Auckland, New Zealand
When we woke up on February 2 the Amsterdam was already docked in Auckland. Founded in 1840, Auckland was the capital of New Zealand in the middle of the 19th century. It is located about half way down the north island & is the only city in the world built on a dormant (not extinct) field of volcanoes, the last eruption of one of its 50 volcanoes having occurred just 600 years ago (presumably to the dismay of the Maori living there at the time). With a total population around 1 million, Auckland has the largest Polynesian population of any city in the world (somewhere around 100,000).
After breakfast we left the dock to walk through town to the War Memorial Museum. Next to our dock is the 1912 Ferry Building, which is still the terminal for ferries to other parts of the region.
It was a pretty long walk and, as seems so normal in New Zealand, mostly uphill. We walked through two parks: the Domain & Albert Park. Albert Park had a floral clock & we walked past a lot of apparently old trees with wandering boughs. We also walked past the University of Auckland, which had a striking clock tower on its Old Arts Building, built In 1926.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum was built in 1929 to commemorate the ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers from New Zealand who died in World War I. In front is a “cenotaph,” based on the tomb of the unknown soldier in London. On the front steps we met another couple, one of whom was wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey. He is from Martins Ferry and she is from Yellow Springs, Ohio, quite near where Rick grew up. They are teachers living in China. Since Rick was wearing a Reds hat, it was hard to miss the affinity so we talked for a few minutes & they took a picture. The Museum is on a hill with a nice view of the water.
This is really a world class museum. It has 3 floors: Maori & Pacific Islands artifacts on the 1st floor, natural history on the 2d & military on the 3d. We spent several hours there and couldn’t finish the first floor. There were a lot of Maori artifacts, mostly intricate carvings; we can show some of them to you but can’t really explain them. The piercing blue/green eyes are made of paua shell.
In the center of the gallery is a pataka, used as a storehouse. It was originally built in the 1870’s & the figures represent ancestors of the chief. It is quite beautifully preserved and an impressive piece of work, covered in carved panels all the way around.
To one side is the much bigger Hotunui, a meeting house similar to the one we saw in Waitangi but much older. This one was built in 1878. We were told that not many of these buildings have survived that long because they were often destroyed by war or fire. When it was acquired by the museum in 1925 they painted it all red (like the one in Waitangi) & repainted it in the 1950’s. For the last 30 years they have been working on restoring the building to its original appearance, removing all the red paint they can & repairing the woven tukutuku mats that line the interior between the vertical carved panels. As you can see below, this work continues, but the lead worker on the project told us it is expected to be finished in a few months. When asked he acknowledged that they are now putting some thought into the celebration they will have & said he was pretty sure it would involve alcohol. You are required to remove your shoes before entering as a sign of respect (and yes, the shoes were still there when we came back out).
The third oversized artifact is Te Toki a Tapiri, a war canoe some 25 yards long that held 100 warriors. Built in 1836, it is the oldest waka in existence.
Finally, there was a collection of paintings of Maori chiefs, all looking pretty fierce in their facial tattoos. Here are a couple of them.
Time was beginning to run a little short so we left the museum, having been unable even to finish the first floor. We will have to come back here next time! Walking back toward downtown we found the public library. It is a nice library & its collection includes books translated into Maori as well as those in English. The Maori term for “library” is the same word they use for “storehouse.”
The last item on our agenda for today is the Auckland Sky Tower. Finished in 1997, this is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere at more than 1,000 feet. It is possible to see 50 miles from its observation level. This being New Zealand, it is also possible to bungee jump from near the top (you are probably not surprised to hear that we didn’t). The elevator to the top is very fast & has glass walls and a partially glass floor. One poor guy on our elevator firmly fixed his head facing into a corner he was so terrified. You can see this tower looming over other buildings all over town.
The view from the observation deck is pretty spectacular, from islands across the harbor to hills (volcanoes) in the other direction. We could look directly down on the tops of pretty tall buildings, and also on the bungee target platform.
So we sailed away from Auckland in late afternoon & got to see the view we missed by sleeping through the sail-in. We passed a sailboat with a guy leaning about as far out as possible to keep it balanced. It was a strenuous day on our feet, so thankfully there would be a sea day before our next port.