A taster weekend of pictures . .

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The advert was attractive for a weekend cruise that was classed as a ‘taster’ – a cruise that people might take to see if they would like cruising for their next holiday.

The ship was Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas and we hadn’t sailed with Royal Caribbean before, although we have sailed with two other companies in the Royal Caribbean International Group.
We thought it would be a nice break after the madness of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

We made a mistake, because the ‘taster’ should have been titled ‘booze party’, but to be fair we should have realised that a three day cruise over a weekend (Friday to Monday) would not be a true ‘taster’ that we expected.

Regardless Maureen & I and another couple enjoyed ourselves, but we were glad that we were in company as we were ‘slightly’ older than most of the other ‘tasters.’
Plus, we felt a little out of place, because none of us had thought of getting tattooed before we joined the ship.

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Royal Promenade and shops

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A lovely library area, but not a large choice of books, and many were not in English, but German and other European languages.

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We had a balcony cabin, the balcony was smaller than we were used to, but the cabin was one of the best sized cabins that we’ve experienced on any ship.

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The above is from the internet, my photograph didn’t come out as clear, due to the light.

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The above came out a little better.

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A walk down the Royal Promenade & shops.

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The local pub was open of course.   :- o)

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Inside the Pig & Whistle.

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A short distance from the pub  . . I don’t think the phone box worked, as for the car I’m not sure.

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The casino area was one of the largest casino areas that I’d seen on any ship – slot machines, gaming tables, private tables, there was little chance that you would not be parted from your money if you chose to use the facilities. We had to walk through casino to get to the bar that we preferred.

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The Schooner’s Bar

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The Schooner’s before the daily rush  . .

The ship offered plenty of outside attractions, from pools, to surfboard riding, a helter- skelter, and for the more mature, put-put golf.

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Adults only –

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The Pool area was quite large.

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Or you can go surfing (costs about US $19 a day)

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On the other hand, perhaps not . . .

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But then when someone can surf he makes it look easy . .

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Some fancy rock climbing . . . the rock ‘face ‘ was the outside of the funnel.DSC06490r

Others may prefer a water slide with a difference –

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The end of the slide can just be seen – I expected people to come out like a shot from a gun, but they didn’t.
I was told by a lady who tried the helter-skelter that she was not travelling all that fast and at the end of the ‘run’ there was a flattish bit that slowed you further. None of the people I saw ‘shot’ out as I expected.
On reaching the exit that can be seen in yellow, they came to a dead stop in a large ‘bowl’ area of water, and the slider had to climb out, most did so on their hands and knees.

Before using the slide one had to be under a certain weight (but the weight in question was quite high), and over a certain height (small children couldn’t use the slide), and the user had to take in to account various medical conditions, bad heart, high blood pressure, joint problems etc.
If you had any medical condition listed you couldn’t use the slide.

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This was more my style, but I never even got to have a go – on the first day at sea the wind was so strong that this put-put area, the surf ride, helter-skelter & rock climbing were all closed for safety reasons, and we were not allowed into this area of the deck either. I’m not surprised because the wind was quite strong.

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The ship had an ice rink and at certain times they had a show.

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The ship’s skaters were very good, and the show went for about 40 to 50 minutes.. . .

They must be very fit.

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At the end of the show they would have about an hour’s break before repeating the show.

The theatre (a different area than the ice rink) was over three decks and could seat many passengers.
On other cruises we usually found a seat about 30 minutes before the show started to make sure we had a seat, so of course we did the same on the Voyager of the Seas.
It was a surprise to us that people didn’t arrive for the show until about ten minutes before the beginning, and there were still many empty seats once the show started. Perhaps the casino was a bigger attraction.

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The show was excellent and very professional.

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There were some very powerful singers, both male & female.

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and slick dancers.

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The scenery complimented the singers and dancers.

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What disappointed me was the price of the beers – all in USD, which included an 18% tip (for your convenience).
To take Corona (considering the current global problem, why not?) at USD $7.75 or AUD $11.92 at the exchange rate offered by the ship.
At a local liquor store near my home, I can buy a bottle of this beer for AUD 2.16, which includes Australian taxes.
I expect a business to make a profit, and my local liquor store is doing so, but cruise ship companies buy the beer tax free, and in such bulk that AUD $5 or $6 would give a decent return on their investment.

With my evening meal I like a glass of wine –

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The above is part of the red wine list – USD $9 to USD $14 per glass (AUD $13.85 to $21.54) perhaps you’d like to buy the bottle, which is cheaper than buying by the glass. USD $31.00 to $49 (AUD $ 47.70 to $75.38).

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Let’s use the NZ wine Kim Crawford at USD $12 per glass (AUD $18.46) or by the bottle USD $42 (AUD $64.62), as against my local wine shop at AUD $14.60 a bottle, and he is making a profit after shipping it from New Zealand to Australia.

