11/22 Layover in Auckland, Act II

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One would think with the most comfortable bed and no time-specific obligations, sleeping in would be no problem. Living with the light though, means sunrise is still rise and shine.

We snarfle through whatever pizza leftovers and food bag dregs that will pass as breakfast, then Ellie and Prana and I walk to the post office. There must be a name for this process that involves going through the bounce boxes, and it’s probably an onomatopoeia that describes the tedium of trying to guess when we will run out of this, or need to replace that, extrapolated over which addresses we can access the box in the future, and what date we may arrive there. Will we have enough sun to use our solar panel? Will we remember to brush our teeth often enough that we will need a new tube of toothpaste? Are our shoes simply toying with us, appearing calm, cool, and cohesive, waiting to fall apart until the moment our boxes are committed too distant?

The best part of the post office, though: a new tent has arrived! We ordered a design we have been looking at for awhile, and we are excited to try it out. A full door for each of us! An old acquaintance that I was connected to on Facebook graciously agreed to have the incoming box sent to her, since it was being shipped internationally and we couldn’t predict when it would arrive. She then forwarded it to the closest post office. It worked like a charm. We retrieve the package, and both of our hearts sink a little. Dang, it is heavy. It is supposed to be 2 oz less than the tent we are swapping it out for. Prana hefts it, a skeptical look on his face. We hope for a ton of packaging (the opposite of our usual hope, but it’s the lesser of two evils here) and open it.

Aha! There is a lot of extra packaging. And the best part? It’s edible! Teresa had paneled the tent with 5 Whitaker’s chocolate bars! All specialty flavors, all flavors we had been wanting to try. Amazing!!!!!!

We mail all of Parker’s foot-binding shoes back to the US, and manage to lower our bounce box total by one. My dreams of mailing care packages home vaporize, and my jaw drops at the extortionate international postal prices.

Those chores thankfully done, we have a chance to make it to the museum for the cultural production at 1:30. I am really excited for this. Prana and I grab a couple of veggie sandwiches as we pass a cafe, and walk quickly, light and packless, the 3 k to the musesum. We arrive just in time for the performance.

It is only 30 minutes long, and it is enthralling. Panoramas of the landscape play on 2 screens flanking the stage, and a narrator speaks about the land, the connection of the people to the land, and the history of both. There are 5 others in the troupe, and the group of 6 all sing, chant, dance, showcase weaponship and poi spinning. Their chanting and singing is incredibly melodic- their voices are rich and full, and the 6 sound like a full choir. When the women spin poi, they slap and ricochet the balls off their bodies to make percussion beats in time with the chanting, and the whole group participates in juggling sticks that they strike together in rhythmic drumming as they toss them in patterns to each other.

The final act is the haka, which is the dance and chant-song of going to battle. It is loud, and there is much self-slapping and stomping and posturing and facial contorting- the idea was if they could be fierce enough pre-battle to intimidate the other side, they may not need to go to battle at all. It is frenzied and controlled and loud and energizing. It is riveting.

When the performance is over, we have several hours to look around the museum. There is a fantastic photography exhibit, finalists and winners of what seems to be a prestigious competition of nature images. While I don’t agree with many of the categories’ winners, preferring many of the runner up finalists, all the photos are intriguing or breathtaking. There is a little caption beneath each picture, expanding on the subject and going into some factual depth about each one. The most bizarre fact I learned? That when wildebeests stampede, they apparently create grooves in the earth that they carve deeper as their running becomes even more restricted into the groove.

The other part of the main floor is a permanent installation and has some amazing Māori carvings. There is an ornately carved canoe that could hold 100 warriors, carved out of a single log. There is an entire hut of a Maori leader that has been moved into the museum, and is being restored, every surface of the walls and pillars either carved or woven. There is an interesting mini-exhibit on tattooing, with a video showing the process of applying the ink by tapping the needle handle with another small stick, almost like a percussion soloist.

