Our 2013 Round-the-World trip and Round Australia Cruise on SS Volendam


NOTE: Clicking on any day's title will take you to the corresponding photo page.

Getting to Australia

The first part of any cruise is getting there. This year we are going to Australia the long way round! We are doing a round-the-world ticket to get from Melbourne to Syndey, via Italy (Cinque Terre and Amalfi coast), Jersey (UK Channel Island), and Seattle (Nathan and Lynne). Here's the timetable (all times local times):

Day Location Flight/Voyage/Train Depart Arrive
14 Sep 2013 Tullamarine to airport
15 Sep 2013 Melbourne-Hong Kong MEL-HNK QF29 0935 1710
16 Sep 2013 Hong Kong
17 Sep 2013 Hong Kong-Rome HNK-ROM CX293 0010 0705
18 Sep 2013 Rome-Levanto train
19 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Levanto/Monterossa/Levanto
20 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Monterola/Corniglia/Vernazza
21 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Levanto/Portovenere/Three Islands/Riomaggiere
22 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Levanto/Sestri Levanti/Santa Marguerita
23 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Santa Marguerita/Santa Montallegro/Santa Marguerita
24 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Santa Marguerita/Camogli/San Fruttuoso/Portofino/Santa Marguerita
25 Sep 2013 Cinque Terre: Amalfi coast
26 Sep 2013 Amalfi coast: Amalfi/Pontone/Ravello/Amalfi
27 Sep 2013 Amalfi coast: Scala/Pogerola
28 Sep 2013 Amalfi coast: Amalfi-Praiano
29 Sep 2013 Amalfi coast: Pompeii
30 Sep 2013 Amalfi coast: Praiano-Positano
01 Oct 2013 Amalfi coast: Capri
02 Oct 2013 Positano-Rome-Jersey taxi
03 Oct 2013 Jersey: Steam Museum
04 Oct 2013 Jersey: Mont Orgeuil Castle, Samares Manor
05 Oct 2013 Jersey: Durrell Zoo, La Houge Bie
06 Oct 2013 Jersey: Maritime Museum, Elizabeth Castle, L'Etacq
07 Oct 2013 Jersey: Glass Church, War Tunnels, La Mare winery, Devil's Hole
08 Oct 2013 Jersey: La Poulente, Corbiere, St Brelade
09 Oct 2013 Jersey-London: Ferry to Weymouth
10 Oct 2013 London-Seattle LHR-SEA BA49 1455 1535
11 Oct 2013 Seattle: Macy's, Pike Market, Acquarium
12 Oct 2013 Seattle: Porterage, Houses
13 Oct 2013 Seattle: Church, Ballard Market, University
14 Oct 2013 Seattle: Seattle-Winthrop
15 Oct 2013 Seattle: Winthrop-Leavenworth
16 Oct 2013 Seattle: Leavenworth-Seattle
17 Oct 2013 Seattle-Los Angeles
Los Angeles-Sydney
18 Oct 2013 (cross dateline, lose a day) LAX-SYD QF12 ... ...
19 Oct 2013 Los Angeles-Sydney LAX-SYD QF12 ... 0710