The cruise companies buy wine in such large amounts, which will be tax and duty free, because it is being exported and drunk in international waters, so why the huge price increase?

When we booked the cruise we were given AUD $55.50 each ‘cabin money’ to spend on board by Royal Caribbean. If we didn’t spend it we lost it, which is normal for many cruise companies.
The ‘cabin money’ was appreciated and only because Maureen doesn’t drink alcohol our drinks bill at the end of the weekend was ‘acceptable’

The soft drinks were USD $3.50 (AUD $5.38) and a ‘mock’ tail was USD $7.00 (AUD $10.77).

On the Saturday & Sunday morning around 10.30 am we four attended a game of trivia, which we have enjoyed on most cruise ships.
On Saturday we were well down the success ladder, but on Sunday the Team Shire won! Team Shire being Maureen & I and our two friends.

Trivia is a popular game on most cruise ships and is always well attended for the social side of meeting other ‘cruisers’ rather than for the prizes.
Some cruise companies offer prizes of company logo pens or pencils, or a voucher for coffee or an ice cream, or even drinks at the bar, nothing expensive or elaborate.

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The above four signs were our prizes for winning. Whale done, Smarty Pants, I am a Clever Cookie, Our team is a-merzing at Trivia.     

We split our winnings, and I have Whale Done & I am a clever Cookie for my young grandsons.

In my opinion the cruise company made a big PR mistake during this weekend – the cost of all cruises from Australia / New Zealand include gratuities (tips) because the culture in each country is to pay people a decent wage, and we only tip for service over an above what is expected when buying a drink or a meal in a restaurant etc

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On the last night of the cruise envelopes were left in cabins – we had three nights on board, and we had paid the gratuities in our ticket price, which is to cover all those that we have contact with, plus the staff who support the system behind the scenes that we don’t see or meet.

Plus, we mustn’t forget the 18% drinks tip. . . but they still had a final squeeze, which left a bad taste.

Anyway, overall, we had a pleasant weekend, but I doubt that Royal Caribbean will be our future cruise company of choice, unless they offer particularly ‘sharp’ prices and destinations that we are keen to visit.

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Sydney at 5.45 am on the day that we returned. . . .

A hardship post

 

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Sunrise over New Caledonia

For a time I was in a business partnership with a Frenchman, who lived in Tahiti and later moved to New Caledonia before finally moving to Sydney.

I can remember him saying that for a Frenchman working for the French government and being posted to one of the French colonies in the Pacific, which includes Tahiti and New Caledonia, as a ‘Hardship’ posting, which entitled them to extra allowances and benefits to make life that little bit easier.

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During our recent cruise in Ruby Princess we visited New Caledonia and in particular Noumea, originally called Port-de France until 1866 when it was changed, I took the above picture to show what French’ hardship positing’ personnel have to put up with during their time in Noumea. The above only shows the smaller ‘hardships’.

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Ken must have had the same ‘hardship’ thoughts because his picture shows a different set of moorings, and the exotic apartments overlooking the water.

Maureen and I had visited Noumea about twenty three years ago – we enjoyed our few days (it was a business trip for me) and we stayed in the beach area. We didn’t find the city centre to be an attractive place for visitors but overall, we enjoyed our visit.

This time the cruise company offered a hop on hop off bus service for AUD $15 per person, so we thought we’d have another look around. The ship’s buses had colour stickers in the front window to differential them from the normal hop on hop off buses.  The system worked well – we boarded the bus at the ship’s gangway, and our first stop was the market, which was our choice.

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The market area with the distinctive roofs

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There were stalls outside and inside was a fruit and veg market.

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Much of the outside area was under a tent like structure which helped to keep one out of the hot sun.

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At first glance I thought this stall was offering hub caps for sale, until I got closer.

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They were a type of wind chimes or sun reflectors for BBQ / garden areas.

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I like to wonder round food markets to see what is different and to compare prices with the same item back home, which is more Maureen’s domain than mine.

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The shaped roof was a landmark that could be seen along the waterfront. The market is known as the Port Moselle Market –

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Picture from New Caledonia Travel

We were too late for the fish display, which had closed, and of the baked cakes etc there were only a couple of stalls still open, but we still experienced the ‘feel’ of the place.

We waited for one of the buses with the correct colour displayed in the window because we had decided to go to the ‘end of the line’ or the place were bus start its return journey. The full trip from the ship to the return was about 45 to 60 minutes.

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Transport was a modern air-conditioned vehicle. Each passenger had a coloured wrist band so the driver could refuse those without the correct colour.

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There are also ‘Tchou Tchou’ road trains, which run around the town and beach areas.

Green

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Which colour would you like?

