Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

We spent twelve summers taking bus loads of high school students overseas. Over the years we went everywhere - the big capitals of Europe, the Alps, Russia, North Africa, Mediterranean and Greek cruises, Asia. And by far the most popular trip we took was the one to Australia and New Zealand. The parents of our students often struggled to afford their children this unique travel experience, but for the trip Down Under we had a waiting list and frustrated parents trying to squeeze one more traveler aboard.

But June and July were not a good time to travel to the bottom of the world. Except for the southern part of New Zealand, these countries do not suffer from the extremes of climate that we endure here in metropolitan Chicago, but it was winter there. The days were short and cool and after flying all that way we hardly scratched the surface in 18 days. And frankly, after flying all that way, it often felt like we were still at home. Yes, the people didn't pronounce their words the same way we did, but most of their forbears were Europeans just like ours. It felt safe and familiar, and we yearned for a bit more exotic.

But we resolved that some day we would return when it was summer and take the time to thoroughly investigate what these remote countries were all about. That day is finally here. This is another tough trip to pack for. We've logged on to weather prediction sites and we're in for temperatures from the 40º's to the 90º's. New Zealand is an outdoorsy country and we want to have clothing appropriate for camping and hiking. Frequent downpours are also quite likely. Once we get on the cruise ship, we're supposed to get gussied up for formal evenings and look halfway decent the other nights. T-shirts and jeans just won't do. And those airlines are getting meaner and meaner with the luggage weight limits. Even if we add a few clothing items while we are underway, we won't be able to get them home again without paying a surcharge. What's a girl to do? Remind herself that no one gives a hoot what geezer tourists look like. Except for our little foursome, we'll never see these people again.

We've only made reservations in hotels when we first arrive and the first few campgrounds in New Zealand until their school holidays are over. Once we are on the cruise ship, activities will be arranged through the cruise staff. Even so, my carry on has a hefty folder full of paperwork, tickets, receipts, and reservations. In our home the water is shut off, the heat is turned way, way down, and the refrigerator is unplugged and empty. Have we remembered to do and pack everything? Stay tuned....

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