“A long way to go, but well worth it!”
(Bob Miller’s quote on CLUB 44’s trek in New Zealand-Australia)

     To say that we 34 hale and hearty CLUB 44 members enjoyed our 21 days in tramping about in New Zealand and Australia is to put it mildly. We loved it! . . I’d been to Sydney, Australia several times before I joined CLUB 44’s tour and I found this visit to be the most interesting trip I have ever made. I’ll never forget those 21 days “Down Under” with this group . . Each day seemed to bring on one or more new adventures and new sights, and each evening gave us yet another opportunity to rehash what we had seen or experienced during that day.

     I had a special reason for joining the tour group: My daughter Nancy was living in Sydney at the time, She was there for three years with her husband, Jeff Randall, and their two daughters. Jeff was employed by a highway design firm that specialized in monitoring and regulating traffic. His firm had sent him to Sydney to design and implement a traffic control system in preparation for the Olympics that were to be held in that city.

     What did I enjoy the most? That’s really a tough question. I’m not weaseling out when I respond with an “Everything!” In his copy and photo montages that follow, your ’44 webmaster has attempted to provide you with a detailed overview of what we experienced . . and I repeat that this is just an overview, despite the 200-plus photos and maps and such that make up this extensive website page.

     I do have a last thought: See New Zealand and Australia for yourself! The sights, topography, and accommodations are most impressive . . and the hospitality and friendliness of the “natives” are a given..

Robert S. “Bob” Miller, AB '47
Vice President, Upstate New York
 
 
NOTE: A 4- to 10-photo montage is tied to the UNDERLINED words appearing in the paragraphs below. By CLICKING on the bullet at the end of the paragraph you’ll activate the photo montage as described.

“As eager as we were, we got off to a terrible start!”

     Our CLUB 44 tours usually start with an informal get-together in the Gateway city and NZ-A was not an exception . . Through an L.A. friend, Art had arranged for our 36-member tour group to visit the brand new Getty Center on our pre-boarding day. Already a “Must see!’ in the eyes of all resident Angelinos, the Center was designed by fellow Cornellian, Richard Meier, B Arch ’56. It was breathtaking! Riding the Center’s tram railway to the hilltop site, we did our trooping about individually, trying our very best to see all that the Center had to offer in its Museum, art galleries, research institute, and multiple gardens, courtyards, and overlooks. SIZE: one million square feet of buildings on 24 acres; 25 million lbs. of steel reinforcing bars; 8.1 million cubic feet of concrete. Awesome!

     Day 1 – we boarded Air New Zealand for Auckland and shortly after our 10 a.m. takeoff, we heard the Captain’s warning that I’m sure had many of us going for their nitro . . CLICK the bullet here to get the full story! On Day 2 we again took off arriving in Auckland after a 13 hour, 40 minute uneventful, three-movie flight from L.A. . . and being one day behind schedule we experienced a rapid (but enjoyable) quick Auckland city tour. A 360 degree panoramic view of the city was viewed from Mt. Eden that had the city on one side of the slope and a large herd of docile cattle on the other. Downtown, the city bustled . . but don’t all cities bustle?

     On Day 3, we hit the road, tour-busing south and SE from Auckland to Rotorua – Halfway, we listened to Martin, a kiwi farmer, describe his kiwi wine – but we enjoyed his barbecued steaks even more! . . (Glow Worm Cave visit here – photo follows) . .That night in Rotorua, we soaked up Maori culture at a Hangi (feast) where the emphasis was on the performers. Sort of a New England “in-the-ground-clambake” but they used lamb . .The Maori showtime grimacing was both fierce and comical but their weaponry was surely authentic . . The next morning, we had our first group photo taken at the Rotowhio Model Village and looked forward to our “Thermal Wonderland Day” to follow.

To view add'l photos click the bullet atop the photo montage

     Did we mention Glow Worms? These little phosphorescents dangled everywhere on our cruise in their cave – a fantastic experience! At Rainbow Springs (a NZ pseudonym for a trout farm) we bush-walked past trout pools and native bird aviaries before lunching . . The Agrodome was just that: an informative stage show where 19 different breeds of NZ sheep were seen on stage before we saw sheep-shearing and sheep dog demos . . Here, our own Bud Bower, not disclosing his Cornell DVM background, wowed the stagehands when he won the Milking Contest . . Traveling south through the Kaingaroa State Forest, we viewed the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland walking around boiling mud pools, the Lady Knox Geyeser, and the Champagne Pool, inhaling sulphuric fumes while we were doing so.

