NO, I'M NOT DONE YET.
Day 11 was our last full day in New Zealand, but we had the better part of the next day before our flight left. Given our proven ability to inadvertently turn a four hour drive into an eight hour drive, we decided not to detour through a forest that was on the list of amazing things to see in NZ, but I will say this: We sort of poo-poo'd that route before we even left home because it had something to do with really tall, really old trees and we were like "BUT WE ARE FROM CALIFORNIA! REDWOODS ARE PROBABLY TALLER AND OLDER." But then after seeing just how spectacularly beautiful New Zealand is and admitting that it may possibly be more glorious than California, I guess maybe that drive might have been worth it if we'd had more time...but we didn't. Plus, I am my father's daughter and I can dilly dally and saunter my way *to* a place, but when it comes time to go home, that's all I can think about - PEDAL TO THE METAL, DOLLY PARTON!
So we checked out of our hotel, hopped in our sweet Nissan, and started the journey back down to Auckland. On the drive north a couple days prior, there was a confusing toll road (or maybe it wasn't confusing but we are wary of accidentally getting on toll roads without properly paying the tolls after that time we went to France and accidentally went to Italy too) and we couldn't tell if we needed to pay the toll in both directions and decided it would be easier to take the non-toll road and just hope that it wasn't EIGHT YEARS longer than the toll road.
That turned out to be a wonderful decision because instead of taking the highway with nothing but scenic green hills to look at, we drove along the coast and through little towns and boggled at the assortment of school uniform options. (Note to self: When asking kiwi Jody about why shoes aren't required, also ask her why some school girls look like they're joining the convent because if my options are a skort or a long school marm skirt, I'm probably going to go skort.)
New Zealand continued to be beautiful:
One last chance to put our feet in sea water:
And then in the blink of an eye, we were back on our way to the airport, snapped back into reality, Carrie had gasoline spilled all over her feet and legs (she was not pleased), and I was forced to give up my hair dryer and a bottle of wine because my suitcase was obese and I couldn't shove any more into my carry-on and I didn't want to pay TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS for its weight problem.
We met one of the few Americans we saw on the whole trip at the airport bar. This particular one was from Atlanta and had originally planned to go on a backpacking adventure with a friend, but the friend backed out at the last minute so he went alone, which seems crazy bold, but he wasn't the first solo backpacker we met on our journey so I guess that's a thing people do. He was celebrating his 30th birthday "tomorrow" but when I did some quick time traveler math I realized he meant tomorrow in America, which would be TODAY in New Zealand. DUDE, TODAY IS YOUR 30TH BIRTHDAY! WHY AREN'T WE CELEBRATING!?!?
He said it didn't count as his birthday because he was the only person he knew in this time zone so that it wouldn't be until he got back home that it would *actually* be his birthday.
But here, in this airport bar, if we look at the calendar, TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY. There was some debate over whether or not time travel birthdays count, and my opinion was that it's not worth arguing if it's your 27th birthday or your 38th birthday, BUT THIRTY IS A GOOD ONE! AND YOU GET TWO OF THEM!? AND YOU'RE NOT APPRECIATING YOUR GOOD LUCK!!?!? NEED I REMIND YOU THAT TWO LOVELY CALIFORNIANS ARE BUYING YOU HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEERS AT AN AIRPORT BAR IN NEW ZEALAND?
I really was yelling. Or at least strongly trying to influence his opinion on this matter. We made a point of HAPPY BIRTHDAY'ing him multiple times in the couple pre-flight hours we spent together and again once we landed on Adam's 30th Birthday #2. He was darling and I am hopeful that we'll be part of his 30th birthday #1 and 30th birthday #2 memory time capsule and that when he's old he'll look back on his 30th v1 and v2 and think of us.
I ended up surviving the flight home -- significant thanks go out to the flight attendant who saw me nearly start to cry when I got to my seat and saw the blinking DOS command thingy instead of a menu full of in-flight entertainment options and moved me to a new seat so my delicately balanced mental well-being while being stuck on a plane for 12 hours wouldn't be derailed.
Equal thanks to my doctor for prescribing me some anxiety medication before we left that she said would make me feel like I'd had a few drinks so not to take them with alcohol.
Huge thanks also go out to an un-named cousin/unlicensed pharmacological adviser who was like "You can totally take those with alcohol - I do it all the time."
Mediocre thanks to the flight attendants for being stingy with the wine but refilling my cup anyway.
Bonus points to me and Carrie for figuring out on the flight over that the red wine fight attendant was different from the white wine flight attendant so shoot your first glass back before the other color of wine comes around.
And then, thanks to the magic of modern medicine, I fell asleep after dinner and woke up right before breakfast. WITH NO HANGOVER. SO MAGICAL! The 24 hours I spent flying to and from New Zealand FOR REALS equated to like six or seven hours of consciousness - MAX!
ATIVAN FOR THE WIN!!!
(And don't worry Mom - I won't develop a dependency. My prescription was for 15, I took two on each flight, I dropped one, and there are still ten left in the bottle.)
And now that we've established that I am a bossy celebrator of 30th birthdays and that I am a rule breaker when it comes to wine service on an airplane and mixing prescription medication with said airplane wine, I have to tell you:
New Zealand was the best vacation I've ever taken. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. I missed my family like crazy so I personally wouldn't have wanted to extend the trip too much beyond the time we were already gone, but I definitely, for sure, absolutely want to return.
And that's saying something because I'm not really on board with going to the same place over and over again. (Except for Tahoe, which totally doesn't count.)
But it would be better if we could fly first class.
Dolly is coming with me, either way.
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