Did I mention there was a horse at the end of that rope?…

(Photos at the end)

I’ve been so excited to have “real” internet (translation: a speed somewhat in excess of glacial) that I’ve been surfeiting myself on facebook and photo sites and ignoring my blog.

We did our last winery tour in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley (we bought a very nice Yering cabernet for—gasp—$40. Wine is nice but in small doses and four winery tours in a row is TOO MUCH! Not just four wineries, mind you, but four TOURS! Grape growing and wine making was big business in the early 1800s, but in 1839 went out of fashion, not starting again until the 1960s. Now the Yarra Valley is one of Australia’s biggest wine regions, along with the Hunter Valley (Sydney), Barossa Valley (Adelaide), and Margaret River—our favorite—and Swan Valley (Perth) plus several more that are not quite so famous.

Kangaroo Island might have been interesting but between the cost of tours (US$400pp and up) and the weather (not nice) we decided that we’d skip it. Next time we’ll rent a car and go to the Raptor Center which we didn’t know about until too late. Oh well.

On to Burnie in Tassie (Australian for Tasmania) where Randy & I had a private, just the two of us, tour scheduled. Our tour guide knew before we on the ship knew that the Maasdam was not docking. She sent me a text about seeing the ship sailing away from Burnie and she thought it was probably due to high winds. About 15 minutes after her message, the captain came on the loudspeaker to apologize to us for missing Burnie “due to high winds”!

Tassie was good news and bad news, much more of the former as the bad was solely not getting in to Burnie. The good was the tour company EyeSeeTasmania which tried to shoot itself in the foot but recovered very nicely and we had their awesome two day tour with Gerry, our Dutch-import guide. We covered much of Hobart and much of Port Arthur. We had a big advantage, Gerry told us, because we were cruising from Hobart to Port Arthur and thus saving an hour and a half drive in the early morning. Most people stay overnight in Hobart and thus have to take that long drive to see Port Arthur’s most famous site, the old prison. Randy and I were there in 1996 (two weeks before the Port Arthur massacre) and, presuming that not much had changed (since the prison closed in 1860ish) in the ensuing 18 years, elected not to tour the prison again. But we did everything else.

Hobart was spectacular from Mt. Wellington, one of the tallest mountains in Australia. The weather of course helped, it was, as some pilots say, “Clear and a million” (miles).

Gerry told us many stories, some probably even true, about the prison on Tasmania. She asked us what crimes we thought the people (and it was both men and women who were sent to Australia for usually at least seven years) were sentenced for. I suggested that stealing a loaf of bread was one crime punishable by “transportation”—the euphemism for being sentenced to seven years in Australia—someone else said, “stealing a rope.” Gerry agreed with both but added that the “stealing a rope” usually had a horse or two attached to the rope. Another “crime” was stealing manure, but, she added, the manure usually came in a wagon!

Seven years doesn’t sound like a lot of time (except for the seemingly minor crimes they were sentenced for!) but in those days, mid-eighteen-hundreds, your chances of EVER returning to England were slim to non-existent so it was effectively a life sentence.

The end of the first leg (52 days) of our cruise in Sydney was wonderful. We got to see Greg, Yolanda, Melinda, and Ian and have a barbecue-turkey Australian Thanksgiving dinner along with a two-day respite from constant motion. Hopping on the Holland ship Amsterdam and wandering around Darling Harbour for a day with our new Flat Stanley was fun.

Downhill from there, Randy has bronchitis and is quarantined in our cabin until he is fever-free for 24 hours. This may put the kibosh on our visit with June and Alan (from the 2012 World Cruise). Updates will follow!

Sailing into Hobart, Tasmania
Panorama from Mt Wellington
Pam & Randy on Mt. Wellington
Our ship from Mt. Wellington
More of Hobart from Mt. Wellington
This was the womens prison in Hobart
Many restaurants near the ship.
Aussies have unique naming abilities.
Nice band outside our beer stop.
Gerry and Ted over a beer (not for Gerry!)
Just a pretty bridge outside of Hobart
Our wonderful guide for two days, Gerry. Dutch!
Downtown Hobart from Mt. Wellington
View from Mt Wellington, above Hobart
Oldest brewery in Australia
Interesting gargoyle
Pretty house in downtown Hobart

 

Our tour company, EyeSee Tasmania, supplied a very nice picnic lunch

Panorama of the coast near Port Arthur
Beautiful coastline scene near Port Arthur

Port Arthur prison. Looks a lot prettier than the inmates thought it was!
This used to be an arch, but it all fell down.
One of the arches on our tour of the Port Arthur area.
Not a good photo, but this bird was just a brilliant iridescent blue, I couldn’t resist trying to get his photo.

