World Trip Home Post Fourteen

Post Fourteen - Arrival in Auckland

The Sydney StarThe Sydney Star

The next country on our tour after Australia was New Zealand. As before, Karen flew on ahead while I did the crossing by ship. On February 22nd, I boarded the Sydney Star in Brisbane (where I arrived a month earlier on my ship from Singapore) for the three-day journey across the Tasman Sea. -- Scott

Ship LoungeShip Lounge

Being of British ownership, the passenger accommodations aboard the Sydney Star were spacious and abundant. As on the ship from Singapore to Australia, I had a large stateroom with my own bathroom (head), a writing desk, and two portholes. There were eight other passengers aboard, all of whom embarked in Philadelphia for the entire three-month, round-trip journey (I like going to sea but three months seems a bit long). Along with a spacious deck and a pool filled daily with seawater (when it was warm) the passengers had their own lounge. There were books, an extensive video collection, plenty of chairs to "lounge" in, and even a bar stocked with beer, sodas, and spirits (gin, rum, whiskey, and vodka). Additional alcohol and cigarettes could be purchased duty free, so I guess three months at sea wouldn't be so bad if you liked sedentary activities. After three quick days on relatively calm seas, we sailed into the green hills surrounding Wellington. I was ready to disembark and explore the Land of the Long White Cloud. -- Scott

The QueenThe Queen

During our stay in Auckland, Queen Elizabeth paid a visit to the most southerly dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It was her first visit in seven years, and not without controversy. Many Kiwis feel the monarchy has little or no relevance in their lives.

But thousands still showed up to catch a glimpse of Bess, including a certain royal watcher and her ever-patient husband. We stationed ourselves just a few feet from the barricades behind a cluster of chattering Japanese students. A nearby busker tunelessly belted out "God Save the Queen" as he played his ukulele. Most of the gathering crowd was dressed casually in the summer heat, but a few elderly gents had donned ties and suit coats, and a smattering of white-haired women wore summer coordinates with matching hats. Soon Queen Elizabeth arrived, looking fresh and regal in her own summer coordinates. I love the hat. -- Karen

Gannet ColonyGannet Colony

On the west coast outside of Auckland, there are a few large colonies of gannets. These birds usually make their nests on remote, inaccessible islands, but here they have set up in an area that's easy to reach. When we visited, the chicks were just getting ready to fly. Gannets are soaring birds with large wingspans. We watched as several chicks walked to the edge, spread out their already impressive wings and flapped them into the breeze. It must take a lot of guts (or a lot of instinct) to take that first leap off the cliff. -- Scott

Kiwi EclecticKiwi Eclectic

This campground north of Auckland, decorated in the "Kiwi Eclectic" style, was our home for the night. We were there for the snorkeling in the marine reserve surrounding Goat Island, a rocky outcrop jutting out of the sea just a few dozen yards off the coast. From our window, we gazed out on Holsteins contentedly munching on silky grass the color of baby peas, the sparkling, blue South Pacific Ocean stretching out behind them.

I knew enough not to expect the tropical warmth of the Australian coastal waters, but even a wetsuit couldn't protect me from the shock of the cold Kiwi Pacific. Scott even found it too chilly (he's much hardier when it comes to cold than I). On top of that, storm-stirred waters allowed only a foot of visibility. I spent five minutes floating in the murky, frigid shallows, then climbed out, shivering and disappointed. Scott joined me ten minutes later, and we headed back, humbled, to turn in the gear and warm up in the last bit of afternoon sunshine. -- Karen

What Are You Looking At?What Are You Looking At?

One evening while we were staying near Goat Island, I went down to the beach to photograph the sunset. As I pulled into a parking spot and was collecting my camera gear, I looked into the car next to me and saw this boxer staring back. I thought he might be aggressive, but when I started taking photos of him he sheepishly climbed into the back seat. I guess he wasn't supposed to be in the front seat and was worried I might call him on it. -- Scott

Painting in the SkyPainting in the Sky

As we crested the rise at Tawharanui Regional Park, it wasn't the magnificent waves that first caught my attention. It was this giant picture frame, seemingly suspended in the air, hanging on the wall of the sky. The scene inside it slowly changed with my approaching footsteps. When I got close enough to see the full expanse of the beach below, I was taken aback. A few hundred yards away, a wedding was in progress. From our vantage point behind the frame, it was like watching a painting in motion. -- Karen

Next Up: Sheep and Hot Springs

Copyright 2002
Scott & Karen Semyan