I arrived in Auckland about 3:00 pm. I got myself a hotel room downtown where I could park the car, and get internet access, to catch up with the world. I went out on foot, in the evening to get my bearings and some food. In the morning it was overcast and rainy, so I thought I would go to the Auckland Museum. I thought I would take in the Maori Cultural Performance. I didn't make it to Rotorua, where you can participate in a traditional feast and see the long houses, so I thought even if it were contrived, in a museum, it would be a chance to learn and see something I wouldn't elsewhere. So, I walked over to the Domain, a large park where the museum is found. I had an umbrella, so I was okay. If I learned anything living in Victoria, BC, it is to carry an umbrella. Though, the rain and the gloom wasn't ideal for shooting photographs.
Auckland is built on some 50 odd extinct volcanoes - and is not far from possibly active ones. It is very hilly. You can recognize it because the buildings all have the awnings I saw throughout New Zealand, and are on a steep grade. You are perpetually walking up and down. It is ringed by inner-city suburbs. Technically only the downtown core of skycrappers is Auckland proper, but the city effectively spawls as far as is possible on an isthmus, and houses a quarter of the country's population (about 1.2 million).
At the museum, I paid for the tour, which I could have skipped, but also the Maori performance. The museum contains exhibition halls for Polynesian culture with beautiful wood carvings, natural history, volcanoes (of course) and a war museum. After going through all of these quickly with a tour, I saw the performance, which was actually quite good. They were excellent singers. It was song and dance, and demonstrations of traditional games with poi (balls on strings) and various types of sticks, with banter and information. It ended with the Haka, a postural dance traditionally used before entering battle to intimidate one's enemies. It involves chanting, slapping limbs, stamping feet, stiking out tongues and bulging eyes. A version of the Haka has been co-opted by the national rugby team, the All Blacks. So, while not entirely authentic, it has entered the culture as a whole, regardless of heritage - and I have to say it's quite effective. There were images of New Zealand troops performing the Haka during WWII and the Vietnam war in the war museum upstairs. I bet it even serves its purpose on the rugby field. Variations on the Haka had more peaceful uses.
I left the museum and checked out the Wintergarden in the Domain before continuing along the funky Karangahape Road, known universally as K' Road. It was a pretty ethnically diverse neighbourhood with also sorts of different shops, cafés and bars, and it lead to Ponsonby, one of the inner-city suburbs. I quite liked Ponsonby. There was great fashion, interesting shopping, a few little galleries, and lots of restaurants.
The Cookie Time monster was everywhere.
New Zealand is proud of their traditional anti-nuclear stance. Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand, the land of the low-lying cloud. Aotearoa is supposed to be the greatest creation of the god Maui. The North Island is a fish, with Wellington harbour as its mouth, and the South Island Maui's canoe.