Yellow

These trains have been going for years – when Maureen and I visited in 2000 I can remember using the yellow one from the beach area (where we stayed) to the city centre.

DSC06289rWe crossed the road from where the bus stopped, and this brought back memories of twenty years ago. We’d stayed at the hotel were the bus waited, can’t remember the name of the hotel at that time, but it was the same hotel, now called the Nouvata Hotel.

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Along the beach at various points they had shelters, which contained benches and long tables. On our first visit I even went swimming at this point, and that wasn’t a ‘hardship.’

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Once back in the city we had a walk around Coconut Palm Square.

DSC06281rcEight meters (26 feet) high with a semi-nude lady on the top – and known as the Celestial Fountain.  Inaugurated on the 24th September 1893.

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Same park, but not a coconut in sight.

New Caledonia was named as such, thanks to Captain Cook, in 1774  because the island reminded him of Scotland. In 1788 the island was approached by Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse shortly before he went missing, presumed killed in the Solomon Is.

There is a suburb in Sydney named after Lapérouse, who arrived in Australia on the 26th January 1788 (Australia Day), he was on a scientific expedition under instructions from King Louis XVI of France.

A number of people in France applied to join Lapérouse’s expedition, and one sixteen-year-old second lieutenant applied, but was turned down, he was Napoleon Bonaparte- how history might have been different.

The Coconut Palm Square was part of a military facility, and named as such, due to the French soldiers planting coconuts in the area, and the locals would refer to the area  as   “Place des Cocotiers”. (Coconut Tree Square).

It was in 1855 that Paul Coffyn, a brilliant engineer, was put in charge of drawing the first urban plans for what the future city of Port-de France (now called Noumea) would look like. At that time ‘Place des Cocotiers’ was part of the ocean.

Embankments were built to stop the sea coming in and the new land area was called “jardin de l’infanterie marine” (the marine infantry gardens), until they planted the coconut trees.

The day was interesting and enjoyable and well worth the $15 . .. . .

 

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Farewell Noumea, what a ‘hardship’ location . . . .

 

 

Savusavu

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Savusavu is on the island Vanua Levu, which is on the smaller of the two larger Fijian islands, and I have marked the location.

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Savusavu is unspoiled & a place that is unhurried and free of most modern trappings and has managed to retain much of yesteryear.

Savusavu was a popular trading port for sailing schooners of old, who arrived carrying a cargo rum & cloth to trade for sandalwood.

We only visited the town during our short stay, but perhaps one day we might return to experience the hot springs, which the locals believe can cure various illnesses.

I read that Savusavu is a popular area for Americans to buy land & homes because it is so idyllic.

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Once again, we anchored offshore and the tender boats ran a ferry service. I took the above as we approached the small wharf near the yacht club.

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The white haired guy at the end of the pier is yours truly  . . .

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Peaceful main street which had welcoming stalls along  each side of the road that lead to the main shops.
The stalls had interesting displays of locally made jewellery – even I, who hates shopping, got interested in certain items on display. The stall holders greeted us with Bula and left us alone to browse the items. We were never pestered to buy.

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A perfect caption that sums up the town. The sign was for sale as a locally produced item, but being a wooden item, and taking the strict quarantine laws in Australia into account, I only photographed the item.
But Maureen made up for my lack of spending and bought a number of items of locally made jewellery.

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A windmill (I think) made of local dried plants, and samples of the jewellery. The waters around Savusavu are rich in nutrients that help to create oysters that grow pearls that are black as well as various other colours. The seashells are turned in to unique pieces of jewellery.

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I cropped this picture from the stall photograph above.

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I found this Fijian piece of jewellery on the internet, it shows the patterns of the sea shells

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It was relaxing to just wander around – the ship can be seen at the end of the road.

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Council offices

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The local bus depot and the style of the buses brought back memories of yesteryear.

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Wondering around soon generates a thirst and as my nick name was on the advert it was pub time.

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We entered the local bar, but they didn’t have a Woody!

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So, I forced down a cold Gold.

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I like to help the local economy . . .  as often as I can . . .

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After a couple of hours or so, we made our way back to the pier and realised that there would be a slight delay for the tender boat, so next door was the yacht club – a perfect waiting area. You can just see the ship on the left.

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This time I thought I’d have a change. The yacht club didn’t have a Woody either.

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The small band were easy on the ear.

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Thanks to Ken for a much better street view of the ship.

When Captain Bligh sailed through these islands, he was reluctant to land because at that time were known as the ‘cannibal islands’. It was the arrival of missionaries and the spread of Christianity that put an end to cannibalism.

I’m pleased to say that things have changed since Captain Bligh sailed through the Fijian islands.

