Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Waitangi Festival and Treaty Grounds

We took a our first extended road trip north of Auckland to go up to Northland and the Bay of Islands and experience Waitangi on Waitangi Day. This is the annual holiday on February 6th that commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which is considered the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. This year was the 180th anniversary, so it was extra special. There were people who had traveled from around the world to be there, as well as a new museum that was opened the day before when the politicians usually come up. (The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was granted the very special experience of going out on a waka that day, too.) Each year, there is an all-day Waitangi Festival on the Treaty Grounds and the buildings are closed, so this meant we waited to visit them until the following day.

Bay of Islands with Waitangi Treaty Grounds opposite Russell, and Kerikeri off to the left
I didn't know what to expect - the website was vague on what things would be happening. When we arrived, there were all of these waka (canoes) out on the water, with people paddling and chanting. That was really cool and unique to get to see. The biggest one was the waka taua (war canoe), which takes at least 175 men to operate and has its own special house on the Treaty Grounds. There were some waka with all-female crews, too, and quite a few youth out there. I thought it must make them so proud to be able to participate in an event like this that is positive and celebratory of their culture. All too often that is not the case in New Zealand. Eventually, all of the waka made their way over to the shore and there were more ceremonial activities - all in te reo Māori. 

Explains the white circles at the front of some of the waka

We headed over to the main Treaty Grounds where there were lots of stalls with food, drinks, art, jewelry, and other stuff to buy. We saw some cultural performances - dancing and singing - and tried to keep out of the sun since it was quite hot out. My main critique was there weren't enough bathrooms and the ones that were there were placed quite far away and were hard to find. I also thought it was a missed opportunity to have something about the Treaty and the history for people to check out (since the museum was closed for the day). I know it's contentious, but at least some posters or a pop-up thing with general information would have been nice, since there were so many people with time to learn something.  

There was a small march/protest about an ongoing land dispute in Ihumātao

Waitangi Treaty Grounds Tour

The next day, we had the guided tour of the Treaty Grounds and a short cultural performance, and then were able to go through the two museums and the marae. I wasn't sure how much I would learn since I already know a bit about the history, but I was pleasantly surprised at learning some new things, especially about some of the key figures involved. I have to say, going through the museum can make you mad at the British colonial enterprise and what they did to indigenous populations pretty much wherever they went. 

The big waka taua was made all by hand, with parts of kauri trees being joined for the hull

stump of a kauri tree, which are facing kauri dieback disease in NZ

this is the sheltered home of the waka taua

cultural performance using little balls that make noise when snapped

interesting comparison between worldviews through maps

The flag below hasn't been retired, so it is still official.
The other black, red, and white flag (so-called Māori flag) was designed in 1990 and has become popular.

Part of the issue with the Treaty is how rushed it was. Less than a day to translate!
But it was really the changing of key words that make it controversial.
Unsurprisingly, the Treaty was not a Māori creation.

There was a 4th article on religious tolerance but it wasn't written into the Treaty.

Flags have real significance in designating authority.

After lunch, we headed to the town of Kerikeri a little north. We stopped into a couple tourist shops (delicious chocolate sample at the chocolate factory) and popped by Rainbow Falls. Quite a few people were swimming in the area.

The Stone Store - an old building still operating as a shop

Reminder of colonial life and gardens that the British brought with them

The next day we took the car ferry over to Russell. It was an easy thing to drive onto the ferry and only took a few minutes; they are very efficient at doing this throughout the day. 

Russell used to be a lawless town full of scoundrels (think Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean or Mos Eisley from Star Wars) and was known as the "Hell Hole of the Pacific". This was one of the reasons why local Māori wanted the British Empire to exert some control over their people and other traders in the area. Well, that backfired... Also, its original name was Kororareka, which means sweet blue penguin, which is a lot nicer than Russell. Anyway, it later turned into a holiday spot and tourist area, so it's quite a shift since the mid-1800s. It's directly across an inlet of water from Waitangi, so you can see the flagpole on the Treaty Grounds from the shore. 

View from Russell over to Waitangi Treaty Grounds
We went to the Russell Museum, a small locally-run museum whose main display is a replica of Captain James Cook's ship Endeavor. It could use a refresh and some of the info was repetition from what we'd seen the previous day, but we like to support local museums. We walked by New Zealand's oldest church, Christ Church, and the Pompallier Mission, then it was time to head back to Auckland.

Pompallier Mission

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Moving from Christchurch to Auckland

I found it difficult to find moving cost estimates and information about doing a DIY move via the ferry across New Zealand, so I thought I'd make a short post about the move I did at the end of 2019.

