While unimpressed with Auckland, our first real stop on our New Zealand journey was New Plymouth. The highlight of New Plymouth was Mt. Taranaki where the Last Samurai was filmed because it resembles Mt Fuji in Japan. Our 1st day there we celebrated Ethan's birthday with a hike around the base of Mt. Taranaki. That evening we had a birthday celebreation with fellow hostellers, including Ricky Martin, a.k.a. "Popstar", our host. Through Popstar we learned a little about the indigineous people of New Zealnd; the Maori's. He told us about the love story of Mt. Taranaki.
According to Maori legend, Mt. Taranaki once resided in the central North Island. The Morri's believe that the volcanic eruption of Mt. Taranaki and other volcanic mountains nearby was really the mountains battling for the heart of a smaller mountain, Pihanga. When Mt. Taranaki lost to Mt. Tongariro, he journeyed to the coast, heartbroken. During that journey he gorged out the Whanganui river and filled it with his tears for Pihanga. It is said that clouds still frequently hide the tears he sheds for his lost love.
After New Plymouth we drove to Wellington where we went to the Te Papa Museum. There we learned more about Maori culture, the relationship between the Maori's and the English, as well as the history of how New Zealand was populated; where people immigrated from and why.