Commentary on A Trip to
Australia and New Zealand
Lila and Alan
Monday, October 7, 1996
trip to Australia and New Zealand was close to six weeks long.
Six weeks did not seem an inordinate amount of time when we were
in the planning stage and was not as long as what we would come to
realize was needed to see all the places we had wanted to visit, but it
was the longest time we had ever been away from home and family.
We planned for at least four or five nights in each city or site
that we were visiting, except in New Zealand where we were traveling as
part of a tour group for the full time we were in the country. We were in Australia for almost four weeks and two weeks in
New Zealand. We could have
used another week in Australia to visit Perth and Adelaide, which I had
wanted to see, but it did not seem feasible when one considers the time
already allotted. We should
also have planned another week in New Zealand, but I will get back to
departed Washington, D. C. on a four-hour flight to San Francisco, where
we had a three-hour layover at the airport awaiting our flight to
Australia. Time passed
slowly as we anticipated the flight to Sydney and it was already quite
late by our body time clocks, but finally we boarded the aircraft, quite
excited with the anticipation of finally visiting a country so far away
and the culmination of eighteen months of planning.
Even the fourteen hour nonstop trip didn't seem to be a difficult
hurdle at this point. Settling
into our seats ...we soaked up the thrill of it all, had some drinks, an
excellent meal, two movies, caught some winks and then had only eight
hours flying time left. Not
too bad at that!!
Sydney, New South Wales
Wednesday, October 9, 1996
arrived in Sydney at 6:30am and checked into the hotel, left our bags in
the room, which had an extraordinary view of the city harbour and the
Opera House, and by 8:00am, we were heading into town to start our long
journey "Down Under". Our
hotel was located in the Kings Cross section of Sydney, also known
affectionately as the "Red Light" district.
At first, we were somewhat troubled by this realization, but soon
came to find out that the infamous district was withering away, as it
was becoming the city's restaurant and entertainment center.
Sydney is an enchanting city that is as cosmopolitan as New York
and very energetic, especially in a country with only about seventeen
and one-half million people and the size of mainland USA.
first stop was Sydney Tower, where we were able to observe the full
panorama perspective of the whole cityscape.
We met an Australian family and had our first introduction to the
people of Australia. They
are warm, humorous people, easily engaged in conversation or willing to
offer assistance. From
Sydney Tower, we walked down Macquarie Street and toured St. Mary's
Church, then on to Hyde Park Barracks ...used in early times to house
the prisoners in Sydney. We then visited the Mint Museum, which was
originally the Rum Hospital and then passed Sydney Hospital, which has a
statue of a boar (Il Porcellino - a copy of a statue located in
Florence). Later we toured
the Parliament House of New South Wales, visiting both the House of
Commons and the House of Lords. Conversing
for about two hours with a clerk at Parliament House, we learned much
about the bicameral form of government, the complexities of party
responsibilities and the legislative process all illustrated by way of
the unique humor that is inherent to the Australian people.
This being our first day in Sydney, we then walked way back to
the hotel, had a drink, rested and then had dinner.
Thursday, October 10, 1996
and I walked downtown to the Circular Quay, ...the harbour area where
the Opera House is also located. We
signed up for an afternoon harbour cruise and then went over to the
Opera House for a tour of the building.
The Opera House with the Harbor Bridge in the background is a
familiar symbol of Sydney and is even more beautiful when seen in person
as compared to a picture. The
Opera House is sort of a misnomer, since it consists of a concert hall
and dramatic theaters much like the Kennedy Center.
Built on Bennelong Point (Bennelong was the first Aborigine to
learn to read), the Opera House was started in 1958 and completed
fifteen years later. The Danish architect, Joern Utzon, was commissioned after he
won an architectural competition and money was raised through a state
external structure, with its unique roof sails design, is a free
standing building, that actually houses the drama theatre, playhouse,
opera house and concert hall that are located within.
There was much controversy surrounding the project and Utzon
resigned in 1966, left Australia and never did return to see the results
of his work. Peter Hall completed the construction phase and is
responsible for the interior design.
The concert hall is constructed completely of wood with all seats
and backs upholstered for improvement of acoustic quality.
the extent of the automobile traffic and the number of people in Sydney,
one would believe that all of the approximately 17 million people of
Australia live in that city. In
fact, Sydney has a population of about two and a half million.
The downtown area hosts shops that are quite high-priced, which
generally cater to an Asian population both living there and those
visiting for holiday and business.
The shops are plentiful, exquisite and are ordinarily crowded
with people shopping. Sydney
was established as a British penal colony and its history is filled with
many interesting stories of criminals of every caliber, their lives and
how they evolved into the society that exists today.
As one talks with the people of Sydney they often comment about
their humble beginnings and make light of their heritage, secure in the
belief that that they have a flourishing and successful society.
this time it is afternoon and we head over to the ferry piers at the
Circular Quay to embark on our cruise of the harbour.
The tour takes us around the Opera House and past the Botanical
Gardens to Sydney Cove, named after Lord Sydney, who was the British
Home Secretary at the time Australia was founded.
There we pass Government House, the home of the State Governor,
the Queen's representative. Along
the way we see the country's largest naval dockyard; Darling Point, a
recently developed waterfront area that is now a convention and
entertainment area. As we
journey down the harbour, we pass many of the elite waterfront suburbs
of Sydney that have beautiful homes overlooking the water.
The tour took us toward the mouth of the harbour and we turn
around just before the breakwaters leading to the ocean, and then
continue our cruise back to Sydney.
the cruise, we walked through downtown Sydney to the Queen Victoria
building, which consists of four floors of over 200 chic and novel
boutiques and stores. Continuing
our walk in downtown Sydney, we passed by the Great Synagogue, the focal
point of Judaism in this city. That
evening we had an excellent dinner and then walked around the bustling
streets and shops in the Kings Cross-area.
Friday, October 11, 1996
is quite hot in Sydney today, very unusual weather as summer is still
some months away, ...but it is to be expected as I am here.
Went to the Rocks section of Sydney, almost adjacent to the
Circular Quay, ...this is where the original settlers put down roots.
The ships came up the harbour and unloaded their wares and
prisoners in the Rocks area, which because of its stony facade provided
the means to build both homes and prisons.
Following the directions in the travel book, we went on a walking
tour of the Rocks and visited the Museum of Contemporary Art that is
also located in the Rocks section. Outside
the museum was a statue of William Bligh, who as Captain of a trading
ship, was set adrift in a life boat when his crew mutinied,
....afterwards he became the Governor of New South Wales.
Later we went to the Visitor Center, at the Rocks and signed up
for an escorted tour of the area in order to learn more of the culture
and history surrounding this section of Sydney.
We stopped at Cadman Cottage, built in 1816 and is the oldest
surviving house in Sydney.
toured Fort Denison, a jail for the convicts, who were brought over from
England and who had committed petty offenses.
