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!

Meanwhile, at the Crocoseum…

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

10/24/17 S 22 25.10 E 151 26.35

Our sea day after Sydney was uneventful other than my and Randy’s cough, cough, hack, hack, achoo.

In Brisbane, the ship docks right down town, perfect location!

VERY close to the apartments!

I’m feeling somewhat better physically and much better overall after seeing our friends from the Sun Princess World Cruise of 2012: Wendy & Bob (who visited us two years ago), Donna & Steve (who have visited us twice—for some strange reason they seem to like the U.S., they’re coming back next year!), and Mary & Ian who just got off ANOTHER world cruise (they haven’t visited us yet, but we’re working on them!). All of them were so supportive of Randy when he was ill and they all knew Helen (also on the WC) who died of the same disease Randy had. I think they all never thought they’d see Randy again!

Wendy & Bob met us at the ship and drove miles and miles to take us to the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo, you know, the guy who fed crocodiles and got killed by a manta ray stinger to the chest). Absolutely wonderful zoo, right up there with the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t have a lot of time but we got the shuttle tour, walked about and fed the ‘roos, saw a barking owl on a keeper’s fist and a beautiful python with a black head (also held by a keeper), and then, at the Crocoseum, watched their free-flight show and croc feeding. The rain held off so it was a wonderful day at the zoo!

And of course, the croc part of Crocoseum.

This bird was trained to pick a $5 bill from a spectator and then return it to the same spectator

and very large vulture-types
Even cormorants
Lots of birds in the sho.
The mascot looks a lot like the UofA mascot.
Warming up the crowd before the show.
They gave prizes at the Crocoseum to the best chicken (chook to the Aussies) impression
Randy and a ‘roo
Bob & a ‘roo.
Hand feeding the ‘roos.

Tortoise feeding.
Some kind of boa.
A water dragon, loose in the zoo
This is a LIFESIZE replica of a saltwater croc!
Some of the local fauna.
With Wendy & Bob

Wendy also brought us a brochure from OutbackSpirit, the tour company we went with in 2008 on a camping safari from Darwin to Broome to Alice. Fabulous trip, now we’re thinking about doing something with them again.

Only bummer is that our phone is locked so we can’t use a sim card. In order to unlock we have to go online, fill out a form and wait for AT&T to contact us. Considering we’re in the middle of the ocean right now, that’s going to be difficult!

Cough, cough, hack, hack, achoo!…

10/21/17 S 33 51.53 E 151 12.62 SYD

10/22/17 S 28 47.22 E 153 55.41

Why, yes, I do have a cold. Not terrible, just enough to make me not want to be around people. The last thing people on a cruise want is somebody coughing all over everything.

The view from our cabin with martini glass!
Another view from our cabin. Not too shabby!

So, I probably won’t go on our first opportunity—Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands—to try out the beautiful, high tech snorkels that Greg and Yolanda loaned us. Our next opportunity is Cairns but guess what? It’s the beginning of the box jelly season. Why is that of interest to us? Because the box jellyfish is one of the most lethal—yes, LETHAL—examples of jellyfish in the world. And how, you might ask, do we know it is box jelly season? Because the snorkel tours offered by the ship have the option of “stinger suits.” Seriously, Holland America expects me to sign up for a tour that offers stinger suits? You can’t make this stuff up!

But back to what we’ve been doing: Sydney and Brisbane. Both were catching-up-with-friends type days.

In Sydney, we reconnected with some of our favorite people, our son Greg and daughter-in-law Yolanda; and our old friends (Aside: they aren’t actually our OLDEST friends, just some of our we’ve-known-them-a-really-long-time friends; there needs to be an acronym for that category but WKTARLT doesn’t quite make it), Melinda and Ian. Lots of memories: the day we were in Sydney was Greg and Yolanda’s 16th anniversary; and we watched Ian and Melinda get married on 8/8/08 at 8:08pm after we had driven around OZ (Australia) for about eight weeks.

