The Maori Village experience last night was a joy. It was a very professional operation, but what was most delightful was to see the pride and enthusiasm with which the Maori people were promoting their culture. There was none of that sense of staleness that is common at tourist venues, where the workers go through the same motions day after day. Ours was one of about eight buses that arrived at the village, which includes a recreation of a pre-European-settlement village set in a most impressive forest of giant trees. We were greeted at the entrance to the village by a fiercesome "welcome" ceremony, which is taken very seriously. I couldn't help wondering how the original Europeans had the courage to persist, but I suppose guns were more persuasive than bulging eyeballs and protruding tongues.
The fact that all of this took place in the dark, lit only by spotlights pointing up into the heights of those magnificent trees, made it even more spectacular. There was a big secondary school group among the spectators and they were as awed as the adults. It was powerful theatre.
We were free to wander the village where each little house was occupied by one or two members of the tribe demonstrating some aspect of traditional culture, such as the tattooing and the weaving. They were in full ceremonial dress.
As you can see, I didn't know how to take photographs in the dark and all my photos are hopeless. Positioning the camera here to take in the arm of the bloke next to me was not a great idea - and I don't think I can crop photos on the iPad. But this Maori warrior, if you can make him out at all, was truly scary.
One of the tourist attractions is to watch the cooks uncover the hangi, which has been buried with hot volcanic rocks for at least three hours. The dinner was melt-in-the-mouth lamb and chicken with lots of perfectly baked root vegetables. The entertainment was first-class - lots of dances and singing, plenty of poy twirling and stick throwing, and of course the haka.
Andrew and David, do you remember performing the haka so convincingly in the hall at Windsor when you were at Kurrajong North?
As always when I've been in New Zealand, I can't help but notice how different is the participation of Maoris in New Zealand society compared to the situation with indigenous people in Australia.
The weather today and yesterday has been glorious - cool mornings and evenings but warm, bright days. It has been perfect weather for driving through such spectacular scenery.
I had a great meal last night at an award-winning restaurant at Mount Managanui. The highlight of their menu is a seafood stack. The mixed seafood is marinated in lime juice, which virtually cooks it, and then threaded on a giant skewer which is presented vertically on the plate - very dramatic. But it becomes even more dramatic when the chef brings it out, dowses it in vodka and flambees it. I didn't order that dish myself but I enjoyed the theatre; each time the dish was served the lights were dimmed to maximise the effect of the flames. One woman wanted to photograph the procedure but she was so slow taking the shot that the flames went out and the chef had to throw on a whole lot more vodka.
This afternoon I arrived in Whitianga where I am staying in an apartment that looks like something out of Vogue Living. The ornaments aren't quite to my taste, but it's very comfortable, with a particularly well-equipped kitchen. It's in a gated community and I have three separate electronic buzzers as well as the front door key - one for the main gate of the complex, one for the pedestrian entrance and one for my garage. Each apartment looks over the canal with its marina; the aspirational classes can park their boats at the door. The two immediately in front of my apartment are very large indeed. Here is the view from my bedroom:
And here are two views of the living area:
I have bought groceries to last for three days and intend to do nothing but read, watch the new series of Outnumbered on the iPad, and sleep.
I've just arrived at my hotel in Auckland. I had booked a superior apartment because I liked the idea of harbour views, but when I checked in I was informed that I had been upgraded to the penthouse on the 23rd floor - so I have two whole walls of glass looking down on the harbour. There is a balcony running around the two sides, but I appreciate the view more from inside - the balcony is quite scary. My poor little unit in Lemongrove is going to be looking even more scruffy than usual after this experience.
There has just been a brief rainstorm and then a huge rainbow, which filled the entire side window.
Here's an idea of the view:
Beautiful though this is, it's not very well-equipped. I have a full hotplate, oven and microwave, but cooking equipment consists of two small saucepans. As I've brought food supplies with me for tonight, and I want to cook meals most nights that I'm here, I'm off to find Housekeeping and see if I can persuade them to give me a frying pan and some kind of microwave container. Cutlery and dishes are limited to two of everything: they obviously discourage entertaining.