We also visited Argyle Place, and toured Holy Trinity Church or
Garrison Church one of the very early houses of worship in Sydney.
We walked to Harbour Bridge and climbed the two hundred steps to
the top of the pylon getting another magnificent view of the city, the
Opera House and the Circular Quay.
After descending from the bridge pylon, we continued along Nurses
Walk, a quaint section within the Rocks area that is a haven for little
boutiques and antique shops. We
had lunch sitting outdoors in a tavern located in one of the very old
buildings that inhabit the area and then walked through some of the
shops that were originally prison cells in a time gone by.
Walking through the city, we headed back to the hotel and had
dinner in a wonderful restaurant that prepared original Chinese recipes
modified somewhat for the Caucasian taste.
Saturday, October 12, 1996
and I walked to the Paddington Market early today.
We were told that it was "just up the street", but it
was about five kilometers (3.5 miles) from the hotel; on the way we
passed the Jewish Museum; the Victoria Barracks, where the British
troops were housed until replaced with Australian army; and also some
very fashionable townhouses, built in the 1880's highlighting balconies
decorated with wrought iron railings.
The market, ...an open air array of hundreds of tents featuring a
variety of items for sale, seemed to be somewhat renowned in Sydney as a
place to visit on Saturday. There
were some interesting characters at the market giving body massages to a
waiting few. We remained at
Paddington market a short time, but shopping was not high on our list of
things to do, so we soon headed downtown and caught a jetcat boat to
is a seaside resort on the ocean, on a peninsular near the mouth of the
harbour. Walking down the
Corso, the main street to the Manly beach, there were many tourist type
novelty shops and boardwalk type restaurants.
There was also a rather interesting group of people again set up
with massage tables in the promenade area, selling their services to
those visitors and tourists willing to procure a massage.
We strolled along the beach, had lunch and watched people bathing
and having a casual weekend relaxing time.
The area was named by Governor Arthur Phillips in 1788, because
of the Aborigines living there at the time that he believed to be very
"manly". From the
beach we were able to see St. Patrick's Seminary, a huge structure off
in the distance high up on a hill overlooking the ocean.
returned to Sydney by ferry and watched numerous sailboats in the
harbour skirting in and around the ferry in a rather stiff wind ...ideal
for these small runabouts. From
the Circular Quay, we walked past the Opera house and into to the Royal
Botanical Gardens. Being as massive as the Gardens are and as tired as we were
by that time, we opted to take a tram with the benefit of a guided tour
of the rainforest, the flower gardens and even an opportunity to see Ms.
McQuarie's Chair. Ms.
McQuarie, wife of the Governor many years past, would often sit there
looking out at the harbour and so he had a special chair built for her.
It is interesting that as we traveled through the cities in
Australia and New Zealand, we were often asked if we visited their
Botanical Gardens and what we thought of them.
The local populace were genuinely proud of their gardens as they
have many beautiful parks and gardens not only in Sydney, but in most
every city and town we visited.
returning to our hotel, we walked through the Kings Cross "red
light " district watching the characters on display and sensing the
honky-tonk atmosphere. The
meals in Sydney were definitely a step above most of the other
restaurants that we went to during the rest of our trip.
I should note that meals throughout Australia, were served in the
European fashion, i.e. ..not rushed and definitely with more finesse
than the service we generally receive in restaurants in this country.
Sunday, October 13, 1996
rented a car in Sydney (to be driven on the left hand side of the road -
not a new experience for me) to drive to Canberra, the capital of
Australia. It was probably fortunate that it was Sunday morning and
there was not much traffic in Sydney when we were leaving the city.
We were told that we would be on the freeway in about twenty
minutes, so off we drove.... and then drove and drove.
We soon came to learn that a freeway is not a limited access road
in Australia, but, rather a numbered route that goes off to a specific
locale. About an hour into
the trip we reached a motorway (now, this is a highway as we have come
to know one), but it only lasted for about twenty miles.
via the Hume Highway, we stopped in Berima, a village that has been
restored as it was some 100 years ago.
We first had lunch in the Surveyor General Inn (a cook your own
steak affair over a common grill, before retiring to your own table to
enjoy the fruits of your labor) and then toured the Georgian style
courthouse, where the first jury trial in New South Wales
was held in 1843. We
continued onto Canberra, about a three hour trip from Sydney and upon
entering the city we found it to be a quiet (it was Sunday!) town with
almost no one on the streets ...mainly because, as we came to learn,
very few people stay in Canberra if they do not have to be there.
We were told that diplomats and senior government people return
to the major cities when ever they are able to do so.
from anywhere in Australia, except Canberra, cannot understand why
anyone would ever want to go to Canberra, except of course if you live
in Canberra and then you would not want to live anywhere else in
Australia. The people in
Australia, and New Zealand as well, have no great affection for
government and view it as a necessary evil.
They, therefore, have no respect for the people who work in
support of the government and consider them "maggots" living
on the dole.
is a beautiful, planned city that exists today because of the great
competition between Sydney and Melbourne, each wanting to serve as the
capital city. Neither would
let the other serve as the seat of the government so a new seat was
created to resolve the issue. Lake
Burley Griffin, (named after the architect of the city) a beautiful body
of water in the center of the city, divides the official Canberra from
its commercial side. In
many respects it mirrors the character of official Washington, DC but
crime is not a problem and traffic is almost nonexistent.
Monday, October 14, 1996
visited and toured the new Parliament House, which was recently
constructed to replace an aging building that had been used before.
The new capital building is very different ...the outside blends
into the rolling hills of the terrain and the inside is a very modern,
prominently designed structure that is difficult to sense from the
outside. From the roof of
the building, one can just walk down the grassy hill slope to the road
below. A discussion of the parliamentary form of government would
take pages and I am not fully equipped to lecture on this subject.
But hearing those in the know talk about their government
procedures, it is remarkable that anything gets accomplished during
their deliberations. Maybe
that is why the people have such a laissez fare attitude about
we visited the Australian National Gallery which had a display of
extraordinary Aboriginal art and sculpture including an array of over
two hundred strikingly decorated totem poles.
There were works from many of Australia's finest artists and an
outdoor sculpture garden with works by Rodin, Robert Klippel, Bert
Flugelman and others. We
went on to visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, a monument to
those who served in wartime and contained the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier. There was also a
war museum with exhibits depicting Australia's role in both World Wars,
the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Both the Gallery and the War Memorial are exceptional sites to
visit should one ever be in Australia.
Via the miracle of television, we watched as President Clinton
laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during his most recent
trip. Canberra is a quiet
city, but again the people were just wonderful, as they were throughout
an example of how people interact with one another ....when I was
getting ready to turn in the rental car in Canberra, I wanted to fill
the tank with petrol (just wanted to be authentic).
