I could bore you to tears with a description of my typical 24-hour day. But I won't!
How about a recap of a day in my life that occurred this year that is ranked among the top ten days for me ever??Yes??? OK....
Of course, it was in New Zealand. Of course.
For us, it was on Sunday November 1st. For anyone in the US, that was technically Saturday, October 31st. I only realized this when I was seeing tons of pictures popping up of everyone's Halloween costumes and parties. It's very weird, you know. Living in a time zone that allows you to be completely done with a day that nearly everyone that you know is currently experiencing.
So, on this gorgeous Sunday morning, only the second full day of our trip, I had planned for us to head out (in the car, on the left hand side of the road, armed mostly with just a paper map from the hotel with the concierge's scribbles on it) to explore the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. I had read exactly one paragraph on a random website about how beautiful it was, and wanted to squeeze it into our time in Auckland somehow. Our only planned and paid-for activity that day was the sunset kayaking tour at 4pm.
We grabbed some coffee and food at Gloria Jean's -- you know those k-cups? It's a real place! -- on our way out of town and drove slightly haphazardly 20 minutes outside of the city to the national park. The scribble from the extremely nice gentleman at the front desk of our hotel noted a stop off at the visitor's center, and angled us down Piha Road so that we could see Piha beach, Lion rock, and Kitekite Falls. We got confirmation from our Lonely Planet guide that this was a great plan as well. Highly recommend Lonely Planet for all of your traveling plans!
Somehow, we found ourselves in the right place- the start of the Kitekite Falls hike. It was still relatively early so we didn't have to share the trail with many. It's so peaceful there. It's a spiritual kind of peaceful, like as though any screeching or foul noise would get you swallowed up by the Earth never to be seen or heard from again. The crunch of your boots on the ground, sweet tunes of the Tui bird who imitate noises they hear like the fictional mockingjay, and the flowing water of the streams eventually building up to the waterfall are all you hear. The air is so fresh it feels healing inside your chest.
And, after a particularly steep slightly sweaty time-to-take-the-jacket-off rise, you turn the corner and it's there. The trail continues to bring you closer and closer, all the while you are realizing this waterfall is much larger than it seemed when you first saw it. My favorite part about many of the hikes in New Zealand is that you don't ever go out-and-back. The paths nearly always loop so you never have to see the same bit of trail twice. I marveled many times at thoughtful and considerate that is.
After a quick snack in the car, we had time for a second stop at Piha beach. It is spectacular. The current is so strong in that section of the west coast that recreational swimming isn't recommended. But there were plenty of surfers getting their workouts in, and a group of young search and rescue trainees practicing to become heroes one day.
The map said there is a short hike to Tasman lookout point, but we didn't see the entrance until we got up close to the side of a rock wall and saw a narrow set of stairs appear out of nowhere. Some barefoot beachgoers ran right past us and disappeared into the wall (the wall you see on the far left of the picture above), so we climbed and climbed an endless number of winding stairs and came to a fork. The beach was still to our right, so we veered right first, and saw Piha from way up in the air. And then we went back the other way to discover what was to the left. A short trail that led to the other side of the beach - hidden away. Just for us to have privately that morning, on our honeymoon. To sit there and watch the waves crash into a small inlet and feel grateful to tears that we get to see this and experience this in our lifetimes. Together.
So we did eventually have to leave Waitakere to make it to our pickup location for the sunset kayaking tour. We had hiked twice already, and I personally felt a little emotionally exhausted from the overwhelming scenery I didn't think I could take any more. But the second half of our day was just as amazing as the first. See that island out in the distance, with the bump on its noggin? We paddled all the way there, hiked all the way to the top -- which looks quite small in this picture but is actually the highest point in all of Auckland -- and paddled back.
It was 100% worth the effort. More than that actually. We had gorgeous weather and calm water. Our tour guide, Nic, gave us a great history of the country and the Maori culture, as well as the current political climate and the national debate over the design on their flag. A grill came out of nowhere at the base of the hike on Rangitoto, and he cooked us steaks! The hike after dinner started easy and got really steep at the tail end. But the view...
We paddled back in the pitch black dark with nothing but the stars lighting our way. We aimed for the lights on the shore, and heard more stories from Nic. And, at times, we just paddled and heard nothing but the swooshing of the water methodically sweeping from side to side. I was completely present in that moment, with my head so clear and my heart wrapped around every detail of this day. I'm so afraid that I will forget how I felt. Pictures don't always revive the memory of your feelings. I've never felt so honored to be alive and fortunate to have this experience. It was perhaps a moment of the deepest possible gratitude I've ever had.
It wasn't just a day in the life. It was THE day in a life. And then there were 18 more.
I'm joining pals Sarah and Elizabeth to write every day in the month of December, feel free to join in any time! We don't care that it's day 11! Better late than never, pick and choose the prompts you want to respond to, no pressure to conform. XO