Our final day in New Zealand (Auckland, New Zealand)

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It’s our final day in New Zealand and I wake with mixed emotions. While I’m ready to go home and prepare for the next adventure, I would dearly love to stay in New Zealand and keep exploring. After packing our gear into the car we set off for one final drive. We randomly select Bethell’s Beach as our destination. Bethell’s Beach is one of Auckland’s Western Beaches and we think we found a bit of a marvel.

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We spot the massive cave from the far end of the beach. It draws us like a magnet; as it does the other people visiting the beach. We walk across the black sands to the huge opening. The tide is slowly coming in and we can see exactly how this cave has been created. The incoming water pushes strongly up the beach through the barricade of rocks towards the cave entrance. It might still take an hour or two to reach into the cave and that’s why we can enter.

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Now that we’ve explored the cave, we find ourselves noticing the small things that make this beach so amazing. There’s long ribbons of bright yellow sea weed. Green moss tumbles from rock pools like soft waterfalls. And muscles cling to rocks in their hundreds.

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The beach looks like it has been influenced by New Zealand’s volcanic past with large boulders balancing on big rocks. Black sand is becoming familiar to us now. I still don’t feel drawn to the water on this black sand beach but am not sure whether that’s the season or the sand. But I do love to walk on this black sand beach and like the way it frames the other colours.

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We had intended to see a few more beaches but spend so much time enjoying Bethell’s Beach that we already have to head to the airport. We watch our final Kiwi sunset as our plane is prepared for the flight. As usual, Air Asia fly us home in comfort.

We’ve loved our time in New Zealand. It’s been the perfect blend of nature and culture. We found Kiwis to be a friendly folk. It’s an expensive country to travel but we managed to keep costs manageable by renting places where we could cook instead of having to dine out. We also avoided all the tourist traps (the New Zealand tourist industry is expert at extracting money from foreigners) but still had an amazing experience in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Auckland (Auckland, New Zealand)

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We are both feeling a bit blah when we get up this morning. We actually don’t know what to do. I know I feel a bit discombobulated being in the city after such a long time in the countryside. There’s also the disappointment of the relatively rubbish Air BnB after the absolutely gorgeous places we’ve stayed throughout our trip so far. And, perhaps, we’re tired from fitting so much into each day for the past two weeks. Had we been staying somewhere nice we would have just had a day in but today we don’t want to stay at our overpriced dive so we head into Auckland city.

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We wander around the CBD for an hour or two. It’s not an ugly city but it’s also not that interesting. There’s the same strings of shops and advertising that exist in almost every city we’ve been to, the same chain restaurants and coffee shops, and tourists carrying Lonely Planet guide books. Perhaps the city is just too small for us. It’s not hectic and crazy like South East Asia nor historic like Europe. That’s not to say Auckland isn’t a nice city but it is a bit boring for us. We find some nice moments and have a nice day. But it’s not awe inspiring like our other days in New Zealand were.

Waingaro to Auckland (Auckland, New Zealand)

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I wake to a heavy dew on a morning just warm enough to avoid a light frost from forming. I walk outside to talk to the alpacas and goats that live in our hosts’ paddocks. While curious, the alpacas only come so close to me. But the goats are fairly well climbing the fence for a pat. Our hosts got them from a children’s petting zoo so that probably explains the friendliness. We talk with our host again this morning and take ages to leave on our drive.

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But before we drive to Auckland we take a scenic detour towards Raglan, just south of Waingaro.

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A detour from our detour takes us to Bridal Veil Falls. My cousin told us about these falls two weeks ago but we didn’t have a chance to get here. Now that the sun is shining and we have plenty of daylight to make it to Auckland we can come here. The short walk to the top of the falls is easy. The 261 steps down the the base of the falls is a little more challenging and I’m glad my hip has settled a lot. And then there’s the 261 steps back up to the top of the falls. Thankfully the waterfall is so stunning that it’s no real hardship.

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We drive on to Raglan. This popular surfing town on the west coast is buzzing with backpackers. They are everywhere doing what backpackers do. This is the first time we’ve been in a Kiwi place that’s so popular with backpackers but that’s probably because we’ve stayed in random out of the way places without hostels. There’s an informative museum near the iSite. It’s not hugely impressive but worth a visit and tells a good story of the town. The surfing exhibition is my highlight. In a way the town is similar to many backpacker towns around the world. Everything has a price, the same tours are advertised on every corner (surfing classes, diving, caving and boat trips), and backpackers can be heard phoning ahead to hostels further along their journeys looking for dorm beds. It makes me think about that move The Beach with Leonardo di Caprio. That’s not a bad thing – it just is a reality. And it makes me glad we had a car and found ourselves in random out of the way places far from the tourist rat race. That said, we have a good laugh and enjoy an absolutely delicious burrito at a tiny hole in the wall place – one of the benefits of backpacker towns is generally the availability of fresh hipster inspired food that generally tastes great.

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We spend the rest of the day following Highway 22 to Auckland. I want to stop after every bend to take photos but have to resist or we won’t get anywhere.

Auckland comes as a shock to the system. After two weeks in rural New Zealand the traffic and close proximity of houses is crass and harsh. We have rented an Air BnB in Titirangi. Unfortunately, we arrive to discover it is nothing like what was advertised and the reviews are clearly fraudulent. It’s frustrating and annoying. We consider leaving but Auckland is so expensive and we don’t want to pay another $200 a night after we’ve already paid this place. Our mood does improve though after we find an amazing Nepalese restaurant in nearby Blockhouse Bay. It’s packed and takes over 50 minutes for us to be served our food but the time passes quickly watching the restaurant buzzing and discussing the highlights of our holiday. The food is so worth the wait. From memory the restaurant had the word Everest in the name.