New Zealand Diaries #4 (Courtesy Laura McCullough)

New Zealand* part 1**

30 Dec. I wake up slowly and groggy from the muscle relaxant I took for my back. A lazy morning in the hotel room. There is a lot of the UK in NZ. All outlets have switches next to them; they drive on the left; the language is closer to British English than American English, roundabouts on the roads, a tea-drinking culture, pubs rather than bars, no screens on the windows, metric system rather than our messy system. But it’s different too: they say “kgs” not “kilos”, they have special words that we didn’t see in the UK, the Maori influence is very obvious, it’s freaking TROPICAL!, bare feet are acceptable most places. It feels like Scotland and Hawaii smashed together. The landscape is hilly and sheepy, but with palm trees in the warmer areas. Mountains rise up in the background of most any view landward, but they are smaller than what we consider mountains. There are active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

Around 0900 or 1000 we get up and wander around looking for an open breakfast place. We find a sports bar serving food with windows open wide to the sidewalk, and football (by which I mean soccer) on the telly. They have eggs and streaky bacon on toast, which sounds lovely. I get mine sans toast. Free tea with meals on Mondays, so we have tea too. Lots of patrons watching the game. There are a lot of TVs showing football, rugby, and cricket in the various pubs we patronized. There is a small gambling corner in the back of the pub.

We head up to Auckland “Domain” which seems to be a word for large park. There is a museum at the top of the hills. The walk is beautiful and green, and the trees! The trees! We never got over our wonder at the amazing huge trees that cover NZ. It’s very hilly (that could be repeated for most every place we were). Rain then sun then rain. We walked through a small park (Albert’s Park) with great trees and a big fountain. Past the University of Auckland–I would have stopped in if it wasn’t holiday week. A sign on the science building says “Maths and Nzima”. What the heck is that? Then into the Domain itself. Hills, paths, trees, greens, art. On to the Museum. There is a large courtyard with a memorial and the courtyard is designated “consecrated ground”. The memorial is dedicated “to our glorious dead”. Creepy and neat. The museum was the typical awesome museum–more than you’d ever be able to absorb in one visit. We got tickets to a Maori performance which was great. There are three meanings to kia ora: hello, thank you, and good/nice. It’s generally pronounced “key-OAR-ah” very quickly. The performance included poi dancing (small poofy balls on short strings attached to sticks) and small sticks used both for percussion and stick throwing skill games. Larger sticks are used for strength and dexterity development. As an oral society, they did a lot of chanting. When the guitar was introduced in the 19th c. the chanting developed harmonies.

The haka dance is a pre-war battle dance to gather strength and intimidate your enemies. It is definitely intimidating! Lots of foot stamping and chest slapping and shouting and chanting. The main narrator of the performance had a beautiful fluid delivery when speaking Maori and then a more clipped English style. Interesting to hear the switch. The clothing was great to see. Overall it was a wonderful introduction to Maori culture!

The museum had a very nice armory including a Colt revolving rifle and an actual nodachi sword. Beautiful wooden furniture from the settlers. A large Maori hall of memory where you took your shoes off before entering the low door to show respect. Learning staffs denoting higher education including occult education. A 100-person war canoe made from one log! Basalt chimes with a hammer to strike them. A moa skeleton–maybe 3 meters tall? That would have been one scary bird to encounter! Beautiful stained glass in the war memorial upstairs.

We walk back towards home, stopping at a cafe for juice, since I’m dehydrated. We take Lovers Lane back through the Domain. It follows a small creek and is secluded and forested. Soothing and rejuvenating. The weather continues to shift every 20-30 minutes between rain and sun. There is a glass house with a “winter garden”. A young couple is snogging on the banks of the stream. A photographer is taking wedding photos in the garden. One large tree branch had a crutch–a post in the sidewalk supporting the massive horizontal branch.

There is a bookstore with tiny aisles and too many people. Decent SFF selection though none of Kelly’s books. We had burritos again for lunch, since there are still so few places open. Several sidewalk pavers outside the grocery store had the silverleaf logo that is a NZ icon. Back to Shakespeare’s pub for 2 more pints of delicious cider. (Hey, most places were closed!) This time we drink on the upstairs patio since it is currently sunny out. A middle-aged Asian woman walking by below has bright red dyed hair with bangs and pigtails; somehow it looks remarkably well on her. Back to the room to pack up. We get tickets to Hobbiton for tomorrow–holy crap we are going to Hobbiton!

There are a lot of obvious tourists from many places. We heard many German/Austrian accents in our two weeks, probably the most common after various types of English speakers. Lots of Kiwis on holiday now so lots of that accent floating about.

NZ Travel Diary #1

NZ Travel Diary #2

NZ Travel Diary #3

NZ Travel Diary #4

*I’ve been traveling in Hawaii and New Zealand and will be posting links to the pictures soon.

**Whenever we travel my wife does a travel diary while I take most of the pictures. I use her notes as my references for later use for books and other things. She has been gracious enough to allow me to share them here on my site for those who are interested.