It’s over a year since I left New Zealand and I have no idea where the time has gone. In some respects it feels like only yesterday that we were backpacking around the two islands and seeing some incredible sights, but it also feels like a lifetime ago. There’s still one very special story from my time in New Zealand that I haven’t shared yet, and so here it is just over one year on.
We were back in Auckland for our final day before flying across to Australia for our final week in the Southern Hemisphere. Having not been entirely impressed by the city before, we didn’t really fancy spending the final day in the city centre – particularly when the weather was so nice. Instead, we decided to take a ferry across to Rangitoto Island, the youngest of Auckland’s volcanoes for a final hike of the trip. We weren’t alone – it seems when there is a hot and sunny day in Auckland everyone wants to head to either Rangitoto or Waiheke Islands, but we managed to get a space on the ferry.
The Pahutakawa trees (also known as New Zealand Christmas Trees) were all in bloom on the island which looked very pretty. Most of the island looks like a lava field, so the scenery is quite barren and one colour. With the trees in bloom it added some much needed splashes of colour to the island.
The walk up to the summit doesn’t actually take too long, so it’s worth doing some detours on the way. On the way up to the top you can see some lava caves which are fun to go and explore. I’d recommend bringing a torch with you. If you follow the path then you will end up going through two of the caves, and whilst it’s not particularly far, it does help if you have a torch with you so you can see. Lava isn’t the most even underfoot!
Once we reached the summit, the view was beautiful. It certainly helped that it was a clear day and both the sea and the sky were a really vivid blue colour. It had been described to us as the best view of Auckland and I can see why. All of the city landmarks could be seen quite clearly, and you can also see the extent that the city sprawls.
Rather than returning via the same path, we decided to extend our walk and return via Rangitoto Beacon and then looping around the base of the volcano back to the ferry. We ended up spending quite a while in McKenzie Bay, close to the lighthouse, as it was a lovely little beach that we hadn’t been expecting. The water was really warm (certainly the warmest I’d come across in New Zealand) and so after paddling for a while we decided to go for an unexpected swim. Although this meant we were a little damp for the rest of the day it was definitely worth it and helped us to cool down after our walk in the full sun.
This beach will always have a special place in my heart and I’ll always remember it fondly. Partly this is because I was really enjoying myself (and managing to keep my sadness at leaving New Zealand at bay) but also because this was where James proposed! It came as a complete surprise to me and was very unexpected (especially as I was trying to dry off from swimming at the time!). Apparently it was also a surprise to him as he hadn’t been sure where or when he was going to do it, although he’d had a gift ring since Queenstown and had been considering it for a short time before. After some confusion, happy tears and a yes we were officially engaged, much to the bemusement of James’ friends who we were with, and the Germans at the other end of the beach who gave us a round of applause.
I couldn’t wait to phone my family to share the news, but the unfortunate thing about being on the other side of the world means you have to allow for the not insignificant time difference. My poor brother was less than impressed at being woken up at what I’d deemed to be a reasonable time, and as such his response was somewhat delayed! I’ve since heard a few people tell similar stories and I think travelling together is something which can really help you to make your mind up about someone (either a friend or someone who you are in a relationship with).
In order to celebrate our final night in New Zealand, and our new engagement, we went up the Auckland Sky Tower in the evening to see the city by night. Originally we hadn’t planned to do this as it was quite expensive, but it seemed like a fitting way to spend the evening. The Sky Tower dominates Auckland’s sky line and so having taken a range of photos of it from different vantage points, it was nice to finally see the city from the tower instead. We were quite lucky as not only did we see the city glitter beneath us but we also saw a couple of fireworks displays which looked rather spectacular. Just the lift up was quite impressive as part of the elevator shaft is made of glass so you can see how high you are rising above the city (which was also quite spooky!).
We treated ourselves to ice cream cocktails in the cafe at the top whilst we started to think about what Australia might have in store, and reminisce on some of our favourite moments in New Zealand. It was the perfect end to an amazing time away.