A Travellerspoint blog

Finding the Comforts of 'Home' in New Zealand

All with that friendly Kiwi welcome

semi-overcast 15 °C

The first thing you realize about New Zealand is just how much the authorities want to be sure you’re leaving (after spending a hefty wad of tourist dollars, of course). This is the first of twenty countries visited that has insisted on evidence of our departing flight: it wasn’t enough to share our confirmation number, or even to show the paper tickets back to San Francisco (from Sydney, via London). We actually had to pull out our computer and find proof of our e-tickets out of New Zealand. And in this day and age – honestly – who carries copies of paper tickets? If Lloyd and I had done so, we’d have been carrying a wad of paper as thick as your Sunday newspaper around for the last five months.

The fact we’ve been travelling for as long as we have means that New Zealand could be paradise-on-earth and I still wouldn’t come close to giving up that ticket home. The immigration official wasn’t too happy when I told her that, but frankly the whole exchange was a little smug on the New Zealand side, like “of course you’ll want to stay in our fabulous country, even if you don’t know it yet”. To be fair, after so long on the dive-boat, my brain was still swaying to and fro on a bumpy ocean at this point, so I might have been grumpier than usual, but if your country is so stinking great, go ahead and implement a visa system of some sort and give people a hard time BEFORE they enter the country. Rant over.

So, the start of our ten days in New Zealand! We’re sticking firmly on the south island, but even that will mean we’ll be rushing about a bit to see everything we want to. Our mode of transportation? Well, we were looking for something we hadn’t yet utilized at any other stage of our trip, so it just had to be a campervan! Of course, we are the type of people that chuckle at RVs back home in the States, but we may just be converted by the end of our trip…

House on wheels.

The initial briefing was a little intimidating with gas tanks and waste tanks and toilet cartridges and grey water to worry about. But Lloyd quickly had it all under control and we were off to the supermarket to buy everything we’ve been missing for the last five months!

Finally. Got Milk.

We checked into our first campervan park and – hey – these things are pretty cool! The facilities (kitchens, bathrooms, laundry areas) were spotlessly clean, and the atmosphere safe and welcoming. Frankly, far superior to many “hotels” we’ve stayed in over the last several months.

This being New Zealand, we decided to enjoy rack of lamb and mint jelly for our first home cooked meal since about the middle of May when we sold the house. Of course, Lloyd cooked a perfectly medium-rare rack, with scrumptious boiled new potatoes and broccoli, but couldn’t really enjoy it himself as he seems to be coming down with some nasty throat infection. Hopefully he’ll feel better tomorrow.

Lambing season just behind us, we can confirm the lamb is tasty this year.

Posted by jacquiedro 23:56 Archived in New Zealand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

The Golden Dawn - Jacquie's Perspective

Turbulent Times in Papua New Guinea

storm 24 °C

Forgive me bloggers, for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since my last blog entry . . .

Three weeks! I wish I could say that I've been on vacation (I know, how laughable is it to need a vacation from a vacation....), but that was - unfortunately - far from the truth. As Lloyd indicated, I was stuck in my own private hell that was the Golden Dawn. To be fair, the Golden Dawn wasn't the problem. But the cyclonic seas around her threw that tiny boat around something wild, and I'm just not built for that kind of 360 degree turbulence.

How I enjoyed my ten days...

With a bad cold from the start, it was clear that I would be missing several days of diving anyway. But the rough seas and poor visibility, coupled with persistant sea sickness, meant that I wasn't tempted into the water until the last day. I can't even begin to measure the disappointment. This was a real highlight of the trip - the dive trip of a lifetime - and I managed a single dive.

I wish I could tell you the dive was worth waiting for. It wasn't. The visibility could be measured in inches rather than feet, and an unpredictable current whipped us around in all directions. All you could do was hang on for dear life to the reef (or in my case to Lloyd) and hope you could find your way back to the boat.

Unlucky, for sure. As Lloyd has mentioned, the conditions were unprecedented. And while this was one of the most expensive parts of our trip, we are reminded that many Papua New Guineans were left homeless or worse by Cyclone Guba. We will live to dive another day, and another reef. Others were not so lucky.

On the brighter side, I was ecstatic when - after ten loooooooooooong days - we returned to dock on Thursday, which just so happened to be Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, a local expat American swung an invite to the US Ambassador's Thanksgiving dinner, so we found ourselves enjoying turkey and all the trimmings with the local Embassy Staff. An unexpected treat, but much appreciated by these weary travellers for whom a roast turkey and cranberry sauce was but a distant memory!

No roasties or yorkies, but it was still like Christmas come early....! I couldn't resist going back for seconds, much to Lloyd's embarrasment!

