Although Wellington is New Zealand’s capital, Auckland is the largest city and is typically the point of entry or departure for international visitors. Known as the “City of Sails”, it was the capital until 1865 when Wellington was chosen as the approximate physical center of the island nation.

Sweeping beauty surrounds New Zealand. Located on a constricted isthmus, the municipality is built atop a cluster of extinct volcanoes, and its fertile landscape blends seamlessly with the modern metropolitan skyline. There is no lack of activity for there is so much to see and do, it is impossible to see and do it all in one day.

The nation may have a deserved reputation for old-fashioned tradition, but only when it comes to politeness and manners. Shopping districts offer fashionable European clothing and accessories. Of course, “kiwi” and Australian designers are also represented.

Auckland is the nation’s main gateway for ships (and air traffic) between Oceania and North or South America, yet visitors are often struck by the calm peace and cleanliness. The streets are filled with pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers. Like most New Zealanders, Aucklanders like to be outdoors.

Theirs is the only city in the nation that is urban enough to have a traffic problem, but the “problem” would make most city-dwellers envious. Leaders in the world-ecology movement, New Zealanders are recycling and weaning themselves from fossil fuels, and preserving nature.

The “sails” nickname is not without merit. There are some 70,000 sailing craft and sailing crafts and private power boats in the greater Auckland region. This means one boat for every four households! The attractive harbor is framed by the city and its volcanic mountain range.

The sea is an intrinsic part of pre- and post-European New Zealand, so one of the best places to begin a city exploration is at Auckland’s National Maritime Museum. The Taratai carried Jim Siers and his 14-member documentary team from Kiribati to Fiji in 1976.

Albert Park was originally built as a fortification against Maori attack. The public garden was set up as Albert Barracks in the mid-19th century, The landscaped 15-acre park is now home to Auckland University and the New Gallery.

Explorer Kelly Tarlton’s marine park in Auckland harbour is an Auckland institution, The main lure is a 100-foot plexiglass tube beneath the harbour. Part amusement park and part marine zoo. One doesn’t have to be a child to enjoy seeing the world through a diver’s eyes without getting wet.

Equipped with a slow moving tread, it allows visitors to observe creatures in natural habitat in full 360 degrees panorama. Although there are similar exhibitions, Tarlton’s was the first of its kind and you will learn a lot about marine life. The companion Antarctic exhibit includes a replica of Scott’s exhibition quarters.

Part of Auckland’s historic homes collection, 19th century Alberton Manor was centre of the Allan Kerr Taylor estate. The one-acre property once covered 550 acres. Southeast of Auckland, 12-acre Ayrlies Garden features plants from all over the world. Begun in 1964, Bev McConnell’s project has appeared in several books including Most Beautiful Gardens in the World and Gardens in Time.

Practically speaking: Currency: New Zealand dollar Hours: 9 am to 5 pm. Saturdays 9 am to noon. Info: 287 Queen Street or browse to: www.aucklandnz.com PO: Adjacent to Visitor Center Shops: Queen St. or Parnell Rd. Buy: Stuffed kiwi dolls, greenstone, designer clothing, art View: Bridge Climb takes you to 200 ft/61 in above Auckland Harbour. The ship docked at Jellicoe Wharf, Port of Auckland

Set amid beautiful park-like grounds, Auckland’s Zoo and MacDonald’s Rainforest offer insight not only into New Zealand’s unique indigenous animal population, but also other species and the habitats in which they live. Part of a wider global effort, the fascinating and well-planned park teaches people to appreciate various delicate balances that operate in natural habitat in the hope that future generations will act as responsible stewards for the planet. The environments include tropical and temperate rain forests.

Hippo River and Pridelands, are replicas of African savanna ecosystems, while Wilderness New Zealand is home for the Aviary and Nocturnal Kiwi and Tuatara House. Native blue penguins and sea lions are among the popular residents. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

In the same general direction, the interactive Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) and Sir Keith Park memorial offer a fascinating collective look at the history of transportation in New Zealand. Included are a number of antique conveyances and vehicles including two genuine WWII places, old steam trains and a preserved vintage (operational) tram line.

