A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Category — New Zealand

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

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