Volendam Itinerary

Day Date Port Arrive Depart
0 20 Oct 2013 Sydney, Australia 1830
1 21 Oct 2013 At Sea
2 22 Oct 2013 Brisbane, Australia VX 0800 1700
3 23 Oct 2013 At Sea
4 24 Oct 2013 Hamilton Island, Australia TR 0800 1700
5 25 Oct 2013 Townsville, Australia 0800 1700
6 26 Oct 2013 Cairns, Australia 0800 1800
7 27 Oct 2013 Great Barrier Reef Experience CO
7 27 Oct 2013 Sunrise at Lizard Island CO
7 27 Oct 2013 The Ribbon Reef Region CO
7 27 Oct 2013 Sherrard Island anchorage ON AN VX 1800
8 28 Oct 2013 Sherrard Island anchorage AN VX 0500
8 28 Oct 2013 Great Barrier Reef Experience CO
8 28 Oct 2013 The Far North Region CO
8 28 Oct 2013 The Torres Strait CO
8 28 Oct 2013 Sunset at Booby Island CO
9 29 Oct 2013 At Sea
10 30 Oct 2013 At Sea
11 31 Oct 2013 Darwin, Australia VX 0800 1800
12 01 Nov 2013 At Sea
13 02 Nov 2013 At Sea
14 03 Nov 2013 Komodo Island, Indonesia TR VX 0700 1400
15 04 Nov 2013 Lembar, Lombok, Indonesia TR VX 0800 1700
16 05 Nov 2013 At Sea
17 06 Nov 2013 At Sea
18 07 Nov 2013 Exmouth, Australia TR VX 0800 1700
19 08 Nov 2013 At Sea
20 09 Nov 2013 Perth (Fremantle), Australia ON VX 1200
21 10 Nov 2013 Perth (Fremantle), Australia VX 1700
22 11 Nov 2013 At Sea
23 12 Nov 2013 Esperance, Australia VX 0800 1700
24 13 Nov 2013 At Sea
25 14 Nov 2013 At Sea
26 15 Nov 2013 Port Lincoln, Australia VX 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
27 16 Nov 2013 Adelaide, Australia ON VX 08:00 AM
28 17 Nov 2013 Adelaide, Australia VX 11:00 PM
29 18 Nov 2013 Kangaroo Island, Australia TR VX 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
30 19 Nov 2013 At Sea
31 20 Nov 2013 Melbourne, Australia VX 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
32 21 Nov 2013 Burnie, Australia VX 08:00 AM 06:00 PM
33 22 Nov 2013 At Sea
34 23 Nov 2013 Sydney, Australia VX 07:00 AM
Port Notes:

Travel Diary

14 Sep 2013 - Saturday

Sort of an anticlimax day. We were sufficiently prepared that we went off to join the usual Saturday morning coffee club, where we shared coffee and a chat with the Flemings, the Kings, Winnie MacGregor, and John Baines. We said our goodbyes to them (none of them are travelling to Cinque Terre, those that are have all gone already!), and went home to finish packing, which we sort of had in hand by lunchtime.

There was still a fair bit of computing to tidy up - last minute backups, shutting down servers and the like, together with a last minute (but not rushed) attempt to copy a number of DVDs onto Barb's computer, so that we could watch them on the plane. Pam and Zoe were supposed to turn up, quote "after we dropped Grant off at tennis", so there was a plan to give Zoe the run down on the house in plenty of time for us to leave at about 6pm.

But it was more a case of "after tennis", not before, with the result that when Pam, Zoe and Grant all turned up at around 5:30, there was a last minute rush to do things, which left both Barb and myself a little bit shell shocked. But we got away about 6:30, and went to the Barker's Pub in Kew (so Grant could go home for a shower), where we relaxed a bit with a beer or two.

Dinner was pleasant enough, and we said our goodbyes to Grant, David and Beth, as Pam took us off to the airport, and the Mantra hotel, where we settled down fairly quickly for a rather fitful night's sleep.

15 Sep 2013 - Sunday

As expected, woke up without the alarm clock, and went to breakfast at around 6:45 - which was not very exciting, since the coffee was (br/st)ewed, and the cooked breakfast all came from bain mairies that were not hot enough. Once that was out of the way, we queued up for the shuttle bus to the airport, and had time once through the interminadable queues to have a cup of coffee in the Qantas Lounge.

Flight to Hong Kong uneventful. John watched 2 movies, The Hobbit, and The Lincoln Lawyer. Both pretty forgettable, but they helped to pass the time. Spent the whole movie thinking that Thorin was Richard Armitage shrunk to dwarf size, and found out in the credits that I was right. Barb watched The Sapphires, and Barbara. She said the first was good, but found the second so boring (I'm not commenting!) she switched it off half way through.