Janet Frame (b. 1924), New Zealand novelist, poet. The Envoy from Mirror City vol. 1, ch. 20 (1985) writes, “Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping exhibition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination.”

Auckland, New ZealandWe entered into the Hauraki Gulf on our final approaches to Auckland, New Zealand on the 28th. What a wonderful visit we had in this City of Sails, so nicknamed because it is located on the harbour full of sailboats. It is indeed an outdoorsman’s dream so Roger went to experience the America’s Cup which easily made the highlight of his world tour.

Due to the heavy schedule we arranged today, we woke up early at 6 am on February 28, knowing that it was still February 27 at 12 pm in Toronto, a whole 18 hours ahead. Good thing we didn’t feel the change at all because it was not like this when we went around the world on a jet plane. Could it be because we were going on a slow boat to China?

The above is no offense to QM2 because it has a propulsion system so powerful it allows QM2 to go backwards faster than many cruise ships can go forward. Although as Ray’s Quote of the Days says, “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

Before going on the tours, we familiarized ourselves with the place and QM2 has been good enough to make this possible by posting relevant information on every place we visited in their Daily Program. Here’s more information on what we gathered about Auckland:

The Auckland metropolitan area or Greater Auckland, in the North Island of New Zealand, is the largest urban area of the country. With more than 1.2 million people here, it has over a quarter of the country’s population, and demographic trends indicate that it will continue growing faster than the rest of the country.

It is a metropolis, made up of Auckland City (excluding the Hauraki Gulf islands), North Shore City, and the urban parts of Waitakere and Manukau cities, along with Papakura District and some nearby urban parts of Rodney and Franklin Districts.

In Maori, Auckland’s name is Tamaki Makaurau, translated as Tamaki of a thousand lovers. Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf of the Pacific Ocean to the east, the low Hunua Ranges to the southeast, the Manukau Harbour to the southwest, and the Waitakere Ranges and smaller ranges to the west and northwest.

The central part of the urban area occupies a narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities in the world to have harbours on two separate bodies of water.

Auckland straddles the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field. The 50 volcanic vents in the field take in the form of cones, lakes, lagoons, islands and depression, and several have produced extensive lava flows. Most of the cones have been completely or partly quarried away.

The most recent and by far the largest volcano, Rangitoto Island, was formed within the last 1000 years and its eruptions destroyed the Maori settlements on neighbouring Motutapu Island. Rangitoto’s size, its symmetry, its position guarding the entrance to Waitemata Harbour and its visibility from many parts of the Auckland region make it Auckland’s most iconic natural feature.

It is eerily quiet as almost no birds or insects have settled on the island because of the rich acidic soil and type of flora that has adapted to grow out of the black broken rocky soil. Auckland currently ranks 5th behind Zurich and Geneva in the survey of the quality of life of the world’s top 55 cities.

In 2006, Auckland was placed 23rd on the UBS list of the world’s richest cities. It is popularly known as the “city of sails” because the harbour is often dotted with hundreds of yachts and has more per capita than any other cities in the world. Viaduct Basin hosted two America’s Cup challenges, and its cafes, restaurants and clubs add to Auckland’s vibrant night life.

Interesting Facts: * 30% of New Zealand’s lands is forested. Forestry accounts for 12% of New Zealand’s exports. This is expected to increase as more plantations mature, and some say that New Zealand now has so much wood that exporting it is a necessity. *

The biggest contributors to New Zealand’s tourism earnings, accounting for 64% of all money spent are Australians 26%; British 15%; Americans 10%; Japanese 8% and Chinese 5%. The Sky Tower located in Auckland is the tallest free standing structure in the entire Southern Hemisphere.

The isthmus was valued for its rich and fertile land and so attracted its first settlers around 1350. Pa refers to any Maori settlement and fortified villages many of which were created, mainly on the volcanic peaks. Maori population is estimated to have peaked at 20,000 before the arrival of the Europeans. This event and the guns they traded to local iwi upset the local power balances.

This resulted in extensive inter-tribal warfare, which along with some introduced plagues, resulted in the area having relatively low numbers of Maori when European settlement in New Zealand started in earnest (there is no indication that this was the result of a deliberate European policy.)

