Tag Archives: The Astor

Broome, 28th February 2014

Day 32 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Broome. This is our last stop before we arrive back at our starting point – Fremantle, and a journey of 9,040 nautical miles.

We arrived at Broome at 10am, after an overnight sail from Komodo. Broome is a pearling and tourist town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 2,200 km (1,400 mi) north of Perth. The town has an interesting history based around the exploits of the men and women who developed the pearling industry, starting with the harvesting of oysters for mother of pearl in the 1880s to the current major cultured pearl farming enterprises. The riches from the pearl beds did not come cheaply, and the town’s Japanese cemetery is the resting place of 919 Japanese divers who lost their lives working in the industry. Many more were lost at sea, and the exact number of deaths is unknown. The Japanese were only one of the major ethnic groups who flocked to Broome to work on the luggers or the shore based activities supporting the harvesting of oysters from the waters around Broome. They were specialist divers and, despite being considered enemies, became an indispensable part of the industry until World War II

One of the main attractions of Broome is Cable Beach, a 22.5km (14 mile) unspoilt stretch of white sand washed by tides that can reach over 9 m (30 ft). Unfortunately for us, it’s a “no swim” zone at this time of the year (November through March), due to the preponderance of “stingers” (box jelly fish), sea snakes and salt-water crocodiles. Cable Beach is named in honour of the Java-to-Australia undersea telegraph cable that reaches shore here.

Since swimming was definitely off the agenda, and in view of the intense heat and humidity (37C, but it felt more like 45C), we decided to seek out Matso’s, a microbrewery and restaurant, famous throughout Australia for it’s range of locally brewed beers. These include (taken from Matso’s beer menu):

  • Hit The Toad Lager (malt accented lager with a delicate fruit hop flavour).
  • Smokey Bishop (malt driven dark lager with a distinctive toffee and smokey notes).
  • Mango Beer (a wheat beer with a sweet mango nose and a tropical finish).
  • Chilli Beer (probably the hottest beer in the world – we dare you!)
  • Pearler’s Pale Ale (American style pale ale with a full malt flavour and hoppy bitter finish)
  • Ginger Beer (our famous, must try, traditional ginger cooler).
  • Chango (a balanced sweet and spicy combination of two of our favourites).
  • Desert Lime Cider (a quality apple cider blended with authentic desert limes from outback Australia and our secret wild ginger emulsion).
  • Mango Cider (a refreshing apple cider shaken up with real mango pulp and rare desert limes from the Aussie Outback).

Matso’s was a good ¾ mile walk from the town centre, which felt more like walking a marathon due to the intense heat, but having got there, we settled down to a lunch of salad and grilled prawns, washed down with several glasses of the various beers (I finally settled on the Mango beer as my favourite). The walk back into town to catch the town bus for the port seemed a lot a shorter, no doubt the beer helped!

One other noteworthy incident for Broome. Shortly after arriving back on board, the Cruise Director announced through the ship’s broadcast system that Glen Wallis the Shore Excursions Manager, and Helen Jolly the Assistant Cruise Director had just got engaged. We first met Helen and Glen on our Marco Polo cruise last year to the Amazon, and in fact it was that cruise that they first got to know each other.  Our congratulations to both of them – we’ll keep an eye out for the wedding invitation! (Joking of course).

So, Broome is our last port of call for this cruise. We now have three sea days to look forward to before arriving back at Fremantle, having travelled 9,040 nautical miles to circumnavigate the continent of Australia with a ‘pan-handle’ up to the Indonesian islands of Bali, Lombok and Komodo. The holiday of a lifetime? Oh yes!

Memorial to deep sea divers who lost their lives in the Broome pearl industry
Memorial to deep sea divers who lost their lives in the Broome pearl industry
A glimpse of Cable Beach
A glimpse of Cable Beach
Mato's micro-brewery and restaurant
The famous Mato’s micro-brewery and restaurant
Helen and Glen
Helen and Glen announce their engagement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lombok and Komodo 25th/26th February 2014

Day 29 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Lombok

Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east.

We only had half a day in Lombok, some of which was taken up by the tendering operation between our ship at anchor in the bay of Lembar, and the one-hour drive to the township of Sengiggi, which was the closest tourist centre.  It wasn’t an altogether enjoyable visit, as we were continually pestered by hawkers selling their wares, but we did manage to get a few items to bring back for friends and family, and I did manage to grab 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi time at one of the local bars.

Lombok is not somewhere I would go out of my way to visit again, though the people seemed friendly enough, and it did have sun, sea and sand in abundance.

Linda at Lombok Beach
Linda at Lombok Beach

Komodo

Day 30 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Komodo Island.

Komodo is one of the 17,508 islands that compose the Republic of Indonesia. The island is particularly notable as the habitat of the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on Earth, which is named for the island. Komodo Island has a surface area of 390 square kilometres and a human population of over two thousand. The people of the island are descendants of former convicts who were exiled to the island.