With our flight leaving mid-afternoon, and precious little time onland in PNG, we took the opportunity to visit a local market. By far, the most friendly place we have visited, with locals bursting into smiles and waves. In many countries, when we take out our cameras and ask to take a photograph, we are asked for money in return. Not once did this happen in PNG.

We were horrified to see this tiny spotted eagle ray for sale at the market. We also saw a sea turtle, still alive, at another stall. But you gotta make a living, right, so who are we to judge?



This lady was breast feeding right up until I took the photo. Note the red, betelnut-stained smile.

Unemployment is very, very high here - up to 80% in some urban areas. As a result, many adults have little to do but sit around on the streets all day, hoping to sell a second hand pair of shoes, some betelnut, or anything else they can get their hands on. This is the kind of place where you hang out all day outside the workplace of your one, employed buddy in the hope that they'll give you a few kina on their way out. When we went to draw cash from the ATM, Lloyd found himself surrounded by four uniformed guards, including one armed with a shotgun.

Last stop, a quick perusal at a local handicrafts store. We'd have loved some of these giant masks to adorn our (future) home!


Of course, as we left PNG the weather was picture-perfect, with the ocean flat and blue and every inch the tropical paradise we were hoping for. Lloyd will be back to dive here for sure. It remains to be seen whether you'll ever get me back on a dive boat...

Posted by jacquiedro 20:22 Archived in Papua New Guinea Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

Finally, Eastern Fields: Golden Dawn Part II

Big blue, big waves, big fish

storm 23 °C
View The World 2007 on lloydthyen's travel map.

After six days steaming up and down the coast of Papua New Guinea just south of Port Moresby, the capital, we headed out for the Eastern Fields, a 98 nautical mile ride southwest, which would take almost 12 hours. Arriving to the fields is almost anti-climactic, with nothing more than white-cap breaking waves on the horizon and what looks like an oil slick of translucent emerald green shimmering almost like neon, announcing shallower worlds of coral below. While the waters and their contents were worth the wait, the journey has taken its toll on Jacquie, and she continues to struggle fighting her head cold and battling the ill-effects of an unreasonably rough sea. At times, half the boat has been taken ill, and the all-night journey produced many groggy travelers on the morning of our arrival.


Within 15 minutes of arrival, we waste no time and get into the wet. Days of murky visibility and green, brackish water gave way to the deep blue of Coral Sea beauty. While the visibility could be better (currently at about 75 feet) it is stupendous in comparison to what we have dealt with, and the hoots and squeals of delight, along with fist-pumping and large smiles barely obscured by our regulators reflect the mood of finding nice open waters. Finally we found the BIG BLUE!

Big smiles as we find BLUE waters in the Eastern Fields!
Reef fish abound
Lots of barracuda too - they would swim right to you and envelope you!
We saw some great big tuna as well - schools of a couple dozen or so

The fish life abounds here, with schools of numerous species, many I have never seen: hammerhead shark, large (400 pound!) dogtooth tuna, huge (300 pound!) potato cod, rhinopius or lacey lionfish, flashlight fish (that emit bioluminescence at night) and sea-snakes were all part of the cast of marine animals we came across. In addition there were uncounted numbers of corals, sponges and small life like reef-fish and nudibranch.


Of course the biggest impact to our visit was the cyclone. The captain of the boat and many others we met with many years of experience in Papua New Guinea, said this was the earliest such weather seen in at least 20 years. Normally we should have found sun, dormant (or “doldrum”) waters and amazing visibility below. While this was not the case, we still feel lucky to have visited a very remote marine eco-system. We made the best of it, and have actually considered creating a new PADI certification (named for our new small club): Cyclone Divers!

You can see Cyclone Guba (white swirl) in the top right - we were on its south-western edge. Too close!

Not all the days were bad, and we had one or two nice days in the Eastern Fields

Although remote, one draw for us to such places is to see large pelagic sea-life, especially sharks. Unfortunately, sharks were in short supply. The reason: shark finning operations that came through the are 3 years ago, decimating the shark population. One such vessel was caught by Australian authorities just south of the area, and confiscated 240 tonnes of shark fins. That’s just the FINS. No doubt untold thousands of sharks were destroyed to meet the demand for shark-fin soup – a delicacy that has no taste. The fins are after all merely cartilage – it is prized merely for some mythical properties of potentcy prized by Asian (mainly Chinese) markets. So – if you ever see shark-fin on the menu of a restaurant you are at, please walk out and let them know it’s a horrible, destructive practice.

On the whole, the dive experience was good, but due to the weather and rough seas, we were limited overall. It still amazes me to see the things we can see while taking a peak into the undersea world. It is also humbling and sad to know the devastation we can wreak so easily. I'll be back here someday, without doubt, and hope the waters will be as vibrant with life as they are now, and possibly rebounding with more big life.

Posted by lloydthyen 13:14 Archived in Papua New Guinea Tagged round_the_world Comments (3)

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