Oceana is that vast part of the Pacific including Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and all or part of the Malay Archipelago representing 15 countries, 20 dependencies and 28 languages. A region of Oceania is Polynesia, a giant triangle with corners in New Zealand, Hawaii, and Easter Island, containing over 1,000 islands.
Hawaii a It’s been a while since I’ve been in Honolulu and it has changed a lot with more and more huge hotels and buildings. Interestingly the Australian architect who designed many of the new skyscrapers was traveling with us on the DAWN PRINCESS world cruise. I was fortunate to meet up with my friends Randy and Donna Ashcroft who sailed with me on ROYAL PRINCESS last season Randy is a geologist and was one of our guest lecturers. Randy and Donna graciously drove me around their island, took me to lunch at the posh Outrigger Canoe Club, and then took me to their home overlooking the ocean. Donna had made the very best mango sorbet I have ever tasted, filled with loads of fresh mangos!
I had been led over the years to expect that Tahaiti is a major disappointment. Actually, I found it quite enjoyable and very beautiful, particularly once you get out on the island and away from Papeete. But even Papeete was fine. It was Sunday, so most of the stores were closed and and there were no 3-hour traffic jams that folks working in town regularly experience in their morning commute. Most of the beaches are black, volcanic sand, but a beach is a beach. We were fortunate to have a local guide who lives on Moorea and when he is not on island is on Princess Cruises doing the same job I do!
When you do a world cruise you make a list of the places where you definitely want to return to explore some more and spend time. Moorea is definitely on my list! I was lucky to take a catamaran cruise and sailing along just outside the reef that surrounds the island you get a spectacular view of the amazing rugged and jagged mountains that are covered with rain forests. Snorkeling inside the shallow reef was disappointing with only occasional piles of coral and not nearly the number of fish I would expect on the outer edge of the reef.
American Samoa was delightful with beautiful high mountain peaks and very friendly people. Driving around in the little home-made “busses” everyone we passed along the way waved and smiled. This is truly the island of churches. Christianity and family are very important. There are daily evening prayers and on Sunday the entire island is in church.
Auckland is rated by the Mercer group as the 4th best place in the world to live in terms of economy, political and social stability, personal freedom, health care, recreation, culture, cost of living, infrastructure, and travel accessibility. This was, I think, the third time I’ve either left, arrived, or called in Auckland and eventually I want to come back and spend a week in this delightful, clean, well-organized, easy-to-get-around city. Around 15 years ago we did a wonderful cruise all around New Zealand and I’d love to go back and just drive around New Zealand. This trip I had a great time walking around the city early in the morning and then going on the wine tasting tour. It was interesting to me to experience Springtime in New Zealand . . . Springtime in September is very different for someone who grew up in the Northern Hemisphere!
The Land of Gauguin
One of my favorite artists is Paul Gauguin. Gauguin [1848-1903] was a French post-impressionist painter. As a young man in the military he spent two years “somewhere in the Caribbean” and returned to France to become a stockbroker and amateur artist. Tiring of France he set out to return to the Caribbean that had captivated him. Young and without money he bummed around the Caribbean, living for a while in St Thomas and Martinique and when living off the land failed, working for a stint helping to dig the Panama Canal.
Gauguin wrote of his time in Panama, “I have to dig . . .from 5:30 in the morning to six in the evening, under tropical sun and rain. At night I am devoured by mosquitoes.”
Tired and broke he eventually returned to France, developed a tumultuous artistic and sexual relationship with Van Gogh. After heated argument Van Gogh heard ” … a voice in his ear [that] whispered, “Kill him,” so he attacked Gauguin with a razor; then, suddenly realizing his rashness and recalling the Biblical injunction, “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out,” he turned the blade against his own ear, which had offended him.”
Gauguin, never really accepted as a painter in his lifetime and tired of Paris, escaped for a while to Tahiti, then returned to Paris for a while, and finally in 1895 returned to Tahiti for good. An equal opportunity sexual adventurer, Gauguin took full opportunity of the free and easy culture and mores of Tahiti, and he painted some of his most beautiful work in Polynesia.
Perhaps no one better captures the beauty and spirit of the Tahitian islands and their people than Paul Gauguin. It is widely believed Gauguin suffered from syphillis, although that is questioned by some recent DNA analysis, but sick and weakened by alcohol he died of a morphine overdose in 1903.