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840, the new governor of New Zealand, William Hobson chose the area as his new capital. However, even in 1840, Port Nicholson (later Wellington) was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital, due to its closeness to the South Island, but immigration to the city remained strong.

Becoming a base against the Maori King Movement in the early 1860s, and continued road building towards the south into the Waikato, enabled Pakeha (non-indigenous or European New Zealanders) influence to spread out from Auckland.

It also grew fairly rapidly from 1,500 in 1841 to 12,423 by 1864. The growth occurred similarly to other mercantile-dominated cities, mainly around the port, that led to many of the problems of overcrowding and pollution common to it.

Trams and railway lines shaped Auckland’s rapid extension in the early first half of the 20th century, but soon after the dominance of the motor vehicle emerged and has not abated since with arterial roads and motorways becoming a defining (and geographically dividing) feature of the urban landscape.

They also allowed further massive expansion, resulting in the growth of associated urban areas like the NORTH Shore especially after the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Manukau City in the South.

A large percentage of Auckland is dominated by a suburban style of building, giving the city a very low population density: although it does not have much more than a seventh of the population of London, it sprawls over a considerably larger area.

Roger went on this tour, a once-in a lifetime opportunity to experience the thrill of sailing as part of a team on an America’s Cup yacht. The America’s Cup is one of the world’s most esteemed and oldest sporting trophy and definitive yachting regatta. It is usually the domain of the privileged yacht owners and billionaires.

It was an exceptional chance to race a real America’s Cup yacht that was offered. They say it’s just like driving the Formula 1 race car. The experience that took two hours started in the Viaduct Harbour. There the professional crew took us for a safety briefing.

The sails were raised and Roger became a crew member. He was very excited for although he has sailing experience (not cruise sailing, you disbelieving people!) for he used to own a boat (named Sarah Beth for our only granddaughter) that sleeps six for years, but it was nothing like this for the crew encouraged us to take the helm and exert power on the grinders.

Roger of course didn’t want just to sit down and watch the crew as they sailed down the beautiful Auckland Harbour. Although he had a bit of experience, it is not required as their yachts are suitable for both the experienced racers and the first-time sailors.

The America’s Cup experience is a very interesting and informative tour. There were four members of the crew, all young, strong and smart. One crew member told a tale on how three of them went to Thailand on a smaller boat which took two months.

America’s Cup is a trophy given to the winners every three to five years. The winner decides the exact date of the competition. The next site will be in San Francisco. There are three basic sails: main sail, upsail and downsail. Sail up or against the wind. They are always guided by the direction of the wind.

There were several grinders in the yacht and Roger became a grinder twice. A fellow passenger took a picture of Roger when he was at the helm of the yacht. The 1995 made-in-Japan yacht costs $5 million. Cost of training the crew (who undergo rigorous training) for four to five years is about $150 million.

The 30 tour group was divided into two, each group roding in a different yacht. It was a very nice experience. Weight of the yacht, by the way, is about 24 tons. When he was not a grinder, Roger felt free as the wind, claiming it was the ride of his life. There was simply nothing more thrilling than being aboard the America’s Cup yacht.

All lands before Customs Street is reclaimed land only in the last 250 years. The orange building used to be the customs and Customs Street used to be the waterfront. He showed us the Arena that can seat 12,000 people and that Neil Diamond was going to sing there that night.

The Auckland Hospital was shown with children’s hospital beside it. Then we entered the Parnell Rise area where old buildings were getting a facelift. Some original houses are taken over and became the village but still very colonial.

First, we were welcome to the Auckland Museum, regarded as one of the finest museums in the Southern Hemisphere and is renowned for its unique collection of Maori and Pacific treasures. Housed in one of the finest heritage buildings, the museum’s three floors tell the story of New Zealand.

From the great Polynesian voyages which first brought people to Aotearoa, to the diverse cultures and communities that make up Auckland today, Auckland Museum portrays the rich diversity of New Zealand and is located on Domain Drive in the Auckland Domain. It is 15 minutes walk or 5 minutes drive from the city centre.

The Museum Library is open 1 - 5 pm Monday - Friday and 10 am - 5 pm Saturday, We discovered some of the most important and fascinating objects in the museum, heard their stories and learned their significance to New Zealand.

