Though I realize Matamata and the home of the famous 'Hobbiton' Shire isn't in Auckland, and is in fact several hours drive away - it was the last little travel excursion I made in my year long stay in New Zealand, and in many ways was the perfect and fitting goodbye to the country.
And even though it's not in Auckland itself - it was such a fitting and pleasant day trip out of the city that I thought it warranted being included here.
Like many other travellers to New Zealand, one of the destinations first on my list, and the one making me feel the most childlike in my travels was the need to visit the set of Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings.
Set in the hilly farm country of Matamata, the set is mostly been removed, though it was more the feel of the place and the idea of having a wander about that interested me anyway.
It was something that was planned every time we were on the North Island - and yet somehow it never seemed to work in our favour. Some times it was the weather, sometimes it was a change in travel plans. One time we couldn't get a car rental. It always seemed to be just out of reach.
The week we were finally leaving New Zealand I was determined not to miss it. We flew to Auckland a few days earlier than we had intended to allow for extra time, we had booked ourselves on the tour - and even booked the car three months ahead. We were all set.
When the day came the weather was perfect. Cool and very sunny - the first sunny weather we had ever seen in Auckland, in fact. It finally all seemed to be going our way.
The tour - before we came to New Zealand - had seemed pricey at $58 pp, but after realizing what the average price for events and tours was, it did sound a lot more reasonable. Even including the car rental to get there, petrol, and a night's stay at a local B&B.
We spent most of the afternoon making our way down from Auckland at a leisurely pace - hoping to arrive in time for the last tour and our last touring experience in New Zealand.
We arrived in the little town of Matamata just as the sun was beginning to lower, and the last tour was about to go out. We wandered around the little town with its odd and seemingly misplaced touristy signs about Hobbits. And suddenly - the whole thing seemed to have the wrong idea.
Just about that time the bus pulled up, driven by a bedraggled looking driver in a somewhat ratty bus, and dozens and dozens of camera wielding tourists piled out. And even though I had known to expect this, I instantly felt my heart sink.
I didn't want yet another New Zealand touristy, half-done trip. I wanted the magic of the Shire, the grandeur of Lord of the Rings...some hint of the wonder of it all and some feel of the soul of the story so many hold dear.
We made our decision instantly to head back to Auckland that night and forget about the tour entirely. It may be great for some; it might even be a fantastic tour. But for us - it wasn't what we were after.
Instead, we drove back to Auckland the back way, and went through the back hills of Shire country right at dusk. We stopped the car along the side of the road and watched the sun set on the surrounding hills, where Hobbits may well have been hiding around any corner. It was there we found a touch of the magic, and a little of the story did exist. All we were missing on that hillside was Gandalf's pipe.