The second floor of the museum is a floor of natural history. I’m elated that we can finally identify some of the birds we’ve been seeing. There’s some plant and insect i-d-ing as well, including a cave Gil of wekas, NZ’s giant beetles, but the birds get most of the glory. The adjoining room starts getting into dinosaurs and extinct birds. Apparently there used to be a giant flightless tree-trunk-legged bird called the Moa.

A stampede of these guys would crush our tent. Their discernment at swerving around our tent would be even more doubtable than that of cows!

At this point we are close to achieving full intellectual saturation, the museum fog. We agree to just wander the remaining areas, but not stop and read everything. We are doing pretty good at sticking to that, too, until across the hallway surrounding an ornate stairway, we see one word over an exhibit room: ‘Volcanoes.’ Well duh. We have to go there.

The volcano room is amazing. One of the first things one sees is a life size model of a somewhat ruined house. We tried the door, not expecting to be able to enter. We can! On the inside is a living room, with couches, tables, lamps, a tv. One wall is a ‘picture window,’ a screen actually, that makes it appear as though one is looking down a garden and tidy house lined street and out over the Auckland Harbour. Another couple is on one of the couches, and the TV is on, tuned to a news station. Prana and I sit down on the other couch. The news is talking about the breaking story of the volcanic activity in the harbor. As the anchor interviews a volcanologist, the room suddenly lurches, the couch jumping and slamming on the floor. The lights flicker. The news anchor asks the scientist about the earthquake. The scientist explains, and as he does, he’s managing to sound pretty damn cheery about some pretty bleak and imminent convictions. As he speaks, the harbor starts to steam. He drones on, my attention now on the ocean as it gradually begins to bubble. The couch bucks and pitches again, I giggle uncertainly, everything in the house rattles, and the lights flicker more out than on. Now there is more than steam rolling up from the bay; there is also dark ashy smoke. The tv station is mostly static, and one more big tremor rolls through the house. The couch founders. The plume of smoke in the bay intensifies starts tossing up big chunks of rock; a few more rattles of the house, and the lights and TV are out for good. The smoke clears a bit, and there is now a smoldering, belching cinder cone sitting in the harbor. Deep rumbling vibrate the floor, and with a huge cough, the crater vomits up more rocks, smoke, and lava. This grand ejection is accompanied by a wall of…something moving away from the volcano like a sound wave. I will learn the word later is pyroclastic flow. We watch as it picks up speed and size, shattering everything in its path, moving up the bay, then up the street, then onto and over our house…

The End.

Holy shit. That is one of the most intense exhibits I have ever experienced. I love museums.

The rest of the volcano room is fascinating as well. The story board are anecdotes from different eruptions, and they all follow a funny little formula: “Tragedy! Doom! Despair! Horror! Death! Buuuut here is this one tiny silver lining.” In one, one of the two survivors out of 28,000 was a prisoner in solitary confinement. The grisly details of the other 27998 deaths recounted, the last paragraph tells how he was granted pardon and toured with the circus after. In one, a huge region was affected, causing millions and millions and millions of dollars of damage, “but on the positive side, the ash acted as fertiliser for the pastures.” In one, ten men died, but the cat lived and was re-named Peter the Great. I remember something similar to this from the Lassen/Hat Creek area on the PCT. Maybe volcanoes just create great stories. Maybe I’ll research them all for a collection someday.

The last wander we have is through the area called ‘The Weird and Wonderful Children’s Collection.’ I believe this translates as ‘Storage is Full, and We Don’t Know Where Else to Put This.’ There are plethora of taxidermied creatures, mostly unlabeled, which is too bad, because we don’t recognize some of them. There are funky dioramas of mastodons and prehistoric equines. There are sculptures of prehistoric sea creatures, and jars and jars of unlabeled specimens floating in different colored liquids. And legos.

Fully satisfied, we step out into the bright sunshine. We walk back to the townhouse, which is kind of off the third leg of a triangle for the day. We’ll probably have done 10k of walking today, but without a pack, it’s practically negligible. Once home, we chat for awhile with Parker, scrounge all the leftovers for a tapas-style dinner, shower again, and call it a day. A pretty awesome day.

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