Month: February 2017

534. Monday 13th February 2017. Alotou, Papua New Guinea…

Monday 13th February

I was up early again. This time I was awake to watch the sun push its way into the sky bathing the sea and islands with fresh sunlight.

Early morning the lens is foggy coming from an air conditioned cabin into the humidity.

A new phenomenon has occurred. Bringing the camera from an air conditioned cabin onto the deck means the lens fogs up in the heat and humidity. I have to learn to leave the camera with lens hood off, in the sunlight for 10 minutes.

Early morning outrigger men.
Early morning on Deck 10 at the adults only pool. ARIA has berthed at Alotau and we are waiting for Customs clearance so we can go ashore. We have booked a tour to the Cultural Centre.

We berthed at our first landfall in PNG, (Papua New Guinea) at Alotau on the far edge of a long peninsular around the famous Milne Bay where heavy fighting occurred between Australian Troops against the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The local people sided with the Australians offering food, shelter and advice. Wounded, lost or sick soldiers were helped by the local men and women who became known as the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. (Fuzzy Wuzzy was the name given to the halo of crinkly hair of the locals.)

Houses beside the water and the jetty.
These children cavorting in the water outside their home beside the jetty seem to be immune to the rocks and other sharp things in the water. Every home has an outrigger or two in their yard.
Our home.

Alotau is the local capital where 78,000 people live. (At least that is the number from the last Census in 2010) My observation was that most of them were here walking, riding, lounging, loitering with purposelessness staring at the mostly white people from the cruise ship.

As soon as we left the ship there was a welcoming dance troupe inside the dock area

The welcoming dancers have been offered some goodies by this man.

whilst outside was like a gauntlet of people selling their craft. Within minutes of stepping ashore we could see all these people on mats or tarpaulins or simply sitting on the ground with their goods displayed on a piece of cloth or even banana leaves.

Unemployment is high here in PNG so with nothing to do they do it together. Civic pride is not high on the agenda of anybody it seems.

Chewing Betel Nut mixed with lime powder gives a mild high and a large part of the population chew and spit the red mess everywhere. Actually the red colour comes from another plant which is green about the width of a little finger and twice as long. They call it the lime finger fruit. They dip that in the lime, bite off a piece and chew with the Betel Nut. The whole mess turns red in the mouth. Their lips and teeth are stained red. As one local explained in Pidgin to Wencke …who also speaks Pidgin from living here for four years… the Betel and lime makes me happy…for a short while. Red spit stains are everywhere.

The lime is bought in little plastic bags at the market.

Alcohol is not so readily available but usually villagers join together to buy a carton of beer.

Sweet sugar drinks and sweet foods are popular in the local markets and shops.

Cigarettes are sold almost everywhere and if you are desperate vendors will sell single cigarettes.

I could not help but make comparisons with the Gold Coast. Take a walk along the street at home and we can see dentists, doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, solicitors, chemist shops etc are everywhere. Here in Alotau I did not see any health or legal outlets.

The old non air conditioned shuttle bus (no local buses are air conditioned) took us to the Cultural Centre for some local dance troupes and for local artisans selling their carvings of wood, bone, shell and grass. It seems the hundreds of vendors set up a small mat or banana leaf with their wares on display in any bit of shade they could find. Prices of the goods were set deliberately high as they expect you to bargain the price down. Otherwise if the tourists pay full price it is a windfall for them.

The dancers in traditional costume for their area performed their own unique traditional dance routines.

Spear Dance

Dance troupes came from remote villages, the highlands and nearby islands.

This intricately painted dancer had a very expressive routine.
Expressive Dancer.

Each village has a different dance and costume.

This troupe included a couple of shy young women.

I noticed many of the male dancers had a sort of grass jutting out of their backsides. Strangely enough the grass is known as “ass grass”.

Drumming Dancers.
The older women carried a small screen front of their breasts. The young girls are still learning the dance steps.
This troupe included a couple of shy young women.

War canoes made from hollowed out trees took tourists for a ride around the bay

A mournfull note from the conch shell summons the paddlers to the war canoe.Note the perspiration running off this mans torso. The temp was around 36 degrees and 95% humidity and he has been paddling the war canoe.
these strong young men paddle the War Canoes.
War canoes being made ready for passengers…
…who hurry aboard…
…get into position…

. A race of three canoes was also performed.

…for a race.

A sudden bolt of lightning followed by a loud bang of thunder and a strong wind and a second lightning strike and grumble of thunder announced it was time for a downpour. The traditional dancers continued to perform on the outdoor stage while spectators and vendors scrambled for shelter.

