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By: Cas Powell

Contributing Writer


During the summer of 2018, four students from Wayne County Schools took a trip across the world. With eight flights total, logging approximately 47 hours of time in the air, these students visited New Zealand and Australia. Six participates from Wayne County attended in total – GT Coordinator Jennifer Chaplin, parent chaperone Jennifer Owens, WCHS freshman Mia Phillips, WCHS senior Kori Guffey, WCHS senior Hannah Jordan, and WCHS 2018 graduate Emily Meeks. The tour also included three other schools, including Nelson County High School from Bardstown, Kentucky.

                The journey began in Louisville, Kentucky. Students boarded a plane there which took them on a two-and-a-half-hour trip to Houston, Texas. From there students took another sixteen-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. The trip to New Zealand took the students and chaperones two days. They crossed the International Date Line, losing 24 hours – meaning that those on the trip never had a June 21st. “New Zealand is also 16 hours ahead of us, so the journey did feel a bit like time travel,” GT Coordinator Jennifer Chaplin explained.

                While in New Zealand, the group visited two different native villages belonging to the Maori people. While visiting Whakarewarewa in a geothermal valley, the tourists learned how the people utilized their terrain. The villagers taught them how they used the volcanoes, mud pools, geysers, and hot springs to cook, clean, bathe, make clothing, and socialize. They also visited Tamaki in the forest. There, natives let them experience ceremonial rituals, cultural performances, and even prepared a traditional geothermally cooked Hangi meal.

                "The Maori Village was my favorite place we visited," said WCHS Freshman Mia Phillips. "It was a culture shock and the people were so kind there."

                 Phillips said traveling to Australia and New Zealand had always been a dream of hers. She shared the experience with her mother, Jennifer Owens, who served as a parent chaperone. "It was great to be with my Mom where we could spend time together, just the two of us."

                Phillips got so much out of the trip that she said she absolutely wants to go on a future GT travel study trip.   

                One highlight of their time in New Zealand was the amount of natural landscapes they visited. On the coast of Auckland (aka the City of Sails) they were able to witness the city’s gorgeous harbors filled with sail boats. Auckland also featured a variety of scenic nature parks. The group also traveled to Rotorua – a geothermal town lying on the Rotura Caldera volcano. The city is known for its geysers, hot mud pools, and Sulphur smell.

                Matamata was one of the trip’s significant points. The agricultural town served as the movie set of Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings. The group considered the pastoral farmland breathtaking. Aside from its Maori culture, the students also experienced a nighttime nature walk in Whakarewarewa’s forests. The redwoods were “spectacular as well as surreal” during their starry tour.

                From New Zealand, WCHS students and chaperones headed to the second part of the journey – Australia. The group boarded a flight that took them 3.5 hours – and sent them back in time two hours. The journey in Australia began in Sydney. They were able to experience two famous beaches: Bondi Beach and Manly Beach, where the Kentucky locals were able to try their hands at surfing. They also enjoyed the architecture of the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

                From there the group traveled three hours to Cairns. They went snorkeling in the Cairns Esplanade. “Its Coral Sea coastline is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef,” Chaplin said. “It was like snorkeling in a giant fish bowl – simply amazing.” The group also got to meet the famous Maori Wrasse fish, Wally, up close and personal. They were impressed with his 4.5 foot length and that the fish weighed in at 150 pounds.

                Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest continuously thriving tropical rainforest, was the next stop on the tourists’ trip. They rode the Kuranda Scenic Railway to Kuranda, a village in the rainforest. On their decent from the mountain village they rode a Skyrail gondola, and took a stop at Barron Falls.

                A highlight from Australia for the students was visiting Featherdale Wildlife Park. There they hand fed kangaroos and got to experience the majesty of plenty of Australia’s wildlife. The animals the students adored included: kangaroos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian devils, wallabies, dingoes, emus, and cassowaries.   

                Heading home took the group two days and travel through five cities. They began in Cairns, Australia. The group took a five-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. From there they began the journey back to the United States, landing in San Francisco, CA after 12 hours in the air. They gained 24 hours crossing the International Date Line once more, giving the group two July 1sts.  The student and chaperone team explored the city while waiting on their next flight, which was a four-hour trip to Chicago, IL. A final plane ride brought them to Louisville, KY, where the students headed home from.

                The Wayne County Schools GT program has two more travel study tours lined up for the future. Students will be travelling to Italy (Venice, Florence, and Rome) over the course of eight days in October. Enrollment is still open for the next tour – a D-Day tour of England and France over the course of 10 days in June, 2019. Students interested in attending the D-Day study tour should contact GT Coordinator Jennifer Chaplin.



Emily Meeks enjoyed snorkeling in Australia


Emily Meeks, Kori Guffey, and Hannah Jordan posed in front of New Zealand's nature

hannah jordan and natives

Hannah Jordan stood for a picture with one of the Aborigines from Kuranda


Kori Guffey and the other travelers wore adorned with Aborigine facepaint


Mia Phillips holds one of the boomerangs the tourists learned to use on the study tour

mia and mom

Tourists in the school group enjoying the culture


Emily Meeks and Kori Guffey enjoyed the Kuranda Scenic Railway the group took to the Kuranda village


The group, consisting of four different schools, witnessed the architecture of Sydney, Australia

petting zoo

WCHS Senior Hannah Jordan loved the Wallaby at Featherdale Wildlife Park

GT Coordinator Jennifer Chaplin

 (l-r): GT Coordinator Jennifer Chaplin, WCHS graduate Emily Meeks, WCHS senior Kori Guffey, and WCHS senior Hannah Jordan in Daintree Rainforest


The students took surfing lessons on the Australian coast


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