UK Sarah and I continued our road trip to Pahia and checked into the Pearl of the Bay motel. We spent the first night noshing on a picnic dinner we assembled at the Farmers Market and catching up on our reading and email. The next day we drove straight to Waitangi, which is adjacent to Pahia.
The Waitangi Treaty Grounds charge an admission to non-Kiwis. When we were there in January the new museum was just days from opening. The gift shop was still small, although there is a lovely cafe with outdoor dining between the main entrance and the waka or war canoe.
Hobson Beach shelters the iwi Ngāpuhi’s ceremonial war canoe, the world’s largest. The war canoe inspires some silly pictures by tourists.
As the website says: Te Whare Rūnanga (the House of Assembly) is a carved meeting house in traditional form but is a unique expression of its purpose. It stands facing the Treaty House, the two buildings together symbolising the partnership agreed between Māori and the British Crown, on which today’s Aotearoa New Zealand is founded.
We spent a couple of happy hours walking the grounds on the mostly paved trails or elevated boardwalks, reading the exhibits and walking through the Treaty House and carved meeting house. There was a bus of tourists yucking it up at the waka, but we were able to easily walk ahead of them and enjoy the grounds in relative peace.
The Treaty Grounds was readying for the annual ceremony celebrating the historic occasion on Waitangi Day–a national holiday. This particular ceremony is always marked by loud and angry protests from various Maori people. Free speech is alive and well in New Zealand. This year was also going to include the museum dedication.
We arrived in Auckland very early one morning. Our Air New Zealand flight arrived ahead of schedule and customs are a breeze in Auckland International. We rented our car from A2B, drove to St Heliers, ate breakfast at Kahve, freshened up at a friends and then drove to Auckland’s central business district (CBD).
We dropped our car with the valet at Britomart (between the shopping center and transit center), and walked around Britomart and into Milse for exquisite dessert.
Afterward we walked up Queen Street and High Street stopping at shops along the way–always Unity bookstore. Then over to Sky Tower. We paused to watch some brave/crazy souls ride a slingshot kind of bungee (except Sarah who could not bear it). Then we walked round to the Auckland Art Gallery and stopped for a cup of tea at the cafe. After seeing the Goldie Maori portraits and then back toward the Quay.
Our day was fun, relaxing and a great way to ease into a new time zone. One of the great things about visiting New Zealand at the end of November is the long days of light.
I love, love, love the World of Wearable Art. It is a show, an inspiration, a collection of amazing “garments” and more. A year ago I traveled with my friend UK Sarah to see the show in Wellington. On this visit to Auckland I was able to share the amazing craft that is WOW with my adult children at the Auckland War Memorial and Museum’s exhibit.
You can take any one of the amazing dresses or bras or other creations and marvel at the design, construction and whimsey for a long time. This exhibit allows you to linger as long as you want AND to get up close and personal (without touching).
Or you can create your own WOW inspired paper doll and add it to the wall in the exhibit.
The Auckland Museum is located in the Domain near Parnell in Auckland. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $25 per adult and $10 per child. The WOW exhibit is included with admission. Also worth checking out: the Maori Experience (musical performances), the cafe, and the gift shop for quality gifts made in New Zealand.
When the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team descending on Chitown for a test match with the USA Eagles a large number of Kiwis living abroad in the USA and Canada gathered. Walking around the Chicago Loop, an adventurer could hear many men and women speaking with the softer, prettier antipodean accent.
This was a historic occasion as the All Blacks had not played in the USA since 1980. It became an opportunity for All Blacks sponsor AIG to introduce Americans to some traditions in rugby and New Zealand culture. The most obvious is the haka. This is the war cry and dance that the Maori developed to intimidate their opponents. In modern New Zealand it is a living part of the culture. My favorite haka performance is the one my son and his fellow People to People travellers did for us in the Sacramento Airport upon returning from New Zealand in 2003. AIG’s #DoTheHaka video shows you how to perform Ka Mate.
The All Blacks first performed the haka as part of the pre-match rituals in 1905. While other teams do a haka before the match (youth teams, Polynesian teams) it is most strongly identified with the All Blacks. Read here for a history of Ka Mate on the All Blacks website.
Why does the haka strike fear into opponents? Could it be the sheer size of the All Blacks players? Other teams are also made up of big guys. More likely it is the intensity of the performance and the impact of the entire team doing it in unison. This is a group of guys who are bonded and demonstrating how they are going to play as a unit on the field. I am thinking that if you are the USA Eagles on November 1 at 2:50 p.m. you are thinking “Oh crap. I am in for it now.”
The Field Museum, Chicago’s natural history museum, put together a special exhibit to celebrate the haka and New Zealand culture. The Field Museum is right next to Soldier Field so I swung in there and used my rugby ticket for a discount. ($13 admission) The ticket sales person pointed upstairs and said it was by the Marai. I trooped off and spent a while wondering through the labyrinth of the Pacific exhibit until I found the Maori meeting house.
The first time I visited the Field Museum I found their aged exhibits charming and retro. On this visit, especially with a new exhibit done in much the same style, I found it underwhelming. Wondering why they did not reach out to Auckland Museum for assistance. In fact, in my mind I was comparing this exhibit to one the Auckland Museum might do and finding the whole presentation lacking in spirit and content.
The haka in modern culture is a fun, living thing that includes flash mob hakas, school hakas, and so much more. The best way to appreciate the haka is to see it live. I dare you not to get chills.
The next best thing is to see the All Blacks haka from the game on November 1.
In my pre-trip planning I experienced some frustrations in trying to line up penguin experiences. The Otago Peninsula in
Dunedin is one of the few places in New Zealand guide books where penguin experiences are specifically called out, so I was a bit mystified that it was such a challenge to arrange. I was not able to arrange a yellow-eyed penguin tour so I signed up for Blue Penguins Pukekura at the Royal Albatross Centre.
The drive on the Otago Peninsula Low Road was an adventure. Even though I had a firm grip on the wheel part of me had to smile at the “at your own risk” road. Not a great place to be in a storm unless you have a life jacket in the car. Also, stay sober! Driving all the way to the end to the Royal Albatross Centre is worth it. The Centre is interesting and I recommend arriving an hour before sunset so you can watch the albatross arrive to their roosting area for the night. (There is also a cafe to grab a bite to eat or hot drink).
This particular evening the blue penguin viewing started at 6:30 p.m. Thumbs up for the jackets provided as an extra barrier against the cold and for the Maori welcome. The stairs are also well lit to the platform at the bottom of a gentle beach along the harbor. Unfortunately, this is not a wheelchair accessible experience.
The sandy beach was easily visible from the viewing platform and we only had to wait a short while before the first raft of penguins arrived. Because of the gentle approach, the penguins could assemble in the bay and arrived on shore together. About 100 yards off shore we could see their dark shape and the thrashing water signal their approach. Nothing however prepared me for their burst on to shore and sprint to the grassy area about 15 yards beyond the surf. It was so charming and funny. They are adorable. Again flash photography is prohibited.
Everyone was in a super good mood by the time we started the steep climb up the hill. We handed our jackets over and began the “fun” drive back the coast road. It was actually not as worrisome as I expected.
The next day I serendipitously discovered the office of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust on Lower Stuart Street. They are celebrating their 25th anniversary of restoring habitat, funding research, and promoting penguin appreciation and education. I have seen other communities celebrate an individual (Rio Vista humpback whale Humphrey, Dingle dolphin, and of course the Loch Ness monster!), yet I found it sweet how Dunedin and the Otago region embraced their special stewardship of the yellow-eyed penguin.