The sudden storm did not deter the dancers from completing their performance.

As quickly as the storm came it was gone, leaving a legacy of water running off the thatched roof, muddy puddles and humidity which became impossibly high.

Christian Ladies sing their gospel songs.
This man was posing for photos then asking $5 payment. On arrival we were told there was no charge for photos.
Two different cultures but they have a lot in common.
Donnis loves her coconut water. Note the betel nut is also on the table for sale. lso for sale are the Lime fingers and cigarettes to be sold individually. The long cigarettes are in a paper which looks like newspaper.

Next up we visited the local markets where instead of local fruits and vegetables being sold, the prestige under shelter market stalls sold tobacco, betel nut, lime powder and small bunches of raw peanuts.

The next market stalls appeared as a series of under- cover cages selling cheap trinkets and lots of the sweet pastries of sausage mince. For some reason almost every cage sold batteries, cigarettes (by the packet or singly) chewing gum, small torches and mobile phone ear buds.

One of the under cover markets. Note the steel cages where vendors display their wares.
Our home for 2 weeks. A welcome sanctuary after a hot sweaty confronting day ashore.
These canoes are everywhere.
The loca Banana Boats, thatched roof dock and home in the background.
A modern longhouse beside the bay.

On the long walk back to the ship, wearing by now, soggy sweaty clothes we said hello or gidday to the hordes of people on the streets. Almost everybody wants to say hello to you.

I love to see partly submerged wrecks. Look at the name on the stern of the boat behind. SARA LEE
Two totally different style of boat.
Families build houses in groups and grow their garden around around the houses.
Banana Boats. Usually a crew of 3 await passengers and until the boat is full then head off to wherever it is they go. Notice the rubbish?
Note the rubbish on the shore.

Incongruously I was bemused by a large sign at the entrance to the secure area of the port. “Beware of Aids” it said in English. Below in Pidgin it said to wear a kondom. I wonder why the sign is at the port rather than in town where the speakers of Pidgin would be more likely to see it.

What the!!! This sign should be in town as none of the locals can afford to go on a cruise.

Dinner tonight was at the Waterfront Restaurant where I selected a table on the Starboard side of the ship which gave magnificent views across Milne Bay towards the mountains and the setting sun.

Tonight’s floor show was a very talented singer and accomplished musician, Hayden Smith and his wife Alexis. They kept the audience spellbound and singing along with the popular songs.

Afterwards we sat at the stern of deck 12 with tea and a cheese plate. ARIA was still alongside the wharf. We were delayed by some maintenance issues. Suddenly all the town lights went out. Only a few backup lights around the jetty and our ships lights can be seen. The town survives on generator power. The generator is turned off at 9pm every night A big silver moon rose above the hillside overlooking the town. It was still hot and steamy on the aft deck.

The moon rises above the town of Alotau.

After a long day of cultural confrontation and shock along with heat and humidity and a long walk back to town we were all tired. Bed beckons.

Overnight, tomorrow and tomorrow night are sailing time. We arrive in Madang Wednesday morning for another bout of culture shock.

533. Sunday 12th February 2017. Aboard the P & O Lines Ship PACIFIC ARIA…

Friday 10th February

Ever since I was a small boy, when an event was to happen I would internalise my emotions and excitement. So on Christmas Eve or the eve of a planned holiday I would only be able to sleep in fits and starts. Finally as the sun begins its weary climb above the horizon I would be wide awake and ready for whatever the day had in store for me. Last night was no exception. I was awake at 3am. Eventually the day got under way, Donnis woke, we breakfasted and finished packing.

The adventure was about to begin.

Graham and Wencke were on time and within minutes we were on the M1 cruising toward Brisbane. We had an easy run through traffic until about three Klms from the Cruise Terminal, then traffic was bumper to bumper and crawling at a snail pace. Even so, we arrived a good half hour earlier than our processing time. Finally we went through all paperwork and security checks and passport controls and we were on board the P&O Ship, Pacific Aria.

This is the adult pool on the aft of deck 10. Noboby under the age of 18 was allowed here. That rule was policed by the adults. The ship is berthed on the Brisbane River. The city of Brisbane is in the back ground
Looking at Brisbane as we arrived aboard ARIA.
More of Brisbane River.

Lunch was a bit chaotic in The Pantry on deck 11. Not surprising really as 1,000 or so people wanted lunch at the same time.

