Bay of Bengal

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Upon sailing from  Colombo we cleaned ship – the crew hosed down the decks and all rubbish was thrown overboard (well before it became un pc), the smell of the land fell away and we could unlock our windows and doors, we were free of petty thieving and the smell of industry, our destination was Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).

Each cabin had two doors – an outer door that was a thick solid door that was only closed when in port, and an inner door (only a couple of inches between each door) which was a louvered door. When opening the main door we could lock it open by the use of a hook attached to the bulkhead in the passageway.

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The door was similar to the one in the picture, but on the ships in which I sailed our inner door was not full height, but about three quarters high of a standard door, and the slats could be moved to allow more air in to the cabin or to close it off completely.

One seldom locked the inner door so if one wanted to sleep or a quiet time, we would hang a bath towel over the top of the door and people would respect your privacy. We never locked our cabin doors when at sea because we felt that trust of ones colleagues was paramount.

The feeling that the ship is ours again after being in port is a definite feeling of ownership.

Once again, I was on the ‘graveyard’ watch – mid-day to 4.00 pm and midnight to 4.00 am, I loved that watch – peaceful, and particularly at night one felt in total command.

There are certain nights that I can remember and the short voyage from Colombo to Chalna has been in my mind for a long time.

The weather was perfect – cloudless sky, about 29 c (84 f) with a light breeze that took the sting out of the sun. The waves were small with very few white caps, and the flying fish were – flying, and visibility must have been about twenty miles.

Sunset was dramatic with shades of blue green yellow orange purple grey and red beams that reflected off the sea. As the sun set the sky became silver as the moon took over from the sun.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera at the time of the sunset but have used the above which I took during a cruise. of course the sunset was not during my watch times, but later when we would sit outside – feet on the lower bar of the ship’s rails and a beer in hand and all was well with the world.

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The gives you an idea, but the deck space on a cargo ship was a small area and we didn’t march around the ship for exercise as people do on modern cruise ships.

As we approached the coast of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) we were looking for the light vessel that warned of sand banks and other dangers.

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This is not the Chalna lightship, but I posted it to show those who may not be aware of a light ship. The lightship would be moored at a designated spot, and its light would flash at night in a certain pattern to warn vessels of danger.

We arrived off the lightship at around 5.00 pm (1700 hrs) and anchored and waited for the pilot to guide us up the Pasur River the sixty miles to Chalna.

Once again we waited and waited and finally, we heard that the agent didn’t even know that we were due in to Chalna. The added problem was that the date that we arrived was the 12th March, and we had to be out of the river and in to the Bay of Bengal no later than the 14th March because the water in the river might drop so low that we wouldn’t be able to cross the bar (sandbanks) at the mouth of the river.
I must admit that there were times when I was glad I was not the Captain, and this was one of them.

When the pilot did arrive to guide us up the river we could only cross the bar at high water, and when we sounded the depth we had less than two metres (seven feet) under the keel of the ship as we crossed the bar in to the river.

We moved up the river in the evening and moored to a buoy off Chalna.

Chalna at that time was the main seaport in the area (second only to Chittagong) having been created in 1950, but due to difficult currents in the Pasur river it was decided in  1954 that the anchorage should be moved nine miles south towards the river mouth to a place called Mongla although in the 1960’s it was still referred to as Chalna, but now it is known as Mongla, due to the port’s expansion.

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Warehouse style barges came out to us and using our cargo derricks we unloaded / loaded cargo. I took the above picture in 1968.

The flat land on both sides of the river were just mangrove swamps, the main town of Khulna was thirty-two miles further up river, which was the regional administration centre. At our anchorage the river was about five miles wide.

We were due to load 1500 tons of cargo and so had five gangs working flat out because we had to leave the river while we had enough water to cross the bar at the river’s entrance.

We managed to load our cargo and cross the bar, although we were later than expected, the water was deep enough for us as we entered the Bay of Bengal on the 16th March.

Destination Trincomalee in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a destination which is on the north east coast of Ceylon.

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One of the finest harbours in the world, which was of great importance to the British during the colonial period. It was a safe harbour, and an ideal base to protect the Coromandel Coast, which is the south eastern coast of India.

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The light brown area marked on the east coast of India is the Coromandel coast and I hope you can see the pink dot on Sri Lanka, which indicates Trincomalee.
Madras (now called Chennai), marked on the Indian coast with a pink dot in the light brown area, was an extremely important port for the British during colonial times.

In 1812 Britain order a couple of frigates to be built in India, due to the shortage of oak in Britain during the Napoleonic wars. The ships were built in Bombay (now Mumbai) out of teak.
One of the ships was named HMS Trincomalee after the battle of Trincomalee in 1782.

