We left Vancouver airport around 7pm Friday November 27, and after a 14 hour flight arrived in Auckland in time to see the sun rise Sunday morning. Auckland is actually only three hours behind Pacific Standard time, but it's the next day as a result of crossing the International date line. It was a lovely spring day around 20 degrees Celsius, a good 25 degrees warmer than home. This is my first time in the Southern Hemisphere.
Auckland is very hilly with a couple of lovely parks in gullies but also a motorway in another. There are many very tall trees, well established deciduous and conifers, and the air is fresh with a lovely breeze off the harbour. We strolled along the waterfront and watched an enormous cruise ship coming into the dock. We were shooed away from the disembarking area very nicely by a security guard but he took the time to ask us where we were from, and became very excited when we told him...he has brothers and their families living in Surrey. They're all originally from Fiji.
We have noticed how diverse the people on the street are, ranging from pale skinned red heads to Asians and very black curly haired folk. The restaurants and cafes also reflect the ethnic diversity. Not too far from our hotel (the Kiwi International http://www.kiwihotel.co.nz/) is a large Asian supermarket fronted by a food court reminiscent of a "Hawker" centre in Singapore. That's where we had dinner Sunday night--we shared a plate of Szechuan eggplant sautéed with sweet and hot chillis and rice, and went back again Monday night to have Malaysian nasi goreng and a Thai curry. Sunday lunch was falafel kebabs at a Turkish cafe across the street.
Monday saw us walk to the museum, officially the Auckland War Memorial Museum (http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/) This is a magnificent neoclassical building on a height of land in the Domain, a huge park overlooking the harbour. With exhibits over three floors, we only got to the main floor of Maori and Polynesian artifacts and briefly to some of the natural history on the 1st floor. The second floor is given over to the NZ experience in war. Most fascinating for me was learning how the Polynesian island cultures have survived and thrived on limited resources. Fibre for example...spinning human hair to make fishing line and jewelry. The magnificent Maori carvings were made with stone and shell tools. I expect we'll be seeing more of this as we make our way around the North Island over the next three weeks by car. New Zealand has been settled by humans only recently...about 800 years ago the Maori arrived, and European settlers about 200 years.
Next up was a visit to Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium (https://www.kellytarltons.co.nz/explore/) This was our list because of its climate-controlled penguin exhibit and I was wondering if it would be cheesy, but was pleasantly surprised! Everything was fabulous, from a recreation of Scott's Antarctic hut to the underwater viewing tunnels of sharks!
And the penguins were fun too!