Sunday, February 15
Windy and cloudy today. They close the open decks on 5th and 10th. Two more at sea days till Tasmania, which was populated when there was a land bridge to Australia.(It is a state of Australia.) About 13,000 years of isolation, however, has resulted in striking differences between the two aboriginal cultures, they say. After church we have to line up to have our passports checked and turn in questionnaires to Australian security officers who came on at Auckland. We’ve been participating in a trivia session before choir on at sea days; it’s fun! They serve a wonderful brunch in the dining room on Sundays; we get seated with Estelle Harris. What a hoot! We nap a little in the pm as our choir is LAST on the program for the passenger talent show beginning at 10:15 pm! The show was really pretty good, especially one woman who did torchy songs from WWI, a guy who did stand-up routine about cruise situations, and a man who recited “the Cremation of Sam McGee.
Monday, February 16
Lovely, cool, calm day for our morning walk. We have breakfast on the fantail, then a trivia session before choir. We’ll take a short break from practice till after Sydney when the new people (about 100) come on board. Nigel West gives us his final talk on “Garbo,” the code name of a spy instrumental in convincing the Germans to fortify the wrong spot for D-Day. This saved thousands of lives and turned the tide of WWII. Tonight is a formal night (which we have agreed we will not be involved in), so we have dinner in our cabin and watch “The Duchess”—very entertaining! We turn in early as our trip into Burnie Tasmania will begin just after 8 am.
Tuesday, February 17
Burnie Tasmania -We are embarking on a new plan. Between lectures, choir practice, on board entertainment ,eating three times a day, recovering from shore excursions, four-mile walks on deck and yoga. It was decided that I would take over the blogging. You will probably notice a different style. I hope it is as good as Sue’s. All the ports of call have had very interesting, well informed and friendly folks showing us the sites. But so far the people of Burnie have rolled out the red carpet like nobody else has. The city prepared a special flyer just for our ship on points of interest and shopping. The mayor greeted us at the bottom of the gangway as we arrived, special free of charge busses shuttled us back and forth from town with three stops of interest on the way. People were stationed at those various stops to help us with any of the odd things that would come up in a strange town, and a bagpipe band serenaded us as we were leaving port. Our adventure for the day was a trip to Wings Wildlife Park. It is located in the heart of traditional farm country. The farm economy has been consolidated into three huge farms with the smaller ones finding other things to do. Sound familiar!! The owners of the park just quit milking to run the park full time. It was rustic but very charming and full of many healthy looking animals. All the animals we have seen in the books from down under--wombats, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, kookaburras Tasmanian devils and nasty snakes. Economy is on the down side of some paper plants, a huge chocolate business and farming. Tourism in many countries has been the focus for new dollars. Trying at the same time to minimize the impact on the environment.
Wednesday, February 18
A day at sea. Time to visit and get to know our fellow passengers more. The people from England have been perceived as stogy and dry. From what we have seen they are exactly opposite of that. Very funny and engaging. The sea is acting up today. With great swells slamming into the bulk heads. Sounding like thunder. I’m kind of enjoying it.Sue is not happy at all. We listen to a great classic piano performance in the lounge and then duck in our room to ride out the storm.
Thursday, February 19
Sidney Australia -Sue I are going in different directions today because she doesn’t like tram rides off a cliff. The tram took me 1000 feet into the Jamison Valley to see the remnants of a late 1800’s coal mine. Also a series of board walks that coursed its way thru the rain forest. As if on cue it rained on us for about 20 minutes. Our next stop was at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. It was like every page of Thayer’s birds of the southern hemisphere coming to life. Some of everything we had seen before plus the cute Fairy penguin, dingoes, and a 14 foot crocodile. Sounded and felt like we were in a jungle somewhere. Kangaroos and emus milling around amongst the visitors. Our bus driver was in charge of transportation for the 2000 Olympics. So he took us on a surprise side trip into the heart of the main venues. Still quite spectacular even after 8 years. They seem to use a lot of cable support in their architecture. It covers over 600 hectares. Ha, anybody know how much that is? The Sidney harbor is supposed to be the most beautiful in the world and I believe it. Everybody walks and looks in good shape. Large open air bistros crowd the waterfront. It is alive with the sounds of music and people. For a large city the air is clean and there are no slums. Sue took a tour around the city to see the highlights. Sidney has had the foresight to preserve and renovate its early architecture. The Harbor has 86 miles of beautiful and restored coastline. They still have Woolworth’s here and a drop-in drug center where drugs with clean needles can legally be obtained along with counseling. Golfing and sailing are huge leisure time activities. Along with rugby and cricket. Sidney had its start around 1776 with the delivery of prisoners from England to ease overcrowding. We end the day sailing out past the famous clam shell orchestra hall and under the equally famous bridge in the early evening with the cities twinkling lights bidding us adieu.
