Travel




Travel when I was young seemed to be limited for only short journeys Perhaps it would be by Rail,which was the most popular, and our usual method of getting around on land at that time. So, if this was your choice, you could expect to be on a train pulled by a steam locomotive coupled to several coach type of carriages, some of which are still with us today, They were popular at the time, because they only required basic engineering to manufacture, and run the rolling stock. As well, the trains of this time were fuelled by coal, which was cheap, and something the Country had plenty of .

Yes there were even a few ships that called in from oversea, And these too were mainly coal fired. Back then, This Country and the rest of the world were just emerging from a severe economic recession. There was more evidence of this in the harbour if you cared to look, Out there were rafts made up of moored ships, for which there was no work, This situation was worldwide, and other Nations were in much the same situation. All were waiting for the economic situation to improve. So there was little activity in the travel industry

All this was to change for me when I turned eighteen, War had been declared, and the Government discovered that when they were prodded they could crank up the money machine, and Bingo! Suddenly the depression was declared to be over. Everyone had a job again. and just as quickly, I found myself in the services by default. I was now going to get my first real taste of travel. Some of this would be the best in the world, and some would be of the worst kind. I shortly found out that I was to leave New Zealand on a Luxury vessel of the Matson line, bound for America. Unfortunately for us, and as far as comfort and luxury went, it would be hard to find on this vessel, as some 20,000 other servicemen were also crowded on board, all looking for the same thing.

Once on board I had the full use of about four square feet of the Promenade Deck. This was where I had to live and sleep. We were each allocated a bare pipe framed bunk, which were stacked five or six high and four deep. All were, fitted with only a length of canvas to lie on, unfortunately for us, this was an open deck and exposed to the elements. I promised myself many times over on that journey I would return one day, and do it all again, properly. Further I would bathe frequently in fresh water, eat meals when I wanted, certainly not on a twelve hour roster. Sit on a deck chair in the sun, and not on my ‘life jacket’, Even summons up a cold beer from time to time while admiring the view. Anyway, it was a small price to pay to see the world. We must have been important too, as we were about to depart Wellington, the Prime Minister and his entourage even came down to the Quayside to shake our hands, and say that, ‘what we were doing for New Zealand, would not be forgotten’. It must have been a slow day in the Bee Hive.

On arrival in the USA we stepped ashore, grubby and sticky, caused by showering and washing for three weeks only in salt water. Laundry was something to worry about in the future. However at this time we fell onto our feet, right into the lap of luxury. Well anyway, for the next five days. This stage of our journey would be by train, and I had been allocated a seat in a plush Pullman Coach, and all the pampering that came with this style of travel. For instant, while we were away, ‘fine dinning’ on their ’silver service’ in the ‘dining car’ for our evening meal. You returned, to find that a comfortable bed with a mattress had been made up for you, in what had been your compartment. For this stage of our journey, our fortunes had certainly taken a turn for the better.

It was too good to last, The worst trip I remember was on a Liberty Ship from New Caledonia to Auckland. To me it didn’t even look stable and It had a permanent list of about 30 degrees, and we went bowling along at her top speed of just under eight knots. On our earlier vessels we relied on their speed of thirty knots, to travel unescorted, and outrun any submarines. It was obvious this ship was not going to outrun anything and we were unescorted. The only accommodation on this type of vessel was in the holds, and that’s where we went. The same type of pipe bunks were fitted, only this time they were about twelve high. The holds were cavernous, ill lit, dark and dank, This would be a good description of our accommodation.

This vessel this time was under the control of the American Navy. The crew were wonderful, and went out of their way to make us comfortable and share what little they had. They even showed us a movie one night with a makeshift screen hung down from the bridge. Should we have stumbled into the path of a submarine I’m sure they would have dismissed us an apparition, or even a figment of their imagination, as we were still at war, vessels normally travelled at night, totally blacked out, and carrying no lights at all. Here we were all lit up like a Christmas tree.

If you were wondering, Yes, later in my life my wife and I did do this kind of travel again and properly. We cruised around the world on luxury liners several times. I was waited on hand and foot, feeling a little guilty as I dreamt about how travel was in days gone by.


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