After 5 years, 6 international moves and infinite “see ya’s” to both places and people, you’d think saying goodbye – or e noho rā in Maori – would get easier each and every time. It usually doesn’t.
In a way, however, I suppose New Zealand has been the exception to that rule, simply because living in a campervan for 10 weeks afforded us the freedom, time and capability to see the majority of the country, which, even for us, is rare. Often when we move somewhere – and specifically somewhere on a budget, which is always – we don’t get to play tourist as much as we’d like. Hell, we lived in Australia for a year and never made it to the Great Barrier Reef or anywhere resembling the outback, and lived in Bali for 8 months and never even made it to the north or west shore. But even though we saw a ton of New Zealand and weren’t particularly dreading our departure – how sad can you possibly be about moving to Thailand?! – it was still a strange, surreal goodbye to a beautiful temporary home.
Saying Farewell to New Zealand
After wrapping up our last far flung road trips in the Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Islands, we decided to make a short detour on our route back to Auckland and spend a couple of nights in Piha Beach, an area known for its dramatic landscapes, panoramic views, and multitude of enthusiastic surfer bros (and gals).
While I personally had zero desire to climb the focal point of the area, Lion Rock – uphill exercise just ain’t my jam, homies – I did have a desire to lay horizontally in our van, reading books and ignoring writing duties whilst sipping lukewarm canned beer and decoding the inner workings of local duck social circles.
And while I highly recommend avoiding the only legit campground in Piha, called Piha Domain Camp, as it is extremely overpriced and crowded, I do recommend paying $8 per person (on the phone) to camp at the lot just above town, which offers kickass sunset views sans the unnecessary greed.
If you have a little time to spare, I also recommend spending a night at the (self contained only) Arataki Visitor Centre – also $8 per person – between Piha Beach and Auckland, a fairly crowded yet serene spot surrounded by hiking trails and lovely views.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore big cities. Auckland, however, never once topped my list of places to go in New Zealand. Similar to Christchurch, I never met any single person, local or otherwise, who had more than half a compliment to give it, other than to mention it as the hub of any rare big musical act who dared venture all the way to New Zealand.
Having found buyers for our campervan in Auckland, however, and since our flight to Texas was leaving from there only a few days later, we decided to spend our last few nights in the cute seaside burb of Point Chevalier, located just a short walk away from Point Chevalier Beach and a 15 minute bus ride from downtown Auckland. Bonus: Our Airbnb included a beyond precious French bulldog named Lula, who I still dearly want to steal. I mean borrow. And by borrow I mean steal.
With nothing in particular left on our agenda, we booked ourselves a spot on the 3 hour Auckland Highlights Tour with GreatSights NZ using the remaining hours on our Intercity FlexiPass. Departing from the Sky City Bus Terminal in downtown Auckland, our bus tour included lots of interesting tidbits about the local architecture, various neighborhoods, Auckland’s reputation as the largest Polynesian city in the world, and also an average attendee age of roughly 68, for which we could not be surprised seeing as how we decided to join a citywide bus tour at 2pm on a Friday.
We made quick stops at Auckland hotspots like the Viaduct Harbour, Mission Bay – have a quick beer at De Fontein Belgian Beer Cafe – and Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park before returning to town, all the wiser.
We enjoyed one last sunset on the beach, consumed two last meat pies, and bid a final e noho ra to New Zealand, the undoubtedly coldest, arguably prettiest, and most “sweet as” home away from home two travelin’ fools could hope to find.