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Published: December 15th 2017
We arrived in Australia in time for their approaching summer which made both Darold and I very happy. The prospect of sun and beaches was finally looming! Darwin on the North coast of Australia had developed considerably since our last visit in 1987. A new mall with free Wifi was the main destination of everyone on board. Darold and I found a long haired Aussie from the Outback who ran an old fashioned barber shop complete with the striped pole and sleeping dog. Getting our hair cut while exchanging stories of our world travels, was a much more positive experience from the last time we visited Darwin where we just cooked slowly in the 40+ degree heat! A cool beer at the oldest pub in town rounded off our visit here.
Another surprise was the incredible development in Cairns. When we were here in 1987 it was a hamlet with dirt roads and wooden sidewalks. We arrived to a very modern city with a very well-developed waterfront. We booked a catamaran boat to the Great Barrier Reef which was the highlight of our previous trip. We arrived to a platform designed to encourage tourism without taking a toll on the
reef. We started our day with a glass bottom submarine trip then learned more about the fish and coral in their underwater viewing station where a guide answered any questions and pointed out the fish, coral and giant clams (as well as the turtles and reef sharks that swam by). The platform had it all; a free lunch, scuba lessons for those interested, underwater diving scooters that were moved by divers for those not as adventurous or simply snorkel gear (which we chose to do). We were with our new friends Betty and Rob from New York. Betty had a huge fear of water so the three of us coached her until she felt comfortable. She returned from her first snorkeling experience confident and keen to do more snorkeling! I was a bit disappointed as this part of the reef was not as colorful and the giant clams were tiny compared to our visit in 1987! Things change and I am sure that none of the boats go out to the reef anymore and simply drop anchor as we did back then. Nevertheless this was a very wonderful and memorable day!
Our return to Brisbane brought back incredible memories
of our time here performing for Expo ’88 with Kompany! We travelled up and down the Brisbane River in the River Cat (a water bus service). We stopped at the old Expo site which has been totally redeveloped with an Arts Centre, a tropical garden feature and a Ferris Wheel. We found what remains of the old Expo Site which is the “Peace Memorial” from Nepal. In it was the old Platypus mascot and program with signage showing the old Expo “River Stage” where we performed (see photos). The stage has been moved out of the river and onto the Botanical Gardens site up river (as an amphitheater stage).
We spent 2 days in Sydney which was still not enough. I rose early to hear the commentary of the highlights as we sailed into Sydney Harbour. The ship served coffee and “Sydney rolls” (custard filled sweet rolls) and we were able to view from the front deck of the ship which is typically off limits to passengers. A stunning experience – don’t miss it if you get an opportunity. After sailing past the famous Opera House we sailed under the bridge barely fitting (see the photo). The smaller ships
were relegated to the new cruise ship pier further in the harbor as the Celebrity Solstice (which Darold and I had sailed on in Hawaii) had taken the prime terminal spot across the harbor from the opera house and right below the bridge and “the Rocks” area.
We spent the day at the beautiful Bondi Beach then walked through Hyde Park enroute to Oxford Street for a little nightlife and dinner. Since Christmas was coming, they had a pink Christmas tree on Oxford Street and there was a very busy selection of bars and discos (even though it was a Tuesday night). The Aussies believe life is for partying – work just supports this essential part of life!
Next day we went to Darling Harbour which recently opened (and is still under construction). There is a waterfront walkway from Darling Harbour to the “Rocks” and the old section of Sydney Harbour which has stunning views. We loved the sail away watching the Sydney skyline recede in the distance (see photo).
Fiji was beach time. Yippeeee! Finally… we got to work on our tans, splash and float in the warm south pacific waters and saunter up and down
sandy beaches. First stop, Dravuni Island. That was all it was – a sandy beach with lots of palm trees, a path to walk along and several Fijians selling souvenirs, shirts and beer on the beach. We were blessed as the locals informed us that it had been raining solid for 3 weeks. They prayed for sun and lots of sales upon our arrival and the sun gods delivered!!!
Lautoka and Suva, our next stops were on opposite sides of the same island. The 2 largest cities in Fiji with Suva, the capital – they offered a taxi journey to get to a beach and/or resort. The “First Landing” in Lautoka was disappointing as the tide was out and the beach was miles of mud. The pool at the resort made up for it.
In Suva, we travelled for an hour by taxi to the Pearl resort (thepearlsouthpacific.com) which was stunning. Beautiful landscaping with a humming bird sculpture and a beach that went on for miles… a place that we will come back to stay at.
Pago Pago, American Samoa was our final beach stop where we spent the day at 2 dollar beach (for
5 dollars). Serene and scenic. Interestingly we saw the grave sights of their dearly departed. In Samoa, you bury your loved ones on your property. A lovely tradition, I thought. We wandered the markets where breadfruits, coconuts and a variety of bananas were for sale. Darold took the time to give directions to a stray dog, waiting at a bus stop (see photos). We are now sailing for 5 days before Hawaii. Day 69… sigh!
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