Early morning at The Pantry before the hungry hordes descend for meals. Within thirty minutes it was packed with people wanting breakfast.

Our first happy surprise was our cabin. We expected a tiny internal cabin as we had when cruising with Norwegian Cruise Lines in 2015. This room was twice the size and even included a lounge and a comfy King Size bed.

The ship has 1,268 passengers and a crew of 700. Not a bad ratio!

As the ship moved down the Brisbane River and passed under the Gateway Bridge, I realised why the State Government and indeed the Gold Coast City Council both want to build a new cruise terminal. Our ship is large but is not the largest cruise ship operating, not by a long shot. Even at low tide there was not much clearance under the bridge.

On deck 12 navigating the Brisbane River heading towards the Gateway Bridge.
Getting closer to the Gateway Bridge. Hmmm! I have now reconsidered the distance from the top of the mast to the underside of the bridge. We were cruising at low tide. It is a small ship. I can imagine how a ship twice the size would have trouble getting underneath the bridge.

It seems many ships cannot pass under the bridge which incidentally from a drivers point of view is very high and steep. The Gold Coast wants to get in on the action of more cruise ships wanting more ports of call.

A small tributary, Bulimba Creek, running into the Brisbane River seems to be a graveyard for sunken boats.

As the ship cruised along the coast we saw the Glasshouse Mountains of the Sunshine Coast from a new perspective with cloud cover and sunshine poking through the gaps in the clouds.

Looking at the Glasshouse Mountains – Mount Tibrogargan – on the Sunshine Coast. The sunset was a bit hazy due to salt in the air.

The Ship Pilot left via motor launch at Caloundra and we were on our way under the control of the ships captain.

Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island is a site where 17 vessels were deliberately sunk to form a safe mooring harbour and to establish exceptional dive sites.

Dinner was in the Waterfront Restaurant and a great meal at that. Donnis and I shared a bottle of wine which set me up for another night of restless sleep

Most of our breakfast and dinner were in the Waterfront Restaurant. We always tried to get this table…144 or 142. We had a great view of the world and the serving staff were very good and we had them trained with our needs. For example Donnis always wanted fresh cream for her coffee and Wencke wanted a single breadroll at breakfast. Graham was very particular. He wanted food.

Saturday 11th February

Well, as with yesterday’s bad sleep today was much the same. I slept fitfully. Perhaps it was the bottle of wine Donnis and I absorbed at dinner.

I was up at 5am watching the sunrise.

Amongst all the activities on board I did a Flying Fox flight from the ships funnel to an anchor point amidships.

I have climbed the funnel and am getting a final safety briefing for the ZIP line. Or Flying Fox as we call it in Australia.

After donning a heavy cumbersome harness and climbing a ladder to a platform on the funnel and connecting to the steel cable I was ready to launch into space.

Almost ready.

Let go of the cable once you are airborne they said. My mind said Ok but one arm said “No way” and hung on for dear life.

and away I go. Note I am still hanging on with both hands.
woohoo I finally let go with one hand.
It’s all over. Arrived safely. Pride intact. The little girl behind me was already a seasoned rider. This was only the second day and already she had clocked up 6 rides…on this voyage. She has been on so many cruises with her parents she knows the staff by name.

Whew! That was over too quickly. “Can I do that again?”

Deck 12 looking aft. On the left is a rectractable roof covering the swimming pool on deck 11. It is closed during rain or bad weather but otherwise kept open to provide a sunny place to lounge and swim and play table tennis. It aslo allows in a breeze…much needed especially in the table tennis corner.

There is a hive of activity during the day with many events for the adventurous and not so adventurous alike. We tried a game which was a cross between Bocce and Bowls, Shuffleboard, Table Tennis, a talk on our various destinations and ran out of time to do Line Dancing. Tomorrow is another adventure day at sea and we will see what that brings.

Donnis at The Pantry with the open deck 11 in the background. We tended to sit on deck 11 at night and had our tea/coffee and cheese platter.

Tonight we dined at The Dragon Lady Asian Restaurant. (a mix of Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian) That was a great experience. We all tried something different stepping outside our usual culinary experience.

After dinner we went to a floor show in the auditorium

Deck 6 at night. Normally you can walk all the way around this deck. It is lit all night. It is also the deck allocated for some smoking areas, also Shuffleboard and Deck Quoits. It is also where emergency drill is held and where the tenders/lifeboats are stored. It is where we are assigned a lifeboat and have to bring a life jacket from our cabin for evacuation drill. You can see the underside of a lifeboat and a station number to assemble.

and afterwards I was asleep within minutes of arriving back in our cabin.