Melinda is a world-class foodie (in all the best senses of that word) and she shepherded us to a place for lunch overlooking Sydney bay (I know, I know, that isn’t a real place but we overlooked most of the water around Sydney and that’s what I call a “bay”) called Frenchy’s Cafe. Yum, yum, yum! Most of us had to get our second choice because they are so popular they run out of the favorites. But second-choice was awesome. I gotta start taking pictures of the food I’m talking about. My lunch was a quiche, but unlike any quiche I’ve had in like, ever: it was custard-y. Awesome. Delicious. I need a thesaurus to describe it any better!

Randy & Melinda
Greg & Ian

Then we went to George’s Head Lookout. Awesome! (We managed to get to Sydney on the day in-between the only two rainy days in over two months!) We could see most of Sydney harbor and because it was a weekend, there were lots and lots of sailboat races going on.

Sydney Harbor sailboat races; they have to deal with the ferries

All in all, an awesome (I must get that thesaurus so I can stop using “awesome” for everything) day with wonderful friends; one of whom had a beautiful red (of course) Porsche. That friend would be Ian, in case you wondered who would be the sports car owner. Melinda calls it “The Other Woman.”

On to Brisbane and more adventures around OZ!

 

 

Ow, ow, ow, ow, not going to try fire walking!…

1700 10/14/17 S 18 10.01 E 178 30.66 Dravuni

1700 10/15/17 S 18 10.01 E 171 36.29

1700 10/16/17 S 17 45.03 E 168 18.19 Port Vila, Vanuatu

1700 10/17/17 S 21 32.95 E 167 52.25 Tadine, New Caledonia

It’s kind of hard to know where the time goes! But go somewhere it does! Every day! We are now 3 days from Sydney and I have no idea where three weeks has disappeared to.

Dravuni and Tadine are “beach days” even though we are in port as there is absolutely nothing to do on shore except go swimming. We’re not too much for that so we just enjoy the balmy breezes. We did ride the tender (the small boat that is a lifeboat if necessary, holding 150 passengers, and a water taxi at other times, holding 90 passengers) in to each island so we can say we have gone ashore at each port! We have at times been on a tender that was packed (90) and I cannot imagine how they get an additional 60 people on it when it must be used as a lifeboat!

Port Vila was another story completely! We booked an independent tour (meaning not run by Holland America) with Atmosphere Tours that was called, and WAS, the ‘Round the Island Tour. Justin was our guide and he rocked! So glad we did that tour although the van they used had less leg room that the worst coach airplane ride I’ve ever had. Luckily it wasn’t full so we could spread out a BIT, not much, but sort of enough to avoid complete contraction of our leg muscles.

We got to see a lot of the island but best was going to a village where they talked about their life and did a few dances for us and—drum roll, please!—did a fire walk!

Demonstrating how they use natural materials
You can walk through some of the banyan trees

One of the “warriors”
Village fishing hook
Just a beautiful woman and her child
They use spider webs to help them catch fish
Entrance to the village
The fire walking hut
The chewed up leaves that will coat the bottom of the feet of the fire walker
A warrior spitting the chewed up leaves onto the bottom of the fire walker
Walking on fire
Spitting on the fire walker’s foot
The chewed up plant being left behind on the hot rocks
Getting ready to walk on fire
Beautiful coastal scene
For Survivor fans, that is Survivor Island

Showing how the eyes will show you where to hit it to break it open
Justin demonstrating how to husk a coconut
The local Tusker beer is quite good
Every coke bottle is stamped on the bottom with the name of the city of manufacture
His grandson does the narration now, he’s getting too old

WWII collector of Coca Cola bottles
One of our party dancing to the string band at lunch

On to the South Pacific Islands…

1720 10/8/17 Position: S 5 28.59 W167 39.53 (At 2125 last night we crossed the equator)

1525 10/9/17 Position: S 11 38.17 W 169 53.79

1705 10/10/17 Position: S 14 16.42 W 170 40.85 (We will cross the dateline sometime tonight and lose Oct 11th)

The 10th of October was our day in Pago Pago (pronounced Pongo Pongo) in American Samoa (pronounced SAHM-oh-ah) and another food tour. I know, I know, we eat 14 times a day on the ship, WHY would be want a food tour? Because it’s there and we may never have another chance to try these pretty exotic foods.

