(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!