Friday, September 24, 2010

Still in Auckland

Written Friday, 24 September, 2010
12:35 PM NZST

Posted 5:40 PM, 25 September, 2010

We're still stranded in Auckland, waiting for our wire transfers to come through. Just an FYI to anyone planning to live abroad and set up a wire transfer to a foreign bank account: "Same Day" transfer means no such thing. We've been dealing with this for three days. It wouldn't be so annoying if we weren't trying to buy a car by tonight and if our home banks hadn't told us that all we would have to do is get on our online banking and put in the routing info of our NZ accounts and presto! No such luck- we have had to call our home banks multiple times to confirm our identities. My Chase account even went so far as to lock me out of my online banking, forcing me to call the bank in the U.S., which it turns out was an intentional ploy to confirm with me that it was actually me authorizing the wire transfer. A bit superfluous considering that I had been on the phone with them the day before getting the validation code to set up the wire transfer.....Anyway, at this point everything says that the wire transfers are "in transit," which means there's nothing we can do until they show up. Matt's was supposed to go through yesterday but hasn't, and I was told that mine would come through today, but they couldn't tell me what time. Plus we're dealing with the time differences (we can't call the US banks after the end of the workday there) in trying to sort it all out. If we haven't gotten the money through by this afternoon, NZ time, we will figure out plan B for getting to the Bay of Plenty.

After dealing with all of this through yesterday morning, we decided it was time to get out of the IEP office and explore Auckland some more. After lunch at an Irish pub, we walked up through Albert Park and Auckland University to the Auckland Domain.
Birds of Paradise in Albert Park

Matt and cherry blossoms in the Domain

On the walk through the domain, we saw two BRIGHT multi-colored parrots in the trees! That's when it really started to feel like we were in a foreign country.
The best photo I could get of a parrot.

The weather has continued to be very shifty, so the sky kept opening up periodically and dumping rain, and then shifting immediately into blue skies and sun. We got stuck in a downpour and took shelter in this palm grove in the domain:

We visited the Wintergarden and Fernery, which were fantastic. The Wintergarden has a coolhouse and a hothouse, and the cool house was full of amazing tulips and orchids and other springy plants:

The hothouse had these Royal Water Lilies with lily pads three feet in diameter:

This Bleeding Heart Vine from Africa:

Hanging pitcher plants:

Crazy fuzzy things on a Queensland Itch plant (!)

Fern palm in the Fernery

Four foot tall fiddlehead!

From the Wintergarden we walked up to the Auckland Museum, which is also the War Memorial Museum. It is free to Aucklanders, with a "$10 appreciated donation" as fee for everyone else. When we were at the pub earlier, a salty old sailor (complete with eyepatch) just down the bar overheard that we were heading to the museum, and called us over. He told us that the museum was supposed to be free, and that if they tried to get us to pay because we were tourists, we should "tell them to get stuffed." As it turned out, they never asked us at all. The museum was amazing, with huge exhibits on the people of the Pacific, and then the largest collection of Maori historical artifacts anywhere in the world, I think.

Matt and a replica outrigger sailing vessel

Te Oha, or raised storehouse:

A full-sized Maori Marae, or meetinghouse. The pictures do no justice. The artistry of the carving was amazing. The designs on the inside are made with different colors of palm fronds wrapped around the wooden slats. 

Te Toki a Tapiri, the last of the great Maori war canoes. It was made in the 1830s from a single totara log, can hold 100 warriors, and is 25m long. I was in utter awe:

The tailpiece from the canoe. 

I wish I had more time to talk about the feeling of being in the presence of such beautiful artwork and carving and Maori history, but internet is expensive. Suffice it to say that it was akin to a religious experience, full of awe and respect. In accordance with Maori tradition, we washed our hands before leaving the exhibition, so we did not take any of the sacred out with us.

After the museum, we walked down the opposite way, into Parnell, one of the hip neighborhoods that we were advised to explore.

We were getting pretty tired, so we hopped on the Link bus, which runs a big circuit around the outer neighborhoods. We took it the opposite direction we had been walking in, so we got to see all the outer parts of the city and came back into downtown from the other side. We saw Newmarket, K' Road (Kharangahape Road), Ponsonby, and the opposite side of Victoria Park. It was a nice because we wanted to see those places in the city, but not necessarily spend much time there. We are feeling a bit out-styled by Auckland. I think we'll fit in a little better in the country. The downtown and shopping districts here are filled with people dressed in designer clothing and lined with shops selling upper-end stylish clothes and bags. We are going around unabashedly in our hiking boots and jeans :) I'm sure we stick out as tourists from a mile away, but we don't care so much.

We hung out in the hostel bar in the evening for free pizza, chatting with Tommy, one of our new American friends. He just graduated high school in San Francisco and is taking a gap year before college, which is very unusual in the states, and we admire him a lot for doing that! He is headed up to Rotorua for a childcare job there, so he will be near us in Opotiki, so we've all been dreaming of hotsprings and zorbing (a Kiwi-invented sport involving rolling down big hills in a giant plastic ball).

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