Month: March 2017

545. Sunday 26th March 2017. Coastal review and a cyclone comes visiting…

Monday 20th March

Well another week has rolled by without us going anywhere or being involved in anything exciting.

This week of relative inactivity can be used to show some of our coastal photos captured in our travels.

011 12apostles
Twelve Apostles or at least some of the eight still left. Look carefully and you can see seven.

The Twelve Apostles are located along the Great Ocean Road near Port Campbell Victoria. In living memory these limestone stacks have been called The Twelve Apostles most likely by an explorer or local identity with an overactive religious imagination. At least since the early 1800’s there were only 9 stacks with one stack collapsing in 2005. And then there were eight. In recent years, undersea explorers have found Apostle Cousins, undersea limestone stacks, in the waters nearby. Amazingly the undersea stacks are eroding at a slower rate than those poking above the water. We first saw the Apostles in late January 2006. Our first glimpse was on a stinking hot day of above 40° temps with an oven-like westerly wind. The next morning dawned bright and clear. It was such a nice sunrise we decided to climb down a steep staircase to the beach below for an in your face close-up view. Within hours the weather turned nasty with big black storm clouds rolling in from the Antarctic bringing strong icy winds, stinging cold rain and a drop in temp to around 14°. The Twelve Apostles is on our bucket list to visit again. Preferably sometime when the big ocean swells roll in from Antarctic storms where the waves crash against and rocket up the limestone cliffs.

012 broadwater gold coast
Gold Coast Broadwater.

The Gold Coast Broadwater Qld is one of my favourite coastal views. (actually I have so many favourite views I do not really have a “favourite”. I just enjoy coastal views) To the right in this photo is the Iconic Q1 building at Surfers Paradise. That is the building I climbed with Tyler when he was visiting from Canada in January 2017.It is easy to distinguish the Q1. It is on the far right and has a giant Lightning Rod which is visible along most of the Gold Coast and hinterland.

013 austimer1
Austinmer Beach

Austinmer Beach and Rock Pool NSW is a northern suburb of Wollongong located south of Sydney along the Lawrence Hargrave Drive.  We stayed in our motorhome on the beach at an inexpensive small camp ground operated by Austinmer Surf Life Saving Club. The Sydney to South Coast Railway Line runs along the narrow escarpment between the Great Diving Range and the sea. Sometimes the line disappears into tunnels at other times there is a breathtaking vista of the coast from high up in the foothills. The town really only got its beginning in 1887 when the North Illawarra Coal Company opened a new mine in the area. The famous Bulli Pass, a steep and winding road to connect to the main highway is located a short drive to the south. The less well known and less steep Bald Hill Road is a few Klms to the north. It also connects to the main highway at Helensburgh.

014 coles bay
Coles Bay Tasmania

Coles Bay on the south east coast of Tasmania has some awesome coastal views stretching for Klms. The bay is located on the sheltered side of the peninsular It is located on a narrow neck of land known as Freycinet Peninsular. The entire area is part of the Freycinet National Park and is home to many species of wildlife. The Swan River which begins somewhere in the wild mountain ranges to the west, drains into Moulting Lagoon, part of Coles Bay then drains into the ocean at Swanwick Bay.

015 eimeo qld
Eimeo Beach

Eimeo Beach Qld is a small tropical beach located in the Mackay North seaside suburb of umm err, Eimeo. The famous Eimeo Pacific Hotel is located atop a steep hill to the left of the photo. In the background can be seen the long stretch of Bucasia Beach to Shoal Point Headland and Little Green Island just offshore. Also visible is Blacks Reef also just  offshore.Although only a small beach it is patrolled in summer months and is used by the Sunset Bay Outrigger Canoe Club (formerly Ko Huna Outrigger Canoe Club) in its club premises shared with Mackay Catamaran Club.

016 horseshoe bay
Horseshoe Beach

Horseshoe Bay is located in Bowen Qld about 200 Klms north of Mackay. The bay is a delightful safe protected little body of water, ideal for family events, boat launching and retrieval but can be a nightmare in windy conditions. It becomes absolutely frightening in a cyclone. It can also be extremely hot and humid as when it is protected from the southerly winds it gets no breeze at all and is frankly, stifling. It is also a place subject to the deadly box jellyfish, Chironex Flexerii and the tiny but even more deadly Irukangi. Saltwater crocodiles are also seen from time to time. The coral sand bottom is also littered with ancient sharp coral outcrops. It is a place which is lovely to look at but I have never entered the water here.

017 kirra
Kirra Beach

Kirra Beach on the southern end of the Gold Coast Qld adjoins the other famous Coolangatta Beach. My first introduction to Kirra Beach was on a long car drive with three friends from Sydney. Arriving at the beach at 6pm with the sun sinking in the west we felt it was time for a surf after a long and tiring 1,000 Klm drive. I had never surfed in the dark before. I have not surfed in the dark since.

018 luna park
Luna Park

Luna Park is strictly speaking not located on the coast. It is located on Sydney Harbour NSW. Luna Park is an amusement park located at Milsons Point, under the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s super easy to get to by train, ferry, bus or car. Luna Park was opened in 1935 with the advertising slogan “Just for Fun”. It ran on weekends only until 1972 when it went full time usually 10am to 6pm weekdays and until 10pm Saturday. Keeping with the “fun” theme the park offers the following safety tip…For the safety of our guests, when the weather is funny some rides and attractions may need to close at short notice. Awww. Just writing about Luna park makes me want to go again and relive my childhood. Anyone for Fairy Floss?   http://www.lunaparksydney.com/

019 noosa1
Noosa Beach

Noosa Beach Sunshine Coast Qld. What can I say about Noosa which I have not already written about many times before. It is another favourite beach.

020 port fairy
Port Fairy

Port Fairy at the end of the Great Ocean Road Vic. It is located on the Moyne River and was named by the crew of a whaling ship, The Fairy in 1828. In some respects much of Port fairy still looks like it did 100 years ago and still maintains a sort of olde worlde charm. The town had an arm wrestle with its original name. A John Griffiths established a whaling station and called the town Belfast after his home town in Ireland in 1835. The Post Office already called the town Port Fairy John Griffiths was not to outdone and agitated to the point the town was renamed Belfast in 1854. The local population, few of whom came from Ireland agitated themselves and soon the town reverted to the name Port Fairy. That name still stands today. Incidentally whaling is no longer carried out here but the cold waters around the coast are ideal for squid and calamari fishing boats.

Sunday 26th March

Tropical Cyclone Debbie formed off the tropical coast of Queensland on Friday. It is expected to cross the coast as a Category 4 or worst case scenario, Category 5 about 8am Monday. Predicted path is to cross south of Ayr and the time of arrival is expected to be at the top of a King Tide. With a two metre storm surge expected there are interesting times ahead.

 

 

Advertisements

544. Sunday 19th March 2017. Resting, St Patricks Day and another funeral…

Monday 13th March

Slowly, ever so slowly, I am getting back into a routine. Maybe by the end of the month I will be up to date.

Last night a yacht moored in the Broadwater, Biggera Waters, near Lands End, caught fire and sank.  I was not aware of the fire until this morning when I went for my bike ride along the Broadwater pathway. Hmmm! I thought! That boat in the distance is a little close to the shoreline and is leaning over at a strange angle. Closer inspection revealed the awful reason.

130317 sunk
It is always so sad to see a boat like this.

Tuesday 14th March

While we were away on our cruise, Graham was voted as President of the village social committee. I was voted as Treasurer. I now have all the books from the previous Treasurer and we have changed signatures at the bank. Already I can understand the frustration the previous Treasurer experienced.

Wednesday 15th March

Today is the 140th Anniversary of the first Cricket Test Match. The test was played between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket ground. The test was played over a four day period and Australia won by a margin of 45 runs. Currently there are 10 Nations which enjoy “Test” Cricket status. For those of you who know me well will understand I am not a cricket aficionado but will concede that a “one day” game with a tight finish will hold my attention. As I write these notes, Australia is preparing to play India in Test 3 of 4 matches at Ranchi India on 16th March. So far the matches are drawn one each.

