The Bau Family
A couple of highlights of the trip included:
Geo-Thermal activities of Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand. In Rotorua, their were the baths, used at the turn of this century as healing centers. Maori villages where the natives of NZ still live today and carry on their traditions. Geysers and boiling mud pools and steaming sulphur waters rising from the earth.
Te Ana Farm Stay
Where the group lived on a NZ farm which raised dairy cows, sheep and deer. It was a working farm and wonderful to experience.
Where we saw the 19 different varieties of sheep raised in NZ....10 million sheep and 3 million people. We watched a champion sheep shearer show off his skills and observed sheep dogs do their work.
Waitomo Glow Worms:
The glow worms in the Waitomo caves are famous and the talk of all tourists who visit NZ. Indeed unique and fun.
New Zealand topography, its clear and clean rivers and lakes, and the mountains are breath-taking. It's one of the most beautiful countries on earth, populated by some of the most friendly folks you will ever encounter.
Australia's highlights include:
Unique animals seen first hand: platypus, koala, walebee, kangaroo, kiwi and many more.
The Sydney Opera House: the symbol of Australia and a magnificent entertainment performing arts center.
Snorkeling on Heron Island: We used Heron Island as our base on the Great Barrier Reef and saw colorful coral fish and other see life... ooh, amazing!
75 mile sand beach drive: On Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand island( made of sand and no rock) is 127km long and 30 km wide and at low tide, one can drive the beach with a 4 Wheel Drive ... it's like drive on snow, but with the wild ocean five feet to your right and colorful dunes or cliffs 20 feet to your left... exciting!
There were truly dozens of other first time experiences for us that made this holday very special. Let us know if you need more details.
The Hunter-Killer, tried and tried, but was unable to land the delicious Coral Trout. Another fisherman on the same boat landed two of them! However, the Hunter-Killer of Weston did not come home empty handed. After about 2 hours on the water, the captain yelled, "Throatie" as Paul pulled in a Red Thoated Emperor fish. About an hour later, he landed another Throatie. The captain's assistant, cleaned and scaled the two fish. He offered to bring them to the chef at the resort restaurant to have them prepared for dinner for 4 persons. Paul asked the chef to cook them "rare", that is not to over-cook the fish.
At dinner that evening at the Heron Resort, Rachel, Yen and Julia feasted on the Throaties. Very good eating indeed!
At high tide, one can swim in the water... it's very safe we're told. We put on our snorkel gear and off we swim to observe all sorts of bigger sea life. Rachel and Paul snorkeled several times.
Another say to observe the coral sea life and stay dry is to book a ride on the Adverturer II, a semi-submersibal boad with glass observations windows below the water. The Adverturer II come with a marine biologist to tell you what you are seeing. One of the most exciting finds on our trip was a Queensland Groper... a hige old fish... perhpas 100 years old that was the size of an office desk. So, you can see, there are many ways to enjoy the sea life of the Great Barrier Reef while visiting Heron Island.
Next, Paul met with Estee Yang who is the daughter of Paul's father's sister, Edna. Estee and her husband still live in Shanghai, but have two daughters living in Wellington. Edna's daughter, Tina, who is married to a New Zealander, came to the get-together. Tina has one son who is about a year and a half old. Tina is a computer programmer and is quite happy with her life in New Zealand.
The get-together was in Paul's motel room at the Apollo Motel. It was a rather third rate accomdation(perhaps the worst we stayed at during our entire holiday) with only one chair, no room service, and poor decor too. This didn't weem to mater much as it was a fun reunion and as always, fun to meet relatives from around the world. If any relatives want more information on this meeting, simply e-mail Paul at one of the mail slots on the left of this newsletter.
The flight from Boston had a 1/2 delay due to "weather", but why worry? There would be plenty of time to make the connecting flight CO#3571. As Paul deplaned, he went to check the arrival/departure postings to see if any changes had occurred for the departing flight 3571. It was now 4:30 pm and #3571 was scheduled for a departure of 6:30 pm. As Paul looked at the postings, he couldn't believe his eyes. Flight #3571 to Philadephia was CANCELLED! Not delayed, but CANCELLED! Why? Being an experienced traveler, and not expecting any help ffrom Continental agents at other gates, Paul headed for Continental's Customer Service Counter. Good move. Bad luck. There were close to 50 passengers qued up at the Customer Service Counter and only one lonely besieged agent behind the counter. It took, 50 minutes for Paul to reach the counter, but when he did, he was told what he already knew. Flight 3571 was cancelled. It was the last flight from Newark to Philadelphia that day. I had a priceline.com ticket which did not have any flexibily to be shifted to another airline or other routings on Continental. There might be a bus, but that was Express and the service counter could not assist me. I'd have to go to Express and see if I could get on the bus. "Where's Express?" asked Paul, " And is Express part of Continental or another company?" The service agent ( and I use this title advisedly) pointed down the corridor and said, Express is Continental Express and the counter is down by baggage.
