Other parts to this series
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The final day in Queenstown was filled with snow, and left me with a bit of anxiety not knowing whether or not my flight to Auckland would be cancelled. I bussed into town to hang out for a bit, and on the way back to Frankton once again encountered my Australian friends. It was quite a delight to see them marvel at snow, which they had never seen in in their lives. Towards the later part of the day, the snow let up, and I was able to depart Queenstown without issue.
On arriving in Auckland, my AirBNB hosts met me at the airport and brought me to their apartment in Eden Terrace. The location was nice and central. I originally planned only two days in Auckland because I knew in my heart that a city of that size wouldn’t offer the smaller feel that we were looking for. With that said, I wasn’t terribly disappointed when it was raining the two days I was there, as I feel I didn’t miss too much. I had hoped to get to the Auckland War Museum, but ultimately I felt a bit anxious to get out of town, so instead I took time to work out logistics for what I needed to do for visa’s for the family. To that end, I called into a clinic and scheduled an immigration medical exam. Luckily, I was able to get in the same day.
The following day I boarded the InterCity bus onward to Hamilton – it isn’t a terribly long bus ride, and though people had said Hamilton didn’t have a lot to offer, I felt it was necessary to stop by as I had seen a few job postings there that were promising at the time. I had booked only a single night, so I dropped by the Post Office to do my finger printing for the FBI background check and get that mailed off to the USA, then spent the afternoon at Good George Brewing before heading over to the AirBNB. Despite the relative closeness of Hobbiton, I ended up skipping it, opting to save the experience for the family when they were with me. The next day, it was back on the bus for the several-hour ride to New Plymouth.
The weather cleared up a bit and made for a relaxing, beautiful drive to Taranaki. Mount Taranaki was visible in the distance as we meandered down the coast until arriving in New Plymouth. At the bus stop I was met by a friend, who, unbeknownst to me, had taken a late lunch in order to meet me and share lunch. It was a pleasant and welcomed surprise. After getting dropped at my AirBNB, he headed back to work while I settled in then explored the town a bit on foot. I rather enjoyed the ocean walkway in New Plymouth as it offered lovely views and an enjoyable footpath. After dinner downtown, I turned In to my AirBNB, where I stayed for a couple of days. The spring weather followed, however, and the rain came in. I did take my rain gear and made sure I explored a bit on foot, walking about 30km total over my few days in town. My friend also gave me local tour of the “highlights” via car, and we shared a meal at a local restaurant. Before leaving town, my final night we also shared a meal together with his family, for which I was grateful. It was nice to spend time with people as a bit of loneliness was setting in after several days of “solo” travel since my stays had been fairly short, and I really hadn’t talked with people since my time in Queenstown.
After New Plymouth, it was on Palmerston North. I didn’t really research much about Palmerston North, but after booking it due to having seen a job posting, I was committed to staying. I had a full day and two nights in “Palmy” – which were quite uneventful. The traveling was catching up with me, and I was really ready to head home. However, with Thanksgiving flights still making returning basically impossible, a flight change wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I sucked it up and moved on to Napier, where I had four days.
Napier was a lovely town that was rebuilt entirely in Art Deco style after the earthquake in the 1930’s. The museum in Napier was quite humbling and it is definitely worth a stop. During my stay there, I spent quite a bit of time chatting with folks at “The Rose Irish Pub”, a great establishment. The food, drinks, and company there were all great. During my stay I was able to rent a bike where I went for a 25KM round trip ride – I could have continued, but, about 12KM in I realized that I had forgotten sunscreen, I was exposed in the open and bad times were coming my way… a suspicion that was later confirmed when I saw my arms the next day.
During my stay in Napier, the official job offer with employment contract came through, so it gave me a lot to think about and to review. This set of documents was confirmation that my life, as well as the life of my whole family, could be changing direction for the rest of our lives.
My AirBNB host was incredibly gracious to offer a tour of the greater Hawkes Bay area, but ended up having to go into work (she was a nurse). However, she did arrange with a friend to take me on the tour as well – How kind! Nick picked me up, we drove into town and picked up another gentleman (who Nick also did not know – Kiwi kindness on full display!) and we toured around Hawkes Bay, seeing a variety of sights, going to a winery and doing wine tasting, before heading back to town where I plopped down at The Rose one last time. Several hours and Guinness later, it was back to the AirBNB where I spent the evening having a lovely conversation with my host. The next morning, it was back on the bus, and off to Wellington, via Palmerston North, for the final stay in Petone (across the harbor).
I had two more full days in Wellington and three nights, which I used to reconnect with the friends I had met the previous month. I also took the opportunity to enjoy a walk in the Percy Reserve and check out a waterfall. During the walk, I met up with a walking group consisting of seniors. When we reached a lookout, one of their group was staying behind until they returned for him, so I opted to sit and chat with him. Our conversation was quite varied, ranging from middle eastern history, royal bloodlines, geopolitics, electrical engineering and the Christchurch earthquakes…I was amazed at the depth of knowledge the man held and how articulate he was. When I reach that age, I would hope to be not only as active, but worldly as well.
My final night in Wellington I moved on to a new AirBNB near the airport, had a brief chat with my host (who had been a primary school teacher until a few weeks before my booking) about education, then headed over to meet another friend I had met during my first go-round in Wellington for some fish and chips. We sat and chatted for hours before departing where she wished me well and hoped that I would be “home” soon, a bit of a slip up but a joyous one at that – referring to New Zealand as home. We went our separate ways, I turned in, set my alarm, and felt a bit of sadness at the thought of leaving this country that I had come to love.