Then the dolphins found us. I'd never seen so many this year, as well as NZ's wee blue penguin. Always an absolute delight to see them all popping up everywhere. Penguins are smaller in size the further north you go - with the warmer waters - so New Zealand's are quite tiny creatures, compared with Antarctica's beauties.
A day after returning to Whitianga and enjoying the garden and views for the last time, we drove to my sister Clio's in the Waikato for an early Christmas, after visiting mum's memorial stone on the way, and then up to Auckland to fly away home. Rather special was that my mum's three older sisters, all living in Auckland, crammed into the car and saw me off at Auckland International. A few more obligatory tears. They're all in their 80s as well, widows, one with severe MS, and you just don't know if you'll get to hug them again.
I arrived in Los Angeles before I'd left Auckland; and 24 hours after leaving NZ, I was sneaking into bed, at midnight, with the family fast asleep. Home's fine.