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I stepped between two stalls, because I could see a small park. It was just a few paces from the main road (which wasn’t busy) and I just stood and drank in the views – is it any wonder Maureen & I loved our short stop in Savusavu, and that the Americans are buying property in the area.?

 

 

 

 

Suva

Never mind clocks & watches and all that accurate stuff, when in Fiji one must get used to Fiji time . . .

DSC06067rJust after sunrise we approached our berth at Suva, Fiji.

Abel Tasman was the first European to sight Fiji in 1643, and this was followed by Captain Cook in 1770.

It was thanks to Captain Bligh during his epic voyage, after the mutiny on HMS Bounty that brought Fiji to the attention of the world.

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Captain Bligh sailed between the two main islands, Vanua Levu (the long island) and Viti Levu (the round shaped island that contains Suva). As you see the stretch of water is now called Bligh Water.
In 1789, Captain Bligh and eighteen of his crew were cast adrift in a small boat and the Captain navigated, without a chart, but with only a compass and a quadrant (a type of sextant) 6701 km (3618 nautical miles), which was a huge feat of navigation and he only lost one man who was killed by natives on the Tongan island of Tofua.
Bligh landed in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia today) after a forty seven days voyage, and eventually arrived back in the England, where he took command of another ship and sailed back to Fiji and chartered the 39 islands of Fiji.

Fiji eventually became a colony of the Great Britain in 1874.

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In Suva (the capital of Fiji) there are stones markers for various happenings and dates.

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We didn’t book a ship’s tour but decided to hire a taxi for the four of us and just have the driver show us around.

On exiting the wharf area, we had quite a choice of taxi driver and in the end we picked one and away we went.

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The ship berthed close to the city centre.

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Of course, our driver took us to see the Australian High Commission – guards were happy to see us and waved, unlike a certain other embassy.

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Wherever we went we were not far from a church – about 65% of the population are Christian and take their church going seriously. The next largest religious group is the Hindu religion.

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Our driver took us to see a Mormon church – we could walk around the grounds, but we didn’t go into the main building. The main building can be seen in the above photograph, and the one above this is a distant shot.

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Everywhere was very neat and tidy.

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When I took this picture the entrance to the church was behind me and all the buildings that you can see are all part of this church. The one in the centre is the administration building, I think.

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Check the first photograph of this church and you will see the statue on the roof of the main church.

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We next drove up into the hills and came across Colo I Suva which is a rain forest eco resort, and I think we were told that it is owned by an Australian lady. As you see it had started to rain, but it didn’t last long.

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I was standing in the bar when I took this picture.

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The main hotel is across the bridge I was in a ‘satellite’ area, which was a quiet area for reading or just to listen to the birds in the trees.

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The driver then took us to a look-out point and told us of Joskes Brew. Note the alcohol percentage, at first, I thought it was a type of beer, but it is cane spirit mixed with cola. I haven’t tasted it.

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and the history of sugar cane farming.

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Paul Joske 1825 – 1898

Although Paul Joske and his partner failed to grow sugar, and lost the huge sum of £30,000, he went on to help design Suva.

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The mountain the can be seen sticking up in the above picture was originally called “Rama” or the Devils thumb, because it reminded the locals of a man trying to claw his was out of Hell.
After Paul Joske committed suicide the ‘Devil’s Thumb’ was renamed ‘Joske’s Peak’ in memory of him because of his contribution to the creation of Suva.

As an aside, Sir Edmond Hilary who was the first man to climb Mount Everest failed twice to scale Joske’s Peak. The first attempt was due to not being able to get close enough to the base due to heavy undergrowth and on the second attempt he tried to climb the wrong side. He did climb it eventually, but not until 1983, which was 30 years after he’d climbed Everest.

The ‘thumb’ is a volcanic plug that towers over a local village.

Fiji became an independent nation in 1970, with the Queen as Head of State.

From the lookout point we made our way to Government House, which used to be the residency of the Governor-General, who represented the Queen.
In 1987 Fiji became a republic after two military coups.
Government House, which was built in 1928 after a fire destroyed the original building, is now the official residence of the President of Fiji.

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Government House faces the sea, and it was from a position in front of this building that the photograph of Joske’s Peak was taken.

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A zoom facility does come in handy at times.

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There are guards at the entrance to the Government House.

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This is the plaque at the entrance to Government House.

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It had been over thirty years since I was last in Suva, but I still remembered the town centre.

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Our driver dropped us off in the city centre, which gave us time for a little shopping before walking back to the ship, which took about five minutes, because we were so close to the town centre.

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From our balcony we could see returning coaches that had taken cruise passengers on various tours, and I noticed that nearly all of the buses displayed a sunshade sign –

Jesus   no other name   no other way 

Obviously none of the locals considered this public declaration of Christianity by the company that owned the buses, or the driver that drove the bus, to be un PC.