This is a vibrant and entertaining glimpse of Maori culture, culminating in a high-energy haka - New Zealand’s world-famous dance. Afterwards, we joined a performer on a guided tour of the Maori Court to gain a deeper understanding of the unique culture of the Pacific People.

On the first floor we explored the diversity of Pacific communities and the beauty of their objects. The Maori Court houses the world’s finest collection of taonga, Maori treasures, including rare carvings and one of the last great Maori war canoes used in the battle.

Adjacent to these treasures are the Pacific Masterpieces and Lifeways galleries presenting Pacific arts, history and culture. Also on this floor are the Encounter and Landmarks galleries, devoted to local and international design and decorative arts.

New Zealand is home to wildlife and plants so unusual that the famous ecologist Jared Diamond once said, “New Zealand is as close as we will get to the opportunity to study life on another planet.” At Auckland Museum we went through New Zealand’s unique natural history and discovered the stories behind the country’s remarkable flora and fauna.

We experienced a volcanic eruption in the Volcanoes Gallery, and were enchanted by the interactive award-winning children’s discovery centre, Weird and Wonderful. Then on we went to the Scars on the Heart where in their short history, war has played a major role in shaping New Zealand’s identity.

Also on this floor is the World War 1 Sanctuary and World War 2 Hall of Memories, in which are inscribed the names of New Zealanders from the Auckland province who died while serving their country. Auckland Museum, the finest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, is renowned for its unique collection of Maori and Pacific treasures.

We got back on the bus and were told we were leaving Parnell and the driver-tour guide said something about a market. He further said that in the winter the sports are rugby, soccer and hockey while in the summer it is cricket.

The Winter Garden is here where the pond to the right is full of ducks. The left part has a huge park where they hold concerts. There are ten football fields to the left. The statue on the right has been there for 60 years. Auckland is a city of contrast with parks and volcanoes everywhere.

To the right is the Spanish building. It was built by hand, brick by brick by the prisoners. Then we saw a building that he said is a state school in New Zealand. Then there’s also the Grammar School which is nicely located. To the left are exclusive apartments with two acres of ground full of Roll Royces and MBs.

At this point, we saw a crater. Then we arrived at Mount Eden, Auckland’s highest natural viewpoint where we were able to see and enjoy the panoramic views of the city, harbour and distant Waitakere ranges. On top of this we saw a sign saying that the spot is 13,893 km from Toronto.

The tour guide pointed out the two volcanoes and mountains to the left with three kings. Then he said there are no less than seven cruise ships that come. The first capital was Russell, the hell hole of the Pacific. The second capital was Auckland and then they moved it to Wellington.

He also pointed out the 200-year old house. Now we came down to Green Lane area, then the Alexandra Park. He also pointed out the hospital and the maternity hospital. To the left is ASB Show and the One Tree Hill. The Italians came and planted the trees.

We came to a huge park donated by Governor Campbell. One and a half million people live here and this is the favourite place of the driver. His next favorite is Italy which is the same latitude to the north that Auckland is to the south.

Then there is a place surrounded by water and we saw the #1 Race Course Ascot which is used to be home of Auckland flower show but they still use the same name. Here’s where the rich live in Auckland where one house is two million dollars.

The #1 road in New Zealand is Paratai. Okahu Bay has the underwater world. There’s the Bean Rock Lighthouse, the only surviving cottage type lighthouse in the country. Then the Tamaki Yacht Club came into view. Next is the Green Island bought by Governor Campbell who donated it to New Zealand people.

Mission Bay nearby is called Little Italy, right beside each other are seven Italian restaurants. They had problem with erosion so they spent millions of dollars to get sand for the waterfront. This beach goes for another five km. Underwater used to be the sewer system.

Vector Arena is where Jon Von Jovi was seen by 12,000 people. Mercure Hotel has something there that’s fun. The tour guide was not very good but at least we were able to view the panorama of Auckland’s natural point and learned more about New Zealand’s fascinating Maori culture and history.

According to geologists, New Zealand’s two main islands rose from the sea during a relatively recent shift in the plates of the earth’s crust. The Maori explanation is quite different. Their rich oral legend recalls that Maui, who was raised by the Sky Father, is responsible for the emergent lush and varied islands.