In the distance is the southernmost US National Park

Welcoming singers

Such a beautiful scene!
Another flowerpot
Harbor scene with a “flowerpot” island
We were serenaded on arrival in Pago Pago.
They may not have Starbucks, but…

Six of us had booked a tour with Tisa’s Barefoot Bar (and beach) that included a native lunch and six more had just booked the meal. Tisa picked us up in a pretty ratty bus but it did its job and got us to Tisa’s and on the tour around the island. Well, not quite around the island—there is no road all the way around. She is a native although she lived in California for a while in the 60s so it was an interesting tour with Tisa narrating and giving us a bit of her history on the island as well and us crossing our fingers that the bus would make it up the various hills.

And nicest of all, she closed the bar to anybody but the 12 of us! Not so good for the dozens and dozens of people who heeded our on-board guide who told everybody it was a wonderful place to go for a drink and some time on the beach. Tisa is getting ready to retire and she likes to have fewer people, at most 20, for her meals. Great treat for us! We will be coming back through Pago Pago and Randy would like to go back (I’m not so sure!).

The “stove”
Our lunch is cooking under the leaves.
Tisa’s Beachfront Bar
Tisa explaining all about our meal.
Candyman (Tisa’s husband, a New Zealander) preparing lunch.

Tongs made from the rib of a banana leaf
Lunch is served on banana leaves. No plates or utensils to wash!
Tisa and Candyman after serenading us
Randy and his Samoan lunch

The harbor in Pago Pago is beautiful, if you can ignore the commercial ships and containers. It is a natural shelter from (most) bad weather. They did have a huge tsunami in 2005 and in the mid-90s that pretty much wiped out everything.

Onward to more South Pacific Islands…

1700 10/11/17 Position: None

1705 10/12/17 Position: S 16 23.98 W 178 07.18

For ship’s time purposes, we have crossed the dateline, but it makes a zig (fairly new, in the 90s I think) so that American Samoa is on the eastern side of the dateline and Western Samoa is on the western side. No idea why they put in the zig.

Hundreds of busses every hour pass through the bus terminal

The ship docks right downtown!
Fruits & veggies at the market.
Fruits & veggies at the market.
Fruits & veggies at the market.

We are in Suva, Fiji; the capital, I believe—at $0.25/minute for internet, I don’t check so many things out! Nothing at all is planned. For us, that is, I think the entire rest of the ship is heading off for parts unknown.

We opted for a leisurely breakfast at the Pinnacle Grill (one of the perks of being in a suite: we can have breakfast in our room or in the Grill. Then puttering for a bit before just going out for a short stroll in the town. We have heard it is the largest city in the Pacific other than Honolulu but I find that hard to believe. Unless you look at the constant stream of busses into the terminal across the street.

We didn’t go far, up to the market—really, really large market!—with every conceivable fruit and vegetable and some I couldn’t conceive of because I’d never seen them before! We saw “ordinary” fruits like papaya and tomato, and extraordinary fruits like drurian. Drurian is possibly the worst smelling fruit EVER (also spelled durian but a drurian by any other name stinks just as bad)! I first had it in Thailand when our houseman offered me a fragrant (that’s putting it nicely) piece. I had learned that it would be very rude to refuse so I (figuratively) held my nose and nibbled on the piece (I think I actually managed to finish it) and thanks Tongsa profusely. Drurian, in Thailand, at least, are expensive and adored, hence the insult if you refuse a proffered piece. To this day I have never had another one.

There was a flower market and we bought a bouquet of ginger and other native plants for our room for what we would have paid for a drink on board—A drink, not drinks for the two of us! We were a little worried that we would be allowed to bring it on board but the woman selling the flowers said the Captain had bought a bouquet this morning. We’re keeping it on the deck as it seems to have colony of ants hitchhiking on it.

Flowers on our deck.

