The Gentleman of Leisure and the Broad of Kitsch do New Zealand (continued)
October 4-17, 2000
Day 7 - Six Months in a Leaky Boat
We drove south to Wellington,
the capital and second largest city in New Zealand. From here we could
take a ferry to the South Island, but we decided we didn't have enough
time to do the South Island justice. We would have to save the fjords
and mountains for another trip. We checked into the YHA and drove to a
lookout which provided panoramic views of Wellington. The city is quite
beautiful as it is set on a harbor and built on cliffs. It also seemed
to offer more culture than Auckland and we really dug the alternative
Cuba St. neighborhood which has a lot of cafes, record stores, and thrift
shops. We caught a play called Flipside, which is based on a true story
about 4 men who were shipwrecked and spent 5 months floating. This was
a really harrowing play and well-done, although the Gentleman of Leisure
found fault with a Kiwi who attempted an American accent. We had dinner
on Cuba St. in a Turkish place, again forcing them to stay open only for
us, although it was just 9:00 PM.. New Zealand goes to bed early.
Day 8 - We are Super Tourists
This was a whirlwind day of tourism. We started out at Te Papa, the new national museum of New Zealand. This is one of the best museums I've ever visited. It covers a lot and does it with a lot of style and many interactive exhibits. It also presents a balanced Maori and European history, unlike some of the other more Eurocentric museums we visited. We spent most of the day there and then went to Katherine Mansfield's birthplace, where we again kept a place that was about to close open just for us. We hadn't read any of Mansfield's stories but were intrigued to read her quotes and learn about her bisexuality and friendship with Virginia Woolf. Mansfield hated New Zealand, yet New Zealand honors her. She died very young and was working on a book about New Zealand when she died. We finally got kicked out by the librarian-like docent as we were watching the video. We rushed to parliament and were able to catch a session in progress. The woman at the front desk informed us that they were discussing superannuation (social security and pensions) and we sat there for about an hour and never heard the subject mentioned once. There was a lot of yelling and bickering and it was altogether very entertaining. That night we decided to start heading back north and made it to Taupo where we crashed at the hostel for the night. It would have been nice to spend some more time in Wellington absorbing the history and culture, but had places to go, Big Kiwis to see.
Parliament - "The Beehive"
route to the Coromandel peninsula, we stopped at the fantastic Big
Kiwi. We climbed the stairs to the top of the Big Kiwi and admired
the view of the kiwi plantation. We did not bother with the tour and regrettably
never made it to a Kiwi House to see the national flightless bird. The
Coromandel peninsula is a less touristy, very picturesque area that's
only 2 hours from Auckland. The highway affords terrific views of the
rugged coastlines and rocky beaches. We stopped in Hahia, intent on visiting
Hot Water Beach (pictured), an unusual thermal area where you can dig
your own spa pool. Unfortunately, you can only do this at low tide which
wouldn't be til 1:00 AM. We also discovered that we couldn't do the hike
to Cathedral Cove for the same reason--its only passable at low tide.
The visit to Hahia was salvaged by our decision to splurge and stay in
a bed and breakfast called The Church which features an old church converted
into a restaurant and rustic cabins set around a lovely garden. We had
dinner in town that night at another restaurant that we forced to stay
open just for us. We were starting to feel pretty guilty about this pattern.
New Zealand needs Denny's.
We continued our drive around the Coromandel and stopped
at the Driving Creek Railway.
This railway was built by a sculptor named Barry Brickell. Barry found
large deposits of clay high on a hillside. He wanted the clay but needed
a way to transport it. So he did the logical thing--built his own railroad.
Barry operates a small art colony and supplements his income by running
tourists up on the railway to a lookout point. He has plans to expand
the railway for the tourists and has built 3 tunnels. Most impressive!
After the railroad, we visited a water garden which must have been run
by New Agers as there were plaques with pithy sayings about meditation
and chanting all over the place. On the drive back to Auckland, we passed
the Big Bottle in the town of Paeroa. The big bottle commemorates the
L&P (Lemon and Paeroa) soft drink, a very tasty New Zealand beverage
that originated in the town. Back in Auckland, we stayed at a hostel in
the red light district downtown. This was Friday night and as we tried
to drive out of the area to get to a restaurant on the outskirts, we got
stuck in a massive traffic jam. Slowly it dawned on us that teens were
cruising around downtown Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand, as
it were a small town in Kansas. Kids stopped and talked to kids in other
cars and kids loitered on the sidewalks shouting at the cars and we were
trapped. Police were absent from the whole scene. Bizarre.
Day 11 - Bon Voyage, Gent
We visited the Skytower for the views and then it was time
for the Gent to catch the Concorde back to Gotham. I had a few days left
of my holiday so I continued north to the Bay of Islands. I stayed in
the town of Paihia, a small resort town that caters to tourists with attractions
like jet boat rides and tours to Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of
Day 12 - From Big Kiwi to Big Trees
I drove around the Bay of Islands and saw some amazing beaches and coastal scenery. One small town had a monument to Opu the dolphin who came to the town and became so tame he would frolic near the shore with swimmers, until he was accidently blown to bits by dynamite fishermen. Why Disney hasn't chosen to animate this story, I don't know. I toured the magnificent Waipoura forest noted for having the largest Kauri trees in New Zealand. Several of the behemoths are thought to be nearly 2000 years old.
Day 13 - There's a Hole in the Rock, Dear Liza
There were so many tours to choose from. I decided I wanted to sleep in and relax, so I didn't do the all-day Cape Reinga tour. I'd seen enough beaches on the trip already and it wasn't beach weather. I decided to go for the "soft adventure" and took a jet boat ride around the Bay of Island and through the Hole in the Rock. I thought the jet boat would rocket through the hole but it just idled through it. Still, it was an exhilarating ride and our salty captain told us anecdotes about the various islands. One island was only inhabited by 2 lighthouse keepers and their families. They ended up having 16 kids between them because there wasn't much else to do on the island.
After the boat ride, I visited the Waitanga treaty house where the treaty was signed between the Europeans settlers and the Maoris. The treaty house museum portrayed this as the most wonderful event and gave no indication that the Maoris were duped into signing it, nor did it reveal that the Maori translation of the treaty had different phrases in it than the original and glossed over such items as "sign here and you'll give all your land to whitey." Maori war canoes were parked on the beach, one featuring this carving of a maori warrior who was, um, standing at attention.
I drove back to Auckland, getting lost when I tried to take a detour and find the beach where they filmed The Piano. Eventually I found the beach (pictured) just as the sun was setting and it was quite spectacular. I was alone there and kept expecting a naked Havery Kietel to pop out of the bushes. I then drove back to Auckland and spent the night in a hotel near the airport. I flew out the next day. New Zealand is a beautiful country and the kiwis are very friendly and I hope I get to go back soon and tour the South Island. Kia Ora!
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