Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
10 NZ$ = £5.65 £1 = 1.77 NZ$
Time Zone: GMT +13
23rd – 25th Nov
Our Uber from the rental office dropped us into the centre of Auckland so Kate could do some shopping. Our hostel was a fair walk from the centre in a neighbourhood called Ponsonby but luckily there was a nice bar en route.
Back at the hostel we got ourselves a take-away from across the road and tried to make our way through the supplies we had amassed over the previous couple of weeks as we would be flying out of Auckland a couple of days later and would have to leave most of it.
The next day we had booked a Hobbiton tour and a cheapy rental car to get us there and back. We got ourselves an Uber to the rental office and were told we had been upgraded to a brand new Toyota Yaris.
This car had Bluetooth connectivity and therefore we able to play the Lord of the Rings soundtrack all the way back to Hamilton. Having enjoyed ourselves so much the first time we went back for brunch at Hayes Common before heading onwards to Matamata where you can find Hobbiton.
In case you don’t know what Hobbiton is about, in 2001 a film came out called Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. It was a three hour epic from an unknown director called Peter Jackson and everyone in the whole world saw it. Before filming started, Peter Jackson and his location scout needed a spot to base the set for The Shire, the home of the hobbits. He found the rolling hills of this chaps farm in Matamata and begged him to let them film there. They built a few bits and bobs around the place and one hobbit hole (house for hobbits). Between shoots some of farmer Russel Alexander’s mates begged him to let them see the set and the idea for tours was born. Unfortunately as the success of the films had not been foreseen the small set was temporary and so, after the three films had been shot the set was torn down and the farm went back to normal. But the films were such an enormous success that PJ then went on to make a trilogy of Hobbit films. For this the set was built properly as a permanent exhibit.
Now the expansive set has 37 hobbit holes, a combination of real and fake trees, a professionally untended vegetable patch, a working pub and a proper stone bridge.
The only way to see it is by a rather expensive guided tour but Mike, our guide with the great name, gave us a splendid tour around the set. We saw a bunch of notable hobbit holes including Bag End (Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ residence), but only the outside as the interior scenes were filmed elsewhere in a big studio. The holes are all in varying sizes, for purposes of perspective, and we were stunned by the detail that went into it. They were all so cute as well, we were ready to move in.
Our last stop on the tour was the Green Dragon Pub for a drop of hobbit beer and hobbit cider that had been brewed exclusively for Hobbiton by the Good George Brewery in in Hamilton.
Despite the expense it was definitely worth the trip. We gunned back to the rental office to get our car back before the rental office shut at 7 and got an Uber back to the hostel. That evening we walked a little further than the take-away across the road, to a burger place three minutes down the road. Our first time in Hayes Common the guy there had recommended a couple of places, one being the imaginatively named Burger Burger. We took our burgers to go though because we had beer supplies at the hostel to deplete.
We ate our burgers, consolidated our luggage into an airplane suitable load and shared some beers with our fellow backpackers (we needed some help to finish them).
The next day we checked out of our room and dropped our luggage in the lounge before heading off in yet another Uber to the cinema. After one movie franchise dominating our NZ trip it was time to delve into another and see the new Harry Potter franchise film Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. We bought tickets at a cinema in the centre and went and had a coffee before our screening.
We got yet another Uber back to Ponsonby to have a farewell drink in NZ before we picked up our bags and ordered a final Auckland Uber to get us to the airport.
Uenuku Backpackers was not our first choice but did the job. When we were booking it we were told we would have a discount rate because our double room was small but it was bigger than half the rooms we’d had before. It was also in our own private outbuilding which was different. The manager let us pay with credit card for no additional charge too because we had been talking and it turned out she had spent 3 years studying in Leeds. The kitchen and other public facilities were a little grubby and the bathrooms were oddly situated in dorms but overall we were pretty pleased with it.