Well, of course, Continental Express is not down by baggage, but was located not far from the security check station. But, because of construction, they were relocated between gates C-123 1nd C-136. Paul mad his way to the Continental Express Counter and yes, you guessed it.... more than hundred unhappy people were lined up and qued for service. Paul got at the end of this line and saw after fifteen minutes that little move was bing made. Firstly, Paul was not sure if there would be an Express Bus to Philly, secondly, by the time Paul got to the Express Counter, the bus, if there was one, might have already left. What to do? So, Paul decided to make an executive decision ( dangerous no?). If he was to take a bus ( either Continentals or Greyhounds), Paul had better get a hold of his luggage that had to be somewhere in Newark Airport. It couldn't be on its way to Philly as no planes were flying to Philly that day. So off to Baggage Claim shuffled Paul, his shoulder a bit lower that two hour earlier. Continental was wearing him down. Continental Baggage Claim office is right opposite carrousel #5. No, my luggage from flight 335 would not be on a carrousel, at it was not checked through to Newark, it was checked though to Philadelphia. Yes, they'd try and recover it , and Paul should go to carrousel #4 and wait 25 minutes for it. After 25 minutes, Paul returned to the Baggage Claim office empty handded. Go back and wait another 25 minutes he was told. They are making an attempt to recover your luggage for you.
"Besides, if you go to Continental Express, they can "probably" get you on a bus to Philadelphia", the babbage claim agent told him. Yea, right, thought Paul.
While, waiting by carrousel #4, Paul spotted a pay phone. Quickly, he telphone Continental's 800 number. "Hello, I'm at Newark airport and here's my situation, what should I do?" Paul was going to take his luggage ( if it ever came), take a bus to the Port Authority in Manhattan, and from there, get a Greyhound Bus to Philadelphia. "Don't do that" argued the agent,"Even if you are willing to spend your own money to get to Philadelphia, the computer will cancel your return flight on May second to Boston. What you should do is either take the Express Bus tonight to Philadelphia or the first flight in the morning." "Well,can you get me on the bus? asked Paul . "I'd be happy to take the Express Bus, but I and a hundred other folks can't get through your serice lines at Newark" The sympathetic agent on the phone, went to her supervisor who also wanted to help, and then went(after almost thirty more minutes) to the supervisor's manager who authorized a hotel voucher and meal voucher in Newark for Paul if he'd be willing to take the 6;30 am flight out the next morning. ""We'll give you hotel planning, and a meal and a guaranteed seat on Friday's flight #3579 and a seat assignment and proctect you return home in ten days... here's youi confirmation number OHY43L" Paul thought this was great. "How do I get to Hotel Planning?" The agent on the phoned laughed ( it was a kind laugh),"Hotel planning, means you go to a Continental counter at Newark Airport and they will give a a voucher to a hotel. Pick the counter with the shortest line, and go there. If you go to the check-in counter, go to the "Purchase Ticlet line", not the e-Ticket line. The people at the Purchase Ticket counter will have vouchers where as the folks at the regular check-in to do. Please talk softly when you get there, as we don't want other passengers to hear that you are getting a hotel night... they are not and we don't want a riot on our hands"
The wait in the "Purchase Tickets" line was only 30 minutes. Paul's luck was getting a bit better... or so he wrongly thought. The lady at the "Purchase Tickets" counter said, " Why are you here at this counter? You are not buying a ticket. You are not buying anything. You have a priceline.com E-ticket and you should be in that line!" That line over there with 50 people thought Paul. "Why don't you talk to the agent in the E-ticket counter for me and ask him to service me first so I don't have to spend another hour in line?" requested Paul in his softest most polite voice. The man from the E-ticket counter obliged, but then he took Paul confirmation number....OHY43L, looked at his screen and said,"This is impossible, you have an E-ticket from priceline. We can't give you a hotel voucher with this." Paul explained that the head office was making a customer accomodation for him and wouldn't the agent just issue the vouchers. Nope. Off the agent ran, with Paul's confirmation number and disappeared by a set of doors. 30 minutes later he emerged,and he kept shaking his head, "Whoever did this for you is going to get in trouble. Whoever did this for you is going to get fired. But I don't care. My ass is covered and I will now issue the vouchers"
The story gets worse and have a few more terrible incedents before Paul got to bed at the Howard Johnson's Hotel. The last one I'll recount is after an hour more, Paul get onto a Howard Johnson/Holiday Inn Courtesy Shuttle and it's dark as he slips into his from row seat. Along the ride, hsi feet keep slipping on the floor. Hmmm... must be something wet on the floor. Just before arriving at the hotel, Paul notices that his pants seat are also wet. Oh no. Is it possible that he's sitting in some previous passenger's urine? What a nightmare! Really a flight from Hell! Go Continental! Dear readers, it got worse that evening, and the next morning was no picnic either. I pity the travelers who don't know what they are doing.