Arrived in HK about 1715 local time, and after a hair raising ride in a shuttle bus from the Kowloon railway station to the hotel, found that my brand new carry-on bag had a tear in it, caused we think but the cavalier treatment it received at the hands of the driver. Checked in at The Luxe Manor (it was missing a De or two), and then walked the streets of HK looking for something local to eat - but settled instead for the Sam Mok Korean restaurant. Barb had a hot stone pot rice veg and meat combo, which was very good (worth going back for), and John had a home-made noodle and seafood soup - OK, but not worth going back for. Returned to hotel for a well earned snooze.

16 Sep 2013 - Monday

More relaxed start to the day - breakfast at 7:45 (coffee was MUCH better), packed our bags and left them with the concierge, checked out and walked to the Star Ferry to Hong Kong (Island), where we headed for The Peak, via the funicular railway (I refuse to call it a "tram"). Looked at the view - still fairly smoggy - then had a loonnnng coffee before heading off on the walk around the peak, about 3.5 km. We stopped to admire the view many times, so it took us an hour and a half, just in time to have lunch, a very tasty roll and beer in a little French restaurant/cafe, that both of us agreed "hit the spot". John had a "Marseille" roll (tuna and salad), while Barb had a vegetarian foccacia (perhaps not that French :-)

After lunch, headed back down on the funicular, and back to Kowloon on the ferry. We stopped at Star House to buy some (noise-cancelling) headphones, then on to The Peninsula to have "afternoon tea" for two. That cost about as much as the headphones! But it was yummy.

Bloated, we headed back to the Luxe Manor, collected our bags, then another hair raising ride to the city check-in at Kowloon station. Soooo much better than Melbourne!! Zoom out to the airport on the train, then found our way through the usual queues, only to find that our plan to spend the evening in the Qantas lounge was %%^**%#@ by the fact that we were flying Cathay Pacific, not Qantas! Protestations that Qantas does not fly HK-Rome, and that Cathay Pacific was part of the One World travel mob were of no avail, so here I am writing this blog perched on a bar stool in the Cafe Deco at the airport, paying for the beer, and slowly recharging all our electronics through one power point. I'd better sign off here, and download today's photos. Write tomorrow! (or soon)

17 Sep 2013 - Martedi

That was tougher than I thought. When I went to download all my photos from today, I discovered that while filing system worked (I had succesfully prepared the ground at home), the web page builder did not. I had tested it on existing photos, but not freshly downloaded ones, and some key components in that process did not work correctly for freshed doenload photos! Argggh! I couldn't go the whole trip without some web pages to show for it, and i knew what a drag it would be to process them all on our return.

So I had to do something. So I downloaded new software (thanks to 3 beers at Cafe Deco and its cosequent free wifi!), and started rewriting the variouus bits of code. It didn't get finished before we had to board, so I was able to spend some time rethinking some crucial design features once we were off.

The flight itself was uneventful, except for the usual lack of sleep for both of us. I spent the last few hours completing the rewrite of my software, and had it working by the time of starting our descent into Rome.

Arrival in Rome was greatly assisted by the fact that the Italian Immigration authorities were not the least interested in even looking at any passports, and just waved us all through! So no stamps to say we got here!

We caught the train into the city (so much better than Melbourne!), and set about checking our tickets for tomorrow. Oops! Another hassle. It seems that the ticket we had prebooked was the wrong sort - valid for travel, yes, but only on the stopping-all-stations regional trains. If we elected to use it, it would take two days to get to Levanto! We queued to get a new ticket, but the queue was about an hour long, and some kind gentleman suggested we come back in the evening when the queue was "non existent". So we abandon changing our ticket there and then, and set off for the hotel.

