Dear Reader, No joke… Auckland is Los Angeles without Hollywood (or minus entitlement and pretense). Think a bunch of very mellow, friendly folks who love to be outside, laugh loudly, and spend time at the beach. Exhibit 1 Ceillhe (read K-Lee) Sperath founder and director (along with her husband Neill) of TIME Unlimited Tours +64 21 574 414 (I am writing down the number for me as much as you, Dear Reader, as she said to call her if we get terribly lost) and her very funny and wonderful sidekick Tracy.
Ceillhe is part Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) as is Tracy and they did an expert job of explaing the assimilation of the Maori with all of the other settlers who came to NZ. NZ never displaced the Maori from their tribal lands and the Maori language is one of the three recognized languages of NZ (English and American Sign Language being the two others). The pride which Ceillhe and Tracy spoke of the Maori and the oral tradition (the history of the Maori is told through family stories passed down from generation to generation) is truly amazing.
Auckland has 52-55 volcanoes all within it’s borders the tallest is Mt. Eden. Rotora is the baby volcano which is the most likely to erupt, but as Ceillhe said “why worry- it takes away from living.”
From Mt. Eden, we went to the Auckland Memorial Museum (where in World War II US troops were stationed) where we learned more about the Maori Culture (a culture who is completely invested in environmental preservation and care of all people). We saw a traditional Maori dance which included the Haka, a dance meant to prepare troops for battle and scare all on-lookers (I am practicing to use on my kids during those off-times). From the museum, we went to Davenport and had a great across the bay view of Auckland and tried (well, the fellas did) some amazing chocolate, spied New Zealand’s five boat navy (they are pacifists), and had a great time on Mt. Victoria- Davenport’s volcano.
From Davenport, we headed to the rainforest (very beautiful and cold) and lunch at Elevation. Surrounded by massive ferns, the prawn green curry, lamb burgers, and seared ahi salad were huge hits.
From the rainforest we headed down to one of the most spectacular black sand beaches with friendly (big surprise) Kiwi dogs and had tea with Kiwi “Tasties” (think golden kiwis, biscuits, jafras, tea, and manuka honey) in an absolutely gorgeous setting.
From the beach we headed to a perfect waterfall and returned home to a night time Auckland with wonderful memories and two new friends. My hope is that Ciellhe, Neill, Danica and Tracy all come to Los Angeles soon so that we can return their tremendous hospitality and kindness.