The flight to Auckland was a mere 90 minutes, we were met at the airport by our good friend Jason. It felt like we'd arrived home, a familiar face and laughing constantly from the second we started talking.
Within half an hour we had arrived at their home and were getting to know their lovely little boy Connor. Oyoyoyoy!
Unbeknown to us, Kelly and Jason had arranged for a few of their friends over too, people we'd met previously and got on really well with. We spent the afternoon in great company, having bevies and just chilling out. If it hadn't been for the influx of babies we would have barely noticed we'd not seen these guys for 3 years.
The evenings grew cold quickly, but the guys have a perfect solution, a dip in their bubbling hot spa with a glass of wine, what a drag.
We were finally able to get back into a kitchen, something that we have missed immensely and cooked the guys some meals consisting of a fish pie and an onion soup, which were consumed eagerly by us all.
We had three days wandering around the city, we went to the viaduct, the Skytower and Domain. The viaduct is a large pedestrianised area lined with good quality bars and restaurants overlooking a small marina for big boats and tourist charters. We spent a couple of easy hours with a drink or two, watching the world go by and winding down in this relaxed part of town. We decided that any of the apartments overlooking the viaduct would suit us just fine, must by a lottery ticket when we get back. We attempted to catch up with the other guys we met back in Laos, the odd thing was that Kara worked at the same company and had meetings with Jason that very week, small world.
We have visited Auckland on a couple of occasions before, we've seen most of the sights and done a couple of whale watching trips, we'd loved the city and surrounding areas and as metropolises go, we could easily imagine living here. This time however, we weren't feeling the love. The city hadn't changed, the people were still friendly, the restaurants still served great food and the beaches were still lovely. So what was different? Us. We were coming to the end of our trip, the come-down was beginning and despite our determination to enjoy every last day, the inevitable return to the UK was constantly tapping our shoulders and fogging our minds.
The weather was great for mid-winter, the days were warm and skies were blue the kiwis make the most of outdoor living. People walk, run or cycle along the promenades from Kohimarama to St Heliers Bay, in the sea they kite-surf, paddleboard and swim, barbecues are lit to prepare a spot of lunch or early dinner. It looks idyllic, the kiwi way of life is enviable.
It was our last day in NZ, the 5 of us went for a walk from Half Moon Bay to Buckland Beach. The walk along the water's edge by way of the marina, raised wooden walkways and pavement was picturesque. The tide was out revealing the muddy seabed, oyster catchers pecked away while gulls and kingfishers sat patiently for the return of the sea. On the far side of the inlet, people barely bigger than dots walked out on the sandbar exposed by the low tide while inbetween small boats and yachts bobbed at their mooring.
At Bucklands beach, there was really only one thing to do, go get fish and chips and eat them on the beach.
For us, this felt like the end of our trip, the walk back was solemn and a hundred questions about our immediate future once in the UK formed in our brains.
Hong Kong then home.