Rangitoto IslandToday while the students were literally jumping off a bridge, I want to Rangitoto (rangitoto.co.nz),  You can read about the Island at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangitoto_Island.  The Island currently has a population of one.  A park ranger.  Day visitors are allowed.  You don’t want to miss the 4 pm ferry.  There are toilets but little else.  It is truly a nature preserve. 

The Island itself is beautiful.  It was a difficult day for photography for me.  The clouds and the black rock made getting the contrasts right was difficult.  I do plan to return and take the tour to the top of the volcano and visit the lava tubes.  Always leave something for next time.

Oh, the bucket list item, walking across a lava field.  Did that but there were no T-shirts for sale. 


Here are some images from the day.


Bird on the pier
Our greeter on Rangitoto Island One of the walkways - notice the stone
lava deposits and Auckland in the distance another walkway
A view of Rangitoto Sound Another view into the Sound

New Zealand FlagWelcome back to the New Zealand and Australia journal.  This is the 3rd trip to both countries where I have kept a journal.  It has been five years since I last visited, and things have changed. 

We changed our itinerary this year.  Instead of 18 days in New Zealand, it is only 8.  We are only going to Auckland and Rotorua.  We are, however, spending more time in each location. 

I was amazed and the building going on in Auckland, the city is really expanding with multiple major high-rise construction projects in the works.  It is really changing the face of the city. 

Building in AucklandFor those who follow the blog or have been on the trip, we also changed our location this year. We are now at XBase which is located next to the Universities and for those in the know, much flatter around the Hostel and down to the harbor than the YHA. As hostels go, it is nice.  The model is different with both food service and a bar as part of the facilities along with the traditional kitchen and other services.  It also has larger general space than the YHA.  It is also much bigger. I see these things as different, not better or worse.  I suspect I will have a more informed opinion later. 

In 2006 when I made my first trip to New Zealand, I don’t think I saw a fast food place at all.  I was surprised at the number of franchises today: Starbucks, Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald's, etc.  And the growth of hotel chains.  Fortunately, the international character of the city does not seem to be any less.  As we are in the University area, there is a broad change of small food shops available.

Eating in AucklandThe interesting observation occurred at a local food court.  Most of the menus were primarily in the language of the food type with secondary English labels.  The students went into overload and could not decide what to eat. Their choices ranged from Japanese, Turkish, Indian, Chinese (regular and Szechuan), Noddle shop, Vietnamese, and a bakery/coffee shop and the ones I can recall.  It was fun to watch them wander back and forth trying to decide what to eat.  Since Sushi was the first thought as we were deciding where to eat, it was not a surprise that most of the students ate food from the Japanese counter.  In case you were wondering, I ate from the Turkish counter and had the mixed grill.

The other surprises for students were the birds in the building.  Since the food court had an open entrance, birds could fly in and out.  No one seemed bothered by the situation. 

I was surprised at the number of apparent homeless around.  The difference is the panhandling was really low key.  The example I like is that I was having difficulty getting into the ATM machine (more on this later) and what appeared to be someone homeless stopped to help me.  Only later did he ask about something.  I was going in the other direction and I told him I would swing by on my way back.  When I did he was not there

Unlike in the states, the ATMs are normally not out on the street hanging off the side of the back building. Most banks have purpose build lobbies with multiple ATM machines.  You are required to swipe your card to unlock the doors.

Our first-day strategy seemed to work again.  We got into Auckland about 6:15 am and got through immigration (automated – swipe passport, get the picture [face recognition] and go.  No stamps, no questions, no fuss – 5 minutes maximum. Customs for me was easy.  Handed in the form, answered the basic question, and I was allowed to go without getting luggage x-rayed.  Less than an hour to get into the country.  We were met by our driver (full-size bus for 12 people).  They completed the highway system so that it would take us directly into the city rather than the over the hill and dale in the past.  I will admit that I would prefer the old way as you got to see more of the suburbs. 

group photo in the rainAs usual, we put our luggage in storage for the day after getting cleaned up for the day.  I then walked with the students to the Auckland Museum. Fortunately, it was only some 1.5 miles.  Unfortunately, it was ¾ of the way uphill.  My endurance is not what it was.  So, it was an effort. And it rained. 

The students then spent time about 2 hours in the museum. Not sure how they do it.  I normally spend hours going through the exhibits.  But, as I questioned them, they seemed to have seen the important parts. For a couple of them, when I asked if they had seen X, they did not but then go off to see it. 

Met a localPerhaps the most interesting thing to observe was that several of the students met a local.  They were surprised at a number of things including an NZ$18 per hour minimum wage, that she had no interest in visiting the United States, she had a negative image of the united states, that she was young than the students and was out on her own living and going to school.   What the students did not know is that higher education is free to people in New Zealand that qualify.

