Friday, 15 May 2009

Coming in from the cold

As previously stated, I think couchsurfing ( is a great idea, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. In the case of my hosts in Dunedin and Wellington, this means heating. NZ has a curious view of central heating and double glazing, ie 'we're not ready for these new-fangled ideas, thanks'. In the Dunedin flat, there were alternatives, but being students, my hosts were reluctant to incur cost by using them. In Wellington, my hosts simply don't have anything - the flat is in any case more a micro-brewery (with a very palatable product) than a place to stay. Of course, the accommodation is free, so I'm not really complaining, just didn't think my chunky hand-knit pullover would see so much indoor use here.

But it's the opposite with Pete and Debbie (the latest members of the Donaldson clan to host me - as ever, hospitality way beyond anything I've a right to expect) in Masterton. A wood burning fire-cum-water heating system in the living room, which had me sweating beer (Pete is very generous on this front too) by the end of the 1st evening. This is a much nicer problem. Plus the weather is warmer here in the north. Just as wet, but this has mostly been at night, when I find it a relaxing sound. In fact, getting to sleep without the sound of water pounding on the roof and windows could be an issue, if I ever get to experience it again.
Will report on the Masterton nostalgia-fest next time. But had a few days in Wellington first. I've little memory of spending time in the cities when we were here before, suspect that as outdoors people our parents just didn't take us to them much. Wellington is the most attractive NZ city to walk in (or rather above - see photo for one of many attractive viewpoints that overlook the city), but the big attraction is Te Papa, the newish Museum of New Zealand. Like many of these new museums, it has complex architecture that somehow fails to form a coherent whole from any angle, and an impressionistic approach to exhibits which sometimes makes me want to grab a guide by the shirtfront and shout "I don't want to know how it felt, I want to know what happened, dammit!" The Imperial War Museum in Manchester was the same, a sensory assault that told me lots about what it was like to be in a war, but left me giving thanks that I knew the history of the wars Britain had actually fought prior to going in. But both are very impressive in their own way. Te Papa is huge, and the large-scale exhibits make excellent use of the space they've been given.
Te Papa is also a reminder that the Maori experience is more central to life and culture on the north island than the south. The Maori versions of history and myth are reported on exhibits and at viewpoints in the south, but they can seem like afterthoughts, plus I saw few actual Maoris there. Apparently there were large areas they never colonised, only visiting seasonally to mine or hunt. I'll be interested to see how the North differs.

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