I woke up early in the morning to catch my bus back to Auckland. A strange feeling knowing it's over now!
I got dropped off near the dock and cycled up to Parnell to check into the same hostel I stayed at last time. Unfortunately they were booked but he told me of a hostel down the road (Lantana Lodge) that does cheap tent sites so I went there. Realized after paying that the tent spots are jam packed into a small mulch covered patch. At least it was cheap and the guy next to me was friendly.
I only booked one night, just to see how it was, and first impression caused me to walk back up the street to book my remaining two nights in Auckland city at the first place, which did have openings those days.
The original hostel (City Garden Backapckers) apparently used to have tent sites (which would have been fantastic) but their neighbors complained and they aren't (and can't be) a registered camp ground so they were threatened to be fined. Bummer. Lantana Lodge has just managed to go unnoticed.
I went for a walk down to the Sky Tower to take a view from the top but after seeing the price I decided to skip it.
The downside of switching hotels was that I had to wake up the second morning, pack up the bike and find something to do for a few hours before I could check into City Garden. I didn't roll out until about 11am and from there went to the nearest park. Grabbed a chair near some guys who were showing off some wood sculpture they'd built and chatted with them for a while before I retreated to my kindle.
Quentin made it to town but also apparently didnt book ahead for City Garden so he ended up at Lantana instead. Left my cozy park bench to join him for lunch and bought what was to be my final giant kiwi burger.
Quentin was wanting to do some cycling around the city so he decided the next morning he'd rent a bike. I got a text around 9:30am that he'd rented a bike and was heading over so I finished breakfast and got ready to do some pedaling.
After spending three months slowly cruising around rural roads, being in a city makes me feel a little out of place. Now I have to try to keep up with Quentin who's cutting in and out of traffic and in general booking it through the city. Fun, but totally had lost some of my confidence for this!
We headed to Mount Eden and split when he decided to take the stairs up part way with his bike but I was more sane and would rather punish my legs by pedaling than climbing stairs. Met again half way up and finished the (reasonably short) but steep climb up. Rewarded with a great view and felt better about skipping out on the Sky Tower (which can be seen in the background between us).
From there we headed back into the city center to grab a ferry across to another area of the city. Dropped into Davenport which had a nice suburban feel.
While over there we ate some fish and did a couple more hill climbs for good views and pretty pictures.
After catching the ferry back we explored the wharf area and fought our way through a mess of people until I caught a familiar song, Of Monsters and Men! Was excited to hear it played but then I realized that it was live, right next to us! On the other side of the fence was a music festival and they were currently on stage.
We were really, really far away from the stage. The speakers in the back still gave a great sound for us and I sat on the side of the fence and enjoyed almost an entire live Of Monsters and Men set.
Alt-J came on after but didn't sound as good live (or at least from beyond the fence) so we headed out.
The next day it was time to relocate again. The airport is a bit of a hike from downtown Auckland so I booked a hostel next to it (Skyway Lodge) so that I wouldn't have to worry about cycling over in the morning. Had more time to kill in transition so did actually the exact same thing as the day before. Chilled at the same park and got lunch with Quentin again. Then made the ride over and set up in a pretty decent hostel. Much less busy than City Garden and Lantana were so it was a bit more relaxing. Ran into a cyclist heading out as well from England and spend a while reflecting on our times in New Zealand.
I'm pretty paranoid about flying with a bike and camping gear in general but when you add the fact that my bike was still unboxed on the morning of my flight I wound up getting a super early start. My flight out of Auckland was at 7:30pm and I left my hostel at 9:30am. Technically had to be out by 10am so there really wasn't anything for me to do to delay much.
I cycled the 7km down past the airport to Natural High to meet up with Logan, who I spoke to through warmshowers.org. They were kind enough to let me use their facilities and provided me with a cardboard box and plenty foam, tape and zip ties to prep my box for the journey. Natural High does bike rentals and second hand bike sales and has a lot of bikes with racks and panniers as well, they are actually the company James bought his bike from even.
When I finished up, I loaded my stuff onto an airport trolley and set out for the entertaining 2km walk down the street to the airport. Pushing a bike box down the road gets you some funny looks.
The bag sitting in front of my bike box may look small but it's big enough to swallow three panniers. It's what is, apparently, called a Chinese shopping bag? It's woven plastic and in theory is supposed to be reasonably strong. The big perk is it was $3nzd which is cheaper than the bag I flew them here in.
Getting through security wasnt so bad and I had to pay a lot less to fly the luggage in this direction. The fun part was when they asked if I had matches or lighters in my checked bags. Apparently I could fly with those on my person but not in checked bags. The fun was had when I said yes, both, but couldn't find them. Spent about 20 minutes emptying every pannier and recovered matches, but not my lighter. I must have lost it recently and not noticed.
So after all of this I made it to the gates with a whopping 5 hours to spare. Blah. This was the start of a long but uneventful trip home. Well, home as in a couch at a friends place in the city I most recently had an apartment in, at least.
The bag holding my panniers was fine when I crossed customs but had torn some around the handle when it showed up in Columbus. Still held the stuff inside so did the job fine. My bike on the other hand got delayed in customs for inspection and didnt show up until the day after my flight landed. They delivered it to my friends house and everything was still in there and safe so all was well.
Now to start planning my next bicycle adventure! For a while they will be much shorter and closer to home but this trip has left me wanting more, that's for sure.