At the gas station, I could not find the release for the gas tank
door. Feeling kind of dumb
and searching as I did on my own for some minutes, I finally asked a
woman at the next pump for some assistance (I believed that maybe they
had some type of unique system). She
asked me where I was from and upon my answer she wanted to know if we
pump petrol in America. Of
course she was joking, but soon others started kidding me about my
inability to find the release. After
she looked at the car for a little while, she could not figure it out
either. Soon other people
became involved in this adventure and we then proceeded to take out the
manual, open the trunk, look under the dash, etc.
After a bit of time, we found the release on the door, low down
and sort of under an indent in the door panel ...by the way, not where
the book said it should be. But
they all helped and were always in a jesting mode.
Ayer's Rock, Olgas & Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
Tuesday, October 15, 1996
Canberra today, we head to Ayer's Rock via a connecting flight in
Sydney. This is our first
experience with Quantas Airlines, who provided all of our intra-country
flights. The flights were
generally on time, they served a full meal even on flights lasting only
about an hour's duration, and we were able to see a movie on flights
lasting two or more hours. I
hasten to add that their airfares are more expensive than we would be
accustomed to in our country, except, however, if you book the flights
from out of country having international tickets in hand.
Upon arrival at Ayer's Rock we went to our hotel, Sails In the
Desert, which was one of only three or four hotels, all within the same
compound located in the middle of the desert.
hotel resembled a large desert site camp with tents, hence the sails, to
provide cover from the sun. Each of the hotels in the compound serves a
different target budget (all operated by the same organization) with a
central (limited) village having a supermarket (expensive ...since
everything has to be brought in and there is no other place to shop) and
a few other shops. Tourists
are transported in and out each day by bus and plane on a never-ending
cycle. We had two nights in
Ayer's Rock and we had to get up each morning at 4:00am in order to
reach our daily destination. That
evening we went to the base of the Rock to watch the sun set, but
because of clouds in the sky, the Rock did not turn a bright and deep
red as we had been told to anticipate.
Wednesday, October 16, 1996
arising early, we boarded a 4:45am bus that took us to the Rock for
viewing the sunrise and then climbed to the summit. The sunrise was not
very exhilarating as the sun was again masked by clouds overhead.
Ayer's Rock is in the central part of the country, the outback as
they call it, where it is hot, arid and the terrain almost completely
flat. Except of course for
Ayer's Rock, or Uluru as the Aborigines now call their religious site,
which is a formation that is over six miles around at the base and
extends skyward about 1300 feet, with rather sheer sides.
In an area where for as far as the eye can see the land is flat,
Ayer's Rock is very dramatic when you get close to it, and it actually
takes your breadth away when you are climbing up the face.
first section is about a one-third mile trek up at a very steep - 45o to
50o - angle, feasible only by holding onto the chain that is provided.
After climbing the face, there is about a two-thirds of a mile
journey over an undulating, ever rising terrain until you reach the top.
The view is marvelous, but other than the village compound of
Ayer's Rock all the scenery is essentially ...the desert.
Descending the face is not particularly easy, as the chain now
appears lower and you do not want to bend over for fear of falling.
Since it gets quite hot each day and the flies (I will get back
to them in a moment) are out at midday, we were advised to start our
trek up at daybreak. We did
just that and it certainly made life more bearable.
We were cautioned to have water with us at all times because
of the heat and I even purchased a net to put over my head to keep the
flies out of my ears, nose, eyes and/or mouth.
If you can imagine your arm coming up from your chest over your
face to shoo away the flies ...well they call that the "Australian
salute". When the
flies are out you do the salute almost continuously or use the net or
have unbelievable self-control. Once
we reached the top of the face of the Rock, the trail continued for
another two-thirds or three-fourths of a mile over an undulating rock
surface that climbs to the summit.
It took about an hour to make the full climb and the view from
the top is exhilarating, if not for the view itself, then for the fact
that you did reach the summit. The
descent was actually harder on the legs than the ascent, because of its
severe slope. We had to be
very careful all the way down to ensure that we did not slip and then
lose the chain, as there is really nothing to stop you from falling all
the way down. The
following day a woman slipped and broke her leg, having to be carried
down for medical care.
midday we returned to the hotel to rest and avoid the afternoon heat and
then late that afternoon we went by bus to the Olgas.
The Olgas are a formation of thirty-six domes, four very large
ones poised uniquely in the outback.
Leaving the bus behind, we went on a six-kilometer (3.6 miles)
hike to the Valley of the Winds, following the setting sun.
It was still quite warm, but the welcome breeze kept the flies
away. Our guide discussed the ecosystem that existed in the desert
and provided insight concerning the flowers, shrubs and animals that we
had an opportunity to see on our trek.
Reaching the top, we had a beautiful view of the valley below and
the outback in the distance. Back
at the bus we had an outdoor evening barbecue in the wild, (where we
tasted kangaroo meat for the first time - tastes similar to beef) under
the stars by candlelight. where we were even visited by a Dingo (a wild
returning to the hotel, the guides provided us with a tour of the stars,
pointing out the Southern Cross and the Scorpio zodiac.
Thursday, October 17, 1996
early again, we had to catch a 4:50am bus to Kings Canyon, that would
take us on a three-hour trip through a rugged segment of the outback.
Along the way there were cattle grazing in open fields, camels in
the bush and kangaroos hopping along.
We stopped at a cattle station for breakfast before reaching
Kings Canyon, where we hiked to the rim and completed the
seven-kilometer canyon rim walk. Along
the very rocky, but well marked trail (climbing over and around rocks
was necessary), we had spectacular views of the canyon below.
Along the way, we had to descend a long series of stairs so that
we could cross a complex set of footbridges and reach the other side of
the canyon, before then climbing stairs again to return to the rim.
It was a remarkable experience completing this hike and having
the opportunity to learn about this part of the country.
Descending from the canyon rim, we continued our bus journey to
Alice Springs, watching an excellent film enroute, about the life and
exploits of Sydney Kidman, an Australian cattleman in the outback.
We arrived late that evening in Alice Springs.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Friday, October 18, 1996
toured Alice Springs in the morning by foot and visited the operating
headquarters and museum of The Flying Doctor Service.
Through this service, doctors provide coverage to very large
sectors of the outback using strategically located airplanes thereby
getting necessary medical help to people in a relatively short span of
time. The process has
performed extremely well and is highly regarded by the people.
We walked along the Todd River, a dry riverbed that is the scene
of the annual Henly-on-Todd regatta.
Race entrants, in full dress, carry their boats over their head
while running along the riverbed. We
were told that it is an entertaining event that is sponsored by the
community and is enjoyed by many who come to observe the race.
