20 - 24 November: Tauranga, NZ
Saturday (Gabe's birthday): We woke up at 10 am to a cooked brekkie at Gabe's parents' house in Papamoa, NZ. They live in a lovely Tuscan-style beach house, opposite the sand dunes with beach access. We relaxed throughout the day with his brothers and family friend Luke, before getting ready for the party that afternoon. Family began to show up sporadically, with his uncle setting up the keg and the guys preparing the pig and lamb on the spit for the night's roast.
Guests began to arrive at 430 (a mix of family, high school and uni friends). Tyson even came over for the night :). It was great fun night with lots of Waikato draft beer, Gabe and his twin brother Angus competing in a yard glass race (drinking a yard-full of beer out of a tall, bear-shaped glass) and several people ending up in the pool (including Gabe after finishing his yardie). Throughout the night Gabe kept wanting to rub in his win: "Where's Angus?... I need to find Angus. F*** you, Angus - I beat you!" ... guess he was pretty excited. Good times :).
Sunday: was a day of goodbyes :(. We got up, had breakfast (another bbq with the stragglers from the night before) and then Gabe and I went for a little adventure on the beach across the road to soak up the sun and spend some time together before his flight out to Sydney to continue his Google summer internship that afternoon.
Finally, it was time to go so, dragging our feet, we headed off to the Mt. Maunganui airport. I must say, it was the hardest goodbye I've ever had to deal with. The airport was small enough for us (Sam, Tyson and myself) to accompany Gabe all the way to the gate to wait for his departure. Although seeing him get on the plane was hard, at least we got to see him off. It was somewhat strange with Gabe leaving New Zealand and not the other way around.
Afterward, I went with Sam and Tyson (thank you for dealing with a teary me, in special need of cheering-up ice cream) back to the Mt. for some Copenhagen Cones, dropped Tyson off at bus back to Hamilton (another goodbye :() and head back with Sam to his house in nearby Otumoetai. After a yummy dinner with his dad an step-mom, we took the adorable doggy Roxie for a walk and I finally tried a JellyTip ice cream from the local dairy (thank you Sam - real friends know a second, surprise ice cream makes all the difference) :).
Monday: After stopping at the supermarket for some essential picnic snacks, Sam and I adventured to the McLaren's Falls for the afternoon. We walked around the beautiful string of lakes, took a mini hike through the forest, and enjoyed the waterfalls. A salami twist pastry served for a delicious lunch.
Sam = the Avian Whisperer (what's with the rooster?!):
Sorry friends, no salami for you...
All mine mmmmmmm
Posing while exploring the falls:
Tuesday: Whitebait day! Sam and I ran errands to get some seasonal whitebait fish from the local butcher to enjoy some superb whitebait fritters prepared by Sam's dad that evening.
The whitebait montage...
It begins with frozen fishies... mmm oh how I love eyeballs in my food.
Woooo check it out!Arf arf (hehe Sam the seal)
Bryce wippin' up some batter:
Whitebait, woooo!After dinner we took another nice walk down by the water. Wednesday: Sam and I explored downtown Mt. Maunganui for the last time with a mini hike to the end of Leisure Island (a peninsula accessible during low tide).
Later that night, I donned my usual traveling attire (traveling boots, teal flannel & tights) and it was off to the airport for an 11pm flight and my final goodbye. Thank you Sam for a great few days of enjoying NZ before my departure.
To the wonderful people I met and had the pleasure of spending time with over the past 5 months - thank you for amazing times and life-long memories.
Erika, Sam & Gabe (aka the Fab 4) - it's been 5 months, but there's no time limit on this friendship (aka I don't care where we all end up, you're not getting rid of me).
Gabe - I never thought I'd meet my other half, half-way across the world, but I'm so glad I did.
Let the adventure continue...
Ta-ta for now,