In less than three days I’ll be vacating my little apartment here in Auckland and hitting the open road again. Most people told me beforehand that Auckland wouldn’t be that interesting, but I quite enjoyed my time here. Here is a summary about my four week visit to Auckland, New Zealand.

First, I took two weekends worth of sailing lessons from a pretty famous New Zealander named Penny Whiting. While I still have a ways to go, I now have a Certificate of Sailing Competency, which should allow me to charter a boat on my travels if I want. Penny was a great teacher, and she’s well known for being a commentator during the America’s cup and other sailing events. She’s even been awarded a M.B.E. for her contributions to sailing – very impressive.

Second, the pub scene in Auckland is pretty decent. It’s not like Portland, Oregon or anything of that calibre, but the pubs usually have a few groups in them and serve some pretty tasty beer. I actually hit quite a few pubs while I was here, and it’s a pretty great city for having a few good beers and for catching some live music.

Auckland's Skytower

I tried my best to get some WordPress people out for some beers, but couldn’t get more than a handful, despite my best efforts at emailing web companies directly. I’ve been told it’s a common problem in Auckland, mainly due to the fact that most people live in the burbs and don’t want to have to battle traffic for events.

There were many tourist destinations in Auckland I didn’t get a chance to see, mainly because you really need a car for most of them. But I have a really good handle on the city layout now and where everything is.

Without a doubt, Auckland is expensive (and New Zealand in general I would say). I wouldn’t say it’s unaffordable, but it’s pretty close to being so, especially if you’re doing touristy things. I’d say it’s roughly around 15% more expensive than prices a person would pay in Vancouver. For example, a steak dinner costs around $36 NZD, a beer around $9 NZD, a haircut for a guy somewhere between $30 NZD and $50 NZD. I can afford it, but the bank account is dwindling at a fairly rapid pace.

If you’re doing touristy things, you basically have to bend over. For a 90 minute tour of Hobbiton you can expect to pay $250 NZD out of Auckland, and almost $70 NZD out of Matamata (which is basically right in Hobbiton). Want to jump off the Skytower? Another $250 NZD. Want to do a tour of Milford Sound and a few other spots? Nearly $1,000 NZD. I guess if you have to pick between screwing your countrymen or tourists you should always pick tourists, but the gouging is so bad that many Kiwis have commented on the prices to me. In fact, I’ve been told nobody who actually lives in New Zealand has ever been to Hobbiton (which I’m sure is false, but I get the point).

Hobbiton, in Matamata, New Zealand

The good news is that now is probably the best time in the last ten years to visit Hobbiton. Prior to about two weeks ago if you visited Hobbiton you would have only seen a few fake Hobbit holes in the hills that were used for Hobbiton in the movie. But all of last month the location in Matamata was shut down as they reconstructed Hobbiton from scratch for filming that was going on for The Hobbit (which had Elijah Wood fly in for shooting). That ended about two weeks ago, and Hobbiton is now set up exactly like it was for the Lord Of The Rings, which is going to be really amazing.

Had I not had sailing lessons I probably would have left about a week ago, mainly because I’ve run out of things that I want to see. But I wasn’t restless yet, which is a good sign.

I’m checking out of my apartment on Saturday and renting a car for a little road trip. I’m planning on hitting Hobbiton with a car-load of friends from Auckland on Saturday, and then slowly making my way back north to the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga. After that I have to head back to Auckland to drop the car off and catch a 12 hour train down to Wellington, which is marketed as the Coolest Little Capital City In The World. In fact, many people have told me how much fun they have had in Wellington, so I’m quite looking forward to it.

Waddles, ready to destroy the ring

My friend Natalie lives in Wellington, and I haven’t seen her since we said goodbye in Buenos Aires back in March. So it’ll be great to catch up with her while I’m there.

I also met a guy in my sailing class who is going to be in Wellington on a guys’ weekend out while I’m there – I’ve been invited to tag along for the debauchery, which should be fun. After that, I’ll be taking the ferry down to the South Island, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the entire world.

It’s been three months since I left Canada, and thankfully I haven’t really been hit by any homesickness yet. Maybe I’m used to this now, or maybe having Scott and Sam around in Thailand helped soften the blow. Either way, I’m still doing fine.

I have to say though, hearing that it was snowing back home and that people were putting trees up made me wish for a moment that I was there to see it. But I still have lambs and Hobbits to see, and I’m off to do so.

If you’re thinking about visiting Auckland or New Zealand in general, consider picking up the Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand to make the most of your trip.

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