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Launched in 1817, and is still afloat in Hartlepool ,in the UK after major renovations.

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Considering where she was built note the figure head.

As we sailed to Trincomalee we heard that the labour in Trinco (as Trincomalee was called) were on strike, which meant that we would not be able to load our cargo of tea.

The Company asked if we could make Fremantle without stopping for fuel – we could, but it would be a ten day voyage from our location in the Bay of Bengal, and we had enough water for fourteen days, so as long as we didn’t hit any inclement weather we should be able to make Fremantle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colombo – Ceylon

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Ceylon did not become Sri Lanka until 1972.

The country has had a chequered  history, from the Portuguese arriving in 1505, followed by the Dutch, when the king of Sri Lanka signed a treaty with the Dutch East India Company, in the hope that the Dutch would get rid of the Portuguese.

It was during the Napoleonic wars that France occupied the Netherlands, and made that country part of France, which caused concern to the British.

The British didn’t want France to have any influence in or around India, so they occupied the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. At the end of the Napoleonic war the British occupied the whole country, and it was they who called the country Ceylon.

Ceylon gained their independence from the British in 1948, but it wasn’t until 1972 that the country’s name changed to Sri Lanka.

Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, the first female Prime Minister in the world.
She was PM three times and it was during her second period in office (1970 – 1977) that the country’s name changed to Sri Lanka.

ColomboOn arrival we were moored to buoys in the harbour of Colombo (see above) and the labour came out to us in barges to load / unload cargo.

The small problem with Ceylon is that they have 26 public holidays a year, which consist of a mix of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim faith days.
One of the holidays is Poya Day which happens when there is a full moon they are entitled to a holiday, so little is done on the 12 full moon days in a year, plus it is not unknown for some to take the day off before Poya Day, so working cargo can be slowwww.

The slow speed of work gave us time to experience Colombo and enjoy the beautiful island.

One Sunday four of us hired a taxi to take us from the dock area to Mount Lavinia Hotel, which used to be the Governor’s house. The hotel was about ten miles out of the city and the drive would have been about thirty to forty minutes, due to traffic.

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An old picture of the Governor’s House taken around 1900 – it had fallen in to disrepair as it was no longer the Governor’s House.

The British Government sold the house in 1842 and it was bought by Rev. Dr. John MacVicar, the Colonial Chaplain and turned in to an asylum.

In 1877 the railway line was built along the coast from Colombo and it passed very close to the old building.
A developer saw the potential and restored the old building and added two wings and the building became The Mount Lavinia Grand Hotel. The hotel changed hands a few times until it was bought by Mr. U. K. Edmund in 1975 and is still in the family.

In 1957 it was used for a few scenes in the film Bridge on the River Kwai, the film was made in Sri Lanka (not Thailand) and the hotel ‘played’ a military hospital – oddly enough it was a military hospital during WW2.

Most of the British prisoners in the film were local Sinhalese made up to play British POWs.

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Above picture from the internet.

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The Mount Lavina Hotel is now one of my favourite hotels, and it took me thirty-eight year before I was able to return, this time with Maureen.

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The taxi dropped us at the hotel, and the uniforms may be a little more modern, but the ambiance of our arrival was the same.

 We booked a curry lunch; – at that time they didn’t have a swimming pool, why would you need one considering the location.

They owned the beach.

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At that time the hotel had facilities for day visitors, and we were able to get changed and be confident that our clothes & valuables etc would be safe. I kept some money in my pocket – just in case I wanted a drink.

Swimming in the waves can make one tried so I decided to take a walked along the beach away from the hotel and the distant city of Colombo. I came across a lady selling fresh pineapples, so I bought one, and found that the taste was out of this world,
I’d only ever had tinned pineapples in the UK, funny how some memories stay with you.
We had the use of showers and it was time for a pre-lunch beer, before entering the dining room for our lunch.
We ate under giant ceiling fans that moved slowly enough to cool, but not to make the food cold – all very ‘pukka sahib’.

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I took the above picture in 2014 and I don’t think it was all that much different than in 1968, I think that now they have air conditioning.

After lunch we sat on the lawn and chatted or just doze – the lawn has gone and it is now the swimming pool.

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Now guests have a choice . . .

I took the photograph at the beginning of this post from the end of the pool at Mount Lavinia Hotel.

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At the end of the day it was back to Colombo and the ship,

Loading tea onto a freighter. Colombo Harbour, 1960’s

loading chests of tea.

I can remember that the exchange rate between the UK pound and the Sri Lankan rupee was 14 to the pound and the black-market rate 25 to 27 to the pound. Today it is about 236 rupees to the UK pound.