How refreshing.

 

 

 

 

Dravuni Island

DSC06007rSunrise as we approached the island.

Dravuni Island is part of the Kadavu Group of islands, which are part of Fiji. It is a small island of about 0.8 sq km (0.3 sq miles) and the population is about 200 living in one village. It is one of the smallest populated islands in the Fijian archipelago.

There aren’t any vehicles, cinemas, shops, internet connection, but they do have peace and quiet, friendship, colourful plants, golden beaches, clear sea water and the sound of the sea as it ripples up the beach.

Ruby Princess anchored well off the shore and tender boats ran a shuttle service to and from the small island pier.

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Treasure Island perhaps  . . . . did Robert Louis Stevenson visit??

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Not everyone came ashore, but for those of us who did it was worth the effort, not that it was much of an effort.

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For me, the feeling of sand between my toes and to be able to just paddle in warm salt water is pure pleasure.

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Stepping off the beach and we were in the village. The green roofed building is the local primary school.

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School noticeboard – and two plaques are below.

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We were allowed inside, and we listened to the children singing.

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The above two photographs are thanks to Ken.

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We decided to walk to the peak, which can be seen on the right side of the map.

The walk to the peak looked easy so we set off along a dirt path.

DSC06021rThe local ladies were selling various items strung between palm trees and bushes. There wasn’t any ‘hard sell’, just a polite ‘Bula’ (a Fijian greeting) as we looked over the items for sale.

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We passed four guys (2% of the population when you think of it) who had the right idea of life. They didn’t make any effort to sell us a coconut drink, so perhaps they didn’t want to . . . after all they most probably thought that this is my island in the sun.
For those who can remember 1957. The above picture is thanks to Ken.

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Even a small island in the Pacific can have bush fires similar to the larger island in the Pacific – Australia.

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We reached part way up the hill, and looked at the climb to reach the top, and I decided that there comes a time when my pacemaker tells me ‘no more’, so I quit.

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Even from only being part way up the hill, the views were great.

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The path that we walked up . . .

Some people found a path that took them to the opposite side of the island, because they wanted a less ‘crowded’ beach –

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The above pic is the village beach – crowded??

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I took the photograph from the tender as we returned to the ship – Ruby Princess had to anchor far out because the island has a research station for the university of the South Pacific to study the Great Astrolabe Reef and the surrounding coral.

They say life is full of coincidences –

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If we were to sail from Dravuni Island 325 miles southwest, we would come across a reef and a small island called Ceva-I-Ra Reef, which until 1976, was called Conway Reef.

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HMS Conway

In 1838 Captain Charles Bethune of HMS Conway, first came across the reef and recorded it, but it was not mapped for several years, and remained a danger to ships.

Check this Conway Reef link and it is obvious that the reef is still a danger to shipping today.

In 1859 HMS Conway later became the first ship to be loaned by the British Government to the Mercantile Marine Association of Liverpool to be used as a training establishment to train young men to become officers in the British merchant navy.
I was fortunate to win a place to the Conway in 1960, before going to sea in 1962 – hence the coincidence.
When I attended HMS Conway she was a land based training ‘ship’ until 1974 when she was closed down.

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Even a visit to a quiet island like Dravuni, demands a cold beer on our return.

May I wish my readers a very Happy Christmas and a safe and healthy 2020.

 

Port Vila

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Port Vila the capital of Vanuatu, which used to be called New Hebrides.

The first Europeans to visit these islands were the Spanish, who arrived in 1606. They thought that they had found La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo or “The Southern Land of the Holy Spirit”.  The largest island was named Espiritu Santo, which has remained as the name of the largest island today.

Europeans didn’t return until 1768 when the Frenchman Louis-Antoine, Comte de Bougainville arrived and named the islands as the Great Cyclades, but in 1774 Captain Cook arrived and he named the islands the New Hebrides, which name remained until independence in 1980.

Over the years the islands became important to both the French and the British for trade and ‘Blackbirding’ to Australia. British subjects from Australia became the dominant group of Europeans.
In 1882 a French company called Caledonian was created and over the next few years the number of French citizens soon grew to outnumber the British/Australians by two to one.

In 1906 the UK & France agreed to administer the country jointly, which created both British & French administrations, which only came together in a court of law.
In the 1920’s the French brought in workers from what we now now as Vietnam (at that time it was classed as French Annam or French Indochina). This created social and political unrest, and a movement for independence grew.

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If you are interested in the incidents at the time of Independence, may I suggest you look up the Coconut War.

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Vanuatu’s flag today

Ruby Princess went alongside in Port Vila at 8.00 am, and after clearance we were allowed ashore. We crossed the quay and exited to small dock area and then had to navigate through a zig- zag area of stalls selling various items of souvenirs.