Overnight and this morning around 5am heavy rain fell. By 6am heavier rain was falling. Thunderously heavy rain. We had a bowls tournament scheduled for today on our recently completed upgraded green. We had a challenge match with 18 of our bowlers against 18 bowlers from Emerald Gardens Over 50 Resort. At 7am our green was a virtual lake with around 50mm of water across the entire green.  Start time was schedule for 8am with a barbecue lunch to follow. Maybe instead we could have challenged them to a skim board competition.

150317 skim
When Donnis and I were camped at the southern NSW highland town of Culcairn near Albury it rained for several days. Very heavy rain. The nearby creek turned into a raging flooded monster. As the water level rose the nearby childrens playground turned into a skim boarders delight. Not for long though. A few hours after this photo was taken the playground was under three metres of water.

This is how professional skim boarders make it look so simple.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5A04G_4Aks

The event has been postponed for one week. By mid- morning the water was drained, by mid- afternoon the green was playable and no rain fell for the rest of the day.

Sigh!

Friday 17th March

St Patricks Day!

What is it about this day? Here we are in Australia on the opposite side of the world from Ireland and on this day we go as gaga as they do in Ireland. Probably most Australians can trace some Irish blood in their ancestry. As well it is a chance to dress up in silly green outfits, wear weird hats colour our hair and or beards green and drink green beverages.

Our village is not immune to this annual event. Now that I am part of the social committee, this year we wanted to try something new. Irish Stew including the obligatory Guinness simmered away for hours. We decided on stew instead of the usual party pies, cocktail frankfurts and sausage rolls. We hired a double cocktail machine.   http://www.affordablepartyhire.com/cocktail-hire.html    One side was intended as non- alcoholic while the second was umm err alcoholic. Vodka was added to the mix. From the start the alcoholic side was popular by about 97%. So popular in fact the slushie mix was beginning to run out and we had to make a second batch…and a third. Naturally our MC Graham made us play silly games and dances which raised a thirst and more drinks were consumed. We put on a line dancing display, played Irish music all night and finished the evening with ballroom dancing. After it was all over the committee and a small army of volunteers cleaned up and filled bottles with the remaining slushie mix….the one with Vodka in it.

Hmmm! Easter is approaching. What can we do differently? My suggestion of rabbit stew was met with stoney stares.

Hmmm! I wonder how they feel about a Bilby stew???

Saturday 18th March

It is a double sad day today.

The first bit of sad is the iconic Eimeo Pacific Hotel will be going on the market…again. Last year it failed to sell. This time around? ?I have spent many meal times enjoying a cold beer, a wonderful fish lunch and time gazing over the 270° view of the Coral Sea. Even after I moved from Mackay to Airlie Beach, Donnis and I enjoyed going to this hotel and would often take visiting friends there for what we called a spectacular view lunch. The hotel is at the end of Mango Avenue which is still lined with mango trees planted over 100 years ago. Those mangos drop ripe fruit on the road which are then squashed by cars. The smell is somewhat strong and is mostly an annoyance to locals in the mango season. Here are details of the sale.   https://www.commercialrealestate.com.au/news/iconic-eimeo-pacific-hotel-in-mackay-facing-demolition/

The second sad event which is probably sadder is the funeral of my cousin Richard Donaghey. It is sad because of the passing of Rick but even sadder is that I have not seen him for probably more than 50 years. Now it is too late to catch up but not too late to pay my respects.

Vale Rick.

In other ways the sad day was a good day. We were able to meet Rick’s wife Cath and their friend for many years, Hellen who officiated at Ricks funeral service. Rick made specific instructions that he wanted his funeral held on a weekend so people would not need to take time off work to attend.

Afterwards we retired to the Springwood Hotel Barra Room for a few drinks and some finger food. We could not join any conversation of reminiscing with tales of time spent with Rick. We did however meet his friends but more importantly for me I got to meet my cousins, Kimmie, Greg and Jeannette. Their memories jelled with mine and we were able to talk about my brother and sisters and other cousins they have not seen for many many years either.  Suddenly we were young again talking about childhood adventures.

Thanks cousins, let’s keep the promise of a family get together…this year perhaps?

I volunteer the use of our clubhouse and facilities.

Sunday 19th March

What a lazy do nothing day. It rained during the night and this morning then off and on for most of the day. I used my time wisely, watching a couple of hours of Mythbusters recorded while we were away.

543. Sunday 12th March 2017. Relaxing at home OR working at keeping this blog up to date…

Sunday 12th March 2017

It is a little over two weeks since we arrived home from our cruise to Penang New Guinea.

My camera has been silent since the cruise. I can hear its muffled cries from the carry bag. “take me out, take me out, I need to be used, I need to take photos, I can’t breathe”. It’s not that I am deliberately ignoring camera but we have been busy since arriving home.

Busy with what exactly?

Life.

Busyness and time work together as opponents to rob you of one or the other.

Busyness robs you of time to do anything or plan to do something.

Time robs you of leisure to do something.

One of the biggest Busyness which robbed me of time is trying to get the blog about our trip to PNG up to date.

Really it has been an almost constant labour of love. I mean that, I love doing the blog but it is labour intensive.

Firstly, let me explain the text.

I wrote a daily diary on board ARIA but those notes were really the skeletal framework for the meat of detail and research to be added later. Detail often came from the daily Newsletter from The Bridge of Pacific Aria.

Research I could only do when we came home. Internet was available onboard but the cost in dollars was very high. Besides we were on holiday and did not want to spend our days on the internet.

I took well over 1,000 photos and catalogued them in day by day folders. Once I was home I selected what I thought were the best photos to tell the story of our travels. That meant I would sometimes have to view up to 200 photos several time to select those I though best. Those photos then needed editing by cutting and cropping, reducing file size and naming. Once the text was uploaded to the blog page, the photos were then uploaded and they take longer than text. Once uploaded the photos are given a caption describing what the photo was about.

Once that was completed I had to marry the photo to the text so the photo fitted with the story.

Tags or keywords were added to the post then a final review of the entire page looking for spelling errors, grammatical errors, incorrect spacing and so on. After all that was complete could the page be “Published” to the Internet.

The first two pages that were published did not automatically appear on Facebook so that took some time and investigation to sort out.

I enjoyed working on the text, photos and layout and hope readers benjoyed the result.

Next week appears to be a stay at home and relax or help the residents with their phone, tablet, laptop and TV issues.

542. Wednesday 22nd February 2017. We’re on our way home…

Wednesday 22nd February until Friday 24th February

Overnight we began the long cruise home from the Solomon Sea through the Coral Sea and home to Brisbane.

On our way back home
We’re on our way home
We’re on our way home
We’re going home

(thanks to the Beatles – specifically McCartney & Lennon)

ARIA passed well to the East of the Great Barrier Reef which extends from a bit North of the tip of Cape York as far south as Gladstone. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the world’s most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.

The distance covered by the reef is over 3,000 Klm and lies offshore variously between 15 Klms to 150 Klm from the Queensland coast. In places it actually adjoins the land north of Cairns before veering offshore again. The average width of the reef is 65 Klms, The entire Barrier Reef is a protected Marine Park – the first in the world – so most shipping must stay outside the reef. Some commercial ships do need to enter and navigate inside the reef so special Pilots board the ships to guide them through approved but narrow passages through the reef to ports such as Bowen and Mackay.

While the ship was travelling, day and night, passengers continued to enjoy the facilities as we had done for the previous 11 days.

Naturally Graham and I challenged each other to table tennis and anybody else who wanted a game. No bragging of course but we were the players to beat.

Donnis enjoyed Astrology presentations every day. We also attended presentations in the Marquee Auditorium by Reef Pilots and PNG Patrol Officers. Of course there was lounging around, swimming, eating, table tennis, eating, table tennis and stage shows at night.

A word about our ship, PACIFIC ARIA.

