Four weeks back we were in Christchurch, and it felt relatively small and, in many respects, barely functioning. Wellington was bigger and felt like a town in its normal stride. Auckland brought us back to urban civilisation. It’s a much bigger and more lively affair with the usual array of shopping streets, arty precincts and Canary Wharf-lookalike areas.

As usual we started with a potter through the centre. It was warm! None of this freeze-your-bollocks-off two-jumpers weather to which we’d become accustomed. Pretty parks in the sunshine, plenty of shopping to keep Jo occupied for far longer than we’d have here, no shortage of coffee.

Auckland occupies a narrow spit of land with water all around it (there’s a walk through the city that traverses from coast to coast that’s only 16km long), and there are islands everywhere. Waiheke Island is a popular tourist stop easily accessible by one of the commuter ferries. We had a walk through the forest, some top notch ginger-beer-battered fish and chips and a potter along the coastal track.

Along the walk it seemed that we were getting a reprise of all the sights New Zealand had shown us along the way – there were steep stairs on the path (Mount Cook), big gusty wind (Mount John), vertical cliffs dropping into the water (Fiordland) and even a minature Mount Doom look-a-like island just offshore.

It wasn’t supposed to be a long walk so we had no food or water with us, and certainly hadn’t thought to bring the headtorches that we usually carried on bigger walks as a last resort. The sun was setting, and our last sight of a New Zealand sunset over the rocks out to sea (beautiful, naturally) was accompanied by the realisation that we were going to cut it fine to get back to the ferry with any light. As day faded to a moonless dusk we were edging along a road down to the coast, where the path was supposed to traverse the beach to the ferry terminal. Navigational failure had led us to the shortcut that is impassable around high tide, though we discovered this only when we reached the waves lapping against the rock face.

So it was that our last walk in this wonderful country finished along a road in almost complete darkness. You win, NZ!