These are the days we were supposed to be here. The weather here has been dry for several weeks; Thursday (day 1) had steady rain all day and Friday a couple of serious showers. The locals are quite happy; the tourists less so. It did change our excursion plans a bit. We opted for the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour and mainly did the inside things. Because of the rain, traffic was bad so the buses didn’t run as scheduled, which made some tourists even grumpier.
We spent our time at SeaLife, a private aquarium, and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, with a quick trip to a shopping mall to replace a lost scarf. The mall’s a mall that’s hard to distinguish from Southdale, but the other two stops deserved more than two or three hours we allotted them.
SeaLife, by its own account, has the largest exhibit of penguins outside Antarctica, with King and Gentoos that seemed as interested in us as we were in them. What you probably can’t find on Wikipedia is they manufacture four tons of snow a day to keep the penguins happy. They also had tons of sharks, puffer fish, clown fish, lion fish, and fish many of different colors. The viewing would be like scuba or snorkeling except there were more fish closer than I’ve ever encountered, but without getting wet or sunburned. Admittedly, that is like comparing a zoo to a safari.
The penguins were the highlight.
King penguins, about a meter tall, have the yellow throat and head. Gentoos are smaller with white on the back of the head.
The Auckland War Memorial Museum we almost skipped because of the name; probably would have if it hadn’t been raining. It turns out to have very little to do with wars, other than the wars the various Mãori groups had over land and food. The parts we saw were Mãori history and culture. Because it is so isolated, New Zealand has only had human residents for about 800 years, which is a remarkable contrast to Australia, which has been inhabited much longer, perhaps 100,000 years, than North America, maybe 15 to 18,000 years. Homo sapiens have only been around for maybe 50,000.
The original residents of the Land of the Long White Cloud, came from Tahiti, so the Mãori are Polynesian like Hawaii and Easter Island (I mean Rapa Nui,) with little connection to Australia. Settling in Tahiti, Hawaii, Rapa Nui, New Zealand, and points in between, this group covered a very significant portion of the globe.
How far from land would you go?
The island itself was once part of Australia, which was part of the southern hemisphere super-continent that broke about 80 million years ago. So much of the flora and fauna is related to Australian, with lots of large flightless birds. But no mammals or marsupials because they hadn’t evolved 80 million years ago. The primary predators were large flying hawk or eagle-like birds. The non-predator birds were safer on the ground and their best strategy when threatened was to stay perfectly still and blend into the background.
That didn’t work so well when large predators in the form of humans arrived on the scene. The humans found motionless non-flying birds remarkably easy pickings and several species were extinct within a couple hundred years. Until then, there was plenty of food to go around and all the Mãori clans co-existed quite nicely. When the food supply dried up, the culture changed to warriors. They moved from the low lands by the beaches to the tops and sides of volcanoes, which were easier to defend. Then a few hundred years later, the Europeans found them and things got ugly.
I haven’t gotten to Day 2 yet, which we spent on Devonport island, which really isn’t an island and has gotten so popular that the entry level houses start about $2,000,000. Of course, those are New Zealand dollars; you can do the arithmetic.