  • It is part of the P & O Pacific Line and based out of Australia. For us the cruise line and the smaller ship was to our liking for a number of reasons.
  • Smaller ships mean it can get into places other ships cannot go.
  • The ship departs and returns to Brisbane. That is ideal for us. Brisbane is only 75 Klms from our home and if traffic conditions are OK only an hours drive.
  • All power outlets are 240 volts so adapters are not needed.
  • Hair dryers are supplied.
  • There is no tipping, nor a tipping surcharge. If you feel like tipping, please do so. It is not compulsory.
  • Even in winter a South Pacific destination is still warm.
  • All costs are in Australian Dollars. No exchange rate hassles.
  • Cabins are clean and spacious…according to the Gilling scale.
  • Food is too good so be careful how much and how often you eat. Going ashore is good so you can skip a coffee and cake and pastries.
  • All rooms have a TV and telephone. You can phone service or any cabin on the ship. You can also call your cabin or friends from public phones scattered around the ship.
  • We had a bonus of on-board credit totalling $450 which covered all our extra’s such as, shore tours, duty free spirits, wine and beers etc when required. We overspent by $33. Graham and Wencke booked their cruise earlier and being previous P&O travellers received $600 on-board credit and were able to buy clothing and jewellery duty free and still not exceed their credit.
  • I am not aware of any outbreak of on-board sicknesses and that is probably due to hand cleaning stations everywhere, all food is served (no buffet style) and public areas especially toilets are cleaned at least twice a day.

The ship is fitted with eight lifts, four aft and four forward. 220217 villaThe cute thing about the lifts is each had a themed photographic wall. 220217 stairsThe carpet in each lift was matched as close as possible to flooring or roads shown in the photo wall.220217 road

220217 jetty220217 cornfield220217 cloisters220217 bridgeI continued to wake early and go to deck 11 The Pantry for my 5.30am coffee and cereal at 6.30. It was a ritual other passengers did as well. I got to know some passengers during this time while others were on a nodding hello basis. The hour between 5.30 and 6.30 were the same faces almost every day.

All too soon we were entering Moreton Bay then Brisbane River and as we neared our berth, local tugs turned ARIA around and nudged us into the Brisbane Cruise Terminal at Hamilton.

Disembarkation was carried out by a number system so there were no long queues on the stairs and in Customs and Border Security and Immigration. All went smoothly, our PNG carvings and weavings were inspected and passed as OK.

Graham was in an earlier disembarkation so by the time we arrived at the agreed area we only had a few minutes wait before he arrived with his car. We were home by midday.

Aaaah. The cruise was great but being home is special.

Now begins all the washing.

I hope you enjoyed our cruise.

541. Tuesday 21st February 2017. We find ourselves at Panasesa Island in the Conflict Island Group…

Tuesday 21st February

As usual I was awake early. Early enough to watch the sun creep over the horizon, look around and decide to make a run for it and begin to rise. It was some time before its slow light rolled across a sleeping ocean, herding the night ahead of it while nocturnal shadows still ruled.

210217 morning
Getting closer to our destination. The thick cloud cover and threatening rain bothered us it seemed our day would be spent in the rain. A brief shower buzzed us when we arrived on the island. From that moment on it was brilliant sunshine all day.

Not for long.

Today we arrived at Panasesa Island in the Conflict Island Group.

210217 waiting
Here we are sitting at the front of the ship, in The Dome watching activity on the island while we wait for our number to be called to join the tender to go ashore.

This island has been turned into an exclusive island resort. The remaining islands are part of a tropical playground of isolated uninhabited islands for viewing sea and land creatures not normally seen elsewhere. The man who built the resort also owns the remaining 21 islands in the group.

210217 map
This is a map of the Conflict Islands. The only habited island is Panasesa, second from the left.

This island does not have any local indigenous population. It is the cleanest island we have seen and does not have the smell we have encountered at the mainland ports. The beach and surrounding pathways and jungle were entirely clear of rubbish. None whatsoever. There are a few 6 wheeled vehicles on the island used by the staff to clean and maintain the facilities. The exclusive resort has 6 visitor cabins designed for 12 visitors in a package.

210217 jetty
The jetty and one of the six “burres” (or bungalows) Other than a small crew the island probably has no more than two dozen people at any one time. Unless of course P&O drops off 1,200 people for a day.

The package is $35,000 and all facilities, equipment, dive boats, food, except alcohol is included in the package.

210217 equipment
This is a central activities building. This is where island guests go to arrange dive tours, fish tours, paddle boards, kite surfing etc etc etc. All these activities and meals are included in the package price. $36,000 for 12 people for a week. Includes a 70 Klm boat trip from Alatou on the PNG mainland.

To get there involves a flight from Brisbane to Port Moresby then another flight to Raboul and the island boat brings you to the island.

210217 airstrip
The island has its own airstrip for both winged and helicopter flights.
210217 activity
Aleady people are paddling ski’s, being driven around in glass bottom boats and helicopter flights.

If ever you are looking for an island paradise, this is it. It is surrounded by clean white coral sand with fringing coral reef. Coconut palms abound and a fresh vegetable garden supplies the kitchen with fresh fruit and vegetables.

210217 sail
All aboard for the sailing adventure around the coral atolls surrounding 21 islands.

We had pre-booked a snorkelling adventure. From the island activities area we were whisked away in one of the PNG Banana Boats to the next small island in the chain, Gabugabtau where the island dive boat, Undersea Explorer is moored. Once aboard we were given the obligatory safety and responsibility talk, kitted up and slipped into the water off the stern dive platform.

210217 shade
Donnis and Graham waiting for our number to be called for our snorkelling adventure.
210217 Gabugabtau
Undersea Explorer a dive boat which today was used as a snorkel platform for a dozen people. It is also home to the dive crew.
210217 eqipment1
These banana boats ferried a dozen snorkellers out to the Undersea Explorer dive boat for our snorkel adventure.

The reef here is pretty good with clear water but in reality nowhere in the same league as we have experienced on the Great Barrier Reef. Yes there was plenty of coral and not so giant clams. Yes there was a myriad of small fish. There may have been larger fish and turtles in the drop off between the two islands but the current there was very strong and defined as a no go area for snorkelers. A pity really as we had been told to expect lots of spectacular snorkelling. Our reality was somewhat in contradiction of the official comments below.

The island of Panasesa has two faces. The burres, equipment house and staff quarters face roughly south east.

210217 jetty2
The jetty built in conjunction with P&O. This is located on the Eastern main side of the island where all the accomodation and most facilities are located.
210217 jetty1
ARIA and its tenders seen from the jetty. The tenders carry no more than 90 passengers. It takes quite some time to ferry 1,200 people ashore plus all the extra items such as cold water and cold face clothes and security and crew members. If ships crew has a day off they are also entitled to go ashore which boosts the numbers being ferried to and from the island.
210217 east1
Looking north on the Eastern side of the island.
210217 east
Looking south on the Eastern side of the island.
210217 burre
Burre and the Eastern side of the Island.
210217 activity1
Lots of paddle boards waiting for energetic tourists.

When the wind blows in your face from that direction a short walk across the island brings you to another beach which roughly faces west and has a sandspit lagoon for safe swimming & snorkelling. Staff will transport the sporting equipment across the island for you to enjoy.

210217 path
Notice the white coral sand pathways which wind throughout the island. Within metres of the pathways it is almost impenetrable jungle.
210217 path1
This Pandanus grew up and bent over in the thick jungle.
210217 west1
This is the west side of the ocean beach view looking north.
210217 west
West side of the island looking across the safe white coral sand lagoon and beach. A fringing coral reef is well worth an explore with a deep drop off offering even more exploring…except for the fast currents.
210217 drinking
A popular shady spot on the Western side of the island.
210217 bar
The popular bar is only opened when a P&O Cruise Ship arrives.

Regular visitors such as passengers onboard P & O’s Pacific Aria get to enjoy this paradise for a day. No other cruise ships call in here.

210217 aria
ARIA waiting patiently, held in place by strategic use of bow and stern thrusters.

The Conflict Islands are privately owned by British-based Australian, Ian Gowrie-Smith and his family. They are part of an elaborate plan to create a legacy of protected wilderness’ around the world.

This is what the owners say about the islands.

