Back from Down Under

Weta Cave, Wellington

Weta Cave, Wellington


If you’re careful how you say things, you won’t have to retract (or is it recant?) them later.  For example, let’s just say you’re married to someone who for years has been saying

“I want to go to Australia. This is my dream trip, the one I’ve always wanted. And, if possible, New Zealand too. After all, if we’re going to go all the way to Australia…”

Meanwhile, you’ve spent all those same years not saying but certainly thinking,

“If I’m going to travel, I truly don’t want to find myself in just one more bland version of exiled English people who are perfectly content to spend their lives eating white bread and watching televised rugby and football by their own idiotic rules.”

O no! You’re much too clever to say something like that, probably because you’ve been married long enough to know how frequently you’ve had to eat such words without the benefit of her having first cooked them.  No, what you do say is,

If I’m going to travel, I want experience a culture as radically different from my own as possible.  It’d be cool to see some different scenery, I suppose, but what I really want is to feel like (I’m never afraid of platitudes or old sci-fi book titles) a stranger in a strange land.”

So for all those same years you encourage her to find someone else to make that long trip with, someone who’d appreciate it the way she would. Meanwhile she goes along with you to China and India and Vietnam and Thailand and Bhutan, all those spots of sufficient cultural difference to be worthy of your attention and travel dollar. True, you do relent re Ireland where you find live music to drink to and sing along with every night, so you actually come home praising the place to others. But Ireland’s just a skip across the Pond.  It’s hardly the 21 hours 13 minutes (according to Travel Math) from New York (and that’s just the airport, not my home and TSA-enforced 3 hour early arrival at the airport time) to Melbourne and the clearance and baggage carousel at that end.

OK, so I know all this. I know what I want and don’t want. I know what will make my senior years on the planet joyful and what will simply fill them up. So why then, sitting across a table late one afternoon,  one grilled cheese sandwich in front of me and one BLT in front of her (both with extra crispy bacon) did this voice, having utterly bypassed my brain, come out of my mouth saying,

“I’m going to Australia (New Zealand implied) with you!”

This, by the way, was the self-same voice that asked her to move in with me in 1996, but that’s another story altogether.

Anyhow, I have no genuine answer to this question. Of course in subsequent conversations regarding my decision to embark on this travel I’d rationalize with things like,

“Well, she’s gone with me on my dream trips” or

“Well, I really want to be supportive…”  This latter with frequent interjections of “You know” and “I mean” and “what the hell.”

The truth be told, anyone who knows me knows I’m really not all that giving when there’s the slightest chance that being so involves less than the dictates of my own selfish will. Perhaps that’s why, in more intimate, tequila-lubricated moments, I’m tempted to identify that unclaimed voice with some deeper awareness that is able to speak when my ego is at the movies. Think of that as a variation on The Devil made me buy this dress. Whatever.

Magpie goose, Cleland Wildlife Park, South Australia

Magpie goose, Cleland Wildlife Park, South Australia

The trip was phenomenal! 16 of us, under the profound and loving guidance of Roxanne Garner, a Kiwi living in Oz (I can say that now that I’ve been there), spent time in a mammoth desert, a rainforest, in snow-capped mountains, among seals and penguins, crocodiles and kangaroos, among dingoes and Tasmanian Devils and wallabies and glaciers and floating above the Great Barrier Reef. We met with Aboriginal and Maori people to learn of their history, their successes and their current difficulties. We visited the Weta Cave in Wellington where much of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, King Kong, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, District 9, The Adventures of Tintin, Elysium and The Hobbit Trilogy were designed and manufactured. In Roxy’s words, a month of learning and discovery.

Below are a few more choice snaps from the venture.  Even more are available at

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki

Pancake Rocks, Punakaiki


Bearded Miner, Reefton

Bearded Gold Miner, Reefton


Cape Tribulation Croc/wilderness cruise

Cape Tribulation Crocodile



Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown


Bobbie & Riwiri Te Kowhai hongi, Ohinemutu Maori Village

Bobbie & Riwiri Te Kowhai  in a traditional Maori greeting (hongi). Ohinemutu Maori Village






Published in: on November 5, 2015 at 4:47 pm  Comments (10)