New Zealand 2020 – Part 9

The past couple of days have been a mixture of culture, friendship and memory lane. As Tuesday dawned rather grey and uncertain, we decided to find something to do that was inside rather than out, so we set off for the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The museum is an imposing building within a tranquil park, which has beautiful views of the harbour. Since 1929 it was also served as a place of remembrance for the many New Zealander’s who have sacrificed their lives in war.

New Zealanders take their history in combat very seriously and choose to honour the memories of the sacrifices made by so few, for so many. Therefore, every year on ANZAC Day, there is a very well attended dawn parade service at the cenotaph, which stands on consecrated ground.

We spent most of our time there browsing the Maori collection. For me, the highlights of this were the wharenui, which is the Maori name for a ‘big house’ – more commonly known as a whare. And the waka. The whare is a communal house, generally situated as the focal point of a marae, which is a fenced in complex of buildings that belongs to a particular iwi (tribe), hapu (sub-tribe), or whanau (family). It is very much a place of belonging for the Maori people. Wakas are Maori watercraft, usually canoes, variously used for fishing, travel and for war. They are often beautiful and ornately carved.

I was curious as to why the museum had hung a map of NZ on the wall, on its side, rather than the ‘right way up’. As we looked further around the exhibits, we came across a digital depiction of Captain Cook’s mapping of the country in 1769, and it is clear that he arrived from the east, first stopping on the east coast of the North Island. Therefore, Aotearoa – The Land of the Long White Cloud – would have been seen from this angle! It was quite interesting to have my perception of the shape of NZ so challenged!

There were many beautiful things to see in the museum.

One thing I really liked was that there was free entry for Aucklanders, and that New Zealander’s from elsewhere were invited to make donations. The only fixed charge was for tourists, and I did not have a problem with paying for the privilege of going there. I think it is such a good idea to make the treasures of the museum as accessible as possible for the local people.

After leaving the museum, we went onto the Winter Gardens, further down the Domain. Despite their name, they were actually full of wonderful summer flowers! Such a spectacular show of colour!

In the grounds of the Domain, an old tree was particularly eye catching, as it seemed to take on a tangled, animated life of its own, sprawling its way across the grass.

The next day the blue skies returned, and I revisited some old haunts, spending some time in Devonport and Takapuna.

Rangitoto Island is a dormant volcano, which last saw active service some 800 years ago. It is still an imposing sight, standing resolute in the Hauraki Gulf. People may come and go, but Rangitoto remains steadfast. If the old island could talk, I’m sure it would have many interesting tales to tell!

I particularly enjoyed seeing the old colonial style houses that can be found all over NZ, but especially in this part of Auckland.

My time in NZ is going way too fast. I am already over half way through my stay. Perhaps by the end of it, I will feel ready to go home. But then again…

New Zealand 2020 – Part 7

Today I visited Maraetai Beach – a place I used to go to a lot back in the day. It has changed very little in the 20 years since I have been there, although the parking is a little more organised these days and, of course, there are way more houses than ever there was. It seems that NZ has expanded quite rapidly during the past ten years or so. I suppose the same could be said for many places, but it seems particularly obvious in a land where there used to be so much, well, land!

It was a sparkling day, with a bright blue sky, punctuated by fluffy white clouds.

The water shimmered in various shades of turquoise, while across the water, Waiheke Island framed the view with lush greens.

After lunch at the Maraetai Wharf Store, we went for a stroll along the beach.

We saw two wakas, which belonged to the Maketu Marae, which oddly enough is a little bit further south of Raglan, where I was the other day!

They were directly across the road from the Umupuia Marae, so I assume they were visiting for a while.

It was another lovely trip down memory lane/beach. What a privilege it is to be here.

New Zealand 2020 – Part 4

What an amazing day!

I went with friends to Rotorua, a favourite NZ destination, and en-route we stopped at the small town of Tirau for brunch. The Cabbage Tree Cafe served a delicious big breakfast, and to top off the fun, we were invited to sign their visitor’s book – the wall! By virtue of the fact that there was actually no room left on any of the walls, we ended up signing the ceiling!

After brunch, we crossed the road to have a look around the very unusual local shops.

All I can say is that I REALLY love the New Zealand sense of humour!

From Tirau, we went straight onto Rotorua and stopped at the Rotorua Skyline experience. We took a cable car to the top of the hill and the views from the top were spectacular!

We had a wander around at the summit. There were all sorts of activities on offer, including luging and a completely CRAZY swing that dropped out of the sky and swung at ridiculous speed back and forth…. while it was fun to watch, that was definitely not on my list of things to do, so I went to the cafe and had an iced chocolate drink instead!

After getting back onto solid ground, we moved onto Whakarewarewa, one of my most favourite places in Rotorua.

We had a lovely wander about the village. While it was very sunny and warm, it was also quite windy and the steam from the hot springs was blowing every which way, so that the smell of sulphur seemed to engulf me wherever I went.

We also watched a Maori concert, in which they sung the world famous ‘Po Karekare Ana’ and performed the equally iconic Haka.

In one of the small shops in the village, I saw a beautiful waka (Maori canoe) carved out of wood and jade. I asked the shopkeeper how much this was, and was staggered to learn it was $12000! It certainly was a one of a kind, unique piece of art, but lovely as it was, I didn’t feel I could justify spending that amount of money. So if anyone out there has a large sum of money and a burning desire to own a waka, I recommend you get yourself to Whakarewarewa as soon as possible, while stocks last!

It was another day where the weather was more than kind and the company was brilliant. What more could I ask for..? (Apart from a $12000 waka, of course!)