We’re through with Auckland (for the time being) and have moved on to Christchurch (where all the earthquakes were recently) on the South Island! I’ll try not to be too dry as I squeeze lots of action into a few paragraphs!
So – in Auckland, we had more wonderful time with the Small/Blacketts (they are so fun!). We spent our working hours scraping anti-foul/bottom paint & deck paint off an old wooden sailboat. It will be fun to see it finished! Despite Tony’s flattering persistence to convince us to stay on, we won’t get to see it in person. (Although, we’ve talked about meeting up with them for a sailing trip when we come back north. FUN! And maybe some fish next time…)
For a cultural experience, we got to go to an awards assembly at the school. Differences were the “heaps” of subjects that receive best-in-class awards – it ranges from math (they say “maths” here!?) to hospitality with a total of 20-some subjects. Also, kids are divided into different “houses” (like Harry Potter, I’m told) starting when they first enter the school. Far as I could tell, instead of one class leader/president, each “house” has one, so there are five at the school. More opportunities for leadership is neat.
For sightseeing, we went to the Auckland Museum (this is akin to the National Museum), One-Tree Hill, and a famous beach – Karekare. The museum had tons of stuff about the Maori (original inhabitants of NZ). We learned that, unlike the U.S. where native populations were decimated by disease, the journey to NZ was so long that immigrants either recovered from their illness or died, which helped keep Maori population deaths more in check than elsewhere in history. NZ is known for tons of birds (the sea bird that is colored like a bald eagle catches my eye every day), and on display were Maori ways of catching them. My favorites were a long pole with a noose at one end, and a drinking trough lined with nooses that gets placed up in trees. We also learned how flax is processed for fiber. The “Volcanoes” was our favorite Natural History display, which included an interactive experience – sit in “your” living room watching a new volcano (Auckland has 50) being born (until the ash/plume flattens your house). The audio and moving floor made it a pretty cool experience!
One-tree hill (volcano) actually has no trees at all anymore. It was the site of a Maori “pa” (defensible settlement) long ago. It’s been turned into a sight-seeing place that’s great for getting bearings – you can see much of the city, including both harbors (Auckland is one of the only cities in the world that boats two separate harbors – no wonder it’s the “city of sails!”).
On our last days we went to the famous black sand beach – Karekare (ked-ee-ked-ee). We felt like we were on the set of LOST in Hawaii. We hiked up into the jungle, then out over a swamp and up the famous black sand dunes. It’s mind-blowing – the black sand is full of reflective minerals (silica?) and so it’s like looking at a brilliant night sky in the middle of the day! The paths leading up back to the parking lot (they say “car park”) felt like they were straight out of a storybook. So cool!
On Sunday, we went to a sculpture exhibition with the whole family in a military-fort-turned park. We loved the diversity and the interactive sculptures. Afterwards we had a picnic. Pat and I made quesadillas with tortillas from scratch! (Since they don’t have Mexico nearby, tortillas are hard to come by.) Our flight the next day to Christchurch was uneventful. Domestic flights don’t have the ridiculous security run-around that international flights do. We didn’t have to take off our shoes or jackets, we didn’t have to separate out our liquids – it was great!
Now we’re on a car-finding adventure here in Christchurch while wwoofing with Yolanda. Funny thing, Yolanda is out of town on business, so her friend Annie is actually at the house in her place. Mostly we’ve just given her yard (another urban wwoof placement) a major overhaul and pulled nearly every weed on the property. We haven’t had much luck with the car stuff so far, probably owing to the fact that we couldn’t make up our minds about what we wanted AND we didn’t have a phone to contact any of the numbers in the ads. (Cell service is monopolized here and is horribly expensive – 21c a minute at the lowest, 44-89c usually. Texts are from 4-9c each!) Our hosts weren’t offering to help with phoning, so we bought a phone and SIM card. You, too, can call us! 022-011-seven193. NZ country code is 64.
We’ve gotten to see a bit of Christchurch as we bike from hostel to hostel checking out the message boards. The earthquake damage is nil in some parts, and shocking in others – sort of like tornado aftermath. We’re off to look at some more vehicles. Wish us luck!