Saturday, January 1, 2011

Maori Haka dance and New Year's Eve videos

A portion of the Maori haka (war dance)

Under the Sky Tower on New Year's Eve in Auckland

Bay of Islands/Kerikeri

Just awoke to a songbird symphony here in New Zealand’s subtropical “far north.” Yesterday we drove up from Auckland. To be more exact, Philip drove while I stared out the window at the passing forests and grassy hills dotted with sheep. Driving on the left-hand side of the road took a bit of an adjustment—the first traffic circle was a stress-filled challenge—but Philip soon got the hang of things, and by the end of our three-hour trip we were even passing other cars. Our favorite signs along the way? “Last Cheese for Miles” and “Shepherds’ Lifestyle Services.”

We arrived at the beautiful and touristy Bay of Islands around 1:00, ate lunch and bought over-priced sun block in the beach town of Paihia, then headed to our B&B in Kerikeri. We love this place, partly because of the great accommodations (the high-pressure shower spoiled us), but mainly because our hosts, Ken and Max, have been so helpful and friendly. When we asked for advice on where to go for a swim, Ken drew a detailed map showing every turn in the road on the way to one of his favorite beaches. Thanks to his map, we went to Te Ngaere Bay and enjoyed a New Year’s dip in the Pacific. Then it was back to the B&B, where we shared a beer with Ken, Max, and a couple of their friends before going to an excellent local restaurant, “The Pear Tree” (just in case you happen to find yourself in Kerikeri). Philip had steak, I had lamb, and we both drank what the waiter called a “boutiquey” beer. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Now I’m waiting for Philip to get out of bed so we can go to the nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where, in 1840, Maori representatives signed a treaty with the British Crown that established New Zealand as a nation but, due to the fact that the language of the Maori version differs significantly from the English one, has been the subject of heated debate ever since. The historian in me can’t wait to go . . .


Friday, December 31, 2010

Last day of 2010

View from Devonport looking back at Auckland

Just when you think New Zealand is a lot like home, you do something like order a chicken salad sandwich and get a couple slices of chicken accompanied by jam, a slice of hard-boiled egg, and a fistful of salad between two slices of bread. Or then you witness a dramatic Maori haka; or, best of all, stroll through a park in 75-degree sunshine with a refreshing breeze blowing in from the harbor and realize, "hey, it's December 31st!"

Today we spent the morning at the Auckland museum (where we saw the Maori performance) and in the afternoon took a ferry to Devonport, a town across the harbor from Auckland. There we walked to the top of a volcano and took far too many pictures of cute Victorian cottages. Now we’re back at our hotel, trying to stay awake so we can see the midnight fire works display at Sky Tower. Here’s to a happy new year! 


Day 2 in Auckland

Today was another beautiful day in Auckland. Spent the day walking around the city and visiting the Auckland museum. Saw a Maori performance that was incredible! I have a video, but because wifi is so hard to come by here, I'll have to post it tomorrow. Second half of the day we took a ferry over to Devonport and took a long walk around Mt. Victoria. Lots of great Victorian architecture . . . finished off our time there with a pint at The Patriot. Right now it's about an hour until midnight and the New Year . . . gonna go out with the city and watch the fireworks they launch from Skytower.

Pics and video to follow! Happy New Year!!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our first day in New Zealand

Reindeer tramples palm trees in Auckland

We’re now in our hotel in Auckland, struggling to stay awake just a few more hours before going to bed. Flying from Portland to LA, LA to Fiji, and Fiji to New Zealand makes for one loooooooong trip. Fortunately we were blessed by the air travel gods: we got the aisle and window seats with no one sitting in between.  

One of the first things we noticed upon arriving at our hotel is that the light switches work in reverse here: down is on and up is off. Appropriate given that we’re in the southern hemisphere, right? After settling into our room we grabbed lunch at a downtown mall with lots of great little Asian restaurants, wandered down the main shopping street to the harbor, gawked at the cruise ships, and made our way back to the hotel. Must stay awake a bit longer . . .