After spending a week exploring the Central Plateau and taking some great hikes around volcanoes, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, I headed back to Auckland on November 30.
I wouldn’t fly home to the U.S. until December 6, so I had some time to just relax in this vibrant city. I’ve stayed in the “City of Sails” several times before as part of my adventures on SV Avalon, so the pressure of sightseeing and souvenir shopping was nonexistent. I simply booked a nice hotel room for a couple of nights (the Stamford Hotel), and then an apartment (Star Victoria Serviced Apartments) for another few nights.
I spent the days sipping coffee, sorting through photos and videos, and doing lots of laundry. The apartment had a washer/dryer. I also visited many of my favorite establishments: restaurants like Farina, Monsoon Poon, Kebab Time, and the Asian food mecca Food Alley; bars like Lime, Fiddlers, and Swashbucklers; and cafes like VicPark Café and Good Times Coffee.
Coincidentally, friends from San Francisco arrived in Auckland during this time, so I crashed their family vacation and joined them for a morning walk around the Wynyard Quarter. I also met up with a local friend Tim, who I’d met on a previous visit. He’d given me suggestions for the Central Plateau, so it was great to be able to thank him in person.
December 6 came pretty quick. I packed my bags securely for the long flight home, and took a final InterCity Bus ride to the airport. I arrived plenty early and took advantage of the lounge access I know get with my Priority Pass (thanks to my upgrade from Chase Preferred to Chase Reserve credit card). Totally worth it! I was even able to get Skipper Tom in as a guest.
The flight home was smooth, although it’s always weird flying home to San Francisco from Auckland. Due to the international dateline, the flight typically lands before it takes off!
I’d been gone for 7 weeks. It was nice to be back in the Bay Area.
Upon arrival, I took a Lyft ride to my house to retrieve my car, and then drove to my storage unit for a quick gear change. I then drove across the bay to Orinda, in East Bay, where I would house sit for the rest of December. The house actually belongs to the friends that I’d rendezvoused with in Auckland! While they rent a camper van and drive around South Island, New Zealand, I’ll be recovering from my trip to New Zealand in their house. It’s a great (and low-budget) way to close out the year.