The old stories tell of a woman, Taranga, who threw her fifth son (hero Maui), into the sea because she feared that he would otherwise starve. She could have found a less tragic solution, but that is how the tale goes. The Sky father, Sky father. Rangi, noticed the reaction and rescued the child.

Rangi apprenticed the young lad as a magician. When Mauri had become a young man, God returned him to his overjoyed mother. Maui grew up to be the envy of his jealous brothers. One day while fishing, Maui chanted an incantation for drawing up the world before casting his hook into the sea.

He snagged a fish so large, he declared it Tapu (sacred). He sought a priest to sanctify the event, but while he was gone, his brothers descended on the fish and began cutting it up. Their action angered the Gods, so the boys dropped their quarry in fright.

The injured fish thrashed wildly. Its tail kicked up chunks of land (the hilly North Island). Maui’s canoe became the South Island. Stewart Island is the anchor. The story is much more interesting than the scientific account and who can prove it didn’t happen?

Back at Queen Mary 2, Deputy Captain Robert Camby gave an insight into the stability of Queen Mary 2, the liquids they carry and the workings of the tanks and how the ship’s draft is calculated. These sessions were held throughout the voyage in the Ships Safety Centre.

Today is St. David’s Day. He is the patron saint of Wales, born towards the end of the fifth century and founded a Celtic Monastery at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire where the St. David’s Cathedral now stands. March 1, is the day of his death but the year is not certain.

The day of his death was chosen to celebrate by his followers and declared a national day in Wales in the 18th century. Parades are held each year, the largest being in Cardiff where the seventh National St. David’s Parade was held in Cardiff in 2010. Celebrations included concerts, a food festival and parade.

Children in Wales participate in concerts with singing and recitations between events. Many Welsh people wear one or both of the emblems of Wales, the daffodil which is in season through March or the leek. (St. David’s personal symbol). All guests were welcome to celebrate St. David’s Day at the Golden Lion Pub.

World Voyagers’ Gala Dinner - February 28

We had such a busy day and we were not even finished yet for we still had the evening to savor and what an evening it was! We ate our fill and danced the night away. Thanks, Cunard, for making that an evening to remember! This is what happened that evening.

By 5:30 pm, the world voyagers met at the Queen’s Room for cocktail after which we were transported to coaches to take to Sky City for a sumptuous gala dinner. It was a lovely affair with white hydrangea and white roses adorning every table. It was breath-taking and so was the menu in booklet form with this introduction to welcome us to this grand event:

“Queen Mary 2’s exhilarating World Voyage continues Cunard’s story of epic discovery that began in 1922, when Laconia became the first passenger ship to circle the globe. And today, our majestic flagship captivates her discerning guests with the same pioneering spirit, as she touches shore in no less than six different continents during this incredible adventure.

You’ve already experienced Fort Lauderdale in North America, embraced Rio’s latin spirit and witnessed the stunning natural beauty of South Africa and now Oceania. And as you look forward to our Asian and European discoveries, we hope this evening will provide even more treasured memories that will stay with you for years to come.

Hopefully you’ve managed to explore Auckland’s fusion of culture and blend of city life with natural wonders during your visit. You may have looked over breathtaking Waitemata Harbour from the futuristic Sky Tower. Perhaps you peered back into the past at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, learning all about Maori and Polynesian traditions.

Some of you will have undertaken a favorite local pastime and sped across water by sail power, maybe even aboard on America’s Cup yacht Others will have appreciated the natural wonders that surround the city, like the fabulous Matakana wine lands, the magical Waitomo Coves - whose underground rivers lead to grottos dotted with glowworms - or even the beautiful Mount Eden, topped by the Maori Fort.”