We didn’t have a choice but to walk along the created ally-ways to gain access to taxis. It was not a hardship as many of the stalls had interesting items for sale.

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The second photograph is thanks to Ken.

Once outside we were bombarded with offers of traditional taxis and water taxis. We decided to take a water taxi, $5 AUD one way per person.

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The water taxis near the bow of the ship.

What we didn’t know was that the taxi wouldn’t be leaving until the boat owner had filled his boat – he had twelve seats for sale, and we wanted four, so we had to wait for eight other passengers. It was not a long wait because once Ruby Princess passengers could see others off the ship in the boats they followed.

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As you see the boats were not alongside a ‘normal’ pier of quay, but we climbed down the bank and into the open boat.

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These boats are waiting in town to take people back to their cruise ship, or perhaps a sightseeing tour of the harbour. The benches are clearer  . . . .

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When disembarking in town we did so at a small pier.

The trip from the cruise ship to town was about ten minutes, and I found it quite interesting.

In 2015 they suffered a cyclone, during which 24 people died, winds reached 280 km / hour (174 mph) – as we rounded an island, we saw some of the damage.

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What looked like the remains of a ferry, and a tourist sightseeing craft?

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Cargo ship or specialised vessel of sorts – I don’t know.

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What looked like an inter-island passenger ship?

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Private boats

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As we passed these wrecks, we saw the hotel located on an island in the harbour – Iririki Island hotel.
The island and the hotel has an interesting history.

Originally the island was a British hospital in 1910, after which it was the British Residency (1913). The Residency was built on the top of the island and one had to climb 179 steps from the beach to the house.

A lower house was built for the Queen when she visited the island, after which the lower house became the accommodation for the British High Commissioner.

After independence (1980) the island was abandoned, and in 1983 it was leased so that a a resort could be created.
The 1987 cyclone causes so much damage, it took a year to refurbish.

In 1991 it became a child free sanctuary, and in 2004 it was sold to a consortium of Australian businessmen.

In 2009 it became family friendly, until the cyclone of 2015, which required a huge amount of refurbishing, and the island was reopened for business in 2016.

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As you see it has a casino.

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Port Vila seems to thrive on duty free shops – the prices for duty free spirits were the cheapest I’d see in a long time, which makes one think of certain airport duty free shops and their prices . . . picture thanks to Ken.

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Port Vila looked quiet, but you still had to watch the traffic.

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We came across the local market, which had a huge choice of fresh vegetables and fruit.

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and don’t forget the flowers.

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Anchored in the harbour was a touch of yesterday.
The flag on the mast is the flag of Vanuatu.

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Across the harbour we could see the Ruby Princess, note the shallow water – our water taxi went to the left of the picture before crossing the shallow area.
Thanks to Ken for the full picture, I cropped the original to focus in the ship.

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Goodbye Port Vila

 

 

 

Lifou Island

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Lifou Island is part of the Loyalty Islands, which is part of New Caledonia, and Noumea is the capital.

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We approached the island and anchored. The tender boats from Ruby Princess would take us ashore to the small piers.

The island is 80 km (50 miles) long and 16 km (10 miles) wide, and is famous for coral, tropical fish, turtles and views. The populations is currently around 10,000 people.

The French took control of New Caledonia and the surrounding islands in 1853 and they remain as part of France today.

Maureen & I had visited the island some years ago when we cruised the area with P & O Australia, and at that time, because we were with our grandchildren, we spent our time ashore on the beach and swimming. This time we planned a little site seeing, and to take in the views.

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As we came into the bay to anchor I took the above picture and planned to climb to the top to visit the church, which I found out was called Notre Dame de Lourdes Chapel.

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It didn’t take long for the tender boats to made ready to take the passengers ashore.

DSC05858rOnce ashore we found a small market selling locally designed textiles.

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Lifou Island, being part of New Caledonia, which itself is part of France, the local signs were in French and the locals spoke French, as well as their own language, and could be understood in English. The people are Kanaks, and their culture is still maintained despite the arrivals of other cultures.

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We walked up a small hill to reach the road that would take us to the chapel.

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If you wanted a cool coconut drink, they were $3 AUD or 200 Pacific French francs.

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This guy couldn’t care less if he sold a coconut or not – he was happy.
Picture thanks to Ken.

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After a walk of about ten to fifteen minutes we came across the path that led up to the chapel. The climate was humid, but tolerable, so I started up the rise which didn’t feel all that bad until I moved further up and realised that it was getting steep, and I could see how steep – so I chickened  out, and Maureen & I sat at the bottom waiting for our friends to return.

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Too steep for me – picture thanks to Ken

The palm tree on the right in the picture that shows the beginning of the climb had an unusual ‘fruit’ or seed, I’m not sure which, but I took a picture . . .