Since we were transporting our cat and didn't want to do an extensive amount of driving each day, we took three days for the trip. This enabled us to stay overnight at two places and let him out of his cage and let us rest. Except for some traffic on the North Island, the trip went smoothly and all of our stuff made it there.

Actual costs for three-day move:
$1,548 (excluding cargo equipment)
$1,918 (with cargo equipment, which hopefully can be reused in future)

Fuel: $343
  • First full tank fill-up @ $2.079/liter: $102
  • Partial fill-up in Kaikoura (no receipt): $71
  • Partial fill-up out of Wellington @ $2.389/liter: $62
  • Second full tank fill-up in Taupo @ $2.159/liter: $108 
A full tank fill-up is about 13.5 gallons (51 liters) and the car is pretty new so it gets good mileage; however, the trailer and weight definitely reduced the usual fuel efficiency. There was about 150km left to go when we arrived in Auckland according to the car's estimate after the trailer was removed, so that needs to be accounted for when looking at the total fuel cost.

Luggage Trailer: $467
  • cost is made up of 3 days at $39/day which is comparable to other companies, plus $20/day for $0 damage excess, plus one-way fee (this was supposed to be around $500 but I got them to lower it for me)  
  • $100 deposit is required at time of booking

Note that rentals book up fast - many places I called didn't have anything available - so as soon as you know your moving dates, see what's available. U Save was the only place that would let me hire a luggage trailer one-way. Otherwise, the only option was one of the bigger furniture trailers, and I knew we didn't need that much space since we weren't taking furniture or big stuff. I mistakenly thought that I would be able to have some visibility out the car's rearview mirror with the smaller trailer, so on reflection, I might have gone with the single-axle furniture trailer to save the headache of trying to cram everything in such a small space. However, the luggage trailer handled pretty well when full and didn't feel overwhelming to haul for three days, and it fit almost everything I needed it to and forced me to consolidate stuff before moving.

Ferry (Picton to Wellington): $464
  • included two adults, one car, and one trailer at a student flexi rate, which seems to be 5% off the usual rate, via Bluebridge
The ferry also books up fast, since there are a limited number of sailings each day, and we wanted one that left at a reasonable hour in the morning. This and the trailer hire are the most limiting of your options for the move.

Accommodation (2 nights): $274
  • one night in Picton at Aldan Lodge Motel (pet-friendly, good customer service, and nice roomy place to stay; it has off-street parking, but there were only a couple spots that could take trailers, and it took us a while to back up into one of them - recommend asking in advance to secure one of these)
  • one night in Turangi at Turangi Bridge Motel (pet-friendly and decent room; but the parking spots are not long enough for trailers, and one section that could have worked had a big truck and disconnected trailer already taking up the space; we ended up having to work another situation out on the lawn which you're not supposed to do but given that we had stuff roped to the top, I didn't want to leave it out in front of the motel overnight)
Cargo Equipment: $370

  • 1 set of crossbars: $120 + $30 shipping, on Amazon U.S.
  • 1 roof rack: $109 + $70 shipping, on TradeMe
  • 2 ropes: $7.50 (with buy 1 get 1 50% off deal)
  • 2 cargo nets: $18 (with buy 1 get 1 50% off deal)
  • 2 2-pack of ratchet tiedown straps: $15 (with buy 1 get 1 50% off deal)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Wrapping up in Christchurch and on to Auckland

I wound down the year with a conference in Wellington, which was great as always. It focuses on the cultural heritage sector and exciting innovations in the digital space, but also has critical and introspective looks at where improvements are needed and how to foster more diversity. We hit up the waffle shack hole-in-the-wall place like last year, which has overpriced but good sugar-laden waffles with toppings.

We also visited Zealandia, the predator-free wildlife preserve that has lots of native birds and other wildlife and that is probably my favorite spot in Wellington. It rained on us for the first third of the hike around, but after that it cleared up and was a pleasant experience. We found weta in some of the 'weta hotels', a big tuatara lizard, takahe, cormorants (shags), and other birds which don't photograph well since they're so skittish and I've already taken so many photos of them that I didn't feel I needed more.

We found a very hipster pizza place for dinner on the last night which had quite good pizza with a good crust.