With a third of the world’s species of marine fish, the Conflict Islands are home to everything from the tiny ghost pipe fish to the huge manta rays and killer whales. The 21 uninhabited tropical islands surround a spectacular lagoon and are currently under consideration for a World Heritage Marine Site. Among the group of islands, Irai island has been found to have the second best coral in the world with the most number of species noted in a single dive – a divers absolute dream!

The main islands, Panasesa is open to travellers for private hire and features a resort Club House, six beachfront bungalows and runway capable of landing short-haul flights. Activities on offer include sport fishing, diving, kayaking, sailing, boating and nature encounters. 80 miles due East of Papua New Guinea, the Conflict Islands are as little as four hours from Sydney and accessible by private charter from Port Moresby or boat transfers from the Milne Bay capital, Alotau.

 

210217 swim
Donnis and Graham.
210217 donnis
Donnis doing what she enjoys most. Swimming.

After spending most of the day with energy sapping activities such as walking in the sun, swimming in the sun, snorkelling in the sun and just generally being in the sun we were close to that time when anywhere without sharp corners or spikes looks inviting enough for a snooze. ARIA looked particularly inviting.

Getting back aboard was much quicker than coming ashore. After a quick shower Donnis and I headed for The Pantry for a bowl of soup and a sandwich.

Graham and Wencke had succumbed to the snooze option.

After eating we found places on the deck in the shade which appeared inviting but the heat and humidity drove us into the cool indoors where snooze finally found us.

At dinner in the Waterfront Restaurant the dining meal theme was Australian. The themed menu can be used as a selection in its own right or mix and matched with other meal options. There are always five options for each course. The Australian themed menu was…

 

 

CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP – with damper

BEEF, BACON AND MUSHROOM PIE – in onion gravy, with buttered peas and sour cream mash

SEMI–SOFT MIXED BERRY PAVLOVA – with Chantilly crème

Australian themed it might have been. Instead I opted for…

MUSTARD AND SESAME SEARED AHI TUNA =with pickled radish salad for the entree

THREE CHEESE RAVIOLI – with sage and hazelnut butter for mains followed by

MANGO AND COCONUT PARFAIT – with chocolate sauce

As we have come to expect no meals looked like the description we conjured in our minds but still tasted fabulous. Remember all meal courses are deliberately small so we were able to have a three course meal, plus wine and a breadroll and still not feel bloated.

After dinner was a stage show, coffee and cheese platters on the after deck before retiring to our cabins and falling asleep while watching a movie on the TV.

Shortly after ARIA left Panasesa and the ring of coral atolls and islands we headed south for a leisurely cruise over the next three days to Brisbane.

 

 

 

540. Monday 20th February 2017. Kitava Island. Almost the ideal south seas tropical island…

Monday 20th February

I was up early as usual writing notes at 6am and transferring photos from yesterday to the laptop.

By the time I was finished and enjoying a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal it was soon time to wake Donnis.

We arrived at Kitava Island at about the time we expected. Arrival times are intriguing. The night before we receive a newsletter From the Bridge which tells us where we will be the next day and at what time we will arrive. When you consider that sometimes we are talking about distances of more than 100 Nautical Miles and the skipper has to navigate through seas which often have coral reefs just below the surface (or exposed at low tide) wind, swells, tidal changes and a myriad of other navigational obstacles. Yet the ship still manages to arrive on time. It is nice to go to bed at night with the confidence the skipper and his crew know what they are doing and do it well.

200217 sails
Big sail driven lakatoys.
200217 sails1
It finally got to the corner of the island and turned around to come back. Lots of shouting the whole time. Or were they calling the stroke? Huck Ho.
200217 sails2
This large lakatoy somehow managed to move slowly along the beach. Look closely and you can see the reason they moved slowly. The craft is wind powered and one man is steering. Yet another man is using a pole to push it in a different direction and there are 4 paddlers and they all seem to work against each other.

The island is part of the same chain of islands, the Tobriand Group in the Solomon Sea. It is only 30 Klms from Kiriwina. We basically sailed around in large circles during the night so we could arrive at around 8am. This gave the locals time to have breakfast, set up their markets and dances etc ready for our arrival.

200217 island
Popular little island off the main beach at Kitava.

It was not long before the customs and security obligations were taken care of and the first tenders started going ashore.

Unhurried as we usually are, we had breakfast in the Waterfront Restaurant then waited for our tender boarding instructions.

200217 aria
ARIA at Kitava
200117 aria1
The old and the new methods of travelling on the ocean.

First impressions?

Probably the nicest place we have visited in PNG and certainly the nicest island so far. Conspicuous by its absence was rubbish.

200217 markets
Village beach market

It helps I suppose that there is only one small store on the island and money is in short supply. Perhaps there was a big heap of rubbish somewhere further inland but all the beach and surrounding area was clear of any rubbish. Perhaps the locals spent yesterday cleaning up the waters edge, the beach and the jungle fronting the beach. Maybe it is always clean. We were simply pleased that it was in marked contrast to places like Alotau, Wewak, Madang and Raboul.

The locals appear to be a nice friendly group. School was closed for the day to allow the children to greet us with song and dance.

200217 singers
All these schoolgirls of various ages had to sit in this enclosure and sing…in the heat and humidity. The more people dropped money into the donation box the more they sang and the more heat stressed they became.
200217 dancers
Even the little girls get to do the welcome dance.
200217 smile
A big smile from one of the welcoming dancers. I think the yellow dusting on her throat and shoulders is pollen from hibiscus. I saw many children with the same yellow dusting. Also saw lots of hibiscus.
200217 musicians
These men played ukelele and guitar and snoring to accompany the singers.

Also absent were the security guards with holstered weapons, truncheons and guard dogs. There were no security people at all. I should add that yesterday, Kiriwina Island had no security guards strutting around either.

There is only one car on the island, a work ute and only a dirt track for it to travel on. So, there were no exhaust fumes to breathe.

As with all the ports we have visited there are the huge lines of market people selling their crafts.

200217 market1
The little welcoming singers and dancers.

Here we also saw cooked lobster for sale. One couple were happily eating a lobster which had been cooked…when? How long had it been sitting unrefrigerated in the baking sun? They were quite happy. To them it was lobster at a bargain price…20 Kina…about AUS $10.00.

Young boys and men offered rides to an island across the channel in what looked like a war canoe. The cost was 5 Kina each way. Sail rigged Lakatoys cruised along the beach for the same price. It seemed these islanders by being a bit shy were very busy. They were not in your face offering something.

200217 beach
Typical tropical beach at one end of the island.

Kitava, like Kiriwina we visited yesterday has its fair share of skulls, skull caves, historic gravesites, lookouts and WWII memorabilia. For a small fee there is a designated tour guide or if he or she is already on a tour anybody else nearby would be happy to take you ona tour for the same fee. Usually about 5 Kina. We had to make a decision. We had expected to be able to swim and snorkel when we arrived and given the heat and humidity that is what we chose to do. Unfortunately we did not do any of the tours. The island still made some money from sales of various articles we bought.

Unlike the places we visited on the mainland, we did not see any mobile phones. Not surprising really as the island is a long way offshore of the mainland where signal is limited to town areas only.

200217 hut
There were several of these shelters placed along the beach. They were very welcome to hot tourists.

I did notice the large numbers of dogs wandering amongst the legs of locals and tourist alike. These scrawny mange riddled dogs also felt the heat and humidity because they would only wander a short distance then lay down, panting, for a rest. The dogs are pathetically thin and not for the first time I wondered what they eat.

200217 dogs
Just four of hundreds of exhausted dogs laying around the beach.
200217 boat
It has been a long time since this boat has seen the water. Look carefully just in front of the boat. A mangy scrawney dog has something in its mouth. Dinner?

On the subject of eating, now that we are in the final week of the cruise I should mention THE FOOD. If you come home from a cruise and complain of being hungry then you must have limited taste buds…Or a tape worm.

