This post is penned by Paul, a close friend of mine whom I knew via the most “inappropriate” channel… Tinder.
Paul has travelled extensively, previously staying in Australia for a year and six months in Singapore. Next on his plate is Russia, where he will be doing a working holiday after his Masters in Paris. When not studying in France, he is busy delivering sushi to earn his keep and saving up for his next destination.
Having been in Singapore for the last five months for my internship, I was ready to head down to the Land of Kiwi during my Christmas holidays. New Zealand is the only country I have not visited in the region and I would be back in Paris soon so this was the best time to travel since I am in Asia. A huge fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Not a fan of The Hobbit at all, I’m sorry), I was excited to tick off one more off my bucket list.
So here I was, spending my Christmas Eve in a low cost-carrier while my family was having a fabulous dinner back in France. After two layovers in Kuala Lumpur and Gold Coast, I finally landed in Auckland 15 hours later.
It didn’t take me long to realise how severely unprepared I was:
- I didn’t have winter clothes and temperatures were below 20 degrees (I was going to work every day wearing tee shirts in Singapore)
- My credit card was not working, it was impossible to book a hostel or a bus but I remained hopeful that I could withdraw cash in case I didn’t have enough
How is Auckland? Honestly, I am not a fan and I believe this is a common thought amongst the backpackers community. It is simply too crowded and alike most cities.
New Zealand is bloody expensive! A sandwich will easily fetch 7 USD. Fast food to save that few bucks just isn’t a wise thing to do, so I did what every backpacker with a working holiday visa would do – Cook. Pasta was the obvious and easiest choice and I even treated myself a pesto sauce and parmesan cheese to go along with it (Come on, it’s Christmas).
That night, I found a place in a 6-bed dormitory and met two of my roommates – An English who loved drinking and smoking weed and a young 16-year-old German dude who was kicked out of his girlfriend’s house after her mom caught them hanky-panky in bed (Worst nightmare for a teenager). In the evening, we joined other hostel mates and enjoyed a pack of beer while sharing our travel stories under a sky full of stars – Amazing, amazing experience.
The next day, I took a bus and headed straight to a little city called Rotorua. Rotorua is a city on the southern shores of the lake of the same name, in the Bay of Plenty Region of New Zealand’s North Island. My goal? Visit Hobbiton – it was the movie set and hobbit village used to shoot the second trilogy (Geeky, I know).
Well, my first impression: it’s a HUGE tourist factory. There were tonnes of people everywhere. A guide took us around the movie set, introducing us the iconic movie sets such as Bilbo’s house and the Green Dragon Tavern. The place was so crowded each stop seemed like it was timed in order for everyone to catch a glimpse of all the settings.
Did you know that just before filming, Peter Jackson would get three people to spray a slightly greener paint on each leaf for a more lifelike replica?
The ticket is pretty expensive, priced between 75-114 NZ dollars. So is the tour worth it? Yes, if you’re like me and you are a fan living in a country 18,586 km away. But if you have never watched the movies before, skip it. There are too many tourists that visit the place and it is impossible to visit the inside of a Hobbit house. Plus, the gift shop is so expensive!
The good thing was, we received a jug of beer at the end of the tour, ha!
Personally, I enjoyed this experience and it spurred me to catch up on the longer version of the LOTR trilogy (a 12-hour marathon on my couch).
Back to Rotorua, I took a bus out the next day to visit the coolest capital in the world – Wellington, but that’s a story for another day!
Love and sweet treats,
The French Travelover