Last city, but where is Phil Keoghan?

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, June 10, 2011

Today was our last day with Britzy Spears, so we had to wake up a little earlier to make sure everything was put away so that we do not get charged extra for the campervan (besides the two big cracks on the roof). We had paid to keep the campervan until Saturday when we fly back to the states, but as we learned in Wellington, having an oversized car in the big city is not the best idea.  The drive to Auckland was fairly short compared to the rest of our travel days, but we made it a little longer by stopping in the town of Matamata.  Matamata is a tiny town in the middle of the most amazing green rolling hills used mostly for farming.  Some, namely Peter Jackson, thought this area would be the perfect location for Hobbiton.  I would not consider myself a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but others might since we already took a tour of film locations and are now stopping for a second time.  We followed signs from a few kms away to a café that is the start of the tour.  We didn’t really want to take a tour, instead just driving by to take a few pictures before continuing to Auckland.  However, since the film location is on private land, there is no choice but to take the tour.  The girl, who might as well have been dressed up as an elf because she looked like LOTR #1 fan, told us we were very lucky because there is room on the tour that was starting in 30 minutes, and the film "The Hobbit" is filming, so we would really get to see Hobbiton in all its glory.  We could do all of this for the small price of $66 per person.  There is even a bonus of watching a sheep shearing after the tour.  My first thought was that she was nuts for charging so much, but we came all this way and have no choice but to pay.  That is when I looked at Amy and got one of her infamous death stares.  I know that stare very well, the stare where she does not even have to open her mouth and I know exactly what she is thinking.  So much to my dismay, we walked out and continued our drive north.

Further along the road, we made our last picnic lunch stop to finish whatever food was left in Britzy.  Quite the mishmash of food options, but that is the camping life.  We finished the last hours’ drive as we finally arrived at the airport.  We found a Shell gas station to fill up the camper, but the gas station could not fill up the propane tank from the stove.  So we headed back on the highway for 15 minutes, topped off the propane tank, and made our way to the Britz office.   Remembering back to when we picked up the campervan when it took over 2 hours before we were able to drive off, we figured we would have to get to this office very early as they close at 4:30, especially with the damage.  To our surprise, the return was fairly painless, we had to fill out a few forms and they told us we would get an email back from the results of the repairs for Britzy's damage.  They called a taxi for us and we made our way to our hotel, The Quadrant Hotel, near the University of Auckland.  We were told the taxi was a flat $30 charge, but the driver tried to charge us the metered price.  When confronted he backpedalled quite a bit saying he didn’t know that we were told it would be a flat fee.  Apparently you can’t trust drivers throughout the world. 

The hotel was very nice.  We had a kitchenette and washer/dryer in the room, which was quite nice.  We took a small nap before heading out on the town.  The plan was to check out the Sky Tower, the largest building in the southern hemisphere, first, but as we crossed Queen St, with its many shops, we took a small detour.  Being our last city, having plenty of room in our bags (since we had already thrown out a lot of the clothes we had been wearing for the last 3 months), and needing last minute gifts, shopping took precedence over sightseeing.  We went into a few stores, but decided not to buy anything until the next day when we would have more time.  So we found the food court in the Westfield mall and had dinner instead.  After dinner, we were both feeling tired, so we went back to the hotel to do last minute laundry and watch the remaining copy dvds we bought in Shanghai.

The next morning we made breakfast in our hotel room and then headed out in the rain to continue our shopping.  Back on Queen St, we went into more gift shops than I can remember, but found one in particular that we liked.  I was able to get a bottle of hot sauce that I liked (the same one that made Adam throw up at the Mexican restaurant in Queenstown) and Amy was shopping for kids Rugby World Cup tshirts for our neice and nephew (since the world cup will be hosted by NZ in September).  We made it back to the Westfield mall where we had round two of the food court for lunch.  It’s not that we liked the food that much, but we were looking for something quick and cheap to eat.  Now, almost shopped out, we stopped at a few more stores, one of which had funny tshirts.  I was quite interested in a few of the shirts, but at $55 apiece, I decided to pass.  The owner of the store talked to us for thirty minutes about traveling in NZ, his time in the US where he lived for ten years, and why the shirts cost so much (you would pay more for a diesel or ed hardy shirt he reasoned).  I was hoping since we made friends with him, we would get a discount, but no luck.  Instead we went back to the store where we got the hot sauce and picked up a few more items as this was the best gift shop in town. 

Now I was thoroughly shopped out.  So we finally headed toward the Sky Tower.  We tried our trick of just going up to the bar at the top of the tower and getting a drink instead of paying to go up.  NZ is a little smarter than this as you have to pay anyway, and going to the bar is a perk.  There are three levels where you pay more the higher up you go.  The top level was closed because visibility was quite low and the winds were swirling.  So we bought two tickets to go to the second level.  I was able to get a student discount, but only after being interrogated and asked if we were staying at a hostel (and you have to show the key to the hostel, but I said we left the key with the front desk so we would not lose it).  Not sure why you have to stay at a hostel to get a student discount, but those are the rules. 

The view was pretty spectacular, at least what you could see in between the clouds.  There are also glass panes in the floor so you can look straight down to the ground.  Amy was scared to walk on the glass floors, so I stepped up.  After looking around for a bit, we stopped by the restaurant to get a coffee and chocolate milk.  While in the restaurant looking out into the city, we see a man fly by the window.  As if bungy jumping from a 50 meter bridge isn’t good enough, you can go to the top of the tower, 300 meters high and jump off, having a full 11 seconds of free fall.  Thinking about whether to do it, I decided I would draw the line at 51 meter jumps. 

Now it was really starting to downpour so we made our way next door to the casino.  Only having $40 in my pocket, which would not be enough to get us to the airport tomorrow, I decided to gamble the money.  If I won, we would have enough for a taxi, if I lost, I would hit up the ATM which I would have to do anyway.  We did not have a ton of time, so I had to skip my usual games for ones that either win or lose money quickly.  The first twenty disappeared in a few minutes thanks to the terrible odds of the roulette wheel.  I then made my way to the big wheel where I bet on some of the higher odd bets.  The first spin was on the most rare number which netted two people at the table 47 times their original bet.  Unlucky, I decided to keep my composure and over the next 15 spins I was able to triple my money as the most common number only appeared once over that span.  I now had enough for the taxi ride and dinner for the evening.  So we made our way across the street to the only place we would want to go for our last meal, the Mexican restaurant. 

The next morning we had to wake up early to pack up one last time to head to the airport.  We ditched the majority of our clothing and stuff from the last 3 months and made room for our sourvenirs.  We made sure to get to the airport plenty early as our Quantas flight to LAX was full, and we didn’t want to get stopped for carrying a weapon (the boomerang) onto the plane.  At the airport we managed to spend the last of our NZ dollars before getting on board.  The flight was very comfortable and uneventful.  The major problem was the flight left at 1pm and was 11 hours long, so it landed at what would feel like midnight to us.  So neither Amy nor I slept a wink on the plane, but that was ok because the movie selection was very good.  I managed to watch three movies while Amy watched 5, only stopping for lunch and breakfast.  We landed in LA 45 minutes early at 5:15am.  We tried to get on an earlier flight to San Francisco, but after getting our luggage and going through customs, we just missed the first flight of the day.  Instead we hung out at the airport until our flight at 10:00am.  Although we were a bit bealry-eyed, it was obvious we were back in the states, as for the first time in three months, we heard Spanish being spoken.  Welcome home!
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