Next stop Chalna in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh)

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Rule 303

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Breaker Morant

Rule 303 a quote supposedly said by Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant at his court martial in 1902, he was found guilty and shot by firing squad on the 27 February 1902, 118 years ago this week.

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Morant was played by Edward Woodward

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The film was released in 1980.

We loaded the last piece of cargo in Karachi at 4.30 pm during which time the ship had been prepared for sea – the pilot was on the bridge and our mooring lines had been singled up (one line forward and one aft), time was of the essence after the trouble with the previous deck crew. Our next destination was Bombay (now Mumbai).

On arrival in Bombay was on the 24th February at 6.00 am, we were told to anchor in the explosive anchorage, we were to load 303 ammunition.

I’m not sure if the Captain was aware that we would be loading the ammunition before we arrived or if he found out as the pilot boarded. We were told of our cargo and that it was safe, but few of us smoked on deck – just in case.

We all knew of a tragic fire that took place in 1944.

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The SS Fort Stikine (7100 gt) had sailed from Birkenhead UK, in February 1944 and arrived in Bombay in April.
She was berthed in the Victoria Dock, and her cargo consisted of cotton bales, gold, and ammunition, which included around 1,400 tons of explosives. She also carried 238 tons of sensitive “A” explosives, torpedoes, mines, shells and a Supermarine Spitfire.

In mid-afternoon on the 14th April a fire in number two hold was discovered. The crew and dockside labour were unable to put the fire out, even after pumping 900 tons of water in the the ship. The water boiled due to the heat.

The ship was abandoned at 15.50 hr (3.50 pm), and sixteen minutes later it exploded.

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The ship was cut in half, windows were broken 12 km (7 miles) away. Later there was a second explosion which registered on a sensor reading in Shimia 1700 km (1020 miles) away, a town which is north of Delhli.

Showers of burning material set fire to slum areas, and two square kilometres (about a square mile) was set alight. Eleven other ships close to the Fort Stikine were sunk. Burning cotton bales fell all around and much of Bombay’s developed and economically important areas were destroyed by the blast.

Overall it was estimated that more than 800 people were killed and being war time, the explosion and aftermath were not made public until some time later. Some figures have the death toll as high as 1350 people. Of those who were killed 500 were civilians. Over 2500 were injured, sixteen ships were lost or heavily damaged (see below) and 80,000 people were left homeless.

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You’ll be pleased to know that nearly all the gold was recovered . . .

So this is why we didn’t smoke outside of the accommodation.

We loaded the ammunition safely, and we weren’t too bothered because we didn’t have any other explosive cargo on-board.

After loading other (normal) cargo we were told that we had to go to Chalna, which is  in East Pakistan (now called Bangladesh).

Nothing is easy, because the relationship between Pakistan and India was not all that cordial in the 1960’s.
So now we had a problem – we had Indian ammunition on board and we were required to visit East Pakistan, but we couldn’t visit East Pakistan because we had a cargo of Indian ammunition on board.
Cable London!, and all we had to do was to remember the opening lines of Casablanca &  wait and wait and wait.

Finally, the powers that be came to a decision – carry the ammunition to Cochin and unload it to make room for tea out of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and then sail for Chalna.

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Maureen & I visited Cochin (now called Kochi) in 2016 on a cruise ship and as soon as I saw the harbour I recognised the shoreline and the 1960’s flooded back in to my mind.

DSC05667rChinese fishing nets can be seen. Sometimes ‘Time’ seems to have stood still.
The picture is not very clear due to early morning mist.

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A clearer picture of the fishing nets from the internet.

At home I have four pictures on the wall of my dinning room – I watched the artists in Cochin paint the final strokes of the multicoloured painting – I’d already bought the three sepia pictures, and I could see the scenes that he’d painted – all are painted on thick paper.

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Three

Four    two

They always remind me of Cochin in the 1960’s . . . .

To end this post as I started with Edward Woodward, but this time he is singing Soldiers of the Queen after the execution of Breaker Morant, the piece of film also notes that their defence advocate died in 1945.

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Next stop Colombo in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mutiny?

What do people think of when they hear of a mutiny? Perhaps cinema’s effort to re-enact a mutiny helps us to think of –

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the mutiny on HMS Bounty, in April 1789 might come to mind. .

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or would it be the Indian Mutiny of 1857. .

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or a later mutiny aboard the Russian battleship ‘Potemkin’ in 1905.

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Perhaps fiction comes to mind ‘The Cain Mutiny’, and Captain Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart Cainemutinybook

 

We sailed from Bushire in Iran for Karachi in Pakistan oblivious of the future.

