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Travelers visit three countries in 12 days

A Pike County community travel group recently returned from the trip of a lifetime. The group of 41 travelers went on a 12-day tour of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. Group Leaders Lisa McGurl and Brad Weiser worked on putting together the tour for two and a half years. ’It was an awesome opportunity to travel to countries on my bucket list, to learn about other cultures and to make memories I’ll treasure forever,’ said Dionne Oliver who was accompanied on the trip by her father. The group first flew to Auckland, New Zealand where they got to view the Mt. Eden Crater. Then they traveled to Rotorua, New Zealand, a town that was built upon substantial geothermal activity, with bubbling mud pits and geysers throughout the landscape. The group got to take part in a Hangi feast, where they learned the Haka, their warrior dance. Other exciting events were a tour in an amphibious vehicle, riding down the mountain on the luge and rolling down the mountain in an OGO ball. Some of the group went to Hobbiton, which is the actual movie set where the movie series was filmed. ’I really did feel like Frodo Baggins, ‘˜I’m going on an adventure,” said PCHS teacher Laura Douglas. After three days in New Zealand, the group traveled to Sydney, Australia. The group spotted some whales while on a bus tour and spent some time on the famous Bondi Beach. A special treat was getting to see and have pictures made with a live koala bear and come face to face with kangaroos. Vivid Syndey is a two week only city wide light spectacular that the group got to view from Harborside and from the water on the ferry. Many toured the famed ‘Sydney Opera House’ while others chose to climb the Sydney Harbor bridge which is 404 feet high. A train took the group to the Blue Mountains outside Sydney where they got to take in the fabulous views and ride in an old mine car that dropped the group straight down the mine shaft to the middle of the mountain. They also got to enjoy a Sydney favorite, meat pies, as well as other local foods. A daytime Harbor cruise was another traveler favorite. After four fun-fulfilled days in Sydney, the entire group traveled to the Islands of Fiji. The group reveled in the resort of Naviti. ’This looks just like a post card,’ said adult traveler Kathy Chamlee as she described the lush grounds and oceanfront backdrop. The group got to paddle board, kayak and enjoy other water activities while there. The highlight of Fiji was going to an authentic native village where the chieftains greeted the group with a welcoming ceremony, native dancing and a specially prepared lunch of local cuisine. The children of the village sang their farewell song as the travelers left the village. ’Traveling and experiencing different customs at the different villages has taught us to respect and appreciate those who are different from us,’ said 19-year-old Dan Wornstaff. That evening the group watched live (via television) the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team perform their Haka prior to their match against the Britain Lions. ’New Zealand’s passion for its Rugby team, the All Blacks, rivals the passion of SEC football fans,’ said coach Brad Weiser. McGurl said she and Weiser spent more than two years organizing these trip and plans them well in advance to make the funding for these trips as affordable as possible to as many people who want to go. She said there are group fundraising efforts held as well to help offset the personal cost of the discounted group travel rates. ’Our next community trip is going to be an 11-day tour of South Africa, including a safari, followed by a tour of the British Isles. If you are interested in any of these trips, email her at

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