The old Port Arthur prison.
Old house and frame of a ship while sailing into Port Arthur
Panorama from Mt Wellington
Pam & Randy on Mt. Wellington
More of Hobart from Mt. Wellington

 

Wine, Wine, and more Wine. Did I mention we’re tasting wine?…

11/13/17 S 35 17.00 E 133 50.00

11/14/17 S 34 50.00 E 138 50.00 Adelaide

11/15/17 S 35 42.73 E 137 57.27 Kangaroo Island

We met Ted and Nancy when we were at Tisa’s Beach Bar on Pago Pago and have been hanging out more or less since then, in spite of our differences in political outlook (we don’t discuss politics at all. Probably a good idea any time!). Ted’s birthday was last night and they had a dinner party. Best kind of dinner party: Nancy just called the maître d’ and said, eight of us for dinner, please! And Alan, our favorite, Favorite, FAVORITE bar waiter is opening the Mix bar for $4 martinis just for Ted’s party. Have I mentioned how much we like Alan?

Ted and Nancy at his birthday party.

Wonderful time, we ate and drank for about three hours and it seemed more like three minutes!

We spent yesterday in Adelaide and the Barossa—Aside: It’s named after a place in Spain or maybe Germany, nobody is really certain, except that it is definitely misspelled. Should be Barrosa. Oh well.—Valley, one of the better (BEST if you ask people who live in the Barossa Valley) wine producing areas in all of Australia, or maybe the world, perhaps even the universe. No, I have not been drinking wine today. Yet.

We had an independent tour of the city of Adelaide and the wineries of the Barossa Valley with Ted and Nancy and nine other like-minded friends. Our van had 11 people originally but two moved to the other bus for reasons unknown but it gave us more space. Very nice and informative guide, Paul, who also happens to be a good photographer so I enjoyed his banter and his photography ability.

After lunch, we stopped at the Largest Non-Rocking Rocking Horse in the World. I told you Aussies like their representations of very large things!

You can read all about the Rocking Horse here!
Randy and Ted climbed to the horse’s back.
Randy climbed all the way to the horse’s head.
Ted on the horse’s back, as seen from Randy’s viewpoint on the horse’s head.
Our lunch with Ted and Nancy was a pretzel and a flight of beer in the old German hotel in Hahndorf, near the Barossa Valley.

A tiring day with lots of driving interspersed with wine and sights. We got a view over Adelaide from the highest point (700+/- meters). It has changed considerably since our first visit in the early 90s. Still is a beautiful and walkable city.

A view of Adelaide facing more or less west.
Just a bit closer view (gotta get to use my telephoto lens!)
Even the smallest town has a Lest We Forget memorial. This is the one in Hahndorf.
Our driver/guide discussing the finer points of photography with some of our friends.
One of the wineries we visited, I don’t remember the name as it was not memorable!

And still makes great wine. We couldn’t visit the Yalumba Winery (our favorite) because the wine stops were already planned but it does make Randy and me want to have another driving vacation over here.

Wild koala in the tree on our way to Barossa Valley. (Original image is much lighter, don’t know why it darkens in my blog.)
Not too bad for a photo taken through the van window!

Today is Kangaroo Island (yes, it has kangaroos) but we were so tired from yesterday that we decided not to do anything. Good thing because it is cold, windy, and wet. It is so windy that the ship had to suspend the tender service for about 30 minutes because the ship was being blown so much it was dragging its anchor. Do you have any idea how heavy its anchor is? Me, neither, but it’s pretty heavy!

I had wanted to go to the Raptor Center on Kangaroo Island but not on a cold, windy, wet day. Randy and I are more and more wanting to plan another vacation to Australia! So many things we haven’t had time to do!

Onward to Melboure (wine tasting), Burnie (wine tasting!), Hobart, and Port Arthur. Then a sea day and disembarkation in Sydney on November 22, 2017. But we’ll get back on another ship, the Amsterdam, on the 25th. Ever onward!