     Late that afternoon, our tour bus dropped us off at a remote railway station where we were met by numerous New Zealand couples who invited us to a home-cooked dinner and an overnight at each of their sheep farms. Four by four, we were driven off to our “Farmstay.” That was a misnomer! These were wealthy sheep farmers – they had 5,000-7,000 sheep each and lovely homes that just didn’t calibrate with the word “Farm.” After a hearty breakfast and promises from them to both the Woods and us that they’d visit us, we viewed the massive Tongariro Thermal Project whose “hot water piping” goes inter-island in every direction in providing both power and heat . . In Wellington, the capital and focus of the country’s financial and political power, we saw the Parliament Building – the “Beehive” – and from atop cable car hill we viewed this cosmopolitan city’s skyline.

The North to South Island Crossing

     Our three-hour crossing on the Interislander ferry, the “Arahura,” took us from Wellington to Picton and started our Tour of the West Coast. Blenheim was the hub of miles of orchards, vineyards, and horticultural products – no en route sampling, however. In Hokitika, we latched on to some quick fast food while shopping for cheap jade and curios of all forms. Passing through the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier areas, we stopped to view the dioramas at an AAA-type facility giving five of us the time to do some helicopter-flightseeing. “We’re they (the glaciers) big?” – “Yes, they were, and we saw Mt. Cook in the distance, too!” . . One glacier was visible from the highway – on another, the Sands tramped up to one.” At day’s end, we unloaded at our Haast Motel where it didn’t take us long to Happy Hour.

     Taking the Haast Pass Highway to the go-go resort of Queenstown we viewed some very spectacular alpine scenery while en route. One stretch stop at Lake Tanaka will long be remembered as will an aerial view of Queenstown taken during our later cable car ride to Bob’s Peak. Then, our guys and gals engaged in their “Disastrous Dunking” – a high speed ride in two jet boats that had everyone return to dockside, happy but quite wet. Fortunately, the ride was followed by a great cocktail hour and a sumptuous Newmans buffet dinner in the Skyline Restaurant that over-looked Queenstown. Departing the next day, we were shepherded by the Barrys and the Phillips, our Bus Captains, and enjoyed the long haul to Milford Sound via Te Anau. Enroute, we gaped at mountain pass vistas and stopped off at Mirror Lake, roared through the Homer Tunnel, and gawked at the real geological formation that was “The Chasm.” Ahead of us was the much anticipated cruise in renowned Milford Sound.

To view add'l photos click the bullet atop the photo montage

     Would you believe? Our group – shown boarding – cruised Milford Sound on the “Big Red Boat.” A pretty spectacular boat ride! The Captain had a penchant for putting Big Red right underneath several waterfalls and some of us donned the available rain gear. Back on the road, we stretch-stopped in Gore, which billed itself as “The Trout Capital of New Zealand.” In Dunedin, we toured historic Larnach Castle and enjoyed a quite sparse luncheon in its fairytale ballroom. At Tairoa Head on Otago Peninsula, we toured the Royal Albatross Centre and received a most informative briefing on the world’s only mainland colony of albatross nests. Albatross are not small creatures – see our man-bird photo that shows the true size of this bird with its enormous 6-foot plus wingspread. From the Centre’s hilltop observation room, we viewed many albatross that were nesting hillside.

     Continuing our Southern Scene drive, we stopped at the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Sanctuary where we had an opportunity to view the penguins, first from a hillside and then from a lakeside up close, plastic-covered trench. Moving on, we went beachside to ogle the moon-size BB’s called the Moraki Boulders, enormous, perfectly symmetrical stone beach balls. More than four tons each and more than four million years old . . It was time for a group photo; we took one; and not so surprisingly, no one carried off a souvenir! . . The road we traveled from the beach inland to Mt. Cook was remembered for its normal back country traffic – herds of sheep or cattle that had the right of way . . And there behind the grazing sheep was our first (roadside) view of the 12,349-foot high Mt. Cook. We stayed one night at the Hermitage in Mt. Cook Village – great lodge, great food, great view of the mountain from its massive living room (a postcard view – the mountain was cloud-shrouded from the Village on the day of our visit) . . Heading out, we trailed a herd for a mile or two and then took a sightseeing stretch stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd. (Lew Mix and Bud Bower shown).

     First it was Big Red Boat . . This time in touring Christchurch it was the Big Red Bus. It was Flower Festival time in what was billed as New Zealand’s Garden City . . On our Hagley Park visit we saw the punters, the gondola-cruisers on the Avon River, but we didn’t punt . . Our city tour was most extensive and the three photos shown, that of Christchurch Cathedral and Queen Victoria in Cathedral Square, and the traditional trolley scene in this city of 300,000, only capture three of the many sights we viewed that day on our Big Red Bus. Our last stop in Christchurch was the most interesting: it was a complete tour of the International Antarctic Centre. At this “Complete Antarctic Experience,” the Centre provided us with walk-around briefings and an opportunity to experience the “Super Cold Chamber” where their wind chill machine took the temperature down to 70 degrees below. Then, passports at the ready, we were off to Melbourne.

