A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Posts from — November 2008


It has become a habit of ours, on long rides or over dinner, to talk about all that we are thankful for:

Love and support from our families. The incredible thoughtfulness of our friends at home. The many kindnesses we have received from strangers.

Most of all, this Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the opportunity to share an incredible adventure.

We take none of it for granted. And count our lucky stars each night.

November 27, 2008   4 Comments

Land of the Long White Cloud


No one doubts that the Maori were the original inhabitants of New Zealand. Beyond that statement of fact, little is known.

Where did the Maori come from? When did they arrive? Did they come in one group or several waves? No one really knows.

The strongest archaeological evidence indicates the Maori arrived around 1200 AD.

But why let facts get in the way of a good story?


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November 26, 2008   2 Comments

Rotorua Adventures

November 24, 2008   7 Comments

To The SkyTower


Today the Auckland skyline is dominated by the SkyTower, the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere.

At 1076 feet, it looks like a giant hypodermic needle, yet somehow, it feels like it belongs in this city, like it has always been here, though it was completed in 1997.

A friend told me it was very controversial when it was built.  “When it first opened, real estate companies advertised properties that promised no view of the SkyTower.  But now everyone wants a view of it,” he said.


The tower is part of the SkyCity complex, a rather tacky 24-hour casino with restaurants, bars, cafes and a hotel.

It is also an exercise in national branding, as this popular tourist destination offers visitors a chance to do some of the extreme adventures New Zealand is known for.

At the top of the tower, visitors can try to make it around the SkyWalk, a six foot wide walkway that is 630 feet off the ground.

This narrow band of metal mesh encircles the SkyTower like a halo. Brave souls walk around the tower with no rails or balconies to steady them.  They are harnessed to the tower, but who wants to test that system?

Other adventurers may prefer the SkyJump, a 16-second 46 mile per hour base jump from the observation deck.  People who have done it say it’s more like a parachute jump than a bungy.



I’m going to take their word for it. Let’s face it:  I’m a flatlander.  My palms were sweating just walking around the enclosed observation deck.

But what a view of Auckland.

November 21, 2008   7 Comments

Times, They Are A Changing

Something was definitely different.

Our waiter asked:  “Are you from the United States?” When we said yes he disappeared.

Moments later he returned with a plate of vegetable samosas.  He set them on our table and said: “These are complimentary.  Congratulations on your new President.”

Upon hearing our accents, our Maori cab driver said: “Good on ya, America.  It’s a good thing for the whole world.”

We stopped in a sushi place just off Queen Street in Auckland’s central business district.  A smartly dressed businessman at the next table saw Dani’s Obama pin and said: “You must be happy with your election result.  We are too.”

A few days later I had lunch with the Rt. Hon. Mike Moore, an old friend who served briefly as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and later was Director General of the World Trade Organization.

Moore said:  “It’s been bloody hard to be a friend of the United States for the past several years.  But this changes everything.  It’s already happening.  There’s not a young person in Cairo or Calcutta or Africa who can look at the United States in the same way.”

“It’s one of the things I like most about the United States – you have a wonderfully self-correcting system of government.”

November 19, 2008   5 Comments

City of Sails


When I heard the man across the aisle ask for “the extender,” I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t sitting in the middle seat next to him.

Twelve hours is too long to be trapped on a plane next to Jabba the Hutt.

Due to OneWorld ticketing restrictions, we weren’t able to get on the direct flight from Santiago to Auckland, and instead had to connect through Los Angeles.

While not the most convenient way to get to New Zealand, we figured if we could survive 23 hours on a semi-cama bus, two consecutive twelve hour flights would be a piece of cake.

However we didn’t expect the shock that comes from being exposed to a critical mass of American tourists.

The LAX departure gate was full of senior citizens from the American heartland.  They were heading to Auckland to join a two week Celebrity Cruise around New Zealand’s South Island and then across the Tasman Sea to Sydney, Australia.


It had been months since we had been in the company of so many Americans, and the snippets of conversation we overheard were, shall we say, interesting.

One woman complained to her husband:  “I don’t understand why we have to be on a plane so long to get to New Zealand.”

Another man to his traveling companion:  “I can’t wait to take a hundred pictures of glaciers.  I’m going to prove to my neighbor that Al Gore is a liar.  Global warming, my ass!”

Our favorite fellow American was the seventy year old man who, when the plane started boarding, climbed over four rows of seats in the departure lounge to cut in front of the line.

He managed to drag a large rolling suitcase behind him – though he seemed far less concerned about his wife who wasn’t nimble enough to climb over the seats.

Fortunately the Celebrity Cruise group was quarantined immediately upon arrival and taken directly to their ship, limiting their contact with Kiwis.

We gladly parted company with our country men (and women) at the airport and took a taxi into the city.  It had been fifteen years since I last visited Auckland and I was eager to see how the place had changed.

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November 17, 2008   4 Comments

Our Time in Argentina and Chile


We have posted our country reports on Argentina and Chile.

November 14, 2008   2 Comments

Todas Esas Cosas

We loved our time in South America. This short video, set to Smitten’s “Todas Esas Cosas” (“All of These Things”), includes some of our favorite images from Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Chile.

November 14, 2008   2 Comments

Lost in Translation

When I was about 16 years old, our family loaded our blue Pontiac station wagon and, for our summer vacation, drove north to Montreal.

I had two years of French from Madame Ewell, and I had assured my father I’d be able to translate for the family while we were in Canada.

I’ll never forget arriving at the Montreal Holiday Inn.  As we pulled our car into the hotel garage a bellman approached.  I got out of the car, ready to parlez-vous francais.  The bellman spoke.  To me, it sounded like unintelligible gibberish.  This wasn’t the French Madame Ewell spoke.

I stood there in stunned silence.  I could see my father’s face getter redder and redder.  I can only assume he was hurriedly devising a Plan B since I would clearly be no help.

My own experience as a father has been quite different.  Quite simply, I’m not sure how Dani and I would have managed if our kids didn’t speak Spanish.  They have handled all the difficult transactions, the questions and answers, and when required, the small talk.

When we did find people who spoke some English, comical conversations often ensued.

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November 12, 2008   5 Comments

ADIP: Santiago, Chile

A Day in Pictures
Santiago, Chile


From the minute we arrived in Santiago, I wished we had more time to spend in Chile.

Santiago is a world-class city, with nice neighborhoods, good restaurants (with more variety than you are likely to find in Argentina), and beautiful public parks.  This, based on the 48 hours we spent there.

It’s a cultured city with a thriving public arts scene. We noticed lots of small theaters, buskers, sculpture gardens and beautifully landscaped parks.


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November 10, 2008   3 Comments

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