Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Aukland & Rotorua

It's funny, but I think some places need time, like wine, to grow on you. Aukland may be one such place. I may have given it a bit bum rap. The second day, the sun came out, and I went for a walk to the nearby "Domain" park, a huge swath of grass covering acres of open parklandand beautiful tropical trees, which oddly happened to be all on the top of an ancient volcano-- you could even just make out (if you knew what to look for) the caldera, or cone, right next to the Aukland museum, poised majestically near the top with a magnificentview of the city. The museum was actually quite impressive, even from a boy who's used to Smithsonian standards. It was packed with great Maori artifacts, including a huge war canoe carved out of a single tree that could hold up to 100 warriors. It also includes, on the top floor, the history of New Zealand at war, with walk-through exhibits of life in the trenches in WWI. But what I liked best was the evolutionexhibit, showcasing a giant Moa bird towering three meters (over 9 feet) tall. I mean, the leg alone was taller than I am! And thisis a BIRD! It looked like a dinosaur, for pete's sake! The shame is, it was driven to extinction by humans only a few centuries ago. If not for overhunting, it would still be around today. Can you imagine zoos with birds as tall as an elephant? Incredible.
Anyway, then I walked around other parts of the city, including right through the beautiful university section, that were quite nice.I guess you shouldn't judge a town in one day. I looked at a map of the city and realized that I had just scratched the surface of it.
Then yesterday it was raining, which was good because I spent most of it either on the computer this morning or on the bus coming to Rotoruathis evening. Rotorua isn't an exotic island, although it sounds like it should be! It's a town half-way between Aukland and Wellington, pretty much right in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand. It's an average sized town on a big lake, so it has a nice waterfront,where I walked today among hundreds of birds... there was hardly anyone else around as it was still raining. And no, I had no bread to feed them! (I wanted to, but the nearest store was blocks away.)
Anyway, I had heard about a historic old pub named the Pig & Whistle. New Zealand, founded by the British, is full of old pubs likethis. So I found it and almost right away got invited to join the table of two Englishmen, Brian and Mark, and we proceeded to have a greatconversation, good food, and several rounds of beer (I wanted to sample the local brews, and did). These guys, both about my age, were both working towards getting citizenship in New Zealand, which apparently holds enough interest to draw people from all over.We were later joined by another Brit ex-pate, a pretty young 20-year-old girl from Nottingham who was also trying to emigrate to N.Z. She wasworking two jobs and didn't know what she wanted to be in life, just that she liked to travel, having done so as a child. Sound familiar?
So that was my one night in Rotorua. Todday I leave for Wellington, which according to my two new British friends is the best town to be in here.I was supposed to meet up with Brian this morning to ride the "Zorb", the giant inflatable ball that you get inside and roll down a hill; he said he'd meet me at the hostel at 9:30-- well, exactly at that time I went downstairs to look for him; the receptionist said he had come early, anddecided that I must be sleeping in, so he left. Here's a clue, people: if you say you're gonna meet someone at a certqin time, WAIT UNTIL THAT TIME before you leave! I mean, I was a bit hung over anyway, and not feeling quite up to rolling around inside a huge bouncing ball, but it would havebeen nice to at least say goodbye to the fellow. Anyway, I'll push on to Wellington and see what it has to offer. See ya then!

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