After all the New Year shenanigans, with a few days to pack and recover, Aisling and I leave early for Sydney airport and head to New Zealand for a two week Red Carpet Lord of The Rings Tour. We fly into Auckland to begin the tour. We get there one day before the start date and stay in a hotel not too far from the city. Our flight is with jetstar – the flights were almost $200 each way. Not too bad for a 3 hour flight! Although jetstar do not take cash on their planes – so if you want a drink make sure you have your card handy. Or, you can pre order! Other than that we had no qualms with the flight or the airline. Its basically an Australian version of easy jet, You get what you pay for!
We arrive in Auckland airport and are getting picked up by Vic, he is the founder of the Red Carpet Tours. Prior to arriving in Auckland, months before our arrival, we had been in contact with Raewyn (Vics wife). The tour was super easy to book and the communication prior to our arrival was brilliant. We had all the details we needed and Raewyn was very helpful. My next load of blog posts will no doubt be raving about how good this tour is and how amazing the people are – be prepared for Red Carpet Tours spam!
So we get off the plane and wait for our bags. Then it takes over an hour to get through the customs. New Zealand are super strict on their customs. Make sure you fill in the declaration card that should be brought to you on the plane, to speed up the process as much as possible. Also before heading to New Zealand, clean all of your shoes! Its worth getting a scrub brush from a cheap shop and giving all trainers a good scrub. Especially if you’ve been on farmland or national parks in whatever country you’re coming from. I still declared that I had trainers and had been on Australian farmland, but with clean shoes you get through a lot quicker and they don’t take your stuff from you!
Whether you’re declaring or not, New Zealand declaration is long. So be prepared and be patient! We finally got through an hour later than expected and saw Vic waiting for us with a big smile. He was super friendly and took us straight to the bus and then to our hotel.We had booked this hotel ourselves as we were a day early for the tour. The hotel was really cool. It had a slight American Horror Story feel. Our room was huge, and had a balcony with amazing views. It was $90 each for the one night so wasn’t particularly cheap but we understood why. We took a walk around the area and then spent the rest of the evening looking through our itinerary and choosing our optional activities for the upcoming couple of weeks. How exciting!
The next day we are picked up at our hotel, again by Vic, and taken to another hotel in Auckland (The Spencer on Byron). This hotel was the first hotel of the tour. We got into the bus and joined two others who had also been picked up. A mother and son from Melbourne. Little did we know, these two amazing people would become our super good friends throughout the trip.
As we arrive at the hotel it is another good one. The view from our balcony that evening was great! The good hotel theme continues throughout the tour, it really is a red carpet tour! So we explore a little and then shower and get ready for the first evening. A welcome dinner! This is where we get to meet the other 20 odd people we would be spending the next two weeks with. Looking back now it seems funny that we didn’t know these people, by the end of the trip we had made some really good friends, and everyone on the tour was truly great! It was this first evening that everyone went from strangers to a fellowship – we were the January Fellowship!
Upon arriving at the bar (our meeting place for the welcome dinner) we were greeted by Julie. Our tour guide, who became more like a mother hen and friend by the end of the trip. We then start to mingle with everyone else and immediately get into full nerd mode, ready for the next two weeks of Lord of The Rings fan girl-ing. During the dinner everyone gets to know a bit more about each other and we are given a talk from another super Lord of The Rings fan, who was actually an extra in the Hobbit movies. She played a hobbit and told us all her cool stories. She passed around the pictures of her time spent on set, and even passed around the prosthetic ears she wore for her Hobbit costume. So in 24 hours we had arrived in Auckland, experienced two very nice hotels, and heard all kinds of cool stories from Vic and Katie the Hobbit! At that moment in time we couldn’t imagine that it would get any cooler than that. How wrong we were.
After the dinner we head up to our room and prepare for our Lord of The Rings adventure to fully begin the next morning. Our first full tour day, Hobbiton! We could not contain our excitement, and we had no idea just how magical the next two weeks would be, or the true meaning of the term ‘a trip of a lifetime!’