And now here’s the menu:MENU

ENTRÉE

Terrine of Akaroa Salmon with watercress salad, vine tomato, and caper berry salsa and crisp Parmesan wafer - served with freshly baked bread

MAIN COURSE

Herb crusted New Zealand beef fillet on potato galette with field mushroom, carrots, green beans and sauce Béarnaise - served with broccoli, red and yellow capsicum

DESSERT

Chilled white and dark chocolate souffle with summer berry salad, vanilla and mascarpone creamPetit FoursSelection of petit fours and chocolate truffles

WINEDinner WineHunter’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010Hunter’s Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009Dessert WineHunter’s Marlborough Hukapapa 2009

The next page has a map with the following: Spanning 103 nights from New York to New York, Queen Mary 2’s mesmerising fourth World Voyage delightfully blends relaxing days at sea with 30 forays ashore, both to dynamic cities and idyllic islands.

What was so incredible with the above menu was that eight waiters served all the eight people in our table at the same time! We have never seen anything like that before and not for lack for experience for we have dined at the Ritz, the Peninsula and similar other posh restaurants around the world.

From Auckland, we were told to anticipate the rugged isolation of Guam as a fascinating prelude to the intense bustle of Osaka, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the gleaming modern edifices with crumbling monuments to the ancients like those in Luxor and the eternal heart of Rome.

We said a fond farewell to this city of volcanoes with the natural setting so dramatic, we could not help but admire the hilly landscape, forgetting that the whole city and everything that surrounds it are built on more than 60 volcanoes.

On February 28, we reverted back to our port days routine among which is the line dancing class where we met Christine who who was such a funny lady. We didn’t know when she was serious or not but she is such a friendly lady, one couldn’t help but like her at first sight.

Early in the morning of March 1, after clearing the coast of New Zealand, we set a North Westerly course out into the Pacific Ocean. We maintained this course through the day as the ship navigated through the Fiji Basin towards the South Pacific Islands.

While en route to Guam, we could not help but think what a blessing it was to have the clock start moving back by the next day. Anyway we went line dancing after breakfast and worked a bit afterwards. Then we went to Jive lesson with Artsiom and Volha as a result of which we’re learning more. Then at night, we saw the comedy show of Adrian Walsh which we enjoyed very much.

We continued on our North Westerly Heading towards the French Island of New Caledonia which we passed by on March 2. Afterwards, we changed to a more northerly heading in the Coral Sea towards the Solomon Islands. Meantime, it was line dancing after breakfast again and this time Gun was the teacher. At night, we saw the movie ‘When in Rome‘.

On March 3, we maintained the North Westerly Heading throughout the day in the Coral Sea as we sailed towards the Solomon Islands. The depth of the water below the keel was in excess of 4000 meters. We went line dancing after breakfast after which, believe it or not, we went shopping right in the boat.

Then Artsiom and Volha taught us a cha, cha, cha routine before lunch. This is South Pacific Night so we went dancing after a little bit of a show featuring an instrumentalist. The movie called Freakonomics was not very good.

Desiree kissed us when she came in for line dancing on March 4. She promised to send us the photos for our book. Then Artsiom and Volha taught us more Viennese Waltz. We attended some activities before dinner, after which we went to the movies and the show at RCT and went dancing afterwards.

Phew! We got tired out by all these activities especially having to dress up for them, but we won‘t have it any other way like we do at home when we dress up, then have to drive to the place, park when there was no valet service, and then drive home in the dark of the night.

This brings back memories of our penchant for Broadway Shows where we stay at Marriott’s Times Square (parking the car costs $55 a day when the car just sits there for a week because we just walk everywhere since we are situated in the middle of everything.)

No, the entertainment at Queen Mary 2 is still better with no parking to be concerned about. We know the car would not be a concern if flying is the option of choice but we avoid it as much as possible. We leave it to you why we don’t like to fly anymore.

We continued on sailing in the Coral Sea and passed the island of Bougainville which was just 30 nautical miles from the ship. We then changed to a northerly heading as we journeyed through the Pioneer Channel.

It is funny because every time the captain announced a form of land we were passing by, we dropped everything we were doing and rushed to the windows to take a glimpse and each time we were rewarded from that effort. We didn’t mind doing it despite a slim chance of twisting our ankles or some other parts of the anatomy in doing so.

On March 5, we passed by the various islands during the early morning hours including the Green Islands followed by the Feni Islands and the Tanga Islands. We cleared the Pioneer Channel and left the Island of New Ireland. We were then back into the South Pacific Ocean from the Solomon Sea. This being March 5, we said a Happy Birthday and a little prayer to Teofila (Roger’s Mother) in our hearts.

