New Zealand Part The First - Getting to, and then around, Auckland!

20/02/2003, Frankfurt Terminal 2

Well, it seems that my bad karma for flights to London has abated... granted, one train for the airport went missing. So I took the next one. Then the escalator to the right terminal was closed. So I took the next one. Then the huuuuge queue in Check-In E was the one for British Airways of course. But - at the end of that queue was none other than G., the only British Airways person I know personally, who promptly complimented me on my gear (though she had no idea I was kitted out as a Jedi for the con and didn't usually look like that) and gave me an upgrade to business class, at least for the FRA-LHR leg. And it's a lunchtime flight - yay British Airways desserts!!

Note to security staff: Obi-Wan Kenobi boots are a magnet for attention. Note to random passenger: it's Princess Leia, not Laa-Laa. Wrong universe. Force, Teletubbies crossover fanfic - I shudder to think!!

20/02/2003, LAX airport

Luck continues to hold...? Through Immigration & Customs in 30 minutes? Unheard of. And the in-flight entertainment was good too: the new James Bond movie (I lose a kind of virginity on each and every trip), and its parody, the utterly risible Austin Powers. Was stunned at how sexy JB was, even the torture scenes (...). And there was... a Maori in it. No, not the director (well, yes, him too). A mean long-haired, all-round Te Roa'ama-sized fighter with a cheeky little pounamu [greenstone, or New Zealand jade] comb in his warrior-style hair. But... laser beam through the mouth? I, to quote Alex, shake my head. And if I see another blockbuster movie with a dead Maori in it, I will officially scream! Harry Potter was enough, damn it.

*snip* Here follows the account of a rather clandestine Star Wars convention (yes, that's why I was in my Jedi robes - duh!) where, among other things, I was bitten by a very nasty and vicious wall. If you really must know, e-mail me privately, all right? ;)

26/02/2003 (there is no 25th this year!), Auckland Airport

Maps, maps, maps. The famed Kiwi helpfulness outran even my mother's concerned textie - but yes, there is Vodafone here, and dark wet clouds overhanging the Battle of 100 Lovers (remember to find out for Gloriana why the place is called that, and whether it is in any way discernible whether the lovers are indeed same-sex warrior couples). After all that sunshine in California it's only just I guess, and I would be infernally hot in my full tunics & robe anyway. As it is, I did manage to spend almost the entire flight asleep - the day-long conversations with Gloriana and Emu helped of course (and no, Glory, I'm not all about one man only. *pout*).

But here. Not only are half the staff 'Nesian (including, one assumes, the very eager little sniffer dog that leapt up at my hand baggage, excited at the lingering smell of the apple I'd eaten in London)... the 70-year-old lady here who just embraced her granddaughter welcome was wearing an overskirt of harakeke [New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax]. And they spoke Maori. In an airport. I feel I will have a lot of casting to do over the next few days!! The Customs logo alone is cool enough - a Britannia looking rather plain and embarrassed next to the tattooed lad beauty on the other side.

My wall-bitten finger is beginning to heal, my robes are stained with in-flight orange juice (the stuff here at Auckland is freshly squeezed), and I'm proud of myself for having got the quiz question about the broken-nosed Irish guy right. Loo, bus, possibly taxi, home in Parnell for a few days. Padawan Kat doesn't actually have a picture of me. Robes again?

Auckland's taking a leaf out of Berlin's book - artsy cows populate the streets!

27/02/2003 Chalet Chevron Hotel, Auckland

Well, she didn't recognise me, not at first anyway - the braid must be less conspicuous than I had thought! What a sweet girl though - independent, lithe, sweet (and fond of pathetic life forms - just about any thing this side of a huge spider (or a weta [large locust native to NZ, and one of the few nasty creatures there]) is termed "cuuuuute") and very open. Very much on the spanking side of the Force as it were - interesting discussions!

Very decorative seaweed at Hobson Bay, Auckland

Neil Finn was right about the weather though - four seasons in one day, or more accurately four of them in one hour! Auckland weather is notoriously changeable... Kare Kare weather is not. It was so pouring down with rain... soaked to the skin! Magnificent beach though, neverending, and not a soul around. And the sheer greenness of it all, so lush and alive... the little waterfall we found at the end was just so holiday-romance. We walked right in, shoes squelching and all, and I swear if it hadn't been for the tourist couple coming down the path after us, I would so have skinnydipped in there! The pool that Te Roa'ama finds for Kuai, just so.

A grinning Padawan Kat and a doubtful Kare Kare Beach just before it started pissing down

Once Were Warriors, Now Are Dustmen

And there's bloody Maori all over the place too - not only did I find Hans Neleman's out-of-print book of mokoed [tattooed] Maori faces in a bookshop called Endangered Books, but no - they're everywhere. And yes, they do smile occasionally, and all the more powerfully. Guh.

Upon seeing the weather this morning, I decided to give downtown Auckland a miss and just walk to the museum 10 minutes away, where I spent two hours in the Maori section, admiring artefacts (TRA's weapon of choice would be a tewhatewha, not a taiaha [both are essentially sharp sticks-cum-clubs]) and wondering at the short cuts the subtitles in Maori took because there wasn't much to explain to one who spoke te reo rangatira (the noble language, pride if ever I heard any) anyway.

The 'cultural performance' was basically a band of traditionally-dressed Maori kids having a lark (Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like A Bird" in Maori, anyone??), making innocent volunteers dance the poi dance, doing the same old haka [warlike posture dance] yet again and bloody loudly, and then doing their little Darth Maori bit with a taiaha.

A bored-looking Maori performer in the Auckland Museum...

The class of six-year-olds outside trying to do 'Nesian dance in the museum hall to a blaring cassette were cuter, but would really have benefited from the sheer vocal power of the six Maori called Manaia...

And here they are, caught in the act as it were.

Auckland tastes good as well - exceedingly cheap and good sashimi and sushi in swanky Parnell yesterday (the houses here are either 100 years old and made of wood or experiments in modern architecture), and a stunningly pretty lamb-based thing at Frasers in Mt Eden Road today. Who'd'a thunk a noisy NZ cafe could do such stunning food? Not me. Yum.

Word of the day is 'munted' - broken, tired... an all-purpose Kiwi adjective really! Will try and do Gangs of New York tomorrow while still in the grip of modern civilisation... and Padawan Kat's coming too. She's altogether too much fun to be with.

01/03/2003, Auckland Ferry Building

Sun!! At last I am in a position to tell east from west... not that that helps when going north, as I am, to the Bay of Islands, there to see more sea and possibly dry some of the damp stuff in my bag... that is to say, all of it!! Managed to catch up with my e-mail today, nothing but spam *pout* Had been hoping for a con review or two *snerk*, but then everyone knew I was off to NZ. Maybe they're thinking there's no internet here? Padawan Kat's coming to next year's model, and has expressed great eagerness at the idea of sleepless nights, con-style. Oh, she'd be such a hit... and I'd better bring weaponry ;)

Seriously found myself contemplating getting a taiaha through Customs... god, this place is getting to me! They've got buskers with pianos here - my kind of town.

So that's where the One Ring ended up... at a jeweller's in Auckland!

'Gangs of NY' was quite staggeringly violent, but replete with pointed comments about America today. And would have been worth it for Liam alone. God, there's just so much of him!!

Off to catch the bus up North - we'll see how it goes in the 9th life :)

On to the Bay of Islands
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