Alice Springs is home to many of the Aborigines and we had the
rare opportunity to learn about their culture and life.
that afternoon, we flew to Cairns, a tropical resort town with beautiful
palm trees and warm breezes, located adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. That evening, though arriving quite late, we walked around
town and visited the casino (for non-gamblers, we were attracted to the
casinos for the people watching experience) before retiring for the
night. Casinos, now
resident in each major city in Australia, have their own unique design
and draw a large crowd of participants. The Cairns casino was very
elegant, with beautiful chandeliers and lobby and was located across the
park from our hotel, so it was easy to stop in and watch people gamble
...and gamble they did, especially the visiting Asian tourists.
Saturday, October 19, 1996
our first day in Cairns we relaxed, walked around town and did some
laundry. We also made arrangements for some of the sightseeing trips
that we were planning for the following three days.
Sunday, October 20, 1996
boarded the Ocean Spirit II, ...a two masted catamaran, for a cruise to
the Great Barrier Reef. A
two and one half hour trip in the Coral Sea to Upolu Cay was relaxing
and gave us an opportunity to enjoy the disappearing Cairns landscape
while drinking early morning tea. We
boarded a smaller boat that transported us to the cay, a small landmass
of white coral sand on the reef. Having
signed up to snorkel on the reef, we donned our snorkeling gear and fins
and received a five-minute course that kept us close to shore.
This being the first snorkeling experience for me, I was both
excited and pleased as to my ability to move about in the water and
observe the spectacular seascapes of coral, plants and iridescent fish
that were so close that you could almost touch them.
Being able to see the fish and coral close up and not in pictures
or aquariums was awe inspiring because of their varied shapes and
splendid colors. We
returned to the catamaran for a buffet lunch and continued our
snorkeling experience in the afternoon, before returning to Cairns while
we savored champagne and wine. It
was an exceptional day having been able to see one of the wondrous
sights of the world and also learning to snorkel on the Great Barrier
Monday, October 21, 1996
an early morning wake up, we boarded the Quicksilver Wavepiercer, a
rather large boat in the Cairns harbour that would take us north to Port
Douglas, where we met our personal guide, who would escort us on an
eight hour excursion through the rain forest, along the Tasman seashore
and on a cruise of the Daintree river.
First stop was the town of Mossman and a visit to the Silky Oaks
Lodge, where we had a close up experience with some native animals
including wallabies and a Joey (a baby wallaby).
We then cruised along the Daintree River and hoped to see a
crocodile (from a distance), but it wasn't to happen ...a mild
disappointment. We did
learn about the vegetation that lines the shore and were able to watch
some of the exotic birds in the region.
With over 200 fish species, 70 crustaceans, 30 mangroves, 350
bird species and an unknown number of plants and trees, the area
certainly has a diverse ecological system.
then continued on to Cape Tribulation where lunch was served in the
midst of a rain forest ...a primitive arrangement, but giving us the
opportunity to sample many different exotic fruits, including jack
fruit, mangoes and passion fruit. During
our hike into the rain forest, the guide explained in extremely great
detail the ecological system that links the animal life and the plants
and the environment. I wish I could remember half of what he talked to us about;
in fact, I wish I could remember anything that he told us.
It made so much sense at the time that I believed that I would
remember all those facts forever. We also hiked along the beach by the
Tasman Sea as the guide talked about the many species of trees that
propagate down to the water's edge.
As we walked along the beach, the coastline turned up the mouth
of a river ...there was a sign warning to hikers of the possibility of
crocodiles in the area. Even
though I wanted to see a crocodile, I did not want to pet one, so I soon
abandoned my lead position in the group.
After a full and tiring day, we journeyed back to Cairns using
the four-wheel overland vehicle that was our day's transportation.
Tuesday, October 22, 1996
next day we arose early to board the train from Cairns to the village of
Kuranda. Traveling on a
narrow gauge track, built in the late 1800s, we climbed 1,055 feet over
21 miles, and passed through numerous mountain tunnels.
Kuranda is a quaint town atop the rain forest where we able to
peruse the abundant shops with goods available to the tourists.
The ascent through the rain forest was revisited again when we
descended via a skyrail or cable car - a thirty minute ride. With two stops along the way, we had time to hike into the
rain forest and visit some exhibits, and upon arrival at the base we
walked over to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park.
There, we visited the Creation theatre, which enlightened us to
the traditional and spiritual beliefs of the Tjapukai people, the History theatre, which describes the evolution of
their culture, and finally, we visited the Tjapukai Dance theatre, where
an Aboriginal dance team performed in an outdoor amphitheater.
the way, each evening we did have time to watch the gamblers in the
Cannes Casino and to "phantom" gamble.
As I had indicated earlier, each city had a casino and we had
visited the one in Canberra, which was a European design, i.e. it did
not have slot machines or pokies. By
phantom gambling, I mean we would look over someone's shoulder and
mentally suggest what we would do ...and then feel so good when we did
not lose any money. We did play the slots a little bit and if I didn't lose my
money too fast I felt that I had my evening's entertainment.
Wednesday, October 23,1996
next day we did sleep a little later as we had a noon flight to Hobart,
Tasmania. However, the
flights were to Sydney, then to Melbourne and finally, to Hobart.
I had indicated earlier that Quantas was an excellent airline and
each flight was right on time with excellent service provided.
arrived in Hobart quite late that night, rented a car and drove to
Battery Point, the port section in Hobart, ...very quaint with beautiful
Bed and Breakfast places along small, quiet streets.
We located the B&B that we had chosen via an email
correspondence from the states and we were quite excited about the
selection. When we arrived
the key was left by the door and so we let ourselves in, but the room
was not the one we had reserved. It
was quite warm that evening, the room was upstairs via a narrow
staircase and there was no way to open the windows. The accommodations were not satisfactory and we realized we
could not stay there. Well,
by that time it was about 10:30pm, but we left anyway and drove down the
street to a restaurant where the owner helped us locate a place for the
night. Off again in our
car, driving on the wrong side of the road, quite tired by this point,
we now had to locate our hotel in another part of town.
Fortunately, traffic was light and so it was not too much of a
problem, arriving at the hotel at about 11:30pm and ready for a beer by
I was surprised to learn that the USS Carl Vinson was making a port
visit to Hobart, ...there was 5000+ sailors in town (quite a percentage
increase in local population) and the hotel we were in was almost fully
booked with Americans. As
the bar was about to close, I left Lila with the bags and headed
directly into the bar, where I had a drink with the ship's Chaplain.
I felt Navy again, but I hadn't planned to travel this far for
Thursday, October 24,1996
next day we headed back to Battery Point and located a beautiful B&B
with a room that was truly perfect.
The house had three rooms to rent and we were lucky to secure the
Master bedroom, since somebody had just canceled their reservation.
We then went down to Salamanca Place, adjacent to Battery Point.