Sunday 12th February

Another morning waking and on deck at 5am. At least I could again watch a sunrise

Meanwhile from deck 11 the sunrise was pinking the horizon.

on the Starboard side of the ship and the moon on the Port side.

On the Port side at 5.30am the moon was still setting in the west.

The day unrolled with reasonably slow swells and brilliant sunshine.

The adult pool.

Apart from the usual meal times we managed to squeeze in games of Shuffleboard,

Wencke won at Shuffleboard.
I was knocked out first round.
Graham was also eliminated.

Bocce Bowls, Boule, Ballroom dancing lessons and Graham and I wore each other out playing aggressive table tennis.

In the afternoon the wind and swell changed direction and we could see we were running into some heavy weather ahead. We noticed the ship was no longer moving ahead and was wallowing in the swells. The Captain informed us a sensor on one of the engines was warning of a fault. Eventually the fault was found, fixed and the sensor replaced to be on the safe side.

The bad weather increased, now instead of a following swell we were taking a swell almost broadside increasing the ships rolling motion. In order to avoid the worst of it the ship altered course which means we will be a few hours late arriving at our first port, Alatou PNG, in the morning.

The rolling and heaving of the ship took its toll on many of the passengers. Donnis was barely able to eat more than a few mouthfuls while I struggled with cramming in three courses at Angelo’s Ristorante.

We could not even take a walk on any of the outside decks. The doors had been roped off as the decks were too windy, wet and being too dangerous to have passengers wandering about on a rolling ship. A pity really as Donnis and I would have both loved to have the wind in our faces to clear our senses.

A school of some sort of fish attracted sea birds in the middle of the ocean and no land to be seen anywhere.

After watching the floor show of a magician we watched a movie on TV and were rocked to sleep.

Meal times are a great experience. The Pantry is a cafeteria style dining area which is open from 6.30am to 9.00pm daily. This is a place to avoid…sometimes…as dessert and pastries are available all day as is coffee and tea. It is too tempting. We have a choice of three restaurants.

The large Waterfront Restaurant which serves traditional style breakfast lunch and dinner. There are also Angelos Ristorante which serves traditional Italian fare while the Dragon Lady serves Asian fare. These dining places are included as part of the ticket place. There are other dining rooms which are not complimentary.

It will be interesting to see what the weather brings when we dock tomorrow.

I expect to publish daily for another week as we visit various ports of call.

531. Sunday 5th February 2017. Heatwaves, itchy jellyfish and Boston Marathon…

Monday 30th January

In last weeks post I mentioned we went for a surf Sunday afternoon.

During the evening I started to get an itch on my neck. The itch turned into a sting and I thought maybe it was a spider or ant bite. On close inspection Donnis noticed a rash on my neck. Liberal application of Stingose did not help. Well it did eventually did calm down enough to enable me to get to sleep.

This morning I wore the same shirt which I wore last night. There was a light tingling on my neck so I put the shirt out to be washed.

Hmmm! What caused this stinging?

I recalled that yesterday while at the surf, Donnis and I floated around in a lagoon like body of water between the beach and the sandbank. We noticed little blue floating creatures which were not Bluebottles nor the other stinging creature known as a ( scientific name Blue Glaucus) Blue Angel or Blue Dragon. So a bit of research and I found the creature is called a Blue Button Jellyfish (scientific name Porpita porpita) which is not a jellyfish but does have stinging nematocysts which will cause skin irritation. They are not dangerous, do not have a painful sting but the keyword is irritation. That’s what most likely got onto my rash shirt and caused the irritation yesterday.

Blue Button jellyfish.

Wednesday 1st February

Friends Tony and Dawn arrived on their way to Brisbane. We had a gastronomic delight for dinner. Hamburgers and Potato salad.

Thursday 2nd February

In the morning Donnis and Dawn went window shopping. They did not find any suitable windows but compromised by buying clothes. Tony and I socialised in the pool. Many other villagers brought conversation with them.Tony joined in with conversation. Later when our skin was wrinkled from being in the water for so long decided it was time to walk home… all of 300 metres!

Sunday 5th February.

It has been a quiet heat wave week so we stay at home and do whatever we do such as swimming, Tai Chi, Line Dancing,, Bowls and Table Tennis. Oh, I forgot cycling. Other than that we stay indoors and hide away from the heat.

So… it is time we visited and knocked on a few doors.

