Jerry Harrington is among the world’s most traveled people.
The longtime Newport Beach resident, retired investment broker and former U.S. Navy officer has visited 275 of the world’s 327 nations and territories, and his wife, Maralou, has traveled with him to more than 200 of them.
Both Harringtons have been admitted to the prestigious Travelers’ Century Club, a nonprofit international organization that requires its 1,400 members to have visited a minimum of 100 foreign lands.
Raised in the San Marino-Arcadia area, Jerry majored in business at UCLA, where he joined the Naval ROTC program. Upon graduation and his commissioning as a Naval Reserve ensign, he was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Bremerton as a junior division officer. Attached to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the Bremerton made port calls at Singapore, Melbourne, Australia — where Jerry attended several events at the 1956 summer Olympic Games — the Philippines, Okinawa, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan.
“When I was in Taiwan, I took a photo of Chiang Kai-Shek, the country’s president and former president of mainland China, who was appearing in a parade in Taipei, the nation’s capital,” said Jerry, who was on active Navy duty for two years and cites his Pacific travels aboard the USS Bremerton as whetting his appetite for a lifetime of foreign travel and adventure.
The Harringtons have traveled to all seven continents, the North and South poles “and everything in between,” said Maralou, who was raised in Pasadena and, like her husband, is a UCLA graduate.
“When we reached the North Pole via a Russian ship and helicopter, I slipped into my bathing suit and jumped into the 27-degree water,” she said. “I didn’t stay there very long.”
Traveling to their international destinations by car, train, ship and, on occasion, bicycle, the Harringtons relish visiting remote, hard-to-reach, exotic and unspoiled lands.
Take, for example, their excursion to the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia, an independent nation in the Western Pacific.
“Our hotel there had just a handful of rooms and was attached to the local general store,” said Maralou. “The people on Yap use stones called ‘rai’ for money, and the worth of the stones is determined by their size and age. Some of the stones are 5 and 6 feet high and are never moved. To get to Yap, we had to fly to Guam and then catch a plane that flies to Yap twice a week.”
The Harringtons also have traveled to the Republic of Srpska, an autonomous region within Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Republic of Transnistria, a breakaway province of Moldova in Eastern Europe; the Kingdom of Swat, a semi-independent, feudal province within Pakistan; Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia; Guyana, the country in northern South America where 918 Americans, members of the Jonestown cult, committed suicide or were murdered in 1978 on the orders of cult leader Jim Jones; Bhutan, a tiny feudal kingdom high in the Himalayas; and Timbucktu, a city in Mali, West Africa, where its desperately poor inhabitants live in mud houses and camel caravans conduct trade while crossing the Sahara Desert en route to Algeria and Morocco.
The Newport Beach pair has also traveled to the Western Pacific island nation of New Guinea, where many rural women in this primitive society bare their breasts in public, the men go about naked but wear cod pieces, and foreign visitors are warned to be wary of so-called “rascals” cruising the streets and shopping centers bent on stealing their money, cameras and passports; the poor, blighted nation of Haiti, where overseas travelers also must be on guard for roving muggers and thieves; and Yemen, the war-torn country on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula that the Bible says was the home of the Queen of Sheba and where the men wear wicked-looking curved knives in their belts.
Still other destinations include North Korea, where they spent nearly a week and toured the USS Pueblo, the U.S. Navy ship that North Korean naval forces boarded and captured at sea in 1968; and South Africa, where Maralou descended into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the Cape of Good Hope in a large cage to view up-close great white sharks she describes as “the size of a school bus and right out of the movie ‘Jaws.’”
Another highlight of the Harringtons’ travels was Pitcairn Island, population 55, Great Britain’s sole remaining colony in the Pacific. Maralou said the island has no airport, and the only way to access this isolated dot in the ocean was by small boats, which ferried her, Jerry and their fellow cruise ship passengers to the island’s tiny port in heavy seas.
Pitcairn was settled in 1789 by several crew members of the Royal Navy’s warship HMS Bounty who had mutinied against its captain, William Bligh. The mutineers, after taking control of the ship, forced Bligh and some of his officers and men into one of the ship’s boats, which eventually reached the island of Timor.
“Nearly all of Pitcairn’s residents are direct descendants of the Bounty’s mutineers, and they bear the mutineers’ last names. One of these surnames is ‘Christian,’ as Bounty sailor Fletcher Christian was one of the mutineers, as well as a leader of the mutiny and the small Pitcairn community once it was established,” said Jerry.
Where are the Harringtons off to next?
“We’re still deciding,” said Maralou. “We may make a return trip to South America.”
The two wanderers agree that much of the world is still awaiting them.
David C. Henley, a Newport Beach resident, is a contributor to Times Community News.