The past two weeks in Auckland have been incredible. I’ve met with professors and academic experts to further my research into the electoral system of New Zealand. I’ve realized that coffee is the one absolute thing that money should be spent on – even when you’re trying to spend as little money as possible. I’ve learned that even New Zealand grocery stores carry Duke’s Mayonnaise, thank goodness! And beyond those important revelations, I’ve been able to do some pretty cool things.
On Sunday, June 4th, I booked a tour to visit the Hobbiton movie set used for filming both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogy. The film set is roughly 12 acres of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen – and the owners work hard to keep the film set in prime condition. Tours are offered and an average of 2,000 tourists visit each day. The “Shire” that has been created is remarkable. There are 44 “Hobbit Holes”, along with a tavern, a mill, an entirely artificial oak tree, functioning gardens, and a lake. I walked the very same paths used by Sir Ian McKellan when he played Gandalf, I saw where Bilbo Baggins hung his “NO ADMITTANCE – Except on Party Business” sign in front of Bag End, and I saw where Frodo and the others celebrated under the Great Tree down by the lake and Bagshot Row. As a huge Lord of the Rings fan, I couldn’t get enough.
On Thursday, June 8th, I spent my afternoon climbing Mount Eden, a dormant volcano on the edge of Auckland’s Central Business District. Mount Eden is one of the best views of Auckland, only a short bus ride from the downtown area. The volcano last erupted long ago, and since, grasses and trees have covered the crater and cone. Auckland is located on an isthmus between Manukau Harbor to the West and Hauraki Gulf to the East, both of which are clearly visible from the summit of Mount Eden. To be able to stand in one spot, spin around, and part of the Tasman Sea, Pacific Ocean, and all of Auckland City is truly stunning.
On Saturday, June 10th, I traveled across the harbor on a ferry to the town of Devonport. Devonport is really great, with tons of restaurants, cafes, bookstores, etc., but the real draw to Devonport is Mount Victoria. Mount Victoria is nestled directly behind Devonport’s charming downtown and offers unparalleled views of Auckland from the across the harbor. There was a military installation on the Mount Victoria that has now gone out of use, and so artillery settings and remnants of the military’s presence can be seen on the summit. I managed to visit the summit at sunset, and the views of Auckland the surrounding islands in the Hauraki Gulf were incredible. Rangitoto, an island in the Hauraki Gulf that was formed by a volcano and is now a scenic reserve, is visible from the summit. The views from the summit of Mount Victoria were some of the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever seen.
My time in Auckland has been fantastic, but I expect my next destination to be just as good: Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. There, I’ll be meeting with members of Parliament and more academic experts to conduct interviews for my research, as well as using the amazing museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Museum. In the meantime, I have tons of photos (see below) to share from Hobbiton and Auckland!