Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aotearoa part 1

Place where treaty of Waitangi was signed.
Host Family
Bay of Islands
Cape Reinga
Hole in the Rock

Aotearoa means New Zealand in the Maori language, and that is what I saw over the Easter Holidays. Literally, I almost saw all of New Zeleand.

I may or may not be able to fit this in to one post but lets see shall we.

The Easter holidays started off to an amazing start with getting out of school early on Thursday to travel to one of New Zealand's must see places, The Bay of Islands. But before we could get there, we were picked up in Auckland by my host sister in this wicked as silver Hyundai van (she works for them and was able to use it as a family bus) and driven to her flat to stay there for the night. Just a nice relaxing evening and I also had the pleasure of eating Hell's pizza for the first time, one of NZ's favorite eateries. Auckland is NZ's biggest cities and it actually reminds me a lot of my hometown of Tampa. A tight city center right on the water with nice houses and apartments that line the water all up the bay. Its a lot like Bayshore for people that live in Tampa. Auckland has about 1 and 1/2 million living there and is the most "busy" place in NZ. The farther south in the country you get from Auckland, the more you hate Auckland. And if I would tell someone from Auckland that I am living in Invercargill (a major city on the south island) they would either not know where it is or just say "O... Invercargill..." Auckland is like a different country to the people on the south island, as the south island is to people in Auckland. People that live in the big city are just considered busy townies. It is a very weird relationship to have in such a small country with an equally small population. Not sure if I have said this before, but NZ is known for having 40million sheep (i think its a little less now) and 4 million people.

We then left Auckland the next day for the Bay of Islands which also might as well be in a different country... well at least from Invercargill at any rate. Invercargill is the cloudiest place in NZ and is cold and rainy and windy almost all year. Bay of Islands looked like it could have been our of some amazing Caribbean island... but better. Sandy shores combined with other rocky shores and often cliffs cover the coastline of this Kiwi getaway. Quite literally a bay of islands, the place was definitely not bad on the eyes. Our vacation house that we rented sat right at the end of a peninsula on a hill that led right down to the clear blue water. The peninsula is part of a town called Russell, one of New Zealand's first white people inhabited towns. There is a lot of NZ history on this part of the country because this is where the European people came NZ, came up with the Maori written language, and collaborated and signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Maori people. This is STILL a very very big issue in NZ and has helped shine light on the differences I find between the white and Maori people. (Its all very complicated and there is more to this whole thing but this is the gist of what I have learned) When the treaty was signed the white people were highly more educated than the Maori people and had the treaty written in both Maori and English and through the misinterpretations of the Maori people with the treaty they were seen as taken advantage of by the white people by modern day Maori people. They essentially signed over the right to vast majorities of their land guns, some European commodities, etc. At the time the Maori people thought the treaty was good but now as time has gone by they see it as wrongful. To this day the Maori people still are fighting the Treaty of Waitangi and trying to attain lands lost in this treaty. OK, so now it gets weird with the whole thing that it was many many years ago and people saying that Maori people today are not affected by it and cant claim land that was peacefully signed away that long ago by their ancestors. Also it should be noted that there are no longer any pure blooded Maori people in NZ anymore. This makes Maori people mad at white people and vice versa. For example: my host father sells farms and was going to sell one to this guy when a Maori man stopped it because the land used the be his ancestors and was wrongfully taken away so the government gave it back to him. Its hard to say who is right in this argument, but its definitely taught me something very interesting about NZ.

wow I just got really off track... anyways the Russell is a really cool place to stay in with a very limited touristy feel and great restaurants right on the beach. While we were there we took a day trip up to Cape Reinga, the most northern tip of NZ where a lighthouse sits right at the end. This is where the Pacific ocean meets the Tasman Sea in a fantastic way. You can see the line where they meet on a windy day that starts right at the shore and goes far out into the sea. It truly is brilliant. On the drive there you could definitely tell you were approaching the end of some land even though it was still very hill. After that we all swan at the most northern beach in NZ and then we did one of the coolest things ever. Sand boarding! you get a boogey board at the top of these MASSIVE and STEEP sand dunes and just run and dive with it down them. You fly down them so fast and hit the bottom and skid for about 40 meters.

The next day we did a speed boat ride to the famous Hole in the Rock, and actually went through the whole in the rock! I was not expecting that one! On the way there we saw a school of about 40 dolphins jumping and playing around in the water. Never seen anything like that before. And the rock was also fantastic, when I come back to NZ I am definitely doing that boat ride again.

The rest of the trip was spent relaxing and playing gin rummy (sp?). A perfect start to a perfect vacation.

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