The hotel was nice enough, quite simple, yet very comfortable. The big hassle was getting in! Three big locked doors had to be transgressed, the first two via push-button intercom to the reception desk to ask them to open the relevant door. We received four keys: one for the street frontage door, one for the courtyard frontage door, one for the hotel proper, and one for our room!

Leaving our luggage there (it was too early to check in), we headed off on foot to the Colloseum. We walked around it, and were debating whether to join the big long queue to go in, when a English-speaking woman approached us and asked if we wanted to join a tour group about to go in. It would cost E25 each, but the big advantage was that we would avoid the queue! Barb was keen, so I agreed, and we joined the tour group.

It turned out to be good value. The guide was a bloke called Roberto, who knew his stuff, and threw in lots of jokes, some risque, but certainly lots of interesting information. It also meant we avoided all the queues, and walked straight into the Colosseum. I thought it might have been like a lot of other ruins, but a) Roberto's commentary made it fun, and b) the structure itself was fascinating. Lots of interesting roman tilework and engineering, and the sheer size of it quite blew me away. It's capacity was not that much short of the MCG - estimates vary, but some go as high as 80,000.

After the Colosseum, we walked back to the Termini to try and sort out our tickets for tomorrow. IN the end, it turned out to be much easier to buy new tickets from a machine (at full price, x4 the price we paid for the useless ones!) Then we stopped at a ristorante recommended by the hotel, Leonetti's, where we had a delightful meal - a vegetable antipasto, Barb a scallopine, John a veal al marsala, with a side dish of mushrooms. A bottle of Barbera al alba polished it off.

18 Sep 2013 - Mercoledi

We had breakfast and walked to Roma Termini trundling our various bags. Time for a coffee at the station before boarding the train to La Spezzia. We were in a first class compartment, but it wasn't all that exciting - a compartment of 6 seats, with Barb next to the door, and me in the middle seat on the other side! Fortunately the woman next to me offered to swap, so we did end up sitting together. But there was not much luggage space, and our big suitcase had to sit in the corridor for much of the journey. We were in the leading compartment of the leading carriage, so not many people need to walk past it. But it did mean a lot of rejuggling anytime someone entered or lef the compartment, which they did, surprising often.

We had a 30m wait or so at La Spezzia, where we changed to a regional stopping-all-stations train. The first stop was indeed the first of the cinque terre towns, Riomaggiore, and lots of people got on and off, as was the case for the next 4 stations. Our stop was the sixth, Levanto, where we alighted without much event (no forgotten cameras, Kerry!), and found a friendly Katrina waiting with a card saying "Hurst" at the station exit. She took us and our luggage to the hotel, where we arrived almost simultaneously with the Robinson, and the Morgans showed up not long after. Since none of us had had luch, and the Robinsons had bought a big hunk of Parmesan cheese together with bread sticks and proscuitto, we had lunch together while swapping stories of our respective adventures in getting there.

Gradually others joined us. The Frasers, David and Margaret, the Baileys, David and Heather, together with David's friend, Brian (of whom more anon), Ken McGregor (sadly, without Winnie who did not feel well enough to travel), the Snares, John and Marj, and the MacAmoses, Bill and Deb. A sub-group of men from that lot went to do some washing at the laundromat (yes, men!), while the rest of us kicked on. Eventually, with washermen returned, we decided to set off to find a restaurant that would take 16 at a pinch.

Brian turned out to be very useful here - he had already cased the joint earlier in the day, and suggested a restaurant down next to the town square, the Ristorante di Mare, and they were happy to re-arrange tables to cope with all of us. John had moules marinieure (Cozze alla Vino) and mixed fried fish (Fruitti di Mare Misto), the second of which he pronounced decidely good, while Barb had spaghetti with seafood. The Italians certainly know how to cook pasta! Nowhere in Italy have we had a dud pasta dish (although see Amalfi later), and it is always a safe bet when ordering. They even devote a whole course to pasta - the "primi piatta", along with "antipasto" (entree) and "secondi piatta" (mains). Sometimes even these are subdivided, so you will often see "secondi piatta di mare" and "secondi piatta di carne" (seafood and meat respectively). Needless to say, everyone had something to say, so the table was abuzz with conversation the whole night.