The End of the Earth is at…

11/07/17 S 21 57.62 E 114 09.51 Exmouth

11/08/17 S 27 55.45 E 113 13.05

11/09/17 Fremantle

11/10/17 S 32 00.00 E 115 59.00 Fremantle

11/11/17 S 35 02.45 E 117 54.54 Albany

11/12/17 S 35 16.42 E 125 55.64

In 2008 we were told, by the rental representative from Apollo Campervans (“campervan” is Australian for “motorhome”), that Exmouth is the “end of the earth.” We were on a three-month journey around Australia by train, plane, automobile, and campervan. When we knew we’d stop here on our cruise, we decided to try and reconnect with the guy in Exmouth who fixed the refrigerator in our campervan and saved our trip from a possible disaster, Bill Ruby. We did reconnect and had a marvelous time with him at his club and home and “yacht club” (he neither knows how to sail nor does he own a yacht but he’s nevertheless been the Commodore for the past four years).

The bar for the Melbourne Cup Sweepstakes cum beer drinking excuse
Bill’s wife and her friend.
Pretty flowers at the “golf course”
Randy on the 16th tee of the Exmouth GC
Giant Shrimp

Bill opening a homemade wine.
Bill’s yacht club.

The day we were in Exmouth is the “day Australia comes to a halt”: Melbourne Cup Day, a two-mile (!) horse race in—what a surprise!—Melbourne. Randy entered the sweepstakes for a whole A$2 and lost it all: his horse came in 12th. But we had a couple of beers and a great time, met Bill’s wife and a friend of hers, and a shipboard friend did win A$240 on the winner, Rekindling.

Afterwards Bill showed us around town including the famous statue of a shrimp (Australia is known for its gigantic representations of various life forms) and his yacht club and took us to his house where he plied us with more alcohol while describing how he makes his own wine as well as beer. All in all, a great day.

Another sea day and a half and we arrived in Fremantle, better known to most Australians as Freo (Australians seem to want to abbreviate everything: breakfast is brekky, for instance). We had booked an independent (meaning not a Holland America tour) wine tour to the Swan Valley with 10 companions from the ship. Plus our plan to go to a special restaurant in Perth, Lalla Rookh. Pay attention, this is complicated: our friends, Robin and Skip, have a daughter, Katey, who married Patrick from Perth who is the chef who owns Lalla Rookh (you can google the name to learn the story of the name).

Katey
Pam, Patrick, Katey, Randy

So we had a wonderful dinner with Katey (while Patrick almost literally ran around the restaurant making sure all was working well) complete with a local wine and preceded by a local gin, West Wind. The gin was wonderful, a very distinctive and pleasant taste and aroma. We even managed, with the help of a local to buy our tickets, to utilize the train to get back to Freo and the ship.

Our wine group
Randy HAD to buy some Cammenbert!
And he had to have a rum raisin ice cream cone.
Fremantle Prison only closed about 40 years ago.
Fremantle market
Random street art

Our last view of Freo. The submarine that we toured in 08 is being repaired now and not open

Randy had two goals on this trip: to buy a new Australian hat (Kathy, you can now stop looking for his hat in the river in Idaho) and to replenish his stock of shirts from the Fremantle prison. As of the morning in Freo, he has now accomplished both goals (he found a hat in Darwin). I was too pooped from our 11-hour day in Perth/Swan Valley to go with him, however.

Not much time to rest, we went on to the next port, Albany, the very next day. Took a Holland America tour of Torndirrup National Park and the National Anzac Centre. Why have we not learned that HAL tours are almost always overpriced and overcrowded? We had a great, very funny, guide (who only talked to us while we were actually on the bus, never at our destinations) but 43 people arriving at once at a tourist spot is jolly good fun. And getting 43 old farts off a bus made for Japanese-size people is also jolly good fun.

Nevertheless we did see some very interesting places, especially Torndirrup NP. As soon as we started down the road I recognized that we had been there in 2008. Of course much has been modernized since then. Now there are Swedish steel walkways where in 2008 we clambered over the rocks!

Coastline of Torndirrup NP
The natural bridge at TNP
Some info about the very modern steel walkway
More Torndirrup NP
Part of the support of the walkway.

Then on to the National Anzac Centre, a museum dedicated to the warriors from World War I. Quite depressing, actually, although it is ranked as one of the best museums in Australia.

