Eventually, everything comes to a close. In this case, it is the cabin door of an enormous 747 with Sauron the dragon from the Hobbit movies painted down it’s body. We’ll be airborne in a moment, flying out of Aukland and into the night towards the American west coast. A fitting conclusion of our day, of our month.

Hours ago we rose, early, in Dunedin to start our sprint up the eastern shore of New Zealand. The itinerary was the same, only in reverse: Christchurch-> Aukland -> LAX. Here, on the eastern side, we run into what feels like a foreign country compared to all of the New Zealand we have seen so far. Traffic, highway construction, enormous trucks hauling shipments – a seemingly American feeling to the roads on this side of the island. 

At one point a little north of Timaru – where we stopped for gas and lunch – we see a small grass fire start at the side of the highway. As we crawl away from it, in traffic, it grows in our rear view mirror. It’s 20 minutes before we hear the sirens of emergency vehicles going the other way. By then the plume of smoke towers fifty feet over the roadway.

Yet, we’re beyond it with a departure time ahead of us. I’m sure we’ll hear about it on the news at some point.

Airborne, I run through the entertainment selection. I take a few pills and hope that something will work enough to knock me out. We’re at the back of the plane for the return – a ride full of gentle bounces through the evening. Everything working just enough to keep me on this side of consciousness – a place where I have no choice but to take pen to the page and write down everything I can remember and reflect on the past two weeks. 

What does one take away from something like this? Did we see everything we could have? Were we productive enough tourists? Did we bank on seeing what New Zealand actually had offer or were we stuck in too much with their tourism industry?

If we could do it all again, where would we go?

It’s the same questions anyone might ask out of travel once they return – somewhere between processing everything that we’ve just seen and trying to figure out how you tell the story to everyone who asks when you get back.