Friday, March 21, 2008

Auckland and Waitangi Treaty House

Above: Racing sailboat in Auckland harbor, Hokianga Harbor, Waka canoe at Waitangi
We made it to Auckland just fine, after an all day drive across the north island to the lovely and sacred (Maori) harbour of Hokianga on the west coast. There are more big picturesque dunes there and very small settlements. It's amazing when you find beautiful peaceful places like that which are totally undeveloped. We also drove through the forest of huge Kauri trees, similar to our redwoods. "Tane Mahuta", the biggest remaining tree was just a short walk off the highway.

The Kauri Museum, totally off the beaten path, was fascinating and enormous with a complete history of the thousand year old trees and the timber industry back in the 1930's and 40's. Now, there are very few left, but the museum has an extensive collection of furniture, wooden boats, rooms of panelling, bowls, etc. that have all been made from the Kauri wood as well as antique saw mills, chain saws, and other tools (Matt would love it). As we were traveling on Good Friday, there was so much traffic coming out of Auckland, the roads were jammed. We decided to head straight back and turn the car in early. Unfortunately, the car had other ideas, and with the check engine light on, we limped up all the hills driving the last 60 miles. It was an ordeal. Of course, finding the rental car agency in an unfamiliar BIG city was also a challenge. We were both getting pretty flustered, (that's putting it nicely) when we drove around the block, again, and there sat the Budget office. We were two minutes early, just before they closed. Whew.

Back to Waitangi two days ago. The tour of the grounds and the treaty house was lovely and informative. The Whare (pronounced "fah-ray") is a meeting house, and this one was built with authentic tools in the traditional manner in the late 1930's to comemorate the centenary of the signing of the treaty between the English and the Maori in 1840. We also saw the 33 meter waka, built the at the same time. It is taken out in the harbor every year on February 6, the anniversary of the signing) and paddled by 80 Maori men. Can you imagine a canoe big enough to hold 80 people? They say it weighs 12 tons when in the water.

The cultural show that night was wonderful, with all young beautiful performers doing the traditional songs and dances. I've never seen anything like it. It was exceptionally well-done, costumed, and lit - all in the meeting house with the carved statues of the 14 tribal ancestors looking on.

We walked all around downtown Auckland today, went to two markets, ate in the Viaduct Harbor overlooking racing sailboats and took the ferry to Devonport. Now, there is a lovely charming village with art deco buildings, cafes and art galleries. What a place to live! Lots of people were going across with children and bicycles because of the holiday weekend and perfect weather. There were hundreds of sailboats in the harbor. Wish you could all be here.

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