Back in Christchurch, I ate out a lot as I met up with people to say goodbye. I also did some baking to use up American ingredients and since there were some holiday parties that I had an excuse to make stuff for. One of my mature students gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers - the first I've gotten as a tutor - and it was so special and a much-needed reminder that there are always a few who are worth all the effort of teaching. I will miss the relationships that you can really only have as a teacher coming into contact with so many new and diverse people in the classroom, but I won't miss all of the downsides. There are always other opportunities for education outside of the traditional bureaucracy though.
loaded fries at Little High Eatery

Jenga-style French toast at Sun Dog Diner
free cinnamon roll given out at Sun Dog Diner
lovely smelling and looking flowers
Peanut butter chip cookie bars
 I went on a visit with a friend to the Canterbury Museum. I have to say, their 'Squawkzilla' exhibit wasn't that great. The main attraction didn't even have good signage or explanations - a missed opportunity. There was a find-the-Santa game for kids though that was entertaining.
massive penguins - a bit intimidating actually

Squawkzilla - apparently an ancestor of the modern-day kea bird

Santa hanging out with a Kiwi

I had a good dual Christmas - made a full Christmas lunch for two new American friends traveling through the city, and then helped prepare Christmas dinner for my friend and her American relatives visiting for the holidays at their AirBnb place overlooking the estuary and ocean. It was a beautiful location and we had fun eating and talking and playing some card games.
My cat loves wrapping paper

Then the next day, Boxing Day, it was time for the big move up to Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand, where my partner landed a good job earlier this year. It's a chance for a fresh start for the new year for me and the opportunity to take a break from the rat race and work on my entrepreneurial ideas and book writing. That's the plan anyway. It was a very stressful day loading everything up (I had already spent hours packing and organizing everything to fit in the small trailer we rented based on the measurements I had for it), but we managed to fit almost everything in except my bike and office chair, and we headed out of the city at 3pm. Loading a vehicle is a great relationship test, I think, as it is high-stress conditions with a time limit and your nerves can become frayed very quickly as you get exhausted and struggle to Tetris your stuff into a confined area. The next day, we took the ferry from Picton to Wellington with our cat, and it was thankfully a very smooth and uneventful journey. We hit bad holiday traffic out of Wellington which delayed us several hours, but otherwise the trip went alright. I was so glad to have holiday leftovers to eat for dinner for the following week.

departing Picton

Ferry with pet on board! They have to be left in the vehicle for the 3.5-hour journey.

Safely arrived in Auckland; unloading is much easier and faster
Roughly sketched, the route traveled on Highway 1 and ferry from Christchurch to Auckland

Our new place is located in what is known as the North Shore area of Auckland. To get to it from the central city [where the word Auckland is on the map below], you have to cross the Harbor Bridge [located just above the 'c' in the word Auckland] (or go the long way around on another route) or take a ferry from Devonport [which is on the peninsula at the bottom right corner of the highlighted section]. As North Shore has grown, the Harbor Bridge has gotten more crowded, so they have had to add more lanes in the past few decades.

The main differences from Christchurch that I know about thus far are:
  • more crowded: Christchurch has a population of around 350,000, while Auckland has over 1.6 million people
  • warmer but more humid: Auckland is situated at a higher latitude, but is also surrounded by water and on a narrower strip of land, so it can feel tropical (I've only been here a short time, but it has felt like Hawaii on several days)
  • more expensive: It is one of the most expensive cities in terms of rent prices and housing prices. The median house price is $885,000, which is way out of range for first-time buyers. Our place is a third the size of the original house we rented in Christchurch and doesn't have a real kitchen. It just has a space between the bathroom and living room with a fridge, some counter space, and a small sink with a toaster oven, microwave, and hot plate burner. It's not ideal for food preparation, but it's doable for now. Grocery store prices seem to be a little more but not terribly so, and gas prices are about 20 cents higher, based on what we saw on the road trip up here.

The upside is that there is a lot more to do, and it's a part of the country we haven't explored much, so there's a whole new backyard to check out. Northlands (north past Auckland) is a place we've heard a lot about and want to check out soon.

On our first full day here, we couldn't help but check out the newly-opened Taco Bell. I actually hadn't ever tried a gordita in the U.S. but it was good here and had that Taco Bell taste. I normally get crunchy tacos, but the one here had some kind of smoked flavor and didn't taste as similar, so I wouldn't get it again. The frozen margarita machine wasn't warmed up yet when we went so they weren't selling those, but it was a fun experience and I'd go back. They only have mild and fiery hot sauce though, no hot, which is what I like. I had the last slice of my yummy pumpkin cheesecake and that was the end of the holiday food and eating out times.

We rang in the New Year at a little park overlooking downtown, where they shot off fireworks from a few different locations.

Here's a view from the same park in the daytime. This is the view from the North Shore. You can see part of Rangitoto Island on the left, the skyscrapers of Takapuna in the middle-left, and the skyscrapers of downtown Auckland on the right.
Here's to a good year and interesting experiences in a new city, and new places to blog about!