Tag: Australian Customs

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.

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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.

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These ships anchored way out beyond the coral limits had locals padding out in their canoes to visit.
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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.

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Within minutes of arriving in Wewak the dugout canoes started to arrive. Dozens of them stayed all day.
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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.

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Ships tenders ferry about 90 passengers each to and from the Wewak Yacht Club landing jetty.
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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,

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One of several Sepik River dance troupes to welcome us.
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The grass people with their unique headdress and grass skirts.
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Some of the ladies were topless and looked a little shy.
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The grass people with their unique headdress and grass skirts.
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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.

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These noisy drummers greeted us as we arrived on the jetty.
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These men could make a huge amount of noise on these drums. They never seemed to tire.
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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.

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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.

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Graham & Wencke snorkelling in the not to clear water accompanied by the ever present young local. who just wanted to swim with them.
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Wewak Beach
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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.

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Lots of carved artwork from the Sepic River district.
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More Sepic River artwork.
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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Wreck central…Wewak.
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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.