. . . and then . . . ten days in Australia!

NOTE: A 4- to 10-photo montage is tied to the UNDERLINED words appearing in the paragraphs below. By CLICKING on the bullet at the end of the paragraph you’ll activate the photo montage as described.

     Melbourne – Cosmopolitan, wide avenues (initially for sheep drives), trolleys everywhere, urban skyline. Our city tour took us to Cook’s Cottage with its incredible hothouse gardens and the 500-foot spire at the National Galleries. We took some time off to do fast food and also feed the Black Swans at Melbourne’s Zoo – the official bird of the State of Victoria, everything was named Black Swan: sundaes, cocktails, soup . . St. Patrick’s Cathedral was a drive-by thing bringing on many “ABC” cries in our bus . . Trolleys? We dodged them . . The city’s architecture blended old Gothic with modern glass and travertine at many sites . . Punting on the river? No, the Aussies seemed to favor houseboats over gondolas - and coffee breaks? . . Again, no! . . Downing a Foster’s was the thing and four of us did it with a vengeance. The final photo – it should be easy to guess - it’s Melbourne’s celebrated playhouse with the “Phantom of the Opera” international troupe then on stage.

     A quick, under an hour flight with Ansett Airlines and we were in CBR (Canberra, pronounced Canbra). Both the aerial view and the map show the unique layout of this fascinating city. The red line on the map traces the route of the Canberra Explorer bus that we all rode in groups of 4, 6, and more. The Explorer missed nothing! . . At the nation’s capital, we de-bused and visited the new Parliament (shown top right), one of the world’s most acclaimed buildings. Below it you’ll see the U.S. Embassy that we viewed in a drive-by. “You Yanks paid $1 million for that fencing!” said the driver. Yet another stop was the High Court (lower right) with its outstanding art and statuary and many courtrooms. The Australian War Memorial (lower left) was a massive museum – uniforms, weaponry, even full size aircraft and a Lancaster bomber! The petite photo is the National Carillon that was not too convenient to visit, but still could be heard. Sounds and sights!

     An even quicker flight (237 airmiles) with Ansett to SYD (Sydney pro-nounced Syd-ney). Yup, given freebie All Day Passes, we rode yet another Explorer, an on-again, off-again bus with its route of 22 stops covering the full city. First, we ascended the Sydney Tower to get the Big Picture and then in sub-groupings we did our own thing with 16 of us awaiting the Explorer at our initial pickup point - Stop 15 . . We got off at Stop 18 – Darling Harbor – a stunning “harbourside location” with its 150-plus specialty shops and eating establishments, bars, and bistros (We bistro’d!) . . Then we rode the Sydney Monorail a bit descending in Chinatown at Stop 17. The Rocks (Stop 22 and the end of the circuit) was a convict colony long before and more than 100 of its buildings have been restored in the interim, It’s located just below the Sydney Bridge (lower right photo), the bridge that lights up with fireworks each New Year’s Eve) and houses the main Tourist Information Center. We lunched at the Rocks – more Foster’s, of course! – but the seafood platter (our own photo at the lower left) was taken at our dinner in Watson’s Bay, a 20-mile cab ride from Sydney. In case you’re wondering, the platter served four (and the out and back cab rides were well spent!)

     Everything in Australia isn’t on-again, off-again and this applied to our visit to the Taronga Zoo, the world famous Sydney Zoo . . This time, we went back to the one-stop tour bus routine that picked us up, dropped us at the entry to the Zoo, and returned us home. The map we hope you’ll click on will give you some idea of the extent of this mammoth zoo , . We split into two groups and followed our assigned guides who were quite knowledgeable volunteer senior citizens. The Zoo has one of every quadruped, swimmer, climber, flyer, and crawler you can think of . . Among many of the animals we saw up close were two Australian originals: the koala bear (top left) and the dingo (bottom right) . . The gorilla (top row) was really menacing; the hand-held what’s-you-call-it being stroked by Sherrill Capi was passive; and the croc never missed while being fed. The kangaroo (bottom left) with full pouch; the pit full of sleepy crocodiles and the echidna and lounging kangaroo (lower level) were seen at arm’s length. Not shown here, but also seen were platypus (platypi?) and pandas.