It is a beautiful area by the harbor with many restaurants and
shops. We visited a sports
bar that was broadcasting a World Series game and had lunch with some of
the ship's company. That
evening we drove over to visit the Hobart Casino, which was on the edge
of town with a view of the Tasman Sea.
Friday, October 25,1996
we had a pleasant ride through the Tasmanian countryside to the Port
Arthur Penal Settlement, now a park and historic site.
It is also the site of a very recent shooting where twenty-six
people were killed. It was
a terrible shock to the locals as this is certainly out context for the
life style in Tasmania. Anyway,
Port Arthur was a penal colony during the period 1830 to 1877, for about
12,500 inmates. Located on
a rugged piece of coastline it made escape rare and life rather hard. We visited some of the buildings that still remain and
embarked on a walking tour of the grounds, as well as a boat cruise in
and around the harbor. It
offered a great insight into the part that Australia played in coping
with the convicts shipped over there from England, most never to return
to the homeland again.
the way back to Hobart, along the coastal cliffs, we visited the
Blowhole, the Tasman Arch and Devil's Kitchen, all uniquely carved by
the wave action of the Tasman Sea and left for visitors to view the
beauty of these spectacular creations.
That night we went back to the restaurant where we had sought
help our first night in Hobart. A local little restaurant in Battery Point, Da Angelo's was
certainly special. The food
was great, we brought our own wine and Angelo sought of adopted us,
making our visit very personal. We
went back the next night, because of the great meal experience that we
had, and Angelo gave me one of his hats (with the restaurant label),
which I then used during the remainder of the trip.
Saturday, October 26,1996
began this day after another great breakfast at the B&B (this was
truly a neat place to stay), and headed out to Mt. Fields National Park.
A rustic park, it is the site of a series of beautiful waterfalls
and a dense rain forest. On
the way, we stopped at a salmon and trout fishery, had lunch (salmon, of
course) and then toured the hatchery, the museum and the pools where we
watched as the salmon and trout almost jumped out of the water as we fed
on to Mt. Fields, we started on a trail leading to the first waterfall.
That was an easy one-quarter kilometer walk, where many others
heading that way as well accompanied us. Upon reaching this first
waterfall view area, we continued on the trail while all the others
returned to the car park area ...it was a seven-kilometer trail and it
seemed the way to see the true beauty of Tasmania.
And we did, with no one else in sight we set off on our journey,
soon reaching an almost endless trail of mud.
We persevered however, careful not to move too far off the trail,
since we were afraid of snakes in the region.
Australia has eleven of the world's most poisonous snakes and we
didn't want to meet any of them close-up.
The scenery was spectacular, and even though the trek took longer
than we had anticipated and the clean up was a bit more than we planned,
it was certainly a worthwhile adventure.
Sunday, October 27, 1996
we headed south out of Hobart to the Huon Valley along a very scenic
drive, a section of which was along the coast.
Enroute we stopped at the Talume Wildlife Park and Koala Garden
at Gardners Bay, where we were able to view some of Australia's native
animals in the wild. The
park was off the main road and at the time of our visit they were no
other visitors. Consequently,
we had an exclusive guided tour through the park.
We had a unique opportunity to observe, feed, fondle and/or hold
wombats, wallaby, peacocks, brush tail possums, golden possums, king
parrots, ring neck doves, golden pheasants, deer, Emu, Koala bears, cape
baron geese and even the infamous Tasmanian Devil.
The Tasmanian devil has the fangs that gives it the look of a
devil and made a screeching, growling sound, but otherwise appeared to
be afraid of people.
we continued on to Huonville, a quaint, picturesque town on the Huon
River, where we stopped for lunch.
After our visit to Huonville, we drove back to Hobart and
strolled along the waterfront area of Salamanca, where we viewed a
statue of Abel Tasman, the man who discovered Hobart in 1642.
Salamanca is a waterfront area filled with warehouses that in
early times supported the shipping and fishing industry, but now serves
the tourist and local populace as an entertainment site.
on to Battery Point, where we were staying, we visited the Maritime
Museum, which had relics, paintings, artifacts of a time gone by and
models of Tasmania's long and fascinating shipping history.
Then we walked around Arthur's Circus, also in Battery Point,
which was near to our B&B. Arthur's
Circus is a roundabout with a village green in the middle and bounded by
an enchanting medley of small cottages and houses that were built in the
Monday, October 28, 1996
we walked in and around downtown Hobart in the morning and then headed
for the airport for our afternoon flight to Melbourne.
Upon arriving in Melbourne, we checked into the hotel and then
headed over to the Regent Theatre to see if there were any tickets
available for the Australian premier showing of "Sunset
Boulevard". In Sydney, we tried to buy tickets without success, and were
presently surprised that tickets for that evening were available even
though the show had opened only three nights earlier. The show was extremely well done, with an
all-Australian cast and we had the good fortune to sit amongst a
historical group responsible for renovating this theatre after
twenty-six years of darkness.
Tuesday, October 29, 1996
first full day in Melbourne gave us the opportunity to see some of the
parks for which this city is known and to appreciate how enthusiastic
this city is with regard to sporting events, with its collection of
stadium and athletic facilities. It
also has a beautiful new riverfront development area along the banks of
the Yarra River, which runs through the city.
Melbourne is more "Old World" and a bit stuffier than
Sydney, but there is much character in the many old structures and parks
and the new development shows a forward thinking citizenry.
With its many bridges across the river and the very beautiful
Victorian Arts Center serving as the centerpiece of the cultural
heartbeat of the city,
Melbourne hosts many international events and is preparing for the
future with a positive energy.
walked along the river, to the Victorian Arts Center and then on to St.
Paul's Cathedral, the center of Melbourne's Anglican faith.
There we had the unexpected pleasure of listening to a concert by
the Royal Australian Navy Band of Melbourne, while being able to study
the beautiful Gothic architecture of the church.
Melbourne has an extensive system of trams, of which the citizens
are very proud. We used the
tram to get around the city and make our necessary visit to the city
casino. This casino is
quite large and is preparing to move to an even larger facility along
the river front complex that is currently under construction.
Later, we went to the Rialto Towers building to see the city from
the 55th floor observation deck. Afterward,
we walked through the city, visiting a shopping center that was as large
and beautiful as any that we have in this country.
Preserved and situated totally within the shopping center was a
historical ammunition facility with a three-story shot tower.
In the evening we went to dinner in the section of Melbourne that
is home to many of the Greek and Italian families.
In fact we were told that there are more Greek people in this
city than any city outside of Greece.
Wednesday, October 30, 1996
morning, we scheduled a cruise on the Yarra river, passing under some of
the sixty-one bridges crossing the river.