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It wasn’t a pineapple!

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On our return to the pier area we listened to a choir of locals – there is something in the harmony of the Pacific islanders when they sing as a choir  the link is of the New Caledonia Choir.

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We saw this monument, but we were unable to find out if it had a significant meaning – it was located within an area that was fenced off, so we couldn’t get in the check. Perhaps it indicates the way to St Francois -Xavier church.

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The locals had a large map to allow visitors to get an idea of where to go and what to see.

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We decided to return to the ship for lunch, the tender boats ran a continuous ferry service so one didn’t have to wait too long.

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This is not a trick – but as I walked along the small pier to the tender boat, I looked over the fence and saw a turtle – out came the camera and I took a few shots, but none captured the turtle – but I’m happy to say that I saw it, and was surprised that it was so close to the beach considering all the human traffic around.

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A tropical beach & the sea enslaves my imagination  . . .

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Home James, a cold beer awaits . . .

A weekend away

 

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Not long after we arrived home from our South American cruise, we were ‘invaded’ by the family, who wished to celebrate our Golden Wedding. We never turn down a party particularly when we don’t have to prepare anything :- o)

During the party we were presented with a voucher for two nights in the city at a major hotel, which included breakfast each day, afternoon English tea, and Happy Hour (which was actually two hours) in the evening – PLUS a voucher to Aria Restaurant, which is one of the top restaurants in Sydney. Aria overlooks the harbour.

Friday – Saturday and late check-out Sunday

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Sofitel Wentworth Sydney

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Our room

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View from our window.

Once checked in and we’d unpacked, we decided on a short walk to the harbour, which was only a ten minute walk away.

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Explorer of the Seas – Royal Caribbean, alongside Circular Quay.

DSC05558rcThe Bridge of course – who doesn’t photograph the bridge :- o)

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and of course the Opera House

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The Old Customs House, opened in 1845, but is now used for various exhibitions. It ceased to be used as a customs house in 1990 and was converted to what we see today. Inside is a miniature model of Sydney and you can get a better idea of Sydney’s layout.

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City model at 2 mm to the metre

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Back for afternoon tea – help yourself to sandwiches / cakes etc and waiters bring you a selection of teas or coffee.

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This was one way to put weight on . . .

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The Club Lounge at 5.30 pm – just the place until 7.30 pm.

We met a couple from Brisbane and the chat just flowed and the time passed quickly. Once again help yourself to the food and waiters bring the drinks – all very civilised.

It had been a long day so we had an early night.

Breakfast was in the Club Lounge – all the normal things that one expects in a first class hotel.

It rained heavily over night (the first in weeks) – so as we left for a walk around the the Rocks & Darling harbour we borrowed a very large umbrella from the hotel – just in case.

We walked to Darling Harbour to view the converted areas which used to be wharfs and are now shopping centres and restaurants. What a change since my first arrival when I was at sea in the 1960’s.

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Across the harbour is the Maritime museum and alongside was the James Craig. When Maureen & I moved from Melbourne to Sydney in 1985 the James Craig was just a hulk as gangs of volunteers worked on her restoration.

Launched at Sunderland in the UK in 1874 and named Clan Macleod. She sailed around the Cape Horn twenty three times during her twenty six years before being sold to J.J. Craig in 1900 for the trans-Tasman trade. Her name was changed in 1905 to James Craig,  She was laid up in 1911 because of competition from steam ships. She became a copra hulk in Papua New Guinea,
At the end of WW 1 she was refitted and had a new life due to the shortage of ships. But by 1925 she was back to being a hulk, this time for coal, in Tasmania. In 1932 she was abandoned and was beached during a storm.
In 1972 volunteers re-floated her and she was patched up enough so that could be towed to Sydney, which happened in 1981. Restoration took place and she was relaunched in 1997.

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She is now a fully operational vessel (picture from Sydney Heritage website) and anyone can, (for a fee), have a day at sea in her from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm and the fee includes morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. One of these days . . .

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The Strand in Sydney centre, all old world type shops, which trade normally, they are not tourist shops, but are worth a visit for something different.

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Same cruise company but a different ship – Quantum of the Seas.

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I told you :- o)

 

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Looking up at the Opera House roof/sails.

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Every time I look at the ‘sails’ I am reminded of a Spanish soldier in the middle ages.

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Admiralty House – (just in the trees) opposite the Opera House,

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Fort Denison aka Pinchgut – originally a small rocky island.
In the early days prisoners were sent there with little to eat or drink – hence Pinchgut.

Much of the island was quarried for its sandstone, which was used to create were the Opera House now stands – aka Bennelong Point. In 1857 8000 tons of sandstone was quarried from Kurraba Point (Neutral Bay) to create the fort.

