So, after one last happy 'camping' sunrise, we made it back to Auckland, navigating successfully via a public dump station and a petrol station to prepare The Monster for handover.
We've actually mastered the art of doing this dump station thing without argument or confusion now. (Well, when a certain Husband uses technical terms like 'create a siphon' which he expects me to understand and implement, then a certain amount of misunderstanding, leading to confusion, leading to discussion, leading to argument is sure to result.) Pros. We keep talking about 'if we buy a camper van, then...'
And Cat was there, waiting for us, with coffee. #whatadaughter
Off to the first wedding dress appointment. A sweet Thai lady, with her much older husband who acted as interpreter. Some interesting dresses hanging in the garage of her home (this is Auckland, this is NZ, this is warm-enough-in-winter weather), but nothing that really caught our eye apart from the lovely silk of the skirts.
Then the second. A HUGE Chinese run shop - there must have been more than a thousand dresses hanging on the rails. Cat tried a few, all stunning, none exactly what she wanted. Much discussion about what they could do - and I'm sure they could - combining different features of the different dresses she tried, to create what she really wanted.
But, in the end, she might well go back to the pretty, naturally draping dress she liked first. Whatever she chooses, she will look absolutely stunning. What's not to like about her slim, elegant, beautiful figure? (I'd say model figure, but she's not stick thin, fortunately, just willowy.)
Last stop on the schedule was lunch at the Skytower. What fun. The restaurant revolves, giving a 360 degree view (of course) of Auckland. We're getting quite good at recognising landmarks now. And the added bonus of Skytower walkers shuffling nervously along the outside walkway just above our heads, and Skytower divers leaping off to freefall (safely held by ropes and harnesses, naturally) to the ground.
I was just happy to look down the lift shaft through the clear glass of the floor.
Drove back home through another hailstorm...lovely champagne supper with the beautiful and generous Amy who provided it...
...and on to our last day. I have to mention here that Cat was up, with her soon-to-be-sister-in-law Bex, at 6 am to do 'Insanity' - 'just' a Boot Camp type workout which comes with a serious health warning. Then she went to work, kindly leaving her car for us.
Which was useful, because we had to go and retrieve our coats from The Monster.
Driving around the city no longer seemed quite so intimidating, so we safely negotiated our way around some errands before walking up One Tree Hill - site of a monument to the Maori - and down into lovely Cornwall Park.
Then to Otahuhu, to fetch Cat from work. This is not somewhere tourists usually go - last time we visited, the railway station clerk didn't want to sell us tickets to go there. Great that the office is situated in such a poor area, as CAP serves the poor, helping people escape from the depression and fear of debt. It is always so encouraging visiting the CAP office - such a dedicated, professional, fun-loving bunch of people. And proud - and impressed - to get such a strong sense of Cat's role there: the NZ branch of the charity seems to have more than doubled in size since she joined and she is obviously a key member of the team. And whilst there we witnessed the almost daily news that someone had become a Christian through CAP's work, the fire bell was rung and the whole office got together to celebrate.
Last meal, last coffee at the airport, last hugs and kisses, last tears...for the moment. So bittersweet leaving a grown up, competent, going-ahead-with-life adult child. All good and healthy, sadness is part of life...
And then back home with Air New Zealand. We had a really good journey, no hiccups and seemingly slightly more comfortable than before, though tiring of course. (Well, what do I expect of a - in total - 36 hour journey?!)
At Gatwick, the last leg of getting back to Guernsey, jumping on a flight earlier than the one we were booked for took a bit of doing (long queuing up and people who didn’t know what they were doing), but we managed it, and security was quite easy.
Oddly enough, as we were standing in the queue to actually get on the plane, we overheard a conversation immediately in front of us. The guy had just come from Auckland, the second leg actually on our plane! He was complaining about the silly transit arrangement in LA - we have to go through passport control and security even though we’re in transit - so we picked up on it. A youngish Guernsey guy on his first visit home after moving to Auckland 5 years ago - has his own design business there. We just thought it was strange to come all that way with someone (though he got a slightly different Air NZ flight from Auckland and had a longer wait - it took him 3 hours to get through LA security, rather than our own 40 minutes or whatever it was.
So there we are. Back home. Dear Karyn met us at the airport to take us home and dear Wendy, also there to meet her daughter Rosanne, surprised us with the gift of a box of groceries: so like her dear mum Renee would have done. What an amazing family...
The dog eventually gave us a proper greeting, after seeming slightly confused about who we were after so long...and all was well.