Auckland is the largest city in Polynesia. For some Polynesian island nations there are more expatriates living in Auckland than in their homeland. Auckland's rich Pacific cultural mix is celebrated at festivals and sporting matches. Auckland often rates well in international quality-of-life polls; consistently rating in the top five.
My last full day in New Zealand started like the most of them - I woke up, looked out of the window and saw the rain pouring down. I was couchsurfing with Michael and we were planning to go for a run in the morning since he is also an avid half marathon runner. Those plans went out of the window and soon I was walking out of the door to explore the rainy Auckland. It was drizzling outside, but what immediately blew me away (quite literally) was the strong wind which brought back the memories of Chicago around the same time last year.
The first (and only) stop on the planned itinerary for the day was MOTAT - Museum Of Transport And Technology. Located outside of city center, it was a 15 minute bus ride ($3.60) to get there and another $10 (after 25% off coupon from the Jason's guide) to get in and I think those were the best $10 I spent on a museum admission ever. First, I got a ride on an old style tram car to MOTAT II which houses the aviation portion of the museum. Inside a giant hangar, they had everything from a Lancaster bomber to funky agriculture airplanes to a Skyhawk. I also saw Lockheed Electra there for the first time - a prominent airliner of the 1940s, I was surprised at how small it was in real life.
Outside, behind the hangar, there was another Electra in a much worse state being restored, as well as a couple huge flying boats and a DC-3 in similar condition to Electra. On the bright side, I noticed that both featured split flaps which I have not seen before and always wondered where the heck they have been used as all four types are always being mentioned in any aviation textbook when they start talking about flaps.
After an hour at MOTAT II, it was back on the tram for me for a quick ride to the main expo area. It was an iterating combination of various transportation and technology exhibits, mixed together with other seemingly random things such as restored Victorian village buildings, mirror mazes, and even a flying saucer for kids to ride.
Degas to Dali Traveling Exhibition
One could easily spend a day at MOTAT, but I could not afford that luxury. On the way to there, I was riffling through some brochures and saw that a traveling art expo from Scotland titled 'Degas to Dali' was opening at the Auckland Art Gallery that day, promising everything from early impresionism works to samples of pop art. I went in not expecting much, maybe a couple paintings by Degas and Dali to lure the crowd in with the rest of the expo being subpar (after all, I have never heard of great Scottish collections). Instead, there were six halls filled with many goodies - Monet, Van Gough, Degas, Renoir, Gaugin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Lipchitz, Dali, Lichtenstein and Warhol. All mixed together - how is that for time travel! Even though there were only a couple paintings from each, I enjoyed it more than staring at entire halls filled with works by the same artist. Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed inside the expo.
My final destination for the day was Davenport. Auckland brochure praised it for the old-style Victorian architecture dotted with coffee shops and nice lookouts from Mt. Victoria and North Head. I bit and boarded the ferry across the harbor just to find a pretty average town on the other side with not much of exciting architecture. There did seem to be more coffee shops and espresso bars per capita that I have seen until now, but I kept on going and hiked up the very steep hill of Mt. Victoria to check out the remnants of the fort that was once built there to protect Auckland from Russia's Pacific fleet. It was not really that exciting and the wind up there was getting pretty strong so I came back down and walked over to North Head where they had a few more defensive structures left standing, but still nothing too exciting so soon I was heading back to the ferry terminal.