A one o’clock gun is still fired from the fort, which began in 1906. It wasn’t fired during WW 2 after 1942 so as not to alarm the people.

Our walk was a large circle that took us back to the hotel to change for dinner at Aria Restaurant.

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View from our table overlooking the cruise ship that was alongside.

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Maureen studying the menu – GF of course.

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Another view from our table

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I needed a strong dink as I studied the wine list prices . . . .

We had a late check-out on Sunday, so decided to walk through the Botanic Gardens, which were very close to the hotel.

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It was a beautiful day, with little wind as you see with the lack of white caps.

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One last photograph as we walked back to the hotel to check-out, the weekend was over.

But what a great present!   Thanks kids :- o)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andes

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We flew with KLM’s Boeing 777-300ER (ER = Extended range) from Buenos Aires to Santiago in Chile, so as to connect with the Qantas B 747 to Sydney.

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All went well until we reached the Andes when I realised that I’d left my camera in the overhead bag, and I was sitting in the centre seat of three in economy.
If I asked the passenger next to me to move, so as to allow me to find my camera we’d have missed the Andes and more than likely on landing approach to Santiago, so I used Maureen’s phone.

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I am unable to ID any of the mountains . . .

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I clicked away like mad, but many are uninteresting so I’ve just picked five.

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As a passenger looking out it was quite spectacular, as you can see we had a beautiful clear sky.

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Santiago, Chile, we were in transit at the airport for two and a half hours.

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The flight from Santiago was fourteen hours, and after crossing the dateline into the following, day we arrived home.
I never get tired of photographing the view of Sydney harbour.

 

A collage of the ‘Paris of the South’

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I thought I’d just post a collage of photographs of Buenos Aires, without too much ‘chat’.

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The yellow bus is a Hop on Hop off bus, worth the money even if it is only used to get around from one photo opportunity to another.

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Part of the main square of the city – Plaza de Mayo

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Still within the square

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Don Quixote at the intersection of Avenida de Mayo and Avenida 9 de Julio, it was a gift from Spain in 1980.

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A small area of Avenida 9 de Julio

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Cafe Torton, which is a famous cafe that opened in 1858.

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In the UK I had a hobby of painting 20 mm metal soldiers and I recreated quite a lot of the Battle of Waterloo – I gave everything away when we emigrated . . .  :- (

I took the above picture, during a visit to a Sunday market. I was tempted to buy a small squad . .  but didn’t.

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Rhodochrosite is the national gem stone of Argentina, and all of the above jewellery is made from this stone – this stall is one of the market stalls.

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Rhodochrosite

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The above reminded me of Penang – bottom right shows the covers of a few of the market stalls.

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I was impressed with many of the wide clear streets.

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Which one is John, is the far one Ringo, that’s not Paul surly . . .

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I just liked the building – no idea of any details.

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A beautiful day – National Congress Building

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Different – I wonder if the lawn is on the roof . . .

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A distant shot that I had to crop – the Russian Orthodox church, opened in 1904. There are about 170,000 Russians or of Russian decent, living in Argentina.

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The hop on hop off bus drove through this new area of the city , which appeared to have as much heart as that of a dead lettuce – boring.

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A major shopping street

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No idea what this building is called, I just liked the look of it , so I took the photograph.

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Clicked this one because I liked how the old is reflected in the new . . .

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If you are going to have a demo have a big one – workers marching because they can not find work.

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Different colours for different unions (I think).

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For all the shouting and drum beating it was quite peaceful – but we didn’t hang around – just in case things changed.

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I saw this and thought that’s for me  . . but Maureen disagreed  . . .

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We stopped on a corner and began to study our maps, when this policeman approached and asked if he could help. We didn’t realise, but we had stopped outside the Israeli embassy, and he was an Argentinian guard protecting the embassy.
His English was excellent, so what started as request for directions ended up as a long conversation of places that we and the guard had visited overseas, and life in general. A perfect gentleman and a credit to Argentina, for his consideration of ‘lost’ tourists.

He never took his eyes off the area around the embassy, even when he was chatting to us. Note the bullet proof vest, and he had a carbine and a pistol on his hip. He made one feel quite safe.

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This is a sort of cathedral I suppose . . .

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It is the ceiling of a shopping centre.

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Fountain and coffee bar

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Maureen and I stood near the information desk and we looked up at the ceiling area, which I think was the base of an escalator, it was very highly polished copper.

I took a photograph of us reflected in the copper – you can see us near the top of the picture. I have the camera pointing at the ‘ceiling’ so what you see in the photograph is of our reflection.

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I rotated another picture of just me taking my own picture in the copper ‘mirror’ – I’m on the left. I rotated the original picture horizontally before posting.

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The only way to end a spot of site seeing . . .