Our bus was FASCINATED with kangaroos.
One of the Lest We Forget memorials.
Just another view of our ship
A memorial to the soldiers and their horses from Gallipoli and WWI
A better view of the soldier watering his horse
Randy resting in front of the sculpture of the soldier and his horse.
Just an example of how things are phrased quite differently now than they were after WWI.
Aussies preserve EVERYTHING!
“Lest we forget” at the base of a monument.

Home to the ship, onward to Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Melbourne (apparently pronounced MEL-bun), and Tasmania (AKA Tassie—see previous comment about how Aussies shorten everything!

Exit through the gift shop!…

This guard will keep any nosy Komodo Dragons away from us.

10/23/17 S 27 26.49 E 153 04.16 Brisbane

10/24/17 S 22 25.10 E 151 26.35

10/25/17 S 20 19.23 E 148 56.59 Hamilton Island

10/26/17 S 18 35.48 E 146 47.78

10/27/17 S 16 55.56 E 145 46.84 Cairns

10/28/17 S 12 31.15 E 143 25.49

10/29/17 S 10 43.90 E 138 47.59

10/30/17 S 10 41.54 E 132 50.83

10/31/17 S 12 28.33 E 130 50.77 Darwin

11/01/17 S 11 10.40 E 126 07.95

11/02/17 S 09 43.58 E 121 41.73

11/03/17 S 08 54.69 E 119 00.47 left Komodo at 1400

11/04/17 S 08 53.50 E 114 50.00 Denpassar, Bali

11/05/17 S 13 50.50 E 114 50.60

11/06/17 S 19 03.27 E 114 26.84

Last time I wrote, I kind of forgot to add our locations! Getting the locations is part of our routine in the evenings: get the data points, open the door to get the delivery of ice and hors d’oeuvres, pour martinis! Then off to the Mix bar to meet friends and then to dinner.

After our Darwin adventure we headed to Komodo Island after two sea days. I’ve been looking forward to Komodo and the dragons since we first thought of doing this trip. Even though I wasn’t looking forward to trekking through the bush in 95/95 temp/humidity, I really, REALLY wanted to see wild Komodo dragons.

This guy had to explain the rules to us!
It took three to lead our group of 8
One of our guide/guards

Komodo Island is a tender port (not my favorite thing, getting on tenders to go ashore!)—let me explain: The ship has four tenders, AKA lifeboats, that hold 75 as tenders and 150 as lifeboats. You do the math: the ship holds about 1500 people, roughly 2/3 want to go ashore (just a guess, but judging by the pushing and shoving and sheer volume of people, it’s probably pretty close). So, 1000 people wanting to go in the tenders that hold 75 at a time, the trip takes 15 minutes plus embark and debark time and we all want to go ashore NOW. So we hang in the theater (holds the most people!) waiting to get tender tickets.

The morning of the Komodo trip we got there at 7:50 for an 8:00 tour departure and finally got tender tickets at about 9:00—the standard excuse is that the “officials” have not “cleared the ship.” Our tour guides were waiting patiently, however, and really did a great job of herding cats, uh, us and 75 of our closest friends around the area before starting out. Our guides took us (our group was very small, only eight) to a small house that was sort of off the track because they knew there were dragons there. Randy and the rest continued on the three kilometer trek and I went back to the ship (I’d seen three dragons, so what else is there?). When Randy came back he said I had made a great decision, it was a long, hot walk; no shade; and not many more dragons.

Dragons like to hang our under buildings.
Two of the biggest we saw/
Posed for a closeup!

Back to our shipboard routine of listening to lectures, going to classes, sitting on our balcony reading, etc.

Bali was our next stop and I had arranged no tours. We got off the ship and just hired the first taxi driver we saw and headed off to see whatever we would see. He of course took us to shops but I really wanted especially to see some wood carvings so it wasn’t all bad! Lots of temples—you should see Randy and me in the mandatory sarongs. Yes, even the men have to wear them!

Truly ugly!
More truly ugly!
They were doing a fashion shoot at the temple.
Randy & our guide at a temple.

The really fun part was a tea and coffee shop. Well, more like a little zoo/arboretum where we got to taste seven teas and six coffees. They were all good and we bought a few to bring home, including “poop coffee.” Yes, the coffee the animals eat and poop out the beans which are then roasted. Didn’t ever think I would drink that, but I couldn’t be there and not at least TRY it. Tastes like really good coffee!

