Sunday, January 15, 2012

It Ended With A Whimper, And Not A Bang!

Map picture

Until now I have not been in a position to write about the end of our recent trip. Frankly we made three ports of call in three days, which left very little time for me to write, much less to look at and/or organize my photographs. When I got home, I immediately got buried with rehab and doctor appointments, not to mention two large laundry baskets full of mail. Now that we've settled in, I wanted to give you a brief summary of how our trip ended, and then give you an update on the condition of my shoulder.

When I last wrote, I was discussing the miraculous situation at Dunedin, where we ended up with the very same driver that Lisa and I had almost a decade earlier. The next day we had a day at sea, allowing us to get organized, and then we visited the cities of Picton, Napier, and Tauranga – all in New Zealand. To tell the truth, Lisa and I got so burned out visiting Picton and Napier that we skipped Tauranga altogether, in large part because the following day we would need to leave our ship very early in the morning upon our arrival into Auckland and then fly home.

I guess the first thing that I would share is my overall view of New Zealand which is very positive. It is a beautiful country, and the people are without question some of the friendliest we have encountered. Except for the fact that they speak with a strange accent, and drive on what we consider "the wrong side of the road," the atmosphere is very similar to that here at home.

What little we saw of the city of Picton seemed quite pretty, however we had selected a tour that was billed as "off the beaten path." Little did we realize that this meant we would spend four hours bouncing around on largely dirt roads traveling around the Peninsula of Marlborough Sound in a small minibus. Picton, New ZealandThere is no question that we saw some magnificent scenery, but the tour ended up being what I frequently refer to as a "spam in a can" tour. Our little bus rarely stopped for photographs, and when it did stop, it was at a location that was far from photogenic. I don't think the tour company or our driver had any idea what makes a good photograph. We would drive by magnificent vistas which had places where a bus could pull over, but no, we would pass those by and instead pull over in an area where the trees blocked any view of the surrounding lakes. As a result, I have very few photographs to share from our trip that day which is very frustrating to me.

Our next port of call was at the city of Napier. This town was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the early 1900s, and was quite literally rebuilt from scratch. The city decided that the rebuilding of the city should be done in a unique manner, and so they emphasized the gingerbread style that was so popular in the 1920's. Our tour bus took one drive down the main street of town on our way to visit what was billed as "the arches of the ancestors," which I took to be some spectacular geological formation. We drove around the Bay for almost an hour before the bus turned off and headed deep into the countryside for another 30 minutes. At times the bus was traveling up such a steep gravel road, that it's tires spun for lack of traction. We finally arrived at what I would describe as a Maori Cultural Center. Nowhere, could I find the "arches of the ancestors." I believe that almost to a person there was some disbelief as to our destination, and surreal hesitation as to what it was we were really about to get into. There in front of us was a ceremonial gateway leading to an enclosed compound surrounded by a hand built fence. Our group was gathered together, and then a "warrior" exited the compound and challenged our group. One of our guides gave the appropriate ceremonial answer, and at that point, our group was welcomed into the compound while the Maori sang to us a song of welcome. The Maori people are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand. They are part of the Polynesian culture which migrated to these lands many, many generations ago, and they have been treated in their country in a similar manner to that with which we have treated our own Native American population. As corny as it may sound, this excursion was designed to introduce us to their culture, and to break down the misunderstandings that may exist about these people.Napier, New Zealand

Our large group was divided into about six smaller groups. We then spent the next several hours rotating among different displays and experiences that were designed to introduce us to their culture. Amazingly it was a fascinating journey, and one which was uniformly accepted and applauded by our group. At the end of our visit I can tell you that there was a real sense of camaraderie between ourselves and this group of Maori; our parting was even somewhat sad

We arrived into Auckland, which is the capital of New Zealand, bright and early on a beautiful sunny morning. We had to depart the ship by 9 AM, and from there go to the airport. Their security screening was so "user-friendly" that it is really difficult to describe. The screeners were friendly; they were telling jokes; we did not have to remove our shoes, but at the same time they were very thorough in what they were doing. What a totally different experience from that which we undergo here in the United States. Our flight did not depart until three in the afternoon, so we had plenty of time to read and rest before heading home. Our flight from Auckland to Los Angeles lasted 13 hours.

After landing, we used our newly acquired "trusted traveler credentials" to clear customs and immigration in a matter of minutes, leaving behind long lines of weary travelers. As incredible as this may sound, Qantas Airlines refused to check our bags through to Kansas City. They claimed that they had "no agreement" with our next carrier, Delta Airlines. That meant that we had to claim our bags in Los Angeles, and then take those bags to another terminal building where we went through an original check-in, and new security screening. Remember that I had only the use of one arm, and Lisa's knee had been acting up to the point that she was now using a cane. It was truly a comical scene to see us push our bags between terminal buildings. I tried to engage a porter, but if you can believe this porters are not allowed to go between the international and domestic terminals. To make that transfer, we were truly on our own! In any event, we did finally arrive safely home.

We arrived home on a Friday, and first thing Monday morning I had an appointment with my orthopedic physician. I had been able to remove my brace on Christmas day, and I had been doing some exercises as he had suggested during the remainder of our trip. However when I saw him, I was still completely unable to move my arm away from my body. It almost felt as if it was "locked" into place. The x-rays taken in his office showed that my body was doing a very good job of laying down new bone, and that the splinters in my shoulder and the fractures were healing quite nicely. Unfortunately, when I fell, I produced a small rotation in my upper arm bone, the humorous. He had hoped that during the month-long healing process, the bone might have rotated back into alignment, but alas, it had not done that. He is hopeful that the small misalignment will not produce too much long-term problem, but that remains to be seen. I specifically asked for him to explain why I was not able to lift my arm away from my body. His explanation was that one possibility was that the muscles of the upper arm had atrophied during the two months since my accident, and that they simply needed to be rebuilt. Another possibility is that when I fell, I damaged the tendons attached to those muscles, and if that turns out to be the case, then we would be looking at surgery to re-attach those tendons. I have been directed to undergo six weeks of aggressive physical therapy, and then to return to his office for an evaluation. The doctor again reiterated that I will never have complete use of this arm as I once did, whether he does surgery or not. Whether or not I will ultimately need surgery, will remain to be seen.

And so I started physical therapy one week ago, and even though it is quite painful, I can tell significant improvement in my ability to use my arm. However, I still cannot move the arm away from my body, but perhaps I'm expecting too much too quickly.

Thus this journey comes to an end. Lisa and I are already hard at work on our travel DVD, and she has told me that she already has the music put together and is simply waiting for me to do the pictures! Speaking of which, I posted the remainder of the photographs from our trip this morning. At the same time, we are actually making some plans for our next trip, although that will not happen until sometime in May.

Let me wish everyone a very happy new year, and I do hope that you have enjoyed traveling along with The Globe-Trotters.


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