Or welcome from the bottom of the world. Ok, Hamilton, New Zealand may not quite be the end of the world. Technically, it’s not even the bottom of the country, as it’s on the North Island. Still it feels like I’ve plonked myself in a place that’s at the edge of everywhere – and a fraying edge it is too. I’m staying in the city centre – marked on the map as the CBD (Central Business District), although from what I can see, business isn’t quite booming. The weekdays look more like Perth after 6pm. Still, judging from the rows of cars parked along the streets, there must be people somewhere.
Nevertheless, I’m determined that there must be Something to See and Do in the city. So I set off down Victoria Street for the Waikato Museum – as every good tourist should. I think museum exhibits say a lot about what a country wants to say (or not) about its culture. The museum is part art gallery, which is a bit wasted on me, as it’s mostly modern art. One exhibit asks visitors to write messages on green post-it notes and paste them on the leafless tree painted on a wall. Ok, so some exhibits might have interested me.
The Maori exhibit is worth the visit though. The centrepiece of this gallery is a large carved canoe that is a bit like a Kerala snake boat. I would love to have a photograph but cameras are not allowed in here. There are also woven grass bags and mats on display, as well as a number of green stone (jade?) artifacts. Although the typical souvenir is usually made of paua shell, I’m now determined to find something in green stone to take back home. It just seems more authentic to me. How many paua shells were in the museum anyway? Huh! However, the grass mats are a no-no. I’ve got a horrible tickle in my nose – I would make a very poor Maori.
Right beside the museum is Art Post, an art gallery and shop. The gallery wing fails to impress me, possibly because the exhibits are mainly wire sculptures, the largest of which is an uncomfortably realistic Australian spider. I’m suddenly reminded of
my German flatmate’s book of dangerous Australian creepy crawlies. The shop itself has pottery, ornaments, and a host of other things that would burn holes in to my pocket and melt all my plastic. Very wisely, I Walk Away.
Next I head over to the Browsers Bookshop – as my mother will tell you I’m a bit of bookshop magnet. Here I find author’s I never thought I’d see on a shelf again (Anne Digby) and possibly an early hardcover edition of National Velvet. I’m not buying, but I feel very good. It’s nearly 5pm,
which seems to be closing time for most places in this town. So I decide to head back up Victoria Street to my hotel. My first sightseeing trip has cost me a couple of hours of my time and has been completely free. Not a bad start.