up from our last post, we left Wellington on Thursday, Jan 6 and pointed the Capella north-ish. We stopped for lunch on the other side of the Desert Road in Turangi, and then again a short time later in Taupo for some ice cream. We arrived safely back in Tauranga and were quite relieved that no one had busted into the house and tagged the walls in our absence. It's been a strange week since then, as most of it has been spent packing, cleaning, and saying goodbye. On Friday we washed and waxed the Capella, raked and cut the lawn, and cleaned like maniacs before cleaning our own selves up and heading over to our friends the Moffats for a goodbye BBQ. The Moffats have been there from before the beginning for us. Jack's school had arranged for him to email a fellow student while we were still in Canada to ensure Jack would be at least peripherally familiar with someone, and we were thus introduced to the Moffat family. As usual, we had a wonderful time laughing and talking as the meat sizzled on the barbie. After a "farewell" rather than an outright goodbye, we returned home late.
Saturday saw us washing windows, buying bubble wrap, and engaging in more domesticity. When we grew tired of that, we went to the bookstore, library, and to the beach for a last look. After picking up some ice cream from our favourite haunt - Monte Gelato, we walked around the base of Mt. Maunagnui one last time, and then hit the ocean. The water was warm, and although the surf was small, Jack and Tim still had a blast riding the boogie board while Bronte splashed around and Jenn recorded the images for time immemorial. Here's what it looked like:
Sunday insisted we do more packing, as well as some last-minute souvenir shopping. On Monday, we hosted one of Jenn's colleagues from Tauranga Boys College for lunch. Sharon has been a great friend and support to Jenn throughout the year, and her kids are pretty great too. We dined on homemade pizza and banoffee pie, and then it was time for another goodbye. Tragically, we failed to record the moment with a photo. Despite being rather gorged, we headed out in the late afternoon to Lisa and Pat's place for another BBQ. This couple has previously been part of a teacher exchange to Canada and liked it so much they are set to move to the Great White North in May. It was a fun evening chatting with them about their plans, and we had a really great meal (BBQ'd Kingfish - yummy!)
On Tuesday we zoomed over to the mall for haircuts. After the professionals had applied their skills to our heads, Jenn looked amazing, Jack looked great, and Tim looked like he usually does. After some additional errands including visiting a cool kids school supplies store called "Smiggle", we ended up back home. That evening we went on our final Tauranga area hike and went back to Papamoa Hills. In the waning sun we climbed to the top and took in the amazing view one more time:
Wednesday was the day of departure from our home in Tauranga. What a strange feeling it was to walk through the house one last time. Those four walls housed us for one of the best years of our lives, and although we were extremely happy to be heading home, it was nice recalling all the adventures we'd been on and how returning to the house after each of them was in a big way "returning home". We loaded up and with the Capella groaning under the weight of a year's worth of memories and stuff, we pulled out of the driveway of 204 Maungatapu Road, Tauranga, for the last time. Here we are moments before closing the door on this chapter of our lives:
We drove to Auckland and checked in to the hotel. Thursday morning we drove to Karekare beach, which you can see overhead here. Our final farewell to New Zealand was lazily walking along this expansive stretch of sand, thinking about all we'd seen and marvelling in the beauty of it one last time. Here are a few photos from the outing (there are a few more in the photo gallery):
We drove cautiously back to the hotel (the road down to Karekare Beach is the windiest we've ever driven), and collected our bags. Finally it was off to the airport. Following an unpleasant and expensive surprise at the weighing-in ceremony, we breezed through security and waited for our flight, which began around 7:15 pm. The flight itself was pleasant enough, and we achieved the kind of restful sleep during the eleven and a half hour trip that only an Economy seat on a long-haul flight can provide. Needless to say we were pretty exhausted when we reached Los Angeles (except Jack, who seemed to master the whole sleeping upright thing). We even had a brush with celebrity, as seated directly behind us on that flight were Jon and Kate Plus Eight (minus Jon of course who had long since buggered off with his mistress). It was Jenn who pointed all this out as we stood waiting for our bags in LA. We of course started screaming like little girls at a Justin Bieber appearance and rushed up for autographs. We then cleared US Customs and Border Protection without any issues, and waited for our next flight to Detroit. That one was also uneventful, and we arrived in Detroit around 8:30 pm Thursday - only one hour after we left Auckland. Time travel is a truly amazing thing. It was an exhilerating feeling stepping off the plane in Detroit and inhaling that first breath of icy cold air, telling us that indeed we were quite near the Great White North. Seeing snow again is awesome!
And now we've spent a restful night in Detroit, and this morning will make our way back to the airport for our next flight. It's weird that as we are now only about 250 km away from our home in St. Marys, we're actually heading further away again. Today it's Orlando, Florida, and Disney World. We're all quite excited! So for now, we'll sign off. We'll do one final blog post from home once we're settled back in St. Marys, just so that you all know we didn't get detained at the Canadian border and then deported to a hostile third country.
As an added bonus, we've just added video to our last two posts. One harkens back to the silent film era, except that it shows part of our Jetboat ride on the Shotover River - you can see that video here. The other is a bit of our Queen Charlotte Track hike, and you can see that here.
That's it for us for a couple of weeks. Haere ra Aotearoa.