Saturday, April 17, 2004

On the fifteenth (Natasha's birthday) I headed out from the hostel at 8:30 to grab some coffee. I only mention this because a creepy guy standing behind me on the escalator said "excuse me" as if to say something more, and then gave me a disturbing stare that made me run up the escalator and spill my coffee (bastard!)
Auckland's art galleries (non-comercial) were interesting - Don Binney's landscape paintings of New Zealand reminded me of Mom's Ted Harrison collection. Auckland feels like a vacant city - not lacking people as much as lacking interesting things to do and culture to explore. Shopping, clubbing and the meagre art scene seems to be all that it offers - and if you're not into shopping and clubbing - you get pretty bored. Needless to say, I got out of Auckland as soon as possible.
On the route to Rotorua, my bus stopped at the Waitomo caves for the glow worm tour. The closest artificial equivalent I can think of comparing this to would be an installation of glowing blue specs (green when you focus on one) on the ceiling of a black room. Very cool.
The bus driver was one of the best I've ever had. Because there were less than ten of us, he kept stopping at cool places like a suspension bridge over a damn that his grandfather helped engineer, and tidbit facts about the areas we were driving through like the residence of the Maori queen (though not all tribes agree that she is their queen).
I arrived in Rotorua in the evening and met Jean from San Francisco. Rotorua sits on the bottom of what used to be a submerged volcano. For this reason, the city and the surrounding area is an accumilation of rolling hills.
Jean and I headed out the next morning to hike the redwood forest. If you want to do any cool nature stuff here, rent a car. After a one hour walk to the forest and a 3 1/2 hour hike, Jean and I hitched a ride back to town.
The next day, Jean and I headed to the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute where we saw Maori carvings, a replica of an old Maori village, mud pools, geysers, kiwi birds, and a Maori concert. If you pay a lot of money, you get to see a Maori concert and eat hangi (Maori food cooked in the ground). I did not do that.
Jean and I separated after that so that I could go to the bath house museum. They have a theatre with dramatized narration of Rotorua's history as hokey as ours back home, plus a simulated rumble in the seats when they depict the volcanic eruption of 1886. This museum had a lot of stuff on the local Maori history including conscription for British wars. They also had a fair art gallery with stuff since the nineteenth century.
Tonight I should be heading to the lake with Jean to hang out.
Tomorrow I'm heading out to Napier, a city built almost entirely in the art deco style since an earthquake destroyed the city in the 1920's.
Everyone wish Natasha a happy birthday (via link)!
love Sharon

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