Catching up, Down Under: Friends reunite during an expansive trip to Tasmania.
Who: Paul (the author) and Janet Lasky of Montgomery Village, Md.
Where, when, why: In early January my wife and I boarded the Celebrity Solstice in Auckland, New Zealand, for a two-week cruise to destinations in that country’s North and South islands and, after a rough crossing of the Tasman Sea, to Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. The icing on our travel cake was the 12 days thereafter spent in Hobart, Tasmania, with Aussie friends — Berwyn and Marion Huett — and at their holiday house in scenic Coles Bay.
Highlights and high points: New Zealand certainly lives up to its picturesque reputation: Auckland’s harbor hums as multiple ferries stream toward beach and shopping destinations; the beaches of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui are golden and expansive and match anywhere; and the sounds at the tip of the South Island, couched between cliffs, are jawdropping and display nature at its best. Tasmania, the smallest of Australia’s states, features sheep farms galore, wineries and spectacular scenery. The vast open-air market in Melbourne and the spectacularly designed Sydney Opera House (where we attended “The Magic Flute”) are not to be missed.
Cultural connection or disconnect: The most memorable connection was the 12 days spent with our friends. Particularly impressive were our daily trips to historic villages that could have been plucked from the English countryside and bridges built by English convicts expelled from the motherland during the early years of settlement. Living with our friends and experiencing what they experienced, we no longer felt like tourists. And while in Hobart, we — avid Washington sports fans — got a daily clinic in the game of cricket (always on TV), which excites fans there like baseball and football do here.
Biggest laugh or cry: While slowly cruising through Milford Sound late one afternoon in the most remote reaches of New Zealand’s South Island, the ship’s captain announced, during a torrential downpour, that there was a life-threatening medical emergency on board involving a member of the ship’s crew. The ship would need to stay put in the fjord to await the arrival of a pilot boat with medical staff to transport the crewman to the hospital. The ship maintained its position for more than six hours into the dark of a rainy night before it was able to proceed to Australia. We later learned that the crew member ultimately died. (An article in a Hobart church bulletin, later forwarded to us by our friends, described the service.)
How unexpected: Two experiences come to mind: the first that Tasmania, which appears as a dot on a global map, feels much larger in person. We drove for three hours from Hobart to Coles Bay and covered only a small area of the state. The second is that the practice of tipping for services rendered is frowned upon in New Zealand and Australia in restaurants, taxis and in other situations in which Americans typically tip. There, it is regarded by many as a form of begging. Minimum wage in the lands Down Under far eclipses that paid in the States.
Fondest memento or memory: The first leg of our return trip home was from Sydney to Los Angeles. Because we crossed the international date line from west to east, and because the flight was approximately 13 hours, we arrived in Los Angeles “before” we left Sydney. This was hard for my wife and me to wrap our heads around. We also experienced New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 2015 on a most comfortable Air New Zealand flight from Los Angeles to Auckland. To tell us about your own trip, go to washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.
Paul and Janet Lasky saw aMozart opera performance at the Sydney Opera House, seen above from a ferry. The couple also cruised the stunning sounds of New Zealand, where nature gives its best show.
From left: Berwyn Huett, Paul Lasky, Janet Lasky andMarion Huett in a harbor of Hobart, Tasmania. The Laskys ventured to New Zealand and Australia for adventure and to visit their Aussie friends.