Our deck and engine-room crews were from Pakistan and mainly from Karachi and the surrounding areas.

So of course they would be expecting the opportunity of going ashore to see their families, once we were alongside and they were off duty. The system was that time ashore would be split between the crew so that we would always have enough crew on-board to man the ship.

The plan was to be in Karachi for twenty-four hours, it was to be a quick ‘turn around’, discharge and load cargo at the same time.

Of course, all the best plans can go astray if someone doesn’t do what is expected. Our agent in Karachi was supposed to arrange for shore side passes for all of the crew so that they could go ashore and see their families – he failed to arrange the passes, and even Pakistanis were required to have a pass to exit the dock or return to their ship. In the 1960’s security was not as ridged as it is now.

When the crew were informed that they were not allowed to go ashore because the passes were not available, they became very upset – and that is putting it mildly.

The Captain & the Chief engineer were told by the deck & engine-room crew, that if they didn’t receive the passes, they would walk off the ship, and she would not be able to sail.

I suppose a mutiny alongside is much more preferable than one in the middle of the ocean, at least the officers would not have to sail an open boat over 3600 nautical miles to get help, which Captain Bligh managed after the HMS Bounty mutiny.

The passes eventually arrived and as they were handed to the deck crew, who had been particularly aggressive, they were told to pack their bags and not to return to the ship, and that they would no longer be considered for a position on any British India Steam Navigation Company vessel.
I don’t know for certain, but I assume that their discharge books would be stamped DR – decline to report – which any future Captain hiring a crew would not entertain anyone with DR in their discharge book. A discharge book is the work record of sailors, and most would have VG or G stamped alongside the ship’s name – Very Good or Good, either is acceptable to allow a sailor to gain a berth and ship out again in a decent ship.

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The bottom of the Discharge Book is not clear so I cropped it and highlighted the title.

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The above is what the inside of a Discharge Book looks like  – ship’s name on the left, date and port of joining and date & port of the end of the voyage, description of voyage (British Coastal or Foreign), and report on ability (VG) & general conduct (VG).

The Pakistani seamen would have received at least DR in ‘conduct’, not sure what the stamp would have been for ability, considering they all left under a cloud of ‘mutiny’.

The engine room crew had not been as belligerent as the deck crew so the Chief Engineer decided to give the engine-room crew a second chance. The Captain would still have to sign all of the engine room’s crew’s discharge books at the end of the voyage.

Of course, we had to sign on a new deck crew before we could sail, this we did, and we managed to sail on time.

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Some years earlier, when I was a cadet, I’d stayed at the Beach Luxury Hotel in Karachi for eighteen days while waiting for a ship.
I’d signed off a ship because she was remaining in the Far East and I was to join a home bound ship, because I was due leave after a year or so out East.

I’d enjoyed my stay in Karachi, and the hotel was the first time I’d experienced a real ‘nightclub’.
I’d never seen a real floor show in a hotel or restaurant, except via the cinema, courtesy of Hollywood. The nightly show guaranteed at least one person in the audience.
Talk about being star struck, I was entranced with the nightly shows of singers or dancers during the evening meal.

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Another shot of the hotel – the picture was taken about the time I was staying there.

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The city at that time was a mixture of modern and traditional.

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In the early 60’s they still get around in a ‘garry’, which was the name of this type of horse drawn vehicle, and of course the tuk tuk.

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During the eighteen days waiting for a ship, the two things that I do remember about Karachi in 1964 was visiting the zoo, which I found to be a disappointment, because I saw a three-legged jackal (it wasn’t born that way), and I was not impressed with the poor conditions of the remaining animals.

I also visited a horse racing meet and noted a horse called Solomon Star, and in brackets (formally Woodland Star).
Never having been very good at gambling I thought the last horse to bet on would be an animal linked to me (Woodland) – so I didn’t bet on Solomon Star, but of course it romped home, thus confirming my lack of gambling skill.

The next tine I put money on a horse was in 1982 in Melbourne (Melbourne Cup) and I won $5, the last of the big betters. Haven’t had the urge to lose money since.

Karachi early 1960’s  check this small piece of film and note how they used to load certain cargo.

 

 

 

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. . . .

There are rivers and there are rivers

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You can sail the Danube or

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the Mekong

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or even the Amazon

for pleasure, and not have a worry, but I doubt that you would choose to sail up or down the Shatt Al Arab for your annual holiday.

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The map will give you an idea of where we were heading  – we bunkered (refuelled) at Abadan, then sailed to Basra (which is in the province of Al Basrah) Iraq for dates, and later to Khorramshahr  (Iran) for pistachio nuts.