Much like Paris, France these bridges provide character to the
city as well as serving the transportation needs for the many people
living here. We passed the site of the 1956 Olympics sports and
entertainment center, which can cater to a quite impressive 101,000
people. This evening we
planned to see the Fairy Penguin Parade about a two and one-half hour
trip outside of Melbourne by bus. Forewarned
about the near freezing temperatures and the need to sit in waiting on
concrete bunkers for the Fairy Penguins to emerge from their all day
stay in the ocean gathering food, we brought heavy blankets provided by
the hotel. This is a very
popular trip, as we could attest to by the many busloads of people who
shared the evening event with us, but I cannot even begin to understand
why. After about thirty
minutes in the conditions described above the twelve inch penguins
scurried up the beach in just minutes and into their underground burrows
to feed their young, while thousands of the five to six feet humans
tramped all over each other trying, sometimes in vain, to view this
spectacle for about a cost of sixty dollars each.
Thursday, October 31, 1996
our last full day in Melbourne, we spent visiting the Fitzroy and
Treasury gardens. We also
visited the Parliament House and some of the other famous city
buildings. Having searched
throughout our visit in Australia for the right place to buy an Akubra
hat, famous for its design and craftsmanship, we finally made the buy in
a little store near the river. Later, we took a tram to St. Kilda,
the local area where many of the city's Jewish population lives.
We had supper in a local restaurant, having felafel, bagels and
smoked salmon and many other Mediterranean dishes.
That evening we went to see a movie in Melbourne center,
"The First Wive's Club".
American movies are very popular in Australia as are many of our
Traveling to New Zealand
Friday, November 1, 1996
noontime, we continue our travels on to New Zealand ...an exciting event
both because we had been in Australia for some time and it was getting a
little closer to the time we would be coming home.
After boarding the aircraft and taxiing toward takeoff position,
the pilot informs us that he is unable to start engine number three ...a
little late if you ask me. A
few aborted attempts later, we return to the terminal and after waiting
for about five hours, the flight is canceled and we are placed aboard
Quantas Airlines. A
pleasant occurrence, but unfortunately we arrive in Auckland too late to
make our flight to Christchurch.
United Airlines makes the necessary arrangements to put us up at
a local hotel, and after arriving very late at night we have to wake up
very early the next morning to arrange another flight to Christchurch.
The people in New Zealand were very accommodating and we made an
early flight to our tour destination.
Christchurch, South Island
Saturday, November 2, 1996
the Christchurch airport we are met by an agent of the tour company who
accompanies us to the hotel. We
checked into the hotel, and got a very attractive room, so, very content
after the perturbation of the day earlier, we began our exploration of
Christchurch by walking to Cathedral Square.
This being the center of the city, we first visit the church,
built between 1864 and 1904, and then went on to the Visitor's Center,
which was graced by a statue of John Scott an Antarctic explorer.
Picking up a walking map we journeyed along the Avon river.
With people in canoes and others sitting along its shore, this
river, which runs through the city, is crossed by many bridges some with
then walked through the Botanical Gardens, which is home to the Peacock
Fountain, an Edwardian design brought over from England. Christchurch, a
city of 300,000 inhabitants, has a distinct English flavor throughout.
During our tour, we also visited the McDougal Art Gallery and the
Canterbury museum which had Maori artifacts and an extensive array of
items and exhibits dealing with Antarctic exhibitions.
Christchurch is the forward supply point for flights heading to
the United States base in Antarctica.
In the evening we had a cocktail party to meet ands welcome the
members of the tour that we will be with for the next two weeks.
Having never taken a tour before this was a new experience and
the people were very pleasant and congenial, ...even though they were
either Americans or Canadians ...we had believed that maybe other
travelers of other nationalities would have joined the group.
Traveling to Mt. Cook
Sunday, November 3, 1996
we were up early to meet the tour bus coach captain, Ross and had to be
ready to depart at 8:00am. Ross
first took us on driving tour of Christchurch, seeing again many of the
sites that we had visited on foot the day before.
But he did provide a litany of historical and informative items
of interest that was new to us. As
we drove out into the countryside we were able to see the beauty of the
South island for the very first time, ...the rolling hills with
beautiful green cover and thousands and thousands of sheep -- a sight
that would be repeated each and every day thereafter.
lunch we stopped at a farm house situated on the top of a hill, and the
couple who operated the farm prepared lunch for the whole group (twenty
seven travelers all told, but that would decrease to twenty later in the
trip) and then gave us a first look at sheep farming and shearing.
Later on, we stopped at the beautiful Lake Tekapo and the very
small and modest Church of the Good Shepard, which had a huge picture
type window with an exquisite view of the lake.
Adjacent to the Church was a statue dedicated to the Collie Dog,
honoring the role the Collie plays in the handling of sheep.
evening we arrived at Mt. Cook, an immense snow covered peak (12,340
feet) in the park mountain range (Mt. Cook National Park embodies 22 of
the 27 mountain peaks that are over 10,000 feet in New Zealand), ...a
park that was awarded World Heritage status.
Lila and I hiked to Kea Point through the trees and brush that
decorated the trail on which we were walking.
Along the way we were able to get a good view of the Tasman
Glacier and then back to the hotel for dinner.
Heading Toward Dunedin
Monday, November 4, 1996
the way, the bus had a flat, inner rear tire, and we all watched as Ross
changed the tire, ...with only a little help from us, but we did offer
moral support. On the road
again, we stopped at a beach that was decorated with huge boulders (5'
to 6' in diameter) deposited there many hundreds of years ago.
The scenery was breathtaking as we drove along the open sea and
followed with our eyes the gentle rolling hills reached down from the
mountains and stroke the water below.
Dunedin was settled by Scottish immigrants in 1848, and bears a
striking resemblance to Edinburgh, with many similar street names.
There is a statue of Robert Burns in the town octagon (not
square), in the center of the city and is the most southern city on
South Island. We had agreed
to a homestay in New Zealand and our host couple were waiting for us
when we arrived in Dunedin.
retired couple, Roy and Cath Currie, took us on a tour of the city
...first visiting the Botanical Gardens, of which they are deservedly
proud; then the University of Otago, which is the oldest university in
New Zealand and accommodates the only dental school in the country; and
also, the seashore where the golf links skirt the waters edge.
An informative note -- I was informed that golf links mirror the
natural contours of the land, unlike golf courses that reflect the
architect's planned design of the ground.
As the Scottish love their golf, so do the people of Dunedin.
We arrived at our host's home, an extremely pleasant home perched
high on the side of a hill overlooking a beautiful section of the city.
They offered us a wonderful dinner, pleasing companionship and an
excellent opportunity to share the character and nuances of our
On to Te Anau
Tuesday, November 5, 1996
awoke early the next morning, had a wonderful breakfast prepared by our
fine hosts before they drove us to meet the coach.
