Museums, Mountains and Maori, Oh My.

The beauty of living in Auckland’s downtown core is most important stores, sights, and schools are within walking distance. It’s great that I don’t have to spend money on bus fare (which, coming from Toronto – we can all agree, public transportation is the worst).

But, living in Auckland’s downtown core with most important stores, sights, and schools within walking distance is one of the worst things to ever happen to me.

Because, well, I tend to walk.

A lot.

(And I know, I know. I apologize. I keep complaining about it, but for some reason getting up the hills here gets harder and harder each day.)

That’s why when a friend of mine wanted to see a fashion photography exhibit held at Auckland’s War Memorial Museum a large group of us thought it’d be a great start to our tourist-y behaviour in the city.

So we walked.

All the way to Auckland Domain. Known as Auckland’s oldest park, it also happens to be one of the largest and, fun fact, is built on the cone of an extinct volcano. 

(While there weren’t any volcanic eruptions, there was no lack of heatwave conditions thanks to Saturday’s gruelling muggy, extremely humid, weather – which I was told has never been like that, ever.)

One of the coolest trees I have ever seen!
One of the coolest trees I have ever seen!

 

But, after what felt like hours of walking (it’s really only about 30 minutes or less from my apartment), we finally arrived at the Auckland War Memorial Museum – and with a flash of our AUT student cards, free access made the day a whole lot better.

(Read: museums are free for Auckland residents.)

This is New Zealand's first museum.
This is New Zealand’s first museum. It reminds me a little of Washington D.C. for some reason…

With three levels filled with New Zealand history (focusing a lot on the Maori), New Zealand’s culture (including fashion), and geography, the Auckland War Memorial Museum is everything from educational to entertaining.

Meeting House
Meeting houses often represented an ancestor’s anatomy. Rafter would represent ribs, the long beam in the middle would be a spine, the front would be the head, etc. Carvings on the wall would also represent ancestors from that lineage.

One highlight of the museum was upon entering you’re immediately exposed to Maori meeting houses and store houses.

Similar to the Japanese, it is expected that one removes their shoes upon entering a meeting house. These homes were highly symbolic as the carvings – and even the structure itself – would represent a person/tribe’s ancestry.

A pataka was a a storage house, but this one in particular was also meant to showcase Te Pokiha's (an ancient Maori tribal leader) status/power.
A pataka was a a storage house, but this one in particular was also meant to showcase Te Pokiha’s (an ancient Maori tribal leader) status/power.

Other interesting facts I learned at the museum:

  • While most Maori men received their ta moko (a traditional Maori tattoo) all over their face, most women only got theirs on their chin
  • The Te Toki ā Tāpiri is the last Maori war canoe from the 1800s. It’s long and I mean 25-metres-length-of-a-lane-in-a-swimming-pool-fit-up-to-100-people long
  • In the 1800s “baby farming” was a big issue. This was where illegitimate children were to be taken care of by other women. One woman in particular Minnie Dean was the first woman to be given the death penalty, as a result of all the babies under her care who were found dead (with bodies stored in hat boxes…)
  • A lot of the birds are flightless in New Zealand because prior to the Europeans there were no predatory animals
  • Albatross mate for life and can live up to 50 years old
  • Museum cafe food is super expensive (a breakfast option of eggs and bacon was almost $20…)

DSC_0047

And although we didn’t get to tour the whole museum (I’m not complaining, I still have enough time to do it) and we were still faced with impending heat on our way back home, I guess the day could only really be described as a walk in the park.

Literally.

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