     Our Sydney Harbor Cruise was a late afternoon three-hour thing, being billed as an “Afternoon Coffee Cruise.” We passed up sailing on a “Bounty” replica to cruise on a svelte yacht . . Topside, we lounged and chatted as we sailed by the many Sydney sights, enjoyed a mid-afternoon coffee and crumpet break, and then viewed the Sydney Opera House before disembarking . . Where did we go? . . Right back to the Opera House for an all floors, all nooks and crannies look . . Lower FoyerNorth Foyer – and we sat in the empty Hall at a Symphony Orchestra practice (Click the bullet at the top to see the Concert Hall in use) . . The day still was not over for we returned to Mrs. Macquaries Point, an overlook spot in a Botanical Garden’s peninsula from which one could view the full harbor. Here we came across the Royal Sydney Men’s Chorus assembled for their annual group photo (Opera House as a backdrop) and they sang an Aussie song for us. We treated them to our off-key “Alma Mater” - but detected no winces.

Three different “adventures” await us!

     We flew via Ansett Airlines to Cairns (see map), the jumpoff city for our “Rainforest,” Barrier Reef,” and Kuranda treks . . In the Daintree Rain-forest, we boarded a small riverboat whose Captain looked like one of our rock stars. Across from our boarding dock a crocodile lounged in the sand quite oblivious to our presence and became known later as the “house crocodile.” The rainforest was just that – as soon as we were in it, it poured! Umbrellas, ponchos were in style! . . We’d dried out by the time of our barbecue lunch . . Beachside, we saw many stumps with signs: “No swimming! Estuarine crocodiles present!” At the animal-friendly Habitat, we saw uncaged kangaroos and wallabies by the dozens . . We played with a fox bat; Andi Capi shared his ice cream cone with a hungry Mynah Bird as did Jane Knott and Bob Miller and the thing that Dotty held wrapped in a dish towel turned out to be a fox bat . . Daintree is a great place to visit, but did it have to rain on the day we were there?

     The Great Barrier Reef runs for 400-plus miles along the northeastern coast of Australia and is one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. It certainly attracted CLUB 44 so down to the sea and the Ocean Spirit we went! Briefed topside as we sailed to Upolu Cay, we admired our hand-some catamaran and its tack-on sidekick, a semi-submersible. After a pleasant lunch aboard ship – pleasant because the seas was exceptionally calm, we took turns boarding the submersible and viewed the coral reefs below us as we chugged along.* Michaelmas Cay was little more than a sandbar where we anchored and many of us were encouraged to swim and then wade ashore. Lots of takers! . . The fresh air, exercise, and warm sun all took their toll – lots of snoozing on our return to port. That night we scattered all over Cairns and many of us could barely lift our chopsticks.

To view add'l photos click the bullet atop the photo montage

     Kuranda, our third adventure from our Cairns base, was a cross-country exercise in which we ziggety-zagged by train from the Freshwater Station through fairly rugged hilly terrain, tunnel-counting as we rode (15 tunnels in all) . . Enroute, we stopped to view Barron Falls. Not big but ultra-turgid! At Kuranda, it was walk-about with our first visit being to the Butterfly Sanctuary, a scaled down rainforest in a massive hothouse. By-passing the souvenir store, some of us viewed the unusual nightlife animals at Kuranda’s Noctarium (the owner is shown cuddling a fox bat in broad daylight!) . . To get down to Smithfield, we rode in four-passenger Skyrail gondolas, an overflight of 44-minutes’ duration that lofted us along over more than five miles of dense rainforest and eucalypt woodlands. At Smithfield, we fully enjoyed the All-Aboriginal Show, the Tjapukai Theater performance that combined outback native dancing with an ultra-modern sound and light show. Super day. But again, Super Fatigue.

     Back at the farm, so to speak, on our final night before departing from Sydney for the USA, our 36-member CLUB 44 tour group held its getaway supper and there were many unexpected “prizes.” In order, we cited those who were outstanding troopers during our three-week, two-country trek. Gloria Bellis (top row) rec’d the first Red Ribbon for her exceptional on-tour questions . . Stan Bower (top right) was awarded the first Gold Medal (with ribbon) for his gutsy “make-all-tours” performances . . In the bottom row photos, l. to r., a second Gold Medal was awarded to Gloria Greene for her 21-day struggle with this tour’s many, many hills and staircases . .

     A third Gold Medal went to Connie Mix whose energy and drive inspired all of us. Plumb out of Gold Medals, we presented Merril Sands with the CLUB 44 Silver Medal for his unselfish, constant help to all of his shipmates. If our baggage had to be moved, lifted, loaded, unloaded, or counted, this man ALWAYS pitched in! . . There also was a surprise package for your two Mother Hens, a beautiful two-dolphin stone statuette that now adorns our living room cocktail table. Its base reads, “To our fearless leaders, Dotty and Art, with love and appreciation. The CLUB 44 Group.” Rest assured that the statuette and this website’s photos help to bring back those memorable days with you again and again . . . Art 

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