We arrived in Auckland on the morning of February 2. Auckland is by far the largest city in New Zealand with about 1.5 million people. We were docked in the middle of town, so you could walk right out the port gates into the city center.
The Auckland area was originally settled by the Maori about 700 years ago. They are Polynesians & came here from such islands as Rarotonga & Samoa. By the time the English came the Maori occupied pretty much all of New Zealand, which they called Aotearoa (land of the white cloud). They had a vibrant culture, which in recent years has been embraced & supported by the state, so that (for example) public signs are usually in both Maori & English & the libraries have books in English and Maori.
On our way to New Zealand there was a Maori cultural group on board Amsterdam, giving classes in language and dance and arts & crafts. They also put on a show of Maori song & dance.
Maori often have elaborate tattoos & many of their dances are aggressive, with much foot stomping & cries. Well known is the Haka, a Maori war dance that is performed before every game by their world champion rugby team, the All Blacks. It is characterized by bulging eyes and protruding tongues, which are supposed to be intimidating to the opposition, & I guess they are.
The last time we were here we walked to the War Museum, the library & the tower. You can see all that here:
This time we decided to ride the Hop On Hop Off bus around the city. So after breakfast we set out to find the bus terminal. But during breakfast we noticed right next to the ship a large crane, the top of which we couldn’t see from our table. This turned out to be a pop-up restaurant with a table & diners suspended in the sky from the crane. Its hard to believe the food was worth the $900 per person cost we heard, so it must be the thrill of eating suspended in the air with you chair over the edge. New Zealanders are known for this kind of thrill-seeking, but I don’t think it would be for us, even at a much lower price.
We found the HOHO bus just down the block from the old Ferry Building, built in 1912, right next to our ship. The bus took us across town & out to some islands. Auckland is built on 48 extinct (we hope!) volcanoes. The large island hill in the distance, Rangitoto Island, is the youngest one, having emerged from the ocean about 600 years ago. Must have been pretty scary for the Maori living in the area.
Coming back into town we drove past the Catholic Holy Trinity Cathedral & St. Mary’s Anglican Church, one of the largest wood churches in the world.
We exited the bus at the War Memorial Museum, a wonderful museum in which we spent hours last time. It was built in 1929 to commemorate the end of World War I & is now undergoing some renovation.
But this time we only stopped for a short time to transfer to the other HOHO bus line. This took us to near the top of Mount Eden, the highest spot in the city. Mt Eden is an extinct volcano and, along with One Tree Hill (now topped by an obelisk rather than a tree), offers the best panoramic views of the city outside of the Auckland Tower. We climbed to the top & the wind was so strong it felt like we would be blown away. It made picture taking very difficult.
From Mt Eden we had a nice view of the War Memorial Museum. There was a stately Norfolk Pine in the distance. We also saw an interesting black bird with an orange beak and some bushes with what appeared to be glowing thistles at first but upon closer inspection looked like a strange kind of flower.
We left the bus in the neighborhood of Parnell, with a lot of restaurants & boutique stores. We had a delicious pizza for lunch then started walking back to the dock. On the way we visited the Civic Theater, built in 1929 as an elaborate movie palace, complete with elephant & crocodile motifs. It even had a Bora Bodur Room, named after an ancient Indonesian Buddhist temple we visited on our last world voyage. Altogether it was interestingly over-the-top.
We walked back to the dock, detouring along the way for some shopping. But the area was in disarray from construction so we didn’t find much. We stopped in the Ferry building for gelato (our first of the trip!) then back on board. The sail away was during our dinner, so we didn’t get to see it. But there are some pictures of our 2016 sail away from Auckland in the episode linked to at the beginning of this post.