In the afternoon, we crossed the Equator once again as we entered back into the Northern Hemisphere. We were not too excited about this as we are now officially shellbacks; we left the excitement to the Pollywogs but it reminded us of Ray’s Quote of the day, “They change their climate, not their soul, who rush across the sea.” That’s all of us, folks.

By the evening, we went to the formal dinner and then to movies afterwards which is Green Zone with Matt Damon but it was awful so we decided to just go dancing but it didn’t start till 9:30 so we just opted to do some work.

We visited the photo gallery and bought our photos in Wellington and Auckland.

We maintained the North Westerly heading in the South Pacific Ocean on March 6 and went to Sunday mass before breakfast. It was line dancing and slow fox trot lesson afterwards. After lunch, we looked and worked on the documentation for Guam, USA. It was easy because Canadians just need their passports and custom declaration.

Apparently, the Guam immigration authorities would inspect the guests regardless of nationalities and whether we went ashore or not. As usual we prepared ourselves for the Guam stopover by reading the materials sent to us by QM2.

Visitors are surprised at Hagatna’s (formerly Agana) wide boulevards and modern high rise buildings. A busy American City, the port retains a tropical South Pacific atmosphere. Warm sun and alluring blue seas tempt you to curl up on a private stretch of sand and languish in the warm rays of the Pacific sun, but if you can, also shop or just visit a fine museum.

Lush vegetation encroaching on downtown offices is the spawn of volcanoes. Guam is very much part of the expansive Pacific Ring of Fire. As continental plates drift in opposite directions, the island is often rocked by mild but occasionally powerful earthquake.

The island’s ancestral Malay people seem to have reached the island sometime around 3000 BC. Little is known of the primitive cultures, but some facts have emerged from archaeological relics. As in many Melanesian and South East Asian societies, the early Chamorros people were animists (ancestor worshippers). Their society observed a rigid caste system.

Their legacy of monoliths, some of which are more than 20 feet high, are scattered around the island. Some have proposed the towers once supported homes of the matua (privileged class). The tall latte stones are found throughout the Mariana Islands. There were three classes in the Chamorro society: Matua (chiefs), atchaol (middle class) and the privileged lowest class. The Chamorros knew their island as guaban (‘we have’).

Guam supplied food for ships sailing between Mexico and the Philippines during the 17th and 18th centuries, but when Mexico gained independence in 1815, traffic came to a halt. Whaling had become the main business in the Pacific by that time. At the end of the 19th century, after the Spanish-American war, the United States gained the Philippines and Guam. A fleet was dispatched and the Pentagon embraced the logic of setting up military bases.

‘For a moment she had forgotten where she was,’ the daughter said of her mother who, earlier that morning had walked past convention, past the waiting cover-up shirt, into the garden, into the sun, into the greens, and the feel of the breeze…Cecilia Perez-Alerta, Chamorro poet, Signs of Being - A Chamorro Spiritual Journey, “Bare-Breasted Woman,” 1997

Hagatna’s heart is Plaza de Espana. The Spanish Governor’s Palace for more than two centuries old, the park’s opulent mansion (as old photographs reveal) was flattened during WWII. Casa de Chocolate (sho ko lah tay), in which privileged Spanish ladies once gathered for afternoon tea, was saved. Not far away, the old arsenal archways led through the Azotea (back porch), and the Almacen (arsenal).

The historic Guam Museum at the Garden House includes a detailed account about Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, who managed to hide in the island jungle alone and undetected for 28 years after WWII had ended. When discovered, he was convinced that the war was still raging.

The Catholic Cathedral in the plaza’s northeast corner was built in the 17th century. Like much of Agana, it was destroyed in the war but was rebuilt in 1955. Latte stones are found in most of the Mariana Islands. Ancient island society was stratified. The Tantamount (spirits of the time- lost ancestors) left mysterious monuments. Modern observers can only wonder about their purpose.

Members of the upper echelons were known as matua. Scientists believe latte stones may have been used as supports for the elevated matua homes because the stones are typically arranged in parallel rows. The monoliths are comprised of two separate parts.