Yes, that’s me, a much younger me, 28 years ago at the northern tip of New Zealand, where the fierce Tasman Sea meets the gentle Pacific Ocean.
I still have a letter to my father written on the day the picture was snapped. The letter tells him that I pedaled with a Dutch friend 100 kilometers along a beach, against a headwind, then pushed three miles up a stream to a gravel road, where we pedaled for another 20 kilometers to a place called Cape Reinga.
We stood in awe to watch the clash of the seas, and faced with gale force winds that night, slept in the safest place we could find, the ladies’ restroom at the Cape Reinga lighthouse.
I spent three months bicycling in New Zealand when I was 26. More than two decades later I returned to this magnificent country on the ultra-luxury line Silversea Cruises. My how things have changed.
Still, I was reminded of my early days of pedaling when my neighbors on this cruise, a young Canadian couple, assembled their collapsible bikes to cycle in each port of call. But our experience is a far cry from the backpacker-style travel that I did way back then.
On Silver Shadow, we enjoy spacious suites, balconies facing the sea, butler service, European bath amenities, fine dining, entertainment and enrichment lectures — all of the decadent necessities of the good life. And there is never a dull moment.
Two days ago, we left New Zealand, and today, we are on the second of three days crossing the Tasman Sea. We are relieved that this stretch of water, which can at times be, as the hotel director put it, “a bit hilly,” is calm for us. Yes, there is a slight roll from the swells, enough to rock us to sleep at night.
One more full day and night on the Tasman Sea, and we will sail past the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge to dock at the Overseas Cruise Terminal in Sydney. By Sunday morning (Saturday for most readers of this blog), Silver Shadow will have linked two countries for us, green New Zealand and sunburned Australia. What a fabulous journey.
The days at sea have been relaxing, with plenty of diversions for those who wish to participate. Last night, we watched a powerful performance by acclaimed pianist Tomono Kawamura, who took her first piano lesson at age three and has perfected the art of tickling the ivories.
Earlier in the day, we listened to a lecture by humanitarian Terry Waite. The larger-than-life man left the audience with a cliff-hanger when he stopped his lecture while telling how he was led down a long corridor to a cell, where he would be locked in and held hostage in Beirut for 1,763 days. Tomorrow, he will pick up the story, and he’s promised to tell us how he managed to maintain sanity after being held in solitary confinement for more than five years, a remarkable, and gracious, man, no doubt, who we have easy access to on this cruise. Waite is one of many acclaimed speakers on our voyage.
The Tasman Sea was so gentle this morning that over coffee in the Panorama Lounge, Hotel Director Flavio Gioia suggested organizing an impromptu food station to complement the regular lunch at the Pool Grill.
On the menu: freshly made pasta prepared by an Italian chef and (brace yourself) kangaroo stir fry prepared by French chef Jerome Foussier. Consumption of kangaroo meat is an accepted practice in Australia (for a full discussion, see this entry on Wikipedia). The meat is high in protein and low in fat, arguably much healthier for human consumption than beef from cattle.
On this 19-night voyage, there is quite a lot to experience, both aboard and ashore. Incredible to think that we still have 13 nights, and 14 glorious days, to go.