'99 South Pacific

Thayer Travelers' S. Pacific Tour
March 1999

Sydney, Australia

Tour Stats:

16 & 1/2 STUDENTS
4 & 1/2 ADULTS

Before boarding the plane at Logan, everyone had an opportunity to be introduced to Eljakim Schrijvers, from Holland. Mr. Sirrico met Eljakim ('Kim' for short) in South Africa last year. He was very excited to join our Thayer group for another fun filled adventure on the other side of the world. Although Kim was one of the five adults on the trip, he presented endless entertainment for the students. He was often found leading a group of younger travelers in a game of Bop-It rather than joining the adults in discussions on how poorly EF Tours had arranged our flight plans.

04-MAR-1999 & 06-MAR-1999:
Following a full day of flying, we arrived in New Zealand TWO days after leaving! Sometime during the night we lost a day and a student's passport. The latter was found amid hundreds of Air New Zealand meal trays.

06-MAR-1999 & 07-MAR-1999:
Our first stop was the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. Here we learned about slimy phosphorescent creatures living in total darkness. They had a nasty tendency to occasionally drip something cool and dreadful into someone's upturned gaping maw! At the end of the cave tour, small boats carried groups of people into the dark then returned empty. It was unknown whether we were to be eaten by swarms of sparkling gelatinous grubs ... or if a far worse fate awaited us?!

"Iceberg! Right Ahead!"

At the end of a lengthy bus ride to the town of Rotorua, we were welcomed by the intense smell of rotten eggs! This area is known for its geothermal activity sprouting chemical hot springs with geysers of boiling water and bubbling mud ... accented by the overpowering smell of sulpher vapors. In between shopping excursions and mayhem at the hotel's pool, our group was treated to a demonstration of jade stone cutting which included a bit of history on the native Maori people.

In Whakarewarewa, we explored a Maori village to learn about their tribal customs and history. Getting off the bus, one learned to properly bump noses with a village warrior in a greeting of friendship. While studying the intricate hand-carved woodwork and paintings, some enjoyed testing how many times they could rudely shout Whakarewarewa (pronounced FUK-ER-WAR-A) before getting slapped in the head. This trip also included a spectacular Jurassic Park-like excursion through Whakarewarewa's Thermal Valley. We found ourselves surrounded by large steaming hot springs, boiling waterfalls and bubbling mud pits. It was like stepping back in time to an era when one might expect to see a T-Rex poke its head over the trees. "Did anyone notice if the Raptor pen was still intact?!"

"This place stinks!"

One evening in Rotorua included a feast on local foods and a Maori cultural show. This involved several rounds of dancing, drums, shouting, and grunts that regularly climaxed in contorted faces with bulging eyes and tongues reaching out to unnatural lengths. This was an expression of how Maori warriors attempted to frighten their enemies away to dissuade fighting. Of course, such a thing did not work for us. Afterward, in the hotel lounge, visitors from England were severely offended by the piano playing of some Thayer members. The Brits were quite vocal about it despite our own collection of contorted faces of disbelief!

Welcome to Whakarewarewa

"Haaaaaaa! Wait til you try the Emu eggs at breakfast!"

Kevin -our tour guide, and Phil -our bus driver, held many discussions with Mr. Sirrico during our visit to explain important details of a New Zealander's lifestyle. Not the least of these was an introduction for adults to the appealing brews of Steinlager and Red Lion. Students came to recognize rugby teams and proper protocol for day-trip cycling excursions (traffic on the wrong side of the street had little to do with it)!

Near to Rotorua, we attended a sheep sheering presentation that was both interesting and entertaining. The sheep rancher demonstrated how whistling commands are used to direct dogs that assist in herding sheep. Young David Bradshaw enjoyed a great deal of practice with whistling commands. His sharp blasts and short high-pitched shrieks told Thayer travelers important things like ... when it was safe to cross the street, where to turn to find our hotel, and "okay, that's enough souvenir shopping, let's do something else"!

"Please don't feed the fish ... with your hands!"

Afterward, the group wandered New Zealand's Rainbow Springs where many unique species of plants, fish and birds live in a natural rainforest setting. [Well, it was raining in the forest the day we went -naturally!] Mr. Sirrico took a moment to inquire if visiting Korean tourists knew what the pellets they were feeding to fish consisted of. They're concern over ignorance on this subject was soon replaced by the horror of discovering they were handling unspeakable disgusting matter which I will simply call 'fish waste'.

