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New Zealand Trip Report

Day 4 of 24

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Monday, March 4th
Auckland Museum

After all the driving the previous day, we weren't in the mood to do more driving today, so we decided to stay in the city. We made the short drive over to the Auckland Museum in the Auckland Domain park. The park has jogging trails, lots of grass and trees and looks like a nice place to take a stroll. The museum is an imposing building set on top of a hill, with great views of Auckland harbor.

There are lots of ways to spend your time at the Auckland Museum. First off, there are displays showing Maori weapons and art, along with general Polynesian artifacts, as well. The centerpiece is a large room with Maori houses and a gigantic canoe, about 25 meters long (sits 100 warriors). We were browsing this area at the same time several groups of school children were drawing different artifacts. A large group of boys sat on the steps, looking at the largest Maori house, drawing it best they could. Meanwhile, a large group of girls sat around the canoe, drawing.

Wood carvings

School girls drawing the Maori canoe

I was told at the front desk that photography was fine throughout the museum, except in the separate body art exhibit (more on that later). So I took my camera around, taking pictures. I started taking pictures of one of the Maori houses with my tripod before being scolded and whisked away to the front desk. There, they told me I needed permission if I wanted to use a tripod! Apparently, their theory is that only professionals use tripods, and they don't want pictures of the museum being published without them getting their cut of the action. I was a bit miffed, since I'd explicitly asked if photography was okay and they didn't mention anything about tripods. But I packed mine away and did the best I could hand-holding my camera the rest of the day. I wonder what they would have thought about my "amateur" status if they saw me switching camera bodies so I could shoot with 400 speed film instead of 50.

Maori house

Carving in a Maori house

At noon, a horn sounded signaling the start of a Maori performance. There are Maori performances regularly throughout the day during summer (you should check for the times). We had signed up when we entered the museum. Along with about 50 or 60 other visitors, we were ushered into a closed room where 4 women and 3 men presented a Maori performance. Their performance was similar to the one we'd seen in Rotorua, but there were a few differences. It was definitely more light-hearted. The room was smaller than in Rotorua, leading to better acoustics. The singing was great, and we asked one of the performers afterwards if they had any CD's for sale. They didn't yet, but thought we could find something comparable in the museum gift shop.

Maori performance

After lunch in the cafe, we entered the Body Art exhibit. The first section had images you've probably seen before -- Demi Moore and Heidi Klum with their bodies painted over. In the back were displays on Maori face painting. In another room there were displays on tattoos, body piercings (ouch!), and even scarification. I'd never heard of scarification before; apparently, some cultures intentionally scar themselves to achieve some form of permanent artwork on their skin.

Body Art exhibit banner outside the museum

We briefly passed through a section of the museum on musical instruments. We never did leave the first floor. Apparently the higher floors contain exhibits on New Zealand's participation in world wars. But it was getting late so we decided to head out. We arrived at our car just in time to see an officer writing us a parking ticket. We hadn't seen it, but there was a blue sign stating "P 180". Which means (not that there was any other writing explaining it) that you can't park for more than 3 hours (180 minutes). We had been parked for about 3 hours and 20 minutes. So he wrote us a ticket for $12 NZD.

We drove back to the hotel in heavy afternoon traffic. We left the car at the hotel and walked over to the cartoon show at the Auckland Art Gallery. As an added bonus, we discovered that Mondays at the art gallery are free! We walked through the gallery, looking at various cartoons, reading about their popularity in New Zealand versus America.

After the cartoon show we walked down to High Street for some shopping and web surfing. It started raining on the way back to the hotel, but it was kind of a pleasant rain after the heat and humidity. At night we drove to Sawadee Thai Restaurant for dinner. The bell boy at the hotel had recommended it. We were not disappointed. It's in the Ponsonby neighborhood (lots of trendy shops and restaurants). While it was very crowded (even on a Monday night), the service was extremely fast. We had shrimp, duck curry, and pineapple beef. Unfortunately they didn't have Thai iced tea on the menu (perhaps this is an American Thai item?). After dinner we drove on Ponsonby Road and turned onto College Hill Road to return to the city center. College Hill Road gives a great view of the Auckland Sky Tower; if I had to take a picture of the tower, this is probably one of the spots I'd choose. Unfortunately I wasn't in the mood to drive back with my camera and tripod, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

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