My nephew is one of the best people in my life and, because of the small age difference between us, we’re more ‘brother and sister’ than ‘nephew and aunt’. His dad Jess lives in New Zealand and, back in 2013, was getting married. Obviously Jess wanted Jake there, and Jake wanted to be there, so I flew to the other side of the world with my favourite little guy so he could be ringbearer [insert obligatory Lord of the Rings joke here].
The whole trip was pretty memorable; we visited Matamata, home of Hobbiton (see below – beautiful day!), Jess got married and Jake met his cousins and half-siblings for the first time. Mindful of how far we’d travelled, Jess made sure we both had a fantastic time, going out of his way to make sure we saw everything we wanted to.
I’m not by nature a very active person (I’m a writer, what do you expect?) and this trip definitely showed up how unfit I was. Aside from a trip to Fairy Falls, which sounds like an easy walk but is not (because the steps up the steep hill are made for giants and I’m a hobbit), we also visited Rangitoto, the volcano off the coast of Auckland. This is my unforgettable day.
We got up early in the morning and drove into Auckland to catch the ferry over to the island. At this point, I was still recovering from a foot operation (thanks to my brother breaking it) so walking was not my forte. The idea of climbing nearly ten miles up and down a volcano was daunting. Blessedly, the way up to the top of Rangitoto isn’t steep all the way, unlike Fairy Falls, but it is very long, and it’s capped off with some high steps right at the very top. As I’d learned at Fairy Falls, steps in New Zealand were my arch-nemesis at this point. Until we reached them, however, I was practically strolling, but I knew I was going to struggle with those stairs. When my nephew wanted to explore the volcanic caves with his sister and dad, I chose to continue on my own to the top and meet them there, knowing it’d be heartily embarrassing otherwise.
Well, I did it. I made it all the way to the top and was rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. I was also rewarded with lunch when the rest of the clan joined me twenty minutes later, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. I know that, nowadays, such a trip would probably be much easier for me; my foot is now fully recovered and I’m more active because of it. At the time though, I could imagine no better success, which is what made it so unforgettable. High from the exhilaration of actually making it to the top of Rangitoto, the already-wonderful sights looked even better because I knew one thing: it was downhill all the way from then on!