Before leaving the city the coach stopped at Baldwin Hill,
reportedly the world's steepest street which was lined by houses on both
sides. We had the opportunity to leave the bus, with a few of us
climbing to the top to get a super view of the city below.
As we traveled to the city of Te Anau, we stopped briefly in the
town of Clinton and then in the town of Gore, where we stopped for
lunch. In Te Anau, we
watched and placed a bet on the Melbourne Cup race, which Melbourne was
gearing up for just before our departure.
An extremely popular race, it is watched from all over Australia
and New Zealand (and maybe many other places as well).
I was fortunate to win a few dollars that paid for my beer that
day as we watched the race. After
dinner at the hotel, we walked along the lake, the largest lake in the
South Island, to focus on some of the magnificent scenery encircling us
from every direction.
Heading for Milford Sound
Wednesday, November 6, 1996
Anau is the gateway to the fiordlands, ...our destination for that day. We drove through Fiordland National Park, hiked alongside
Mirror Lake and then traveled through a rather long, three-quarter mile,
primitive tunnel. Traveling
literally through a mountain and riding on a narrow road, down a series
of switchbacks, we headed toward Milford Sound.
Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as the "Eighth
Wonder of the World". In
fact, Milford Sound is a fiord because it was formed by the ice from the
glaciers within. Milford Sound, when we arrived, was drenched in rain and a
dense fog shrouded much of the spectacular view that was waiting for us.
boarded a boat that was to depart from the inner most section of the
fiord and headed toward the ocean.
As we set out, the Captain skimmed along the vertical cliffs that
stretched upward to the sky, so it would have seemed, but were soon lost
in the haze above us. Waterfalls intermittently cascade down the sheer rugged walls
that lined Milford Sound all the way to the open ocean.
And along the way we were able to watch seals playing in the
water and penguins resting on rocks.
As time passed, the weather started to clear, sun broke through
the fog and the haze lifted so that we could truly experience the
extraordinary beauty of Milford Sound. Before returning to shore, we stopped to visit an
underwater observatory, where thirty feet below the surface we were able
to observe coral, sea anemones, sponges, sea cucumbers, starfish and
mussel shells, snake stars and a wide variety of fish.
on the bus heading toward Queenstown,
we had the opportunity to visit some of the sites that make the
South Island so very special.
At a park, we hiked to a waterfall and we were introduced to the
Kea bird, a bird that can be found near car parking lots and eats the
rubber seals around car windows (..but not people).
Passing the Wakatipu Lake, on a very scenic portion of the road
along the shoreline with high cliffs, we learned that it was one of few
lakes that experiences tidal effects.
arrived in Queeenstown, which is considered to be the adventure capital
of New Zealand, because one can partake of skiing, boating, whitewater
rafting, jet boating, caving, trekking, bungee jumping, parachuting and
many other sports. In fact, the sport of bungee jumping was invented in New
Zealand. It is a city with
a beautiful waterfront on an extended lake with quaint buildings
situated throughout the town and huge mountains that appear close enough
to touch. We had an extra
full day planned in Queenstown, because the coach captain was required
to have a day's rest before we were allowed to continue.
Thursday, November 7, 1996
was in fact a wonderful place to spend the extra day and we used it to
relax and enjoy some of the sights that Queenstown had to offer. We went
up the Skyline Gondola, to the top of the mountain providing us with a
beautiful panoramic view of the city below, the lake and the mountains
beyond. At the pinnacle of
this mountain, we watched a movie, entitled Kiwi Magic with Ned Beatty,
that provided an Imax type presentation of the South Island's
extraordinary scenery including the glaciers.
Down the gondola to the town below, we walked around the village
area and then dressed for dinner.
dinner, we had to take a boat, the Lady of the Lake -TSS Earnslaw, a
coal fired steamship, to the Walter Peak High County Farm.
There we had dinner at the Colonel's Homestead and since it was
my birthday, I was serenaded to by all present.
After a pleasant dinner, we went out to the farm area and fed the
animals without any fences restricting our movements (or the animals for
that matter as well) ...there were sheep, goats, deer and Scottish
Highland cattle. I
even had the chance to sit on Robbie the Bull, a 2000 pound real live
animal which did make me quite nervous.
We watched a demonstration of how sheep dogs round up sheep from
deep in the hills and escort them into pens.
Back on the boat to town, we had a great time singing old
American, Irish, Australian and New Zealand songs.
Frans Josef Glacier
Friday, November 8, 1996
an early departure, we drove nearby Lake Hayes, a rather elegant area
where famous people, i.e. Sam Neal, an Australian actor, have taken up
residence and then as we proceeded further, we passed gold mines and
other exceptional lakes and mountains.
We traveled across Haast Pass, named for a local explorer, who
discovered the World Heritage Park, which itself has more than sixty
glaciers. This park, home
of the Franz Josef glacier, was named in honor of the Austrian Emperor,
Franz Josef, who had knighted Haast for his scientific and exploration
glaciers were formed as a result of the massive rainfall (300 inches per
year), when snow is compressed into ice.
We hiked through a riverbed caused by a landslide, which offered
us a wonderful view of the Franz Josef glacier, a glacier that is
advancing at the rate of five feet per day, is over seven and one-half
miles long and over 1,000 feet above sea level.
Back to the hotel, where we had dinner and the rooms were just
average by any standards, but, it is a national park and competition was
A Return to Christchurch
Saturday, November 9, 1996
trip back to Christchurch was of particular interest, since we were to
go back to a city we thought was very impressive, it would also be our
last night on South island and seven of our tour group members would be
leaving us there. The trip
again took us past many gold fields and lakes where white bait fisherman
were catching this local delicacy.
We even journeyed through our coach captain, Ross's hometown and
he identified some of his favorite haunts as a young boy.
On to Hokatika, a small sea side resort town, where we had lunch
and purchased a paper weight from the local glass blowing factory.
Then, we continued on to Greymouth, and boarded the Tranz Alpine
Express, that would take us through the New Zealand "Alps".
The train skirted Lake Brunner, traveled through the Otira
tunnel, stopped at Arthur's Pass (a small village at the foot of the
forest clad mountains), wound our way into the Waimakariri Gorge, then
to the Canterbury Plains and, finally, into Christchurch.
Our coach captain was waiting and transported us to the same
hotel where we had began our journey of the South Island.
The Journey to Wellington on the North Island
Sunday, November 10, 1996
looked forward to today's travels since we were heading to Picton where
we would board the ferry that would take us to Wellington and North
Island. On the way to Picton, we drove along the coastal area known
as the Kaikoura Peninsular and stopped in the town of Kaikoura for tea.
The inter-island ferry, is a four level ship that transports
trains, buses, trucks, cars and people.