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Shatt Al Aarab from the internet taken in the early 1970’s.

Shatt al-Arab, (which means the river of the Arabs in Iraq), but it is also known as Arvand Rud (Swift river) in Iran (Persia).

The river is 200 km (120 miles) long from the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris to the Persian Gulf.  Just above where these two rivers meet is thought to be the location of a well known garden – The Garden of Eden.

The pilot joined us at 4.00 am at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab and we made our shaky way upstream to Abadan in Iran. Being so light (empty of cargo and nearly empty of fuel) we didn’t have to worry too much about running aground, just the hope that the vibrations, caused by the propeller, would not shake us to bits.

The Shah had celebrated his coronation only three months earlier –

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At that time Abadan was an international cosmopolitan city, and the people appeared happy and carefree. Eleven years later the Shah had been deposed and the people were under Ayatollah Khomeini. How things have changed in the last forty years.

After a short stay in Abadan to bunker (refuel) our next stop was Basra in Iraq.

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Ships alongside in Basra.

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Basra was the end of the line for the British India Steam Nav Co passenger ships from Bombay (now Mumbai). The above shows one of the passenger ships arriving in Basra. The picture is off the internet.

We anchored in the river and waited for about five days to go alongside, why we waited so long I don’t have any idea, perhaps because the cargo wasn’t ready, or perhaps the berth was occupied, or the agent hadn’t ‘looked after’ the right people, but for us it was stinking hot, and a very uncomfortable time.
Once again we swapped old pieces of wood for uncut water melons – wood was valuable to the locals and the water melons a nice change for us.
In the evening, during the our ‘beer time’ it was melon pip flicking time to see who could flick the pip the furthest as the river was only about 37 metres (120 feet) wide at this point and we were not far off the river bank. Life at sea could be stimulating at times. . . .

Basra was the departure port for Sinbad on his third voyage. It is also renowned for being one of the hottest ports to visit. 50 c (122 F) on the Persian Gulf run.
This port is a destination that has never been on my return ‘bucket’ list, even though it used to be known as the Venice of the East, due to the canals.

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Venice of the East?

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Venice of the East

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This picture is off the internet of one of the Company’s cargo ships, very like the one I sailed in, alongside at Basra in the late 1960’s.

The reason for our visit to Basra was to load dates – it was harvest time.

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While we loaded the dates and other cargo, the only form of distraction in our free time, was the British Club, which had a swimming pool and a bar that sold cold beer.

Khorramshahr in Iran was our next port of call where we loaded bags and bags of pistachio nuts, as well as general cargo.

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Pistachio nuts before harvesting.

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As we know them . . .

There wasn’t much to do ashore and after our shift we would sit on the river side of the ship, drink a beer or two and see how far we could flick the shells of the pistachio nuts, I told you a life at sea could be stimulating . . .

Once our cargo was loaded,we sailed down the river to the Persian Gulf, and to our next port, which was Bushire, which is a port in Iran. I’ve indicated the port on the map.

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We were warned before we reached Bushire not to bother posting any mail because it would never reach the UK, because the locals would steal the stamps and throw away the letter.
We were told to hold our letters until we reached Karachi. A small thing to remember so many years ago, but for us, at that time, mail was important. The internet was 25 or 30 years in the future.

We anchored off Bushire and barges came out to us – so to speed up the process we worked three holds.
The problem was that the labour was paid 1/ 9d a day or in today’s money AUD $2.52 a DAY! (USD$1.70).
If there wasn’t a ship in port to load or unload they didn’t get paid.

The Iranian company that hired the ashore labour considered that they were being generous, because they knew that the labour would steal anything from the ship that was not screwed down.
We had to post two crew members down each hold to stop the labour breaking into the cargo. At times the ship’s officers had to threaten violence to the shore side labour to stop them broaching cargo (breaking in to the cargo).
Even so some of the crew lost various items of of clothing, cargo went missing and various large crates were broken in to and some of the contents stolen.
The officer’s accommodation had been locked down, and all windows and other openings bolted shut, which made the accommodation extremely hot when off duty.

Stealing cargo was a common occupation across the world and it was a constant battle with shore side labour to put a stop to the thefts, but the labour in Bushire had it down to a fine art.

Juna

MV Juna 

I was 3rd Mate of the above ship during our ‘cruise’ to Basra & the Persian  Gulf.

A couple of years ago I visited Dubai on the way to Europe, and I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever stop over for a ‘holiday’ of four days in the Persian Gulf, but I did because we flew with Emirates Airlines. At least the bus stops in Dubai were air-conditioned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.