Location:  Charleston Illinois

I am back home for two days now.  I am still recovering from either a small case of jet lag or just having my circadian rhythm reversed.  I just could not sleep for the life of me last night.  So, I read all night.

I thought I would finish this year’s blog with an entry about returning home.  It is a very long trip.

  • Cairns Australia to Auckland New Zealand – 4.5 hours
  • Layover Auckland – 1 hour
  • Auckland to San Francisco –12.5 hours
  • Layover San Francisco – 2.25 hours
  • San Francisco to Chicago -  4.5 hours
  • Drive to Charleston – 4 hours
  • Total Travel Time: 26 .75 hours

We left Auckland at 7:15 pm on July 3rd and arrived in San Francisco at 12:15 pm July 3rd.  For those that are math impaired, that was seven hours before we left.

Cabin crew on Air New Zealand flight from Auckland, were helpful, wanted to make sure you relaxed, had enough water, wine, etc to drink.  Made sure you were comfortable as possible.  I was up during the night and spent about an hour talking with three of the cabin crew and a service manager that was on the flight.  There were knowledgeable about the company and their aircraft.  They were just willing to have a conversation with you. I might add you received a full dinner and breakfast.  We boarded in an orderly manner.

Cabin crew on United Flight from San Francisco – You got 1/3 can of beverage, had to purchase food if you wanted it.  I was in the back of the plane, stretching my legs and the two cabin attendants simply ignored me while eating their lunch.  They did keep looking at me like I was invading their space.  They boarded everyone and their brother that paid for or had special privileges while announcing that the plane was full and that if you wanted to you could check your carry-on. They went on to say that those boarding the plane last were unlikely to get any space in the overhead bins.  Of course we were boarding in the last group.  You would be amazed at what people are using as carry-on luggage these days to save the $25 baggage (or greater) baggage fee.


It has been three months since I got back to the States.  The summer was busy and I am just now redoing my Website and had the chance to review the blog and the stories within.  

I was sitting the other evening with a student and faculty member who had been on the 2011 study abroad trip.  We were at a friends house and one of the people we were visiting asked a couple of basic questions.  What was the trip like?  Who are the Maori?  How is New Zealand different?  What followed was almost an hour of questions, comments, and discussion about the New Zealand experience.  They talked about the Maori, standing under the first electric generating wind turbine in New Zealand and listing to it hum and vibrate.  Visiting the Lord of the Rings sites, and the interactions with the Maori at Te Puia, Mitai, and other locations around the country.  

What I realized while listening to the conversation was how much of an impact those three weeks had on both of the people I was with that evening.  There world views and general perspective on the States and its place in the world as well as having more global frame of reference could not have been better demonstrated. 

All of this because the Chicago Bears recruited/drafted a converted rugby player from New Zealand who is teaching the defense the haka.  

So, below is the blog from the 2013 trip from the beginning.

Location:  Port Douglas

Last time the program was in Port Douglas, I had the flu.  I decided that it was best to skip the Walker Brother’s Walk, talk, and hunt on Cooya beach.  This time I was not going to miss it; and I didn’t.  I spent the day hunting crabs on Cooya beach mud flat.  I only caught two crabs (Okay speared one and let a student spear the other), but the group caught over a dozen.  We also saw puffer fish, sea snakes, sand crabs, and signs of many other kinds of life.

Part of the experience included hearing stories about aboriginal culture and habits.   The lands have been inhabited for tens of thousands of years.  The stories include when the aboriginal tribes lived on the Lower Isles and Bat Reef and they were part of mainland Australia.  The “great wave” and rising seas created the reef and the separation of the island from the mainland.

Turtles seem to be part of the culture also.  The Walker’s showed us several green turtle shells that are legal to hunt and eat in Australia.  It takes a full day to catch, clean, cook, and eat a sea turtle.  They only do it for special occasions.  I wondered if they were going to do it tonight as there were celebrating one of the children’s 18th birthday.

The Walker Brothers are very interesting.  They not only do cultural tours, they are involved in a project to record the oral stories of their family and clan.  In the basement they have a small studio were they bring in the elders and storytellers to record the stories.  They also record their family band.

Spears on Cooya Beach

Green ants.  They taste like a lemon lolly.  One of the final treats that everyone got to try a green ant.  There was a nest of them in the tree just outside the gate to the Walker Brother’s home. You old them by there heads and lick their back ends.  You get a burst of lemon flavor.

One of the final really positive parts of the morning spearfishing is that everyone finally put aside their electronics.  There were no mp3 players, ipads, ipods, or computers.  It was just people, spears, and the mud flats.  It was rather refreshing.