After a tender ride from the ship we stepped ashore to the Komodo National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. 
The Komodo Dragon is thought to be the remnant of a once widespread ancient order of monitor lizards, which can grow to 11ft in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. The Komodo Dragon can look pretty menacing with its sharp, saw-like teeth and menacing eyes. It lives on deer and wild pigs that inhabit the island. It is also surprisingly agile over short distances, reputed to be able to travel at 20km/hour and is a good swimmer.

This was our penultimate port of call. Our last stop – Broome – is one day’s sailing away.

 

Komodo Island
Komodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo Island and The Astor
Komodo Island and The Astor
Komodo Dragons
What we came to see – Komodo Dragons
Komodo Dragons
Getting a smell of English meat!

 

 

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Bali, Indonesia. 24th February 2014

Day 28 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Bali.

The highlight of our visit to Bali was the tour of the Taro Elephant Safari Park, north of Ubud. Our bus trip took in the views of coffee, cacao, banana and spice plantations, little villages with alang-alang thatched roofs and the green terraced hillsides full of rice paddies.

Set in over four acres of exotic botanical gardens and surrounded by lush forest, the Elephant Safari Park is home to some 27 elephants that were rescued from deforestation in Central and Southern Sumatra. The Park is an official member of the World Zoo Association, and meets international standards for animal care as well as being a sanctuary for the endangered Sumatran elephants.

Our tour started at the Park’s Museum, which housed fossils that date back over five million years, mammoth tusks, a full-sized 15,000 year-old mastodon skeleton and a 300-year-old carved African elephant tusk.

We then watched the elephants play at their daily bathing ritual, and were able to help feed them and have our photo taken with them. This was followed by a short show in the central arena, where the elephants played football, basketball and even tried their “trunk” at a bit of abstract art. This part of the schedule was not to everyone’s taste (including mine) as it conjured up memories of how elephants were used to entertain people in travelling circuses. However, it was fairly brief and I never once saw an elephant being poked or prodded.

The highlight though, was a 30-minute elephant ride in a teak wooden chair atop these gentle giants – our elephant was a female called Deaha. We soon got used to the gentle, swaying gait of our elephant, from where we had panoramic views of the tropical rainforest, terraced rice paddies and dry riverbeds.

The visit was rounded off with an excellent buffet lunch on the terrace overlooking the elephant pool.

For anyone who questions the ethics of this “elephant exploitation, I will only add that the tourist dollar helps to keep these elephants in a safe environment, where each elephant has it’s own dedicated keeper, and enables the work of the sanctuary to continue.

After the Elephant Park we travelled to Sangeh village for a short visit to the Sangeh Monkey Forest. The six hectares of forestland have giant nutmeg trees that grow as high as 131ft, but the main attractions are the hordes of mischievous Balinese monkeys. Monkeys have always had a sacred place in the Hindu religion, and inhabit both trees and its 17th century temple, Pura Bukit Sari, found in the heart of the forest.

Finally, back to the ship for the usual ‘sail away’ party, and preparation for our next port of call – Lombok.

Balinese Dancers
Balinese dancers welcome our ship.
At the Elephant Safari Park
At the Elephant Safari Park
On safari!
On safari, but no tigers!

 

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, 16th February 2014

Day 20 of our cruise.

Cairns is located about 1,700 km (1,056 mi) from Brisbane, and about 2,700 km (1,678 mi) from Sydney by road. It is a popular travel destination because of its tropical climate and serves as a starting point for people wanting to visit the Great Barrier Reef.

During World War II, Cairns was used by the Allied Forces as a staging base for operations in the Pacific. Combat missions were flown out of Cairns in support of the Battle of the Coral Sea in 1942. The humid climate and dense rain forest also provided ideal conditions for training US Marines preparing to go to Vietnam.

Our focus was very much on our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. The giant reef was proclaimed a marine park by the Australian government in 1975, and placed on the World Heritage list in 1981, becoming the biggest World Heritage area in existence. We embarked on of the many large catamarans for our 90 minute journey out to the reef, where there was a pontoon moored over the reef. We took to the water immediately, with mask, snorkel and flippers and spent the next hour or so marveling at the huge variety of fish and multi-coloured corals, from greens, to yellows to purples and blues. This was definitely a tick on the bucket list!

However, we were warned about the possibility of encountering box jellyfish (“stingers”), which are quite prevalent between December and April, and whose sting can be fatal. We were assured that there had been no incidents recently, and the pontoon had a medical facility – just in case!

There was also a semi-submersible and a glass bottomed boat available to visitors, both of which we explored to get the complete experience. It was certainly a day to remember.

We now have four sea days to look forward to until we get to our next destination – Darwin.

Linda and the turtles, Cairns.
Linda and the turtles, Cairns harbour.
Fruit Bat, spotted over Cairns.
Fruit Bat, spotted over Cairns.
Fish at the Great Barrier Reef
Fish (indeterminate variety) at the Great Barrier Reef
Sunset over Cairns
Sunset over Cairms

 

 

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Brisbane, 13th February 2014

Day 17 of our cruise and we arrive at Brisbane.

Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland, and the third most populous city in Australia with a population of 2.2 million. It was also the home of Ingrid Burkett, who I had only ‘met’ though social media channels and who had heard about our visit and arranged to meet us.

We docked slightly later than planned at 10.30am, and had to find our way to the ferry terminal to catch one of the “City Cat” catamarans that ply their way along the length of the Brisbane River. We met Ingrid at the Treasury Casino, a landmark building (hotel and casino) on Queens Mall. We took a short walk over the bridge to South Bank, which has an array of restaurants, art complexes and a fairly substantial artificial beach, complete with lifeguard.

We enjoyed (yet another) wonderful local seafood lunch with Ingrid (Twitter: @IngridBurkett), whilst chatting about our mutual interest in knowledge sharing and communities of practice. After lunch we had to go our separate ways (Ingrid had a meeting to attend), though I’m confident that we will keep in touch, albeit in a virtual world.

Man-made beach in Brisbane's city centre
Man-made beach in Brisbane’s city centre (spot Linda).
Brisbane City
Brisbane City
Bouganvillia, South Bank, Brisbane
Bouganvillia, South Bank, Brisbane

 

 

 

Sydney, 11th February 2014

Day 15 of our cruise and we’ve arrived at Sydney – the cultural capital of Australia? Melbourne-ites will argue differently!

Sydney is the site of the first British colony in Australia, established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip, of the First Fleet.  The city is built on hills surrounding Port Jackson, which is commonly known as Sydney Harbour, where the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are prominent structures.

With only a day to explore the sights, we headed first for ‘The Rocks”.

The Rocks, just west of circular key, is the neighbourhood where Sydney was born. It was here that Australia’s founding fathers – convicts who had been charged with anything from theft to forgery – came ashore in 1788 to build the colony of New South Wales. The Rocks was once one of Sydney’s most squalid a dangerous quarters, a Dickensian warren of warehouses, grog shops and brothels. It has since been rebuilt and regenerated and is now a great place to explore the plazas, the old shops and the many restaurants and pubs.

After the Rocks we headed for Circular Quay, which was alive with buskers selling everything from boomerangs and didgery doo’s to “rap” Aboriginal CD’s. This was also the place to book a ferry ride around the harbour, and though we had already seen the harbour as we came in on The Astor, it was a convenient way of getting to our next destination – Darling Harbour.

Darling Harbour is a modern leisure precinct, with lots of shops, restaurant and attractions, including the Sydney Aquarium – which we didn’t have time to visit. Our priority instead was to have a leisurely lunch and some highly quafable wine at ‘Nick’s’, and yes, yet another seafood platter!

It was then back to the ship, and a memorable exit from Sydney harbour, with a few more photo opportunities of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House. All accompanied to the usual “Hot, Hot, Hot” song and dance from our Entertainment Team on the upper pool deck.

Next stop – Brisbane.

Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour
Aboriginal buskers at Circular Key
Aboriginal buskers at Circular Key
Sydney harbour bridge - what else! Linda - who else!
Sydney harbour bridge – what else! Linda – who else!
Sydney harbour, showing Circular Quay
Sydney harbour, showing Circular Quay
Lunch (seafood) at Nick's
Lunch (seafood) at Nick’s

 

 

 

 

Eden, 10th February 2014

Day 14 of our circumnavigation of Australia cruise.

Eden was an enchanting little town with some wonderful white-sand beaches. With a population of only 3000 people, it provided a significant contrast to the hustle and bustle of our previous port of call, Melbourne.

Whaling played a very important role in the town’s economy for over 100 years before its decline in the area in the 1920s and its end in 1930. Eden’s Killer Whale Museum informs visitors of the history of whaling in the area and the role of Orcas (killer whales) led by Old Tom in herding whales into the harbour and helping whalers kill them. Initially the prevalent Orcas in the area were seen as a nuisance, but the boat crews (Yuin aboriginals), refused to kill Orcas, and instead they encouraged collaboration between whalers and the killer whales; the killer whales would trap humpback whales that entered Twofold Bay, the whales would then be harpooned by the boat crews, and the Orcas rewarded with prize pieces of the humpback carcasses. A sort of symbiotic relationship between man and Orca.

After a walk though the town, we returned to the port area for a wonderful seafood lunch of locally caught produce, which included oysters, shrimps, mussels, Morton Bay bug (a sort of small lobster) and ‘catch of the day’ fish. We then headed for the headed for the beach at Cattle Bay and relaxing swim in the crystal clear – and warm – sea. A perfect end to the day!

Eden Whale Museum - home of "Old Tom"
Eden Whale Museum – home of “Old Tom”
Cattle Bay Beach
A ‘selfie” from Cattle Bay Beach, Eden.