For starters on deck 11 there is The Pantry. Open from 6.30 to 9m with choices of cafeteria style options for breakfast lunch and dinner PLUS desserts. Basically you go to the food option of your choice tell the person serving what you want and hey presto, there it is. Take your food to a table, collect serviette kife fork and spoon along the way and enjoy your meal with a view…from any table. We also had the choice of breakfast lunch or dinner at The Waterfront with a la carte meals again with views from any table. Mostly the lunch and dinner menu changes daily and it is a nice relaxing atmosphere. Wine other drinks are available. This was our favourite option. An Asian and Italian restaurant was also available. All the food choices were fabulous and serving sizes small enough to have three courses. Other exclusive food outlets were an option but were subject to a fee. On reflection I wonder why I never took the camera to the restaurant to photograph the food.

On the tender back to the ship I noticed most people were carrying something they had purchased ashore. In a small way the passengers put something into the Kitava economy. P & O can take a bow as well. They built and installed the landing jetty and employed local people. They pay a landing fee to the locals and employ local people to keep things organised. They also collect $6 per passenger to donate to the local school.

200217 mat
This lovely mat was a good place to sit behind to have a snooze. That is until Donnis bought it.

Thumbs up.

539. Sunday 19th February 2017. Kiriwina Island, almost a jewel in the Pacific…

Sunday 19th February

We arrived at the beautiful tropical island of Kiriwina a smallish dot in the Solomon Sea. The islands in the Solomon Seas, Bismark Sea and Coral Sea, including Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands, New Britain are all part of Papua New Guinea. (PNG)

190217-kiriwina
As we walked along the landing jetty we had to pass under this welcome hut with sign.

The Trobriand Islands are a 450-square-kilometre archipelago of coral atolls off the east coast of New Guinea. They are part of the nation of Papua New Guinea and are in Milne Bay Province. Most of the population of 12,000 indigenous inhabitants live on the main island of Kiriwina, which is also the location of the government station, Losuia. Other major islands in the group are KaileunaVakuta, and Kitava. The group is considered to be an important tropical rainforest ecoregion in need of conservation.

Kiriwina is 43 kilometres long, and varies in width from 1 to 16 kilometres. In the 1980s, there were around sixty villages on the island, some of the other islands were restricted to a population of hundreds. Other than some elevation on Kiriwina, the islands are flat coral atolls and remain hot and humid throughout the year, with frequent rainfall.

I can certainly agree with that as we felt hot and sweaty all day. The islanders seem to be cleaner than their mainland counterparts and do not seem to have the same strong body aroma.

PACIFIC ARIA did not anchor out of respect for the coral reefs which surround these islands. Instead ARIA used its bow and stern thrusters to stay in one place while passengers were ferried ashore in 4 of the ships tenders/lifeboats.

190217-aria1
ARIA, not at anchor but remaining in place by fore and aft thrusters alone.
190217-canoe3
Three modes of ocean transport!!! A locally made fishing lakatoy, a ships lifeboat and ARIA.

Kiriwina Island is described as the world’s most intact island culture. The only outsiders who live here are three Australian school teachers. There is no electricity, running water, sewerage or any kind of machinery. There is no need for roads.

190217-aria
Amost as many people came to look at us as those who came to sell products and do tribal dances.

It seemed that every able bodied person on the island was either in a welcoming dance and cultural demonstration or were lined up selling their carvings, weavings and other craft.

190217-dancers
ven the locals attend the dance troupes concert.

At seven or eight years of age, Trobriand children begin to play erotic games with each other and imitate adult seductive attitudes. About four or five years later, they begin to pursue sexual partners. They change partners often. Women are just as assertive and dominant as men in pursuing or refusing a lover. This is not only allowed, but encouraged.

190217-love
Could these two be in love? Or just talking about a meeting later?

This probably explains the population explosion and profusion of children, Remember there are no Social Security benefits and a girl who gets pregnant…well that’s Ok the family and or village will look after her. As the diet is mainly vegetables with little protein what’s an extra mouth or 100 every year going to cost?

One man advertised a cache of real human bones and skulls, members of his family who were killed by a Japanese air raid bombing in 1942. Certainly there were a few bones and about 10 skulls in a niche in the ancient coral wall nearly overgrown by jungle. The story is the family took shelter in a cave which was bombed by the Japanese. Most of the family were killed. One skull even had what he called a bullet hole in the skull. The hole was big enough to be from perhaps a 60mm machine gun. There were no complete skeletons. I wondered to myself why the bodies were not interred as normally would be the case and why the skulls were all in a niche by themselves and why the only other bones which appeared to be from arms or legs of children were laid out in a pattern like a piano keyboard. There were no rib bones or pelvic bones. The man explained that a tidal wave in 1994 (probably from the Raboul, Turvurvur volcanic eruption) washed lots of sand into the cave almost filling it and the bomb crater. These were the only bones which were salvaged. The locals are great entrepreneurs knowing that by charging only 2 Kina to see the bones they then charge an additional 10 Kina for photos

190217-sign
Yep. One minute walk…true. Skulls. Yep. Bones. Yep.

This is the first place on our visit where we have noticed women carrying loads on their heads. Often it is just one small item and they walk as if nothing is being carried at all. They carry the load with poise and grace.

190217-head
The sight of ladies carrying items on their heads was first noticed on this island.

After running the gauntlet of men, women and children sitting in minimal shade selling whatever they have to sell we opted to find a sheltering tree over the beach.

190217-beach
There were cute little tropical islands surrounding the cute little tropical island.

On the beach were literally a hundred “lakatoys” (Outrigger canoes) of a different design to those we have seen everywhere else.  The support arms leading to the ama are only very short and the small gap usually has some kind of deck or webbing to carry a person or the days catch.These craft are manoeuvred by boys asking 5 Kina for a short ride over the reef.

190217-beach1
White tropical sandy beach, palm trees, multi hued ocean blue and all these little “lakatoys”.
190217-canoe
The wonderful dugouts with the short arms and cargo deck look ungainly and lopsided. That is until you add a load to the deck. They then move so easily and manouvre into tight areas all under the control of little boys barebig enough to hold the spear shaped paddle.
190217-canoe2
Simple, inellegant but practical. Cost??? A little bit of your time and skills passed on for hundreds of generations.

This was our first real opportunity to snorkel in the pristine waters with a fringing coral reef. No matter where we swam and snorkelled the boys in lakatoys followed us offering a ride. They did this to the point of annoyance and still continued asking. The snorkelling was quite good especially over the deep water drop off on the edge of the reef.

Compared to the locals on the PNG mainland the islanders seem almost to be a different race. They are a little more shy, have a lot less facilities and the children seem happy. They sing in organised groups either for the local school or for a church or even a missionary group. They are still a little in your face saying hello and wanting to sell you something or take you on their lakatoys or a guided walk to the village, caves or relics. In some respects is seems pitiless all these people sitting on the ground offering their wares for sale. Some objects are made by real craftspeople especially some of the carvings while other carvings are basic and certainly do not have the same effort but they ask the same price. The same goes for the basket and mat weaving by the women. Some are really well finished works of art while other similar products are pretty basic. The women also ask the same price for an inferior product.

190217-children1
Shy giggles all around.

A local man explained that on the island, lime powder is not readily available. They take sea shells and some ancient coral and burn it for 24 hours. Once cooled it is ground to a powder and used when chewing Betel nut.

Some men sidled up to me offering guided tours, lakatoy rides, a small carving they kept in their pocket, they ask you to send mail or parcels to the mainland. One man even came up to me asking if I had drugs. Some men, women and children would bring Australian money asking us to change it into Kina.

190217-children
Children who were not involved with dance troupes just love to sit together and watch them funny white skinned tourists.

Naturally we helped the local economy by buying a hand carved Kwilla timber fruit bowl with inlaid mother of pearl. We walked up and down the line at least three times trying to find something which suited our needs and agreed with our budget.

190217-bowl
After walking past this woodcarver vebdor several times, Donnis bought the salad bowl he is holding.Look carefully at the items arranged around him. Near his right foot is an eleganly carved walking pole tied to it is a WWII bayonet from a ,303 Enfield bolt action rifle used by the Australian Army.