Off to Dravuni (no, I can’t find it on our map of southern Pacific islands—it is two miles long and a half mile wide) tomorrow for what Holland America euphemistically calls a “beach day.” Meaning there is absolutely nothing else to do on the island. Several people have organized care packages (first aid supplies, books, crayons, that sort of thing that they can’t get easily) and we may do that on our way back. Yes, we get to have another “beach day” in December when the Amsterdam comes here. O frabjous day.

Note to self: buy snorkel gear in Sydney!

Fornicating Gnomes…

1700 10/3/17 Position: N 21 18.09 W157 51.94 (HNL)

1830 10/4/17 Position: N 21 16.02 W157 53.58

Poi is not all it’s cracked up to be!
Spam macadamia nuts. NO!

Cocoa in the raw tastes pretty good!
At the Royal Hawaiian cutting up pineapples
I guess he liked that I was taking photos, he gave us this plate of pineapple slices!
Surfers have some pretty rad rides. Even if he’s handicapped.
HNL as we leave at sunset.
Diamondhead as we leave.

I’m a little behind on my blog, but then how much can I write when we have 10 out of 12 sea days?

But, we did spend two days in HNL and we had a wonderful time eating our way around Oahu with “North Shore Food Tour” (www.HawaiiFoodTours.com). It was a bit of a negative that we had to sit in the back of the van, four people across but it could have been worse. We got to try the staple of Hawaii, poi. Poi is—well, it’s been described as tasting like library paste (one wonders how people know what library paste tastes like)—pretty tasteless. But it’s apparently very nutritious and easy to digest (it is the perfect baby food) and, at least in HI, readily accessible. Will I search it out on the mainland. Well, no. But I’m glad I tried it and it seems more fun to eat when surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and frangipani blossoms! We saw a lot of Oahu and ate a lot of local foods and came back to the ship in pretty much of a food coma. Missed dinner completely. We were asleep by about 2030.

Day Two in HNL we rented a car, a convertible of course, and managed to get lost in the Enterprise eight-story parking garage. Other than that, we had a wonderful time running errands to Costco (new computer) and AAA and driving around. Randy doesn’t quite get the concept that we have maps available on our phones—he’d rather spread out a six-foot wide paper map and block the driver’s view of the road; much more fun than just saying “OK, Google, where’s Costco?”

After getting the chores out of the way, we succeeded in finding the Pali Lookout with its spectacular view over the area east of HNL.

We also found a sort-of OK sandwich joint, Timmy T’s and generally just enjoyed driving around the island.

Back to the ship for a sail out of the harbor and another five days at sea until we get to Pago Pago.

1700 10/5/17 Position: N 13 30.65 W 160 50.88

1700 10/6/17 Position: N 07 46.18 W 163 01.15

1700 10/7/17 Position: N 01 13.24 W 165 16.37

So we spend our days going to computer classes, and listening to speakers who are both good and bad. We have apparently kept our good speaker, Judson Croft, and acquired an even worse speaker (Dr. Cluny MacPherson) than the one we dropped off in HNL (Dr. Lawrence Kuznetz, from NASA). Dr. MacPherson is lecturing on the history of the Pacific islands mostly since World WarII but that rather boring (to me) topic is not why I think he’s bad. His use of PowerPoint could be the “bad” example to Judson’s “great” example. Judson has lots of photos, not very many words on his PowerPoints. Cluny has almost nothing but words in bulleted lists. Bad, bad, bad! Did I mention boring?

Our minister in our dinner group, Joe, continues to entertain us with stories from his ministerial past. From his second funeral where the widow said, “No, he’s not supposed to be cremated, he’s being buried right after the service” and there was no grave dug and Joe had to vamp while they dug. And the time he and Betty decided to play a trick on his intern. The intern had put a garden gnome in his yard. Joe and Betty bought 20 identical garden gnomes and added one each night to the intern’s garden. About three or four nights into this, the intern exclaimed, “My gnomes are fornicating!”

You can’t make this stuff up!

Lastly, we and three other cabins have no air conditioning. Nor have we had any A/C for the past four days. No solution in sight. We have a fan. I’m so happy.