Friday, February 20
A day at sea. Very interesting lecture on the voyages of Captain James Cook. The first segment of the trip is complete. About 100 passengers got off and 100 new ones got on at Sidney. The roll of the ship lulls us to sleep at night, like being in a large hammock. We have met a German couple from Cologne. They are thinking about spending their winters in Florida. Very nice and quite rich. Their most memorable trip was a train ride one month long from Moscow to Beijing on the Czar’s train. He said everyone should take that trip once in their lives. Ya surrre!! You bet!!
Saturday, February 21
Brisbane Australia- Our 38th day at sea and our 12th port. I’m starting to notice my profile is starting to bulge. Maybe I will have to cut down deserts from 3 to 1 and my meals from 3 to 1. Today Sue and I strike out for the largest sub-tropical rainforest in the southern hemisphere. By the way Happy Birthday to Braden. The big one zero. We miss everyone and won’t be home soon. The Lamington National Park has 160 km of walking tracts that we call trails and New Zealanders call tramps. The Park boasts a cable-strung boardwalk 100 feet off the ground that goes thru the canopy of the forest that has over 40 different species of trees. Also a turkey that scratches the ground looking for grubs and in the process makes the park grounds look like pigs have gone thru and rooted everything up. They have a beautiful wild crimson parrot that will sit on your shoulders and head. The third generation of O’Reillys are running a eco lodge in the center of the park where we had a Aussie barbecue lunch of kangaroo stirfry and other goodies. These folks just finished a 43 million dollar eco condo development in the park. On our return we saw wild kangaroos on grassy slopes like we see deer in Wisconsin. Our last stop was a O’Reillys vineyard for some wine-tasting. It was located in a turn of the century Queensland style home of the first O’Reillys. Queensland style is the entire home being built on poles anywhere from 2 to 6 feet off the ground. It was done to keep snakes, termites and water out, provide for some extra cooling, and in a lot of cases a place to store more junk. The people here are a little more laid back. The economy is still doing quite well. Almost all of their power is from hydro.
Sunday, February 22
Day at sea. Church in the morning and a good long walk .Got in on a great lecture about being a sea pilot not a harbor pilot. There are only a few in the world. They assist the captain in negotiating the 1200 miles of the east coast where the reef exists. For you history and sailing expedition buffs we heard a great story about one of the best-James Cook. He is like what the Beatles were to Rock and Roll. He had a very unfortunate demise though and your assignment for tomorrow is to look it up and see what it was. Our new music for the choir includes an ABBA number. O boy, O boy. Sue got all the s’s and blanks and kicked my butt in scrabble. I pouted and went to bed.
Monday, February 23
Day at sea. Cloudy and rainy. Very humid –We will do our walking tonight. Sue is setting up to help a Slovenian lady with her English .Sue and I invited to help celebrate a German shipmates 80th birthday with his Finnish wife. Great lecture on the real Captain Bligh--the great navigator and compassionate governor of Sydney Australia.
Tuesday February 24
Happy Birthday to me. What a fun place to turn 64. After a last minute change in shore excursions-[always nice to have a little excitement first thing in the morning], we are off to Kuranda, a little mountain top tourist community. It started out as an alternate life-style settlement, nice way of saying –Old Hippy Town from the 60’s. This is the start of a train ride through 15 tunnels and many bridges next to the Barron River gorge. We are traveling into the Barron River National Park and its tropical rainforests. That trip ends at the thunderous Barron River Falls. Can’t wait to show the pics. Sue had a quick bottle of 4XXXX beer to fortify her for the trip down the mountain on the Skyrail over the world heritage rainforest. Dangling on a cable hundreds of feet over the jungle wasn’t her idea of a dream come true but she warmed up to it after awhile and thought it was a grand adventure. We were treated to a wonderful local ethnic buffet at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center. We watched a high tech story of the creation of the world from the aboriginal perspective; next we were treated to a aboriginal musical of sorts Dancing singing and playing instruments [the didgeridoo and sticks].They also put on a fire-making demo the old fashioned way--rubbing two sticks together and it worked. The last part of our day was to go out in a large field and got a lesson on throwing a boomerang. Sue did better than me. Boohoo!! On the way home we learned how the locals need to be careful of crocs after floods because the high water brings them inland where they get stranded when the waters recede. About a person a month gets eaten here. That’s what I’m looking for. I got some beer for Sue in town. At dinner my wife had some of the bubbly and cake arranged for my birthday. Then the waiters and table mates all broke into a rousing song.