Carrying almost 1000 people, the trip took three hours and
fifteen minutes along a fifty two mile route, through very choppy
waters. Arriving in
Wellington, New Zealand's capital city, we went to Mount
Victoria, the highest point in the area, which offers an exceptional
view of the harbor and the city. At the summit, there is a monument to
Admiral Byrd, commemorating his exploration of Antarctica.
onto the hotel, which was a five star accommodation.
We unfortunately, did not have enough time to walk around the
city, but being the capital of New Zealand it had some interesting
buildings and museums. The
following morning tour of the city took us to Parliament House (an
Edwardian neo-classic design constructed of Coromandel granite), which
was rededicated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995.
Adjacent to the Parliament House was the Beehive, the Executive
wing, and on the other side was the Parliamentary Library, a structure
of Victorian Gothic design.
Tongariro National Park
Monday, November 11, 1996
our too short a visit to Wellington, we headed north to Tongariro
National Park, the site of a now inactive volcano.
It rained much of the trip and it continued to rain upon our
arrival at the park completely negating any ability to see the volcano.
We did, however, tour the Visitor Center where we watched a film
of the park and the volcano. We
then checked into the Grand Chateau Hotel, which had the aura of an
early 1900s hotel (probably because it was) ...an expansive lobby and
sitting room with elegant furnishings, crystal chandeliers and windows
overlooking beautiful vistas, ...which, of course, we could not see
because of the weather. Living
up to its mental picture, our group had dinner in a private dining room
where we dressed in clothing and accessories of the Roaring 20's.
An excellent meal, with a perfect ambiance that set the tone for
a great evening. The next morning the weather had not cleared and we left the
park never having an opportunity to see the volcano in person.
A Visit to Rotorua
Tuesday, November 12, 1996
drove by Lake Taupo, which was a beautiful sight of big, rocky islands
in the middle of the lake caused by volcanic eruptions.
Enroute, we stopped to take a small hike to the Huka Falls in the
Wairakei River. Near
Rotorua, we visited the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.
There we saw how the Maori's made wood carvings, native grass
skirts and cloaks of Kiwi bird feathers.
We learned about their customs, walked through the types of homes
in which they lived, and finally saw a Kiwi bird ...a flightless,
nocturnal bird, and then toured a geothermal area.
The geothermal mud pools, steam vents, crystal formations and
erupting geysers play a major role in the lives of the Maori people,
affecting their cooking and heating needs.
then went on to visit the
Rainbow Springs Wildlife Sanctuary, another spectacular wonder of the
region around Rotorua. We
went on a nature walk through crystal clear spring fed pools and streams
that were teeming with trout.
Going through a native bird aviary we again had the chance to see
a Kiwi bird in a replica of its natural habitat.
In the sanctuary, we saw Emu's, wild pigs, and deer.
Then we visited the Agrodome ,where we saw a sheep show that
introduced us to twenty different breeds of sheep, a sheep shearing
demonstration and again had a display of how dogs play a role on the
sheep ranch. We had the
opportunity to see how a cow is milked and we were each offered the
chance to try our hand at it (no pun intended), but none of our group
took the invitation. We
then continued on to our hotel and readied ourselves for dinner.
that evening was a Hangi (feast) and a Maori concert.
Arriving at the Maori village, there was a ceremony where we were
to be accepted by the chief and Gerald, our friend was selected as our
representative chief. This
was a great honor, as the Maori warrior dropped a fern leaf and Gerald
picked it up signifying that he(we) came in peace.
Walking through the village, there were singers and dancers and
warriors welcoming us as we reached the meeting house.
Here the chiefs had to give the Maori greeting ...by touching
noses, and we were then entertained by a song and dance show from the
natives, ...very similar to the Hawaiian luaus.
After the show we entered the big house for dinner, where the
complete meal had been buried in the ground and steamed by the hot
pools. After dinner, we
were entertained once again by the staff, before departing on waiting
buses for the return trip to our hotel.
It was a wonderful day, having been exposed to a new culture and
the natural beauty of the country.
Auckland, Our Final Destination
Wednesday, November 13, 1996
day of rain, we headed north and stopped for a guided walk through the
Waitomo Caves, which have deep caverns with limestone formations of
stalagmites and stalactites. We
went on a boat ride deep in the dark caverns where we saw glowworms
...larvae like organisms that emit fishing lines to catch insects for
food. Upon arriving in
Auckland, we visited Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World and Antarctic
Encounter. Kelly Tarlton
was New Zealand's most celebrated undersea explorer and treasure hunter,
who established this exhibit of underwater life featuring a four hundred
foot tunnel where we were transported on a moving walkway. In this tunnel, we were able to view sideways and
overhead moray eels, lobsters, sharks, stingrays and an array of other
fish swimming all around us. A
fascinating exhibit and extremely well planned, since we were
essentially within their milieu.
exhibit also contained an Arctic Encounter, where we entered a replica
of Scott's Hut at McMurdo Sound and then boarded a heated snow cat that
took us through a live penguin colony and an aquarium that was home to
the marine life living in the Antarctic.
Again, this was a superb exhibit giving us a near perfect picture
of polar life in the Antarctic. We then checked into our hotel located downtown on Quay
Street, with a view of the harbor.
Before dinner, we walked around the city and had a drink with our
friends to reminisce about the trip, as we were leaving for home
thought the tour was superb especially because we met Elaine and Gerald,
who live in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada and they made Lila and I feel
like kids again ...we had more fun laughing and having fun in these two
weeks than on any other trip that we had taken.
The litany of New Zealand history, cultural background and local
facts provided by the coach captain was extremely beneficial in
improving our understanding and enjoyment of New Zealand.
The other people that were on our tour were also very nice and
made for good company, as we had many meals with them during the trip.
In addition, the bus was only about half full most of the time so
we did have room to spread out and catch a few winks, if that were
needed. We covered
approximately 3,500 kilometers in the two weeks, pretty significant by
any standard, and while we saw many exciting places, we did not have
sufficient time to explore them in depth.
For that reason, I would have preferred the opportunity of
renting a car to journey around New Zealand on our own timetable.
While one may not be able to see some things that a tour offers,
there are other sights one could delve into with greater depth on one's
The Trip Home
Thursday, November, 14 1996
next morning we said sad good byes to Gerald and Elaine, our touring
buddies, as we took another walk around the city.
We did not have sufficient time to see Auckland in depth, as we
were flying out in early afternoon. The
flight from Auckland to Los Angeles, was nonstop, a little over eleven
hours and very pleasant. In
Los Angeles, United Airlines provided us with a hotel room for about three
hours to rest and relax. The
flight to Washington, D. C. was now an easy flight ...only four hours and
fifteen minutes. It was a pleasure to finally arrive home.
While we had the opportunity to participate in a trip of a
lifetime, it was also wonderful to come home, see the grandchildren, the
rest of the family and become acquainted with our home again.