A group of more than half a dozen students
in center of crater. Others trying to climb out!

Later, we traveled to the summit of an extinct volcano outside the city of Auckland. Some Thayer travelers gathered lava rocks from the bottom of the crater (no small feat). Upon depositing us at our hotel, Phil discovered these rocks and explained that local natives consider the crater a sacred place. Superstition throughout the S. Pacific holds the belief of removing lava rock as being exceedingly bad luck. Phil was kind enough to return them for us --though he was very, very careful on the drive back.

In the evening, a group of adults with young Devon in tow, fumbled through pastures in the dark trying to reach the summit of One Tree Hill. After climbing many fences, sneaking past cattle, pestering sheep and failing to properly read a map in the darkness, the mission was aborted. Meanwhile, Eljakim, skipped off into the night to find adventure on his own. The remaining adults wandered for several miles becoming exhausted long before the hotel was in sight. Kim had found a convenient ride, avoiding such trauma.

We arrived in downtown Auckland via a ferry from Devonport across the harbor. Auckland presented fabulous shopping and site-seeing opportunities. While some bought clothes, books or souvenirs, others headed to the Sky Tower for a view of the city from the clouds. At this point in the trip, many discovered their luggage to be severely inadequate for holding the valuables accumulated thus far!

More pool frenzy, a Siamese cat named Dillinger, oranges the size of grapefruits, an excellent dinner and continued Bop-It antics made up the final evening in New Zealnd. "Pull-it! Bop-it! Twist-it!, ... aaaaahhhh!"

In the time it took us to say our good-byes to Kevin and Phil at the airport, roughly 100 Japanese tourists paraded in, lined-up their luggage and disappeared. One hour later we still were not certain if our boarding passes were in order. Of course, this mattered not as there were so many new shops to visit and so little time before we left. The in-flight movie was Star Trek: Insurrection (for the third time).

Mutiny on the Bondi

"We don' need no stinkin' baggage!"

Jo Connor, a youthful looking version of Olivia Newton John's character, Sandra Dee, greeted us at the Sydney airport. She was our Australian tour guide. Before going to the hotel we were treated to a bus tour through the outskirts of Sydney with a planned stop at an opal museum and a drive past Bondi Beach. However, one look at the beach and a celebration erupted which expanded to a mutiny. Within minutes, the entire group dragged luggage from the bus's under-compartments and changed into swimwear, ... sun-block and all! The bus and our bags were sent away without us. Nobody cared in the slightest, especially the guys when they suddenly noticed the beach's liberal dress code for women (tops optional)!

Jo returned to Bondhi Beach later in the day to escort us to the hotel via public transportation. At this point Eljakim nearly prompted an international incident when boarding a bus exclaiming "G-day mate. How's it goin?!" in his whimsical Netherlands accent. The driver was not amused.

"Are ya a wize ars or somethin?!"

"No. I'm just tryin to fit in."

Though it came out through his child-like grin sounding "fid din". Luckily there were 21 of us and the driver had to make up lost time after waiting on exact change to be gathered [in Australian coins -"they'll be none of that New Zealand money used over here, y'know mate"].

Barry Fenton with Mr. Sirrico
-Thayer alum found shopping in Sydney Harbour

Our hotel had a wonderful pool, exercise room, and many places to find mischief during the evenings, such as a laundry room in the basement or sundeck on the roof. Most stayed close to the Jacuzzi unless out searching for a place to eat. Several travelers looked to buy aloe cream for treating severe sunburns. There is little or no ozone layer over much of Australia so getting only a small amount of sun can be hazardous.

Sydney Harbour

Thayer Opera Singers

This day we rode an elevator to the top of the Sydney Tower for a spectacular view, traveled to the harbor for a tour of the famous Sydney Opera House, squeezed-in some shopping, took a cruise with Captain Cook Harbour Cruises, explored Darling Harbour, and then had a terrific dinner. A short train ride returned us downtown where a bit of luck carried us back to the hotel. "Watch-out for the traffic coming on the wrong side of the road again!"

In the morning we traveled by bus to the fabulous Blue Mountains. Views from a scenic lookout and an I-Max movie at a nearby theater presented incredible images with a story or two to capture the mystique of this area. No sign of koalas as yet.

