Week 7: Islands and Festivals

After a pretty easy first week in New Zealand, the second one was a bit more action packed. We started off with a few biology and history lectures, and on Thursday we went to Maugnakiki, One Tree Hill. This volcano used to be the home base of a Māori tribe and is now a national park. The one tree after which the hill was named was cut down by protesters, and the only thing you find at the top now is a large monument. When you are on the top of the hill, you can see to the west the Tasman Sea and to the east the Pacific Ocean. The fact that you can see all over the width of the island was amazing.
After Maugnakiki we visited a rainforest with some very endangered trees. You had to wash your shoes before entering and after exiting the forest, that’s how afraid they are for the wellbeing of these trees. There were a few vantage points, and it was amazing to see such an astonishing rainforest on about an hour from New Zealand’s biggest city.

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Next on our list was visiting the blowholes at the Waitakeries. Because it was low tide there wasn’t a lot of water coming out of them, but this did allow us to go swimming in the ocean, which still offered some huge waves.

Friday we had another Māori culture class, these classes are great. We got an introduction to their martial art. We learned the taiaha. We learned how to wield a stick and learned the first set of moves. Our instructor also tried to teach us the Māori names for all the moves, but I don’t think anyone still remembers them, I certainly don’t. This class was great and the jokes the instructor kept on making only made it more fun.

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On Saturday some friends invited me to come with them to a large festival, which I did of course. It was the first time I ever went to a festival and I liked it a lot. Lots of people, good music, and we even played around in those huge inflatable balls. The good weather only made it better, even though I came home with a slight sunburn.

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On Monday we started of with another culture class, in which we learned all about Māori games. We played a game called Ki O Rahi. It’s played on a circular field with two teams with entirely different objectives. I still don’t completely get how it works, but I do know that I was quite sore for the next two days, so it’s definitely exhausting.

In the afternoon we went to the Auckland Art Museum. This was mainly modern art, something I don’t really care for, so I didn’t stay for too long.

On Wednesday we went to Rangitoto. This is a small island just off the coast off Auckland. It is one of New Zealand’s youngest islands, it’s only about a thousand years old. It is now a sanctuary for birds. It is almost completely free of pests and basically all the birds that live there are growing in numbers. We had a nice hike to the top of the volcano which offered some beautiful views, crawled through some caves and then we went back to the pier. We arrived when it was high tide so the pier didn’t seem that high, so we decided to jump off of it on our way back. However, when we got back it was low tide and the pier now rose about six-seven meters bove the water. So we decided to climb to a higher spot and spend an hour jumping in to the water from our makeshift ten meter high diving board.

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The view over Auckland from the island. Over a quarter of the people in New Zealand live in the frame of this picture.

Right now I’m packing my suitcase for a big weekend if traveling, so be prepared for next weeks post!

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