As the sun rose this morning I willed myself to remember every detail. The warm glow rising slowly against the dark hills. Oranges and yellows appearing over the ridge as I hear the rooster crowing in the pen next door. I've seen every sunrise here for the last five weeks in lockdown and if everything falls into place tomorrow then this will be my last full day here in New Zealand. It's a bittersweet feeling. Whilst returning to the UK was always my plan it's been a rollercoaster of emotions this last week in knowing whether it would happen. Confirmation a few days ago meant that I had to face the reality that my journey here was coming to an end. Many would think that I'd be chomping at the bit to come home and as much as I'm looking forward to being in the same country as my family, it's a wrench to tear myself away from my little piece of lockdown heaven and say goodbye to a country that will always have a piece of my heart. From an unforgiving pandemic I have found wonderful friends, a sense of calm, positivity and beauty in nature. I feel a renewed connection to other people, a greater sense of gratitude for life and an extra few kilo's around my waist, haha! The kiwi generosity provided with me shelter during the most difficult time and enforces my belief that people are inherently good. I'm not a religious person but I do feel truly blessed to have found myself here in Hope, Richmond.
Sadness at the end of a journey is only natural, I will miss this beautiful place and the wonderful people that I've met along the way. Dean came round yesterday and asked me if I'd like to plant a tree and I jumped at the chance. It's a Pohutukawa, a native tree that has vibrant red flowers and is known as the Christmas tree of New Zealand.
I look forward to seeing how much it's grown when I return to finish off my Tour Aotearoa ride. I don't know when that will be but I know that I will definitely be back. So for now I bid a very fond farewell to my lockdown sanctuary and to the land of the long white cloud. You brought me so many smiles, laughs, challenges and amazing experiences and I'll be forever thankful. Kia Kaha New Zealand.