Our trip started by driving to Dulles and flying Air New Zealand to Auckland via Los Angeles. The trip was not without incident. The night before we were to leave Jim attempted to print our boarding passes, but kept getting an error. United, which was the code-share flight from Dulles to LA, couldn't tell us what was the matter, but confirmed that we had reservations. Air New Zealand couldn't tell us what was the matter either, but they also confirmed that we had reservations. When we nervously arrived at the airport (in PLENTY of time!), it took some gyrations, but United was finally able to print our boarding passes and check our bags through to Auckland.

When we arrived in LA we walked to the international terminal where we heard our names being paged. After minor heart attacks we found that all that was required was for Air New Zealand to check our passports and issue new boarding passes. Whew!

The very long flight from LA to Auckland was quite pleasant. We had opted for business class seats and that made all the difference. For this flight "business class" is really Business Premiere and more like what we consider "first class." What we would consider business class was called Premium Economy. The unexpected luxury made up for little boarding pass hiccups.

Luckily our bags arrived with us because one of our fellow travelers had her bag sent to Sydney by mistake and it took three days for it to appear in Auckland!

Auckland Airport

Our arrival into Auckland was through this Maori-style gateway. At the airport we met our tour leaders, Suzanne and Dianne, and our wonderful bus driver, Tony, who would shepherd us around the North Island for the next ten days.

Welcome meeting

After checking in to the hotel we met for a program overview. Our trip leaders had paced the first day very well to cope with jet-lag. We had ample doses of snacks, caffeine, lunch, and a walk in the afternoon sunshine to keep us awake and reset our internal clocks.

At this first meeting we were formally introduced to our Group Leader, Suzanne Gordon, who would be traveling with us throughout the program, and our Site Coordinator for the North Island, Dianne Harlow.

Group introductions would come later in the evening during a happy hour before dinner.

Auckland Harbor Overview

The hotel restaurant had this beautiful view east over the Waitemata Harbor.

"Wai" is the Maori word for "water." Many of the place names in the country include this word because water and water transport was so important to the Maori. (Since I didn't now how to pronounce "Maori" before I got to New Zealand, perhaps others don't either: it sounds like MOW-ree.)

Auckland is located on a narrow isthmus and has two harbors. The one to the west is the Manukau Harbor.

Auckland Harbor

After lunch most of us gathered for a stroll around the downtown. Our hotel was conveniently located in the heart of the business district and only a block from the Harbor.

The condos and hotel shown here are built on the former main pier where liners docked in the days when it was only possible to reach New Zealand by sea. We feel it is remote now when it takes hours to get there by jet. For most of its history it took months!

Auckland Yacht Basin

The Auckland Harbor was the home of the New Zealand team's entries in the America's Cup races. (Link opens in new tab.) New Zealand's winning ship was on display in front of the Maritime Museum. The two red, white & black yachts shown in the picture have also competed.

There is a company that offers match races on these ships. We didn't participate!

XYZ Neighborhood

The downtown business district is adjacent to the harbor. The Sky Tower contains a hotel, restaurants, and the SkyJump bungee-jumping concession. One afternoon as we waited for dinner we were able to see someone dive off. We passed on that too.

The working part of the port has been moved to another location. This former warehouse area is now being redeveloped with condos, shops and other attractions.

The Auckland area is home to 1/3 of New Zealand's population.

Ferry Building

Most of downtown Auckland has been redeveloped, but the old ferry building still holds a prominent place. Regular ferries still run between Auckland and islands in the bay.

When this building was restored, part of the agreement was that the owners could add the glass-enclosed upper floor to the historic structure. It is a bit incongruous.

After our walk and supper, we tumbled into bed for a very sound night's sleep.

Auckland War Memorial MuseumThe next morning we enjoyed a lecture by author and historian Gordon McLauchlen followed by a talk on New Zealand geology by Dr. Bruce Hayward.

One new (to us) concept introduced by Dr. Hayward was that New Zealand is actually the 7th continent, Zealandia, although most of it is currently under water. This distinction is made because of the geological composition of the undersea rocks.

After lunch as everyone was starting to droop a bit, we were aroused by a visit to Auckland's War Memorial Museum. In spite of the name, our focus was on the natural history and Maori collections rather than war.

Column capital

The museum was designed in a Greek architectural style, but it uses many Maori decorative motifs, including the capital design for the columns.

Moa Skeletons

New Zealand was the last major land mass to be settled by humans (not counting Antarctica, which isn't really "settled" yet). Although accounts vary on when the Maori arrived, the earliest archeological remains date from the 14th century.

Those early explorers found dense forest inhabited by numerous flightless birds. The only major native predator was an eagle. The only mammals were bats.

The moa species, which included the largest bird ever to live, was soon hunted to extinction by the Maori. The largest of them reached nine feet tall. Only skeletons remain.

Polynesian Canoe

The Polynesians were master navigators and intentional explorers. They used canoes believed to be similar to this one to find and settle new islands. Although their original home isn't certain, DNA analysis indicates that it was Taiwan. From that homeland they populated the entire Pacific, coming to New Zealand last of all. The Maori call this mythic homeland Hawaiki (pronounced hah-wah-EE-kee).

Using large canoes, they brought families, seed stock, and domestic animals with them. Maori genealogies trace back to specific canoes that took part in the migration.

Earth mother & Sky father

The Maori creation myth starts with Papatuanuku, the earth mother, and Ranginui, the sky father. Even though they had numerous children, they clasped each other so tightly that the children were imprisoned between them. It wasn't until one son forced them apart that light came into being and the world was created.

This motif along with others appear in their carvings.

The tattoos depicted here are known as moko. The man's extensive decoration was actually carved into his facial skin and colored in a two-stage process. It depicted both his genealogy and status. The woman's tattoos conveyed her status.

Stained Glass

The great stained glass ceiling of the rotunda contains the arms of the nations that have served with New Zealanders (Kiwis) in the wars. The four shields across the top are Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Auckland Crater

Auckland is built on a large volcanic field. Most of the individual volcanoes are extinct, or at least dormant. The museum is on the rim of this large caldera.

The level parkland within the caldera was the site of US Camp Hale in WWII.

Paul Harris Plaque

On another rim of the crater is a grove of trees that has been planted by the presidents of Rotary International. It includes this plaque and tree planted in 1936 by Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary. Unfortunately the tree itself is in a grove and I couldn't get a good picture of it.

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