Coffee and tea samples
We had to buy some!

On to a waterfall (in the rain) and the experience of driving in the afternoon traffic jams. I believe there are more motorcycles than cars and I think all the motorcycles were on the road with us.

At a batik “factory”
Closeup of the batik process.

A day of rest, then Exmouth.

Censorship was alive and well in WWII in Darwin…

I’m getting a little behind! We’ve been to Cairns, Hamilton Island, and Darwin—my, how time flies!

Cairns was a good news, bad news city. The weather was wonderful, we still hadn’t gotten to the really hot weather (coming in Darwin and Bali!), so our trip on the gondola to Kuranda was pretty good. We took a Holland America tour rather than doing an independent tour. Should have done an independent tour! The gondolas held six but there were so few visitors that they were putting just two people in each gondola. Except for the Holland tours when they put four in a gondola (we asked and were told that was the “policy.” Still not crowded, but Randy and I ended up riding backwards the whole way. But it was a very beautiful trip of about an hour plus some time to walk in the woods.

The gondola
View of Cairns from the gondola
Beautiful waterfall, look close and you can see the train on the other side
Randy at the train station in Kuranda

Kuranda was a nice artsy village where we had lunch and did a bit of window shopping and then on to the train back to Cairns. An awesomely bad experience. Four to a bench seat facing four people, our knees about an inch apart, extremely hot train car (it had been sitting in the sun for several hours), only the ones next to the window got any airflow, riding backwards for an hour and a half closer to the person facing us than one wants to be with anyone but your spouse. Suffice it to say, we were very glad to get back to the ship.

After two sea days, Hamilton Island was a nice break. Didn’t do much but have a nice lunch and a (free!) shuttle ride around the island. A very pretty island that obviously caters to the extremely wealthy—at least to judge by the boats in the harbor.

Randy and me with Maasdam in the background
Our ship as we take a tender to the island
One of the many huge yachts
Randy getting off the tender
Our view at lunch

Sulphur crested cocatoo who wanted to share our lunch
Another avian freeloader
Just a couple heading to their honeymoon
Panorama of the harbor.
Our home for another month or so
The free shuttle
Airport is VERY close to downtown and some airplanes do double duty.

Two more sea days and we got to one of the many cities we really look forward to: Darwin. We have been to Darwin about four or five times before so I was looking for something a little different. I don’t care if I never see another jumping crocodile (that seems to be the main draw for tourists in Darwin). The Bombing of Darwin tour (www.bombingofdarwin.com.au) really fit the bill. Originally we were going to be the only two, but it became a tour for us and seven more of our cruise friends by the time we got to Darwin, and Garry gave us a wonderful experience.

Even Australians mostly don’t know the story of Darwin during the war (wartime censorship to avoid panicking the general population). It was decimated on February 16, 1942—just ten weeks after Pearl Harbor and the Japanese pilots were led by the same man who lead the bombing of Pearl Harbor! All the Australian newspapers downplayed the bombings of Darwin (they were bombed 66 times) and the utter destruction wreaked on the city. Garry, whose father and uncles fought in WWII, gave a brilliant tour showing us the buildings that remain (very few) and telling stories he knows from hearing from the survivors and, in some cases, their children.

One thing of interest to the group of us (eight Americans and a Canadian) is how much the Americans helped the Australians and how much the Aussies appreciate what the American airmen and sailors did for them. There is a memorial in the city park to the destroyer USS Peary, destroyed by Japanese bombers, whose rear gunner was still firing as it slipped beneath the waves.

We ended with a visit to the Military Museum, a museum that blends the best of old world displays and state of the art technology. All in all, a wonderful day. We even got to experience a full-blown tropical storm which we rode out drinking beer in downtown Darwin!

Garry, of the Bombing of Darwin tour
There was a big celebration on account of a new administrator (governor in American English)

A monument detailing the Darwin harbor and the various war locations
Every city, town, or hamlet has a memorial to their war dead with the words, “Lest we forget.”
Our little group of friends, listening to Garry tell us about the monument
The administrator’s house
Parliament has bomb-shaped tops to the pillars
The gun points to the final resting place of the USS Peary.
Another monument to another American airman
One of the high-tech displays at the Military Museum
More Americans memorialized at the museum

On to Komodo Island tomorrow!