Three Sisters
-Rock formation in Blue Mountains

A quick vertical drop through a steep mine shaft deposited us near the base of rocky cliffs where we followed a footpath to ... (well, we don't exactly know where to)! Wandering too far would have allowed us to easily become lost in vast forests filling the wide valleys between these Blue Mountains. There had to be koalas out there somewhere!

Our next stop was to find a quick lunch in a small town with very unique shops. One of the shops was a candy store with every form of sweet imaginable, ... and then some! "Forget Gummie Bears! Anyone care for Foam Shrimp?!"

"Look ma. No cavities!"

On the return trip we visited an Australian Wildlife Park. Here we could watch large reptiles eat, talk to miniature blue fairy penguins [you think I'm making this up, don't you], pet baby kangaroos (aka Roos or Joeys), and finally, ... hang loose with a cool troop of koalas! They are somewhat stoned from perpetually ingesting Eucalyptus leaves that render them quite lethargic. The Parrot Aviary, Turtle Pond and Nocturnal House were also good places to see exotic critters from the Aussie Outback. On the return trip to Sydney we passed the newly built Olympic Stadium, site of the 2000 Games

"Do they bite mommy?"

"No honey, those Thayer students only look dangerous,
just keep feeding the animals."

12-MAR-1999 & 13-MAR-199:
This was a free day to shop. Everyone took full advantage of it. Afterward, we boarded a plane for Honolulu. Oops! My mistake. Instead, we went back to New Zealand, arriving at 11:45 PM with an outbound flight to Hawaii leaving at 12:35 PM. [Do you see the problem?] We had to return to our Auckland hotel for a 12-hour layover through the night. The one advantage to this was being able to catch a Honolulu flight re-running Star Trek!

According to our Katie watch,
it's time to go shopping!

12-MAR-1999 (again):
Alooooooha! We picked-up our lost day somewhere over the Pacific. It was yesterday once more! First stop in Honolulu -the Waikiki OutRigger Hotel. Primary mission of first evening -Coke Slurpys from 7-11 across the street! Other tasteful eccentricities included sour apple fruit chews, temporary tattoos and Adam Sandler's The WaterBoy in-room movie.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

13-MAR-1999 (again?):
Our trip to Pearl Harbor's Arizona Memorial, with the battleship Missouri docked nearby, was the start of a beautiful day. The unfortunate news of Mrs. Tyre resulted in the group slightly altering plans for the afternoon. Thayer swimmers and scuba divers alike donned mask, snorkel and fins (sans tank and regulator) to enjoy the water as a consolidated group. It was more fun than aquatic rugby! Well, okay ... (25 people on a boat the size of a basketball key) it was aquatic rugby! Meanwhile, Boston was enjoying 12 inches of snowfall. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?!

"Mmmmph, em hmm-ummm!"

Translated: Take My Picture

14-MAR-1999 & 15-MAR-1999:
The next two days included more beach time, a wider shopping radius and poolside sunbathing for the girls. One evening consisted of a trip to Paradise Cove for a fantastic night of dinner and dancing at an authentic Hawaiian Luau! Some members of the group managed to look quite silly in their dancing, even without a grass skirt!

Our final night (or was it morning already?) in Hawaii, we packed-up at 1 AM to catch a 4 AM flight to LA. In LA we wandered the airport like lost zombies uncertain of the day, the time, or what to buy! "Did somebody say McDonalds?!"

Flying home to Boston ... [guess what the movie was?], we enjoyed a near-empty plane which yielded entire rows of seats to stretch out across! Our friend Kim stayed an extra day with Mr. sirrico and flew to Holland afterward. He continues to send some of us E-mail and hopes to visit again soon.

(see photo at top)
Back Row: Jon Nutting, Ryan Cusick, Cullin Heath, Eljakim Schrijvers, Steve Sirrico,
Jared Harrell, Katie Fischer, Joseph Fuoco,
Middle Row: Emily Colton, Jo Conner, Paul Bradshaw, Ali Bevilaqua, Alexandra Bradshaw,
Front Row: Sam Sirrico, David Bradshaw, Devon Heath, Lindsay Feig, Paul Juster,
Carley Roush-Kalus, Danielle Donahue, Janet Bradshaw, Janine Heath

The S. Pacific trip was not a school sponsored trip.
This web-page has been prepared and donated to Thayer Academy

New York City

Actual photo taken while driving through Times Square in my Sebring convertible