So far this is the cleanest location we have visited on our PNG cruise. I found a couple of beer cans on the shore but no signs of any other rubbish.I can only imagine the beer was from a local source as the local brand is not sold onboard ARIA and bringing food and beverages ashore is forbidden by PNG Customs.

We saw some women who went home and cooked up a huge pot of something and brought it back to their family group for lunch. The market of local people maintained its place as each took turns to eat and use a bathroom. The “bathroom” was ingenious. A pit was dug where the jungle met the beach and logs placed over it. Four corner posts were placed and smaller saplings placed between posts. A woven mat of coconut fronds was woven through the saplings. Another woven mat was placed as a roof. One side, facing the jungle was left open.  Men or women could use the facility although women had to squat on the logs. I have been to far worse roadside toilets in outback Australia. There seemed to be little or no smell. Toilet paper simply did not exist.

190217-boy
A little boy asks for and dives for coins amongst the coral. How he stands and walks on the sharp coral with cutting his feet is amazing.

ARIA had provided big coolers of clean chilled filtered water and as we were leaving they were down to the last of four coolers. They also provided chilled face washers before going aboard the tender. Those face washers were popular.

The ship conducts a head count on all persons leaving the ship and as they arrive on the island by tender. Each person must show their ID tag as they leave the ship. Returning to the ship the process is reversed. That way everybody is accounted for. We had no lost passengers on any of our excursions.

The ship was ready to depart the island at 5pm. The locals assembled on the beach under the shade of trees and palms. They sang and waved us on our way.

One of the entertainers on board, the lovely talented singer, Ka Weyova, was born on this island to a local mother and an Australian school teacher father. 190217 ka

She walked around the boat and always attracted head snapping looks from both men and women. She moved away from the island several years ago and now calls Cairns her home. https://www.facebook.com/Weyova

Toodle oo Kiriwina Island.

With a trip of only 30 Klms to Kitava Island, our next destination, we will do a slow and circular trip overnight to arrive around 7am in the morning.

190217-sunrise
Aft deck of ARIA. Looking across the Solomon Sea at a gentle sunset.

 

538.Saturday 18th February 2017. If it is Saturday we must be in Rabaul PNG…

pebbles,Saturday 18th February

We were both awake early this morning as we were scheduled for a shore cruise and we had to meet at The Marquee by 7.20am. A few hundred other people were also booked so there were queues for breakfast at The Pantry.

We arrived at Raboul at 7am and after docking, customs and immigration processes were complete it was time for a tour.

Going ashore we were greeted by the now familiar dance troupes and a male choir, each area has different routines, chants and drums etc.

180217-welcome
One of several welcoming groups. This male choir simply sings in such a distinctive appealing style.

This was followed by hundreds of locals sitting in groups with their wares spread on anything, tarpaulin, rug, woven mats even banana leaves. We felt vaguely guilty that we could not buy something from every vendor but there were hundreds and hundreds more everywhere we visited.

Raboul and the surrounding district are part of the Pacific Ocean Ring of Fire, a huge area of active and dormant volcanoes. Raboul itself is ringed by several extinct volcanoes but one, still active, called Turvurvur, blew its top in 1937 and again in 1994. The 1994 event killed over 500 people and buried most of the town under many metres of volcanic ash. The ash fell for two days after which a volcanic dust began to settle further burying the town and hampering rescue operations. Today much of the old town is still buried but gradually streets are being excavated and opened up. The original hospital is still buried with only a few remnants visible as a reminder and memorial. Ash, dust are ever present even at the port and pebbles of pumice fills what was once the golf course and any other vacant land.

The history generally only refers to the eruption of Turvurvur but the following news report shows there was a double eruption, one from Mount Turvurvur and the other across the bay from Mount Vulcan.

180217-volcano
Twin eruptions… Mount Vulcan on the right and Mount Tavurvur on the left… in 1994 seen from atop another extinct volcano (which is also the home of the volcano and seismic monitoring station ) Thanks to Google and Nick Grimm of ABC News for this photo.

Here is a video from 2014.   https://youtu.be/BUREX8aFbMs  the best way to view the video is to copy and paste the link into your web browser then right click on Paste and Go.This a worthwhile video. Look for the shock wave and debris.

The original streets which were designed, laid out and formed by German occupation since the time of WWI have gone through some changes. Japan occupied PNG before and during WWII and continued to maintain the roads. As well they tunnelled into the huge extinct volcano which overlooks the town. The tunnels were part of a huge operation to provide shelter and a fortress against any invasion. The tunnels included an Army hospital, munitions storage, accommodation, observation post, food storage, preparation and service facilities. Despite this the Australian Army moved in and captured the town which the locals call the “One Day War” but which in reality was probably more to do with the surrender of the Japanese Army in September 1945. Australia continued to maintain the roads and infrastructure of the town for the next 30 years until Independence when Michael Somali was elected as Prime Minister. Australia still continues to provide aid but little seems to filter down to keep the roads maintained. The roads even in the centre of town are badly potholed and the once beautiful gardens down the centre of the main road are now just a deplorable mix of volcanic ash, pumice, smashed and broken concrete garden beds and a few struggling flowering bougainvillea, frangipani and hibiscus.

The locals blame the volcanic eruption 23 years ago for the condition of the roads, gardens paths and public places. Much of the town, including the airport is located some 30 Klms along the coast.(moved there after 1994) We did not see the new Raboul so cannot comment. However it seems that even in the parts of town unaffected by volcanic fallout, very little has been done to maintain what is still home to a large part of the population.

Raboul was once known as The Most Beautiful Town in the South Pacific. Now it is a desperately poor relative of its once former glory. We are told the locals, most of whom are unemployed and live on a subsistence level are happy. It is hard to tell if they are happy as a walk through the local markets show faces resolved to accept whatever life throws at them. The betel nut and lime chewing people live in a constant state of mild euphoria which could be construed as “happy”.

After being assigned a tour guide and an eight seater un- air conditioned Toyota we were on our way. Our tour guide was a very shy local woman who seemed to be reciting information rather than explaining and answering questions.

Otherwise it was a good tour.

By 8am the day was already hot, the temp having reached 30 something degrees and humidity near maximum was a recipe for an energy sapping day.

First up we visited the local coconut oil manufacturing plant where saw raw coconuts turned into desiccated coconut, coconut cream, coconut water, virgin coconut oil and even the shell and husks were recycled. We received a bottle of cold pressed virgin coconut oil which according to the label is healthy and can be used medicinally and in cooking instead of butter or olive or peanut oil.

180217-oil
Not yet 9am and the heat and humidity are oppressive. We took shade under this coconut palm frond shelter. Gradually while waiting for our tour the numbers of people squeezing into the tiny bit of shade was humerous.

Next, the tour wound up the steep hillside, an ancient extinct volcano, which overlooks the town where we saw hundreds of the Japanese built tunnels in the volcanic rock. At the top of the hill we entered the Volcanic Activity and Seismic Monitoring Station originally built and still partly funded by Australia. The centre still carries out its monitoring and data collection but the buildings are in a poor state of repair.

180217-raboul
ARIA in Raboul Harbour. Note the Beehive island in the right and Mount Turvurvur in left distance.
1850217-vulcan
Looking across Raboul Bay to the active volcano Mount Tavurvur.

http://www.wovo.org/0500_0504.html  I, like most of the tourists asked the same question, “will we see an eruption or even some molten lava flow”? “No, not today”.

We drove back along the potholed streets of town to the site of a couple of Japanese WWII fighter plane crashes.

180217-plane
The ramains of a Japanese WWII fighter plane. No plaques, inscriptions fences or guides. Imagine this was a US site. It would be manicured grass with concrete walkways, fences and signs all over the place.
180217-hugger
Climbing skills to get fresh cocunuts is still alive and well in Raboul. Note there are no safety harnesses or adults supervising.

At some stage money was spent partially excavating the planes but no attempt at preserving the site or the planes or erecting barriers or signs has been made. It is up to each tourist to interpret what they see. The ever present locals selling their hand made knick knacks were sitting in a quiet orderly fashion trying to survive in the heat and passively hoping for a sale. Betel nut and lime helps keep them passive. A small group of orphans sang songs in the way that only South Sea Islanders can sing.  It is a sort of joyous rendition of once upon a time favourites. I enjoy their singing.