This specimen  is on the Harts Pub, Cnr of Essex and Gloucester Sts The Rock, Sydney. This is what Harts Pub has to say… “Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.”

– Henry Lawson

Harts Pub
Harts Pub, The Rocks, Sydney. Look at the size of the keyhole. Imagine lugging around a key big  enough to fit in there.


One of the original Sydney venues on the craft beer scene, Harts Pub has been championing an all-Australian craft beer line-up since 2009.


Originally a private residence spanning three terraces, Harts Pub survived the post-bubonic plague demolitions in The Rocks to become home to a range of characters, including Margaret Fulton – one of Australia’s greatest gourmet pioneers.


Renovated with an eye to historical accuracy, Harts Pub is proud its reputation as one of Australia’s iconic craft beer venues, with a rotating array of beers, and a specialty beer-matched menu.


“Bubonic Plague!?!?! In Sydney???


It was something I never learned about in school. Or out of school for that matter. Bubonic Plague umm err plagued Sydney town between 1900 and 1925. An excellent article with photos and information on how the plague was spread and finally overcome can be found here…

More information and photos can be found here


The doorway to this house in Tilba Tilba south coast NSW is typical of the houses in the area.

Central Tilba

I have written about this town before. Called Central Tilba it is not central in the Tilba district. The tinier village of Tilba which competes for the same tourist dollar is more central. I will try to make this confusing area a little less confusing…or will confuse you even more. Tilba Tilba is the area once encompassed by the Tilba Tilba Council area is now under the control of the Eurobodalla Shire Council. Within the Tilba Tilba area is the small town of Central Tilba and further down in the valley is the village of Tilba. Most of the area Tilba Tilba is off the main Princes Highway so a detour is needed to get there. Once in the village it is worth taking a stroll and even stopping for a meal at one of several quaint eating establishments and or a cold beer at the Dromaderry Pub.


Uralla Central West NSW is an historic town for a number of reasons.

Uralla Mill

One such reason is this is where the infamous Captain Thunderbolt was killed and interred here. However that is nothing to do with this door.This door was on McCrossins Mill a flour mill built in 1860 and continued until around 1890. Since then it has had a number of owners and uses. Currently it is the home of McCrossins Mill Museum and Function

Uralla Mill Museum


The old Bank of New South Wales building, finished in 1886 still looks a grand design and construction..

Bank of NSW Inverell. The new bank – Westpac – is now next door.

As well as being the centre of banking in the wealthy district of Inverell it also included the managers residence. As was the style in those days, bank managers were treated with awe and respect. These days the building houses a number of businesses including real estate, food cafes and ladies fashions. It seems a bit of a come down to my mind.

This old door can be found at Lawrence Hargreave Drive Scarborough NSW, a northern suburb of Wollongong.

Scarborough NSW

The old ramshackle building (it was once a busy store in the heyday of Scarborough) sits atop the cliffs overlooking the many moods of the Pacific Ocean which ceaselessly pound away at the sandstone. The sea is constantly trying to recover that which belonged to it.

St Peter’s Cathedral Armidale was consecrated for worship in 1875.

St Peters Armidale

Like most churches it went through a period of wealth and influence. This lasted for probably 100 years or more. Like most churches it has fallen into a period of decling congregation. Despite those falling numbers the church is still well maintained and cared for.

All I can say about this door is that it is on a house in the central New South Wales town of Glen Innes in the New England District.

Glen Innes

I have no knowledge of the house it is entrance to. Nice door though.

This strange door is the entrance to an even stranger store at Highgate Hill a suburb of Brisbane on the south side of Brisbane River.

Hand made Naturals. Notice the incredibly secure locking system.

The store is called Hand Made Naturals.  It is worth a visit even just to shake your head.

This afternoon Donnis and I went to the movies. The plan was to visit an Event Cinema at Robina to see La La Land. On arrival we discovered, after waiting in line for ages the price of tickets is $19.50 each. WTF? The same Event Cinema chain at Australia Fair has seats at $10.00 each. How can that be? The movie theatre across the street run by another cinema chain, Readings also has $10.00 tickets. We left Robina and went to Australia Fair and watched the powerful movie, Patriots Day, about the 1913 Boston Marathon bombings. At the end of the movie when patrons are quick to leave, nobody moved for several minutes. There was no talk. Donnis was drained by emotion.

Only another 5 days before we begin our New Guinea Cruise.

BTW the itchy sting rash courtesy of the Blue Button Jellyfish saga last week has a post script. The rash is gone. The itchyness lingers. Much reduced but it becomes itchy from time to time.