Auckland: New Zealand Maritime Museum, Rainforest & Beach Tour

New Zealand Maritime Museum
New Zealand Maritime Museum

Today is my last full day on this trip to New Zealand. New Zealand is a maritime nation, so visiting the New Zealand Maritime Museum made sense to me. Not that I’m famous for making sense, but never mind that.

That was the morning. In the afternoon I took a tour that promised a walk on a black sand beach and in the bush of a rainforest on the west coast of the Auckland region.

The Auckland region has both an east and a west coast. How cool is that? Actually, come to think of it, it’s way less cool than in most of Canada at this time of year. But it’s winter back home in Canada and summer here in New Zealand. So that’s bound to happen.

New Zealand Maritime Museum

The New Zealand Maritime Museum traces New Zealand’s maritime history from the Māoris’ arrival, through to more modern-day.

The museum presents its stories through texts, videos, audio tracks, model ships, and real ships.

Rocking Room at the Maritime Museum

Rocking steerage cabin recreation at the New Zealand Maritime Museum
Rocking steerage cabin recreation at the New Zealand Maritime Museum

One room contains a recreation of a steerage cabin in a typical immigrant ship as it would have been in the nineteenth century. The room and its rows of bunks were sparse, to say the least.

I’d rate the accommodations as a one-quarter star. At most. Maybe only one-fifth star. Or, if I’m being honest, negative stars.

The floor of nineteenth century steerage cabin gently rocked and the speakers emitted wood-creaking noises. This was intentional, not an earthquake. The intent was to simulate what passengers felt most of the time during their voyage. I assume storms were much worse.

Whaling station recreation
Whaling station recreation

In that room, videos projected on a wall and horizontally on a table included an audio track of readings presumably from a diary or diaries of an immigrant or maybe more than one immigrant on one or more such ships.

Hmm. I’m calling fake news here. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have videos and video projectors in the nineteenth century. But maybe I misunderstood the point.

A sign said European immigrants spent three to five months at sea, having to stop at a few ports along the way, before reaching New Zealand. I didn’t time it, but I think I lasted less than three to five minutes in the rocking room. I’m glad we have airplanes now. Sorry, Greta.

Yachting

Kiwis, or at least the ones responsible for the museum, seem to be very proud of New Zealand’s yachting competition successes. One large section of the museum is dedicated to that.

Rainforest and Beach Tour

Beautiful view from atop a volcanic mountain ridge
Beautiful view from atop a volcanic mountain ridge

The rainforest and beach tour I went on in the afternoon first went to the top of one of the volcanic ridges. There, I got fabulous views of Auckland, the coast, the other volcanic mountains, and the rainforest.

The bus then drove to the starting point of a scheduled bush walk in the rainforest.

Three clarifications are appropriate here.

Another beautiful view from atop a volcanic mountain ridge
Another beautiful view from atop a volcanic mountain ridge

First, the bus didn’t drive there. It wasn’t an autonomous vehicle. The driver, who was one of two guides on the tour for seven paying customers, drove the bus. (At least, I assume all of the customers paid. I know I did.) The bus itself had no choice in where it took us. You probably already assumed that. Aren’t you oh, so very clever?

Second, “rainforest” might be something of a misnomer this year. According to one of the guides, the North Island of New Zealand is experiencing its driest summer in 70 years. Some of the more fragile rainforest vegetation is drying out and dying.

Along the "bush walk"
Along the “bush walk”

Nevertheless, it is still a very beautiful, green forest. But it looked like an otherwise ordinary forest with some different trees than I’m used to. It didn’t look like what I had in mind as a rainforest. But that may just be because of the unusual dryness this year.

Third, I called it a “bush walk” because that’s what the company that runs the tour calls it. Maybe it’s just me, but “bush walk” conjures up slogging through deep, dark forests, slashing through dense underbrush and vines with a machete.

Also along the "bush walk"
Also along the “bush walk”

It wasn’t like that. The route did go through a reasonably dense forest, but the path varied between well-compacted earth on precisely defined tracks; new-looking, well-built boardwalks; and steps built of wooden risers and compacted-earth treads. It was a very civilized walk among nature.

Kitekite Falls

Kitekite Falls
Kitekite Falls

We climbed uphill for most of the walk out. The furthest point out on the walk was a gorgeous view of Kitekite Falls.

The guides stopped at a couple of points along the way to tell us about the local flora.

We took the same route back to the bus. That was downhill because they would have had to change the dimensionality of the universe to make both the outbound and return trip uphill. I believe the company charges extra to change the dimensionality of the universe mid-tour. I wasn’t willing to bear that expense.

Piha Beach

Piha Beach
Piha Beach

After the bush walk, the bus—or, for all you sticklers out there, the driver—drove to Piha Beach. It wasn’t a problem at the time, but when typing this I fought with autocorrect to not call it Pinus Beach.

According to tour books and brochures, Piha Beach has black sand. In truth, it has black sand mixed fairly evenly with more traditional sand-coloured sand.

The black component of the sand is dust that originally came from a volcano 250 kilometres away. I kept reminding myself that it came from a volcano that erupted a long time ago, all the while waiting for the ground to erupt under my feet.

One thing that is unusual about the sand other than its dark colour is it has a high iron content. As a result, you can pick up some of the beach with a magnet, as one of the guides demonstrated.

Lion Rock
Lion Rock

A very large rock sits on the beach. It is shaped like a very much larger-than-life lion with its head facing the ocean and its tail back toward the land. Hence it is called Lion Rock.

That is to say, according to one of the guides, children usually immediately see it as shaped like a lion. Adults typically have to be told it is shaped like a lion. Only then can they see it, and not unsee it as such once they’ve been told. I can provide a single data point confirming that.

Last Post

Today is my last full day of this trip. If all goes according to plan, my flight to Vancouver to catch another flight back home to Toronto leaves Auckland early tomorrow afternoon. Thus, this will likely be my last post of this trip.

Then again, my recent history of flights back home from overseas trips doesn’t leave me optimistic for an on-time departure. Who knows? If my flight is significantly delayed and Air Canada notifies me of that before I head to the airport maybe I’ll publish a bonus post here, as I did in London and Madrid. We’ll see.

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