Next on the tour was what we had all come to see. The active cranky unpredictable volcano called Turvurvur.

180217-turvurvur
A dugout outrigger canoe is framed by the imposing bulk and hidden danger of Mount Turvurvur.

Naturally the tourists are kept a long way from the volcano itself but walking on a desolate expanse of hot volcanic ash, dust and pumice pebbles within a few hundred metres of the steep caldera walls was still exciting. Here was boiling water bubbling up through the pebbles and flowing into the ocean.

180217-market
Yet another open air market selling what every other open air market was selling albeit with a local viewpoint and skills. It is all on a base of pumice pebbles and volcanic ash.

It was hot enough already without extra hot steam wafting across our face from time to time. As evidence of the still active volcano was the fact that nothing grows on its hillsides. The older, much larger extinct volcanoes have thick layers of vegetation.

180217-fumarole
Boiliong water bubbles out of the ground and flows into the ocean. Note the brooding presence of Mount Turvurvur in the background. Raboulians live in constant reminders that another big eruption could occur at anytime.
180217-cactus
Amongst the pumice pebbles, volcanic rock and ash, boiling hot springs, somehow life manages to find somewhere to spring up and hold on tight. Look carefully. This cactus looks as though it is budding in preparation to flowering. That roped off section of water is boiling and is coming from under this hill of pumic and ash from which the plant is growing.

The final place to visit was Matupit Island, 17 metres above sea level, formed by lava flow from the still active Vulcan 750 years ago. Here a combined trio of churches have formed a missionary school in full view of the volcano.

180217-church
Combined churches church at Matupit an island created by lava flow when the volcano Turvurvur erupted…750 years ago. Currently a classroom with no walls is used for services as the church is being built in PNG time….Slowly.
180217-classroom1
A fully enclosed matupit classroom. There is no air conditioning and no fans. Even with high ceilings it gets very hot in here. Note the happy faces listening to this tourist talking in Pidgin.

Once again there was a market of locals selling mementos of PNG. Baskets, bags and sea shell necklaces dominated. Here was more joyous singing by the children in an open classroom.

180217-classroom
Outdoor classroom. One group faces the wall in front for their lessons while another faces the opposite wall for thie lessons. It is also used for church services.

Our tour guide commented that most of the population is addicted to chewing betel nut. Then to prove her point she pulled out a nut, bit into it to expose the kernel, opened her lime pouch, dipped in a lime finger fruit and started to chew the whole mess. Soon a red glob of what looked like chewing gum (another dirty habit) was in her mouth. She said you must not swallow the juice then spat out the window as we drove.

She looked happy.

She looked happy, in a distant, vague sort of way.I was sure little voices were talking to her.

We arrived back at the ship totally soaked with sweat and exhausted from the heat, humidity and walking across uneven ground for the last three hours.

Oh what a difference a hot shower, change of clothes an icy cold beer and lunch can do.

My bucket list, short as it may be, includes a visit to an active lava belching, ash throwing volcano.

Hmmm! How, when and where do I achieve this?

180217-ships
Commercial ships in the harbour.
180217-wrecks
Raboul like every other mainland port we have visited in PNG is littered with wrecks.
180217-wrecks1
Wrecks, I’ve had a few could almost be the words sung by Frank Sinatra. Note they have been here so long the jungle is reclaiming them. The PNG Government does not have any idea or money to do something about wrecks.

As ARIA steamed out of Raboul Harbour we got a late afternoon view of another prominent feature. The Beehive Islands or Dawapai Rocks as it is now more commonly known. History tells us that the rocks were once joined and a village was located here. The eruption of volcano Vulcan in 1937 sunk the island, drowning many of the villagers.

180217-beehive
The remains of Beehive Island is now called Dawapai Rocks. Hmmm! This does not make since. If this was an island why was it called Beehive? It certainly would not have looked like this prior to sinking. Starnge that the name for the ancient island was an English word and not a local name.
180217-beehive1
Looking at Dawapai Rocks from another viewpoint as wqe leave Raboul.

We also had a final look at Mount Turvurvur in the late afternoon setting sun. It was interesting to discover that the volcano Vulcan, last erupted in 1994 is already covered in vegetation. On the other hand Tavurvur still spits and flares and erupts from time to time. It has no vegetation growing on its flanks.

180217-turvurvur2
Even from this viewpoint Mount Turvurvur looks menacing.
180217-turvurvur1
Mount Turvurvur active volcano is overseen by another larger but extinct volcano.
180217-turvurvur3
Passengers found vantage points on deck to photograph Mount Turvurvur one last time.
180217-swimming
As we steamed out of Raboul Harbour these children were seen frolicking in the water at a spit of land on Matupit Island which forms an entrance to the bay where Mount Turvurvur is located.
180217-goodbye
Saturday night on the aft deck looking back at Raboul in the distance and saying a farewell of mixed emotions. The chance of seeing a volcano was high on my reasons for making the trip. I learned a good deal, not only about volcanos.

537. Friday 17th February 2017. We sail into an extinct volcano

Friday 17th February 2017

We cruised all night.

In the morning the ocean was so calm it looked like a huge bowl of oil. Wind was only 3 knots so barely enough to ruffle the surface.

170217-sea
Oily smooth seas.
170217-relaxing1
The smooth oily water looks like it is just outside the window. In fact this lounge area is on deck 9.
170217-relaxing
In the morning we had some spare time to just sit and read and watch the sea slide by the window.

Onboard we filled our day by participating in organised activities. Graham and I wore each other out playing table tennis – twice.

By 4pm we were approaching the small chain of islands called the Vitu Group. The chain comprises 96 square klms. The main island, Garove is an extinct volcano where in ancient times one side collapsed allowing seawater to fill the crater.

170217-rescue
There is a story of the cross on the rock. It seems a Priest coming to take up a position at the church was shipwrecked some distance from the island. Along with some floating wreckage he drifted on the currents. He prayed for deliverance and offered to erect a cross on the rock at the entrance to the harbour where he eventually landed. As it turns out he was saved and a cross was erected and has been maintained by the church and locals ever since.

Although extinct the volcanic island still has fumarole fields and thermal areas. The Vitu Islands /ˈviːtuː/ are a volcanic group with an area of 37 sq mi (96 km²) located in the Bismarck Sea off New Britain, in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. They are not technically part of the Bismarck Archipelago. Administratively they are part of Papua New Guinea. Formerly called the French Islands, the group is sometimes known as the Witu Islands.

The group was the chief copra centre of Papua New Guinea, although cocoa is now the main crop harvested due to the depressed prices available for copra.170217-trees

Today it is home to a small group of umm err Vituvians. The only outsiders to arrive here is the Pacific Aria 4 times a year and very keen divers who pay big money for exclusive dive trips to what is known as the best dive sites in the world. Several nearby reefs with waves breaking, seemingly in the middle of nowhere offer great diving as well.

170217-entrance
This is the exit/entrance to the extinct volcanic island of Garove in the Vitu group. The islands are a mere pixel in the sea. Enlarge the photo by double clicking. You will see the tiny speck of the Catholic Church on the right hand side.
170217-deck
The foredeck on level 7 was opened to allow passengers to see the entire caldera from one location.
170217-climbing
This young boy also used the flying fox the same day as me.On that day he went first and ran back to have another flight. Today he did the same. He had to carry all his safety harness all the way back to level 10.
170217-climbing1
Passengers could rappel down the face of the superstructure.

Our ship cruised through the 1 Km wide entrance with a depth of 120m below the keel. During WWI this island was part of the German Empire and a warship was located inside the harbour. Lookouts watched for approaching ships which were picked off by the Germans. During WWI this island was the redoubt of the notorious militant German Archbishop Wolffe, and was to the left of the passage outside the entrance to which the Australian Navy laid blockade to the German raider of the same name – Wolf – which lay behind the entrance island to the caldera with her masts dropped to not be in visibility, all guns laid. in hope of luring the Australians in.

A large Roman Catholic church commands a magnificent view across the bay which is about 5 klms from mouth to the far crater wall.

170217-church
The Catholic Church at the entrance to Garove Volcano.
170217-canoe1
Another tiny canoe shows the immense scale of size of the volcanic caldera.
170217-caldera
Part of the steep caldera wall which is a ring of about 350 degrees with a narrow opening. The coconut trees on the caldera rim are the remnants of a once lucrative copra production. If you enlarge the photo by double clicking twice, you will see a tiny outrigger slightly to the left of the rock fall in the middle of the photo. The size of the outrigger will give an indication of the height of the caldera wall.

(In 1952 a Catholic mission was established on Witu inside the big caldera that forms Johanne Albrecht Harbour. )The ship was spun in a 180 degree turn so all on board were able to view the entire crater and the harbour. Several locals in dugout outrigger canoes (lakatoys) paddled out to have a look at a rare visiting ship.

170217-canoe
This is an unusual dugout outrigger canoe. Generally the Ama (the outrigger) is on the left side of the canoe. It is the same in all cultures. Polynesian, Melanesian, Micronesian etc.. The Ama on this canoe is on the right.

We felt kind of special as only a small number of people could visit such a remote location.

536. Thursday 16th February 2017. Wewak, Papua New Guinea…

Thursday 16th February 2017.

 

Woke early as usual and went to The Pantry for a cup of coffee while transferring photos to the laptop.

We arrived at Wewak a little earlier than predicted and anchored about 1 Klm offshore along with another dozen or so ships of various sizes.

160217-ships
These ships anchored way out beyond the coral limits had locals padding out in their canoes to visit.
160217-wewak
A small coral atoll near Wewak Harbour.

Within a short time of anchoring the first locals in their dugout outrigger canoes – lakatoys – arrived. Some even paddled out on surfboards.

160217-canoes
Within minutes of arriving in Wewak the dugout canoes started to arrive. Dozens of them stayed all day.
160217-canoe1
This family of young boys paddled all the way from shore to wave to the ship.. Not a lifejacket anywhere.

I was looking forward to seeing Wewak. My brother Allan was manager of the local National Development Bank. I wanted to see where he lived and worked.

We arrived at the small dock facility via ships tender. A shuttle service continued all day to bring passengers ashore and return them to the ship.

160217-wewak1
Ships tenders ferry about 90 passengers each to and from the Wewak Yacht Club landing jetty.
160217-aria
PACIFIC ARIA at Wewak. The ship is not anchored. It stayed in place all day using its bow and stern thrusters. Note two of four tenders being used to ferry passengers to and from shore.

After arriving ashore and running the gauntlet of welcoming cultural dancers,

160217-dancers
One of several Sepik River dance troupes to welcome us.
160217-dancers1
The grass people with their unique headdress and grass skirts.
160217-dancers2
Some of the ladies were topless and looked a little shy.
160217-dancers1
The grass people with their unique headdress and grass skirts.
160217-dancers3
Yes there were men in almost all that grass. It must have been hot because we were suffering too.

drummers and local arts and crafts we decided to walk along what they call the surf beach for a swim with the locals.

160217-drums1
These noisy drummers greeted us as we arrived on the jetty.
160217-drums
These men could make a huge amount of noise on these drums. They never seemed to tire.
160217-drums2
When we returned to the ship a few hours later they were still drumming.

One man wore a “koteka’ a traditional gourd like, penis covering although in his case he wore the covering outside of his clothes and much too high to be considered a penis cover. It was more of a decoration as part of the welcoming dance troupes. Some women asked him to hold the “koteka” in a suggestive manner while they photographed him.

160217-group
Line up of traditionally dressed locals waiting to impress us. The man is wearing a koteka penis cover.

As the beach is washed by tide and surf the normally clear water we are used to seeing was here murky with suspended sand.

160217-staffords
Graham & Wencke snorkelling in the not to clear water accompanied by the ever present young local. who just wanted to swim with them.
160217-wewak2
Wewak Beach
160217-thatched
A local thatched hut living quarters. Although on a substantila leaning angle it is still habited.

All along the beachfront, under the shade of the tiniest palm or other small tree were people selling baskets, Dilum pouches, woven Penis coverings and elaborate carvings.

160217-masks
Lots of carved artwork from the Sepic River district.
160217-masks1
More Sepic River artwork.
160217-mask1
Intricate artwork of a man with a large penis and scrotum while a bat sits on his head. I am sure it has some sort of meaning.

Donnis got involved with negotiation frenzy with a few passengers and a couple of carvers from the Sepik River District. She came away with a huge carved face mask which earlier in the day was selling for 160 Kina. She ended up paying 80 Kina.  (roughly that is AUS $40.00) Although the local carvers prefer local currency they are so keen to sell their wares they will often accept AUS dollars. Luckily for Donnis we only had AUS currency which was accepted. All we have to do now is get the carving through Customs on arrival in Australia.

Gulp!

160217-mask
This is the Wewak Sepic River face mask Donnis bought. It stands almost a metre tall. The face on top is a bat??? while below is a crocodile then another face of a ??? and finally a face mask of a human. There is a story to the mask but we are unaware of it.

On our way back to the ship Graham and I decided to use a local bank to convert some dollars to Kina.We could not use the local National Development Bank as it is now classified a s a Micro Branch and no longer does currency conversion.

At the bank there were several guards at the elaborate front doors. There were already a few locals waiting, patiently (they always seem to be patient) to be admitted. We were waved to the doors. One glass door was opened and we stood in a small room while the door behind us was locked before the door in front of us was opened by another guard in a glass room. Once inside the banking chamber another guard approached, asking our business before he told us to take a seat. There were a dozen or more locals ahead of us. Nothing seemed to be happening. All was quiet and teller cages and desks all seemed to have “CLOSED” signs. (it was lunchtime) After awhile a woman came out of an office asked our business then told us we would need a passport to change currency. Once we filled in forms with our names and proof of ID we waited again. Meanwhile the locals were still sitting and waiting. Shortly we were called to the counter and told our AUS$50 was worth $115 Kina and a fee of 25 Kina applied to each transaction. We were served and on our way while patient locals were still waiting to be served. I felt somewhat embarrassed but the guard pointed out we are cruise tourists and our spending is important to the town. As this P&O Ship, Pacific Aria is the only ship to come to this port and only comes four times a year, everybody is happy to see us.

We also went to the local supermarket which is behind cyclone wire fencing topped with razor wire we were again treated as special while the locals waited and were searched going in and going out.

160217-store
One of a handful of Chinese owned supermarkets. Note the cyclone wire fence topped with razor wire. Tight security on entry and exit…everybody is under suspicion except tourists.

Everywhere we looked, private security companies were visible in all businesses and private homes. Security seems to be a growth industry.

On this trip there are 1,268 passengers plus 700 crew on board ARIA, some of whom were entitled to leave. If only 1,000 of those who went ashore spent 100 Kina each (many of them spent a good deal more) that is quite an injection of funds into the economy. Add to that local security services on the dock, landing crew, docking fees and so on injects more money.

No wonder they were happy to see us.

160217-wreck
Wewak Bay is a place of wrecks (much the same as Alotau and Madang) The locals 1. Do not know what to do with the wrecks and 2 do not have the funds to move or blow up the wrecks. So, the wrecks stay where they sink and in some cases are a navigational hazard or simply an eyesore…at least from a Westerners point of view.
160217-wreck1
Wreck central…Wewak.
160217-wreck2
Yet another wreck. This one just off the main beach. You can walk or swim to it at low tide.

Today the temp was always around 30° with humidity at 90% made for a tiring day walking around town.

Wewak, like Madang, does not have a regular garbage collection service so rubbish piles up on the beach, the town centre and market place. Eventually a front end loader pushes it into a heap until somebody decides what to do with it. Often it is set alight on the spot.

After dinner Donnis and I sat on the aft deck in the dark. In the distance we could see an active volcano intermittently spewing lava into the sky.

Tomorrow we cruise into an extinct volcanic crater where one side is open to the sea. We are looking forward to that.