Back to the hotel and bed.

19 Sep 2013 - Giovedi - Visit today's track

Today is our first walking day in the Cinque Terre. After breakfast, we caught the 8:10 train to Monterossa, the next station back in the direction we had come yesterday, towards La Spezzia. There we alighted, and proceeded to organize ourselves - or not. Pne of my colleagues at ANU once quoted "The difficulty in organizing n people is exponential in n". For those that know no maths, this is akin to saying, organizing n people is n times more difficult than organizing n-1 people. We all ran around like chooks with their heads chopped off. Some of us more sanguine and relaxed people simply retired to the nearest cafe and had a coffee, and waited.

Eventually the leadership material did emerge, and David Bailey (as de facto coach) led us on to the field to begin play. Donna was an early withdrawal, which made David's task 16 times easier. (She elected to stay in Monterossa, look around, do some shopping, and return to Levanto on the train later.) We headed off up the hill, full of spirits, enthusiasm, and energy.

How long all of that took to wear off is hard to say. The party split up fairly rapidly into the "rans", the "also rans", and the "just walked". We believe Brian was in the lead party with David Bailey, then the Frasers and Heather Bailey, then the rest. We struggled up many steps, pausing for a "blow up" every so often. Now "blow up" is a railway term that I shall have to explain, because I use it often. In the days of steam, when the fire was running low, and the boiler was low on water, or not steaming fully, drivers would often stop their train to reduce the demand for steam, and use it instead to turn the "blower" on. This is an artificially induced draft caused by blowing steam up the chimney, and is akin to fanning a fire when the embers are low. This gets the fire burning again, allows the fireman to add more water, raise more steam, and get going again. It is a very useful analogy for a bunch of 60+ retirees climbing a looonnng hill.

But the views for the top were worth it. There was a notorious incident at the top of which I shall give my account, in order to correct other, fallacious, and disparaging, accounts. The climb seemed worthy of a photo at the top of the "just walked" cohort, so I got out my tripod (which I had lugged up the hill), and set up the camera to take group and view in the same scene, using a 10 second delay release. A kind german guy nearby offered to take the picture for me, but I was looking for the challenge. Sue Morgan however, took him up, and gave him her camera. Unfortunately, the ground between the camera and group was rather uneven, and to avoid the risk of a photo of myself flat on my face before the group, picked my way across the rocks rather more gingerly than was needed. So I have a nice view of the group, view, and the back view of me hurry across the rocks! Sue Morgan's camera (thanks to german tourist, not!) has a picture of me bending over the camera, hurrying across the rocks, and finally in the group. So please discard all other versions of this story that you may hear.

The descent from there was much more gentle, although much of it over broken ground, which some rock scrambles and careful path picking, much more so than on the way up. We were all mightily relieved to see Levanto come into view around the final headland, and on reaching Levanto, most of us repaired to a local bar/gelateria/cafe, where we had all three (beer, ice creeam and coffee), voting it a big winner.

Back to hotel for a shower and change, then again all out to a ristorante for dinner - this time splitting into two groups. We visited the Ristorante al Trattore (? check), where Barb had seafood rissotto, and John had "zuppa di mare", seafood soup. We voted it at least as good as last night!

20 Sep 2013 - Venerdi Visit today's track

Today was another big walk. We caught the train to Manerola, where sanity prevailed somewhat, and the group split two ways. Those mad enough to go walking again, and those with more money than sense to go shopping. Basically, it split men and women! So together with Francesca, our guide, David Morgan, David Fraser, David Bailey (no Davids!), John Snare, Ken McGregor, Brian ? and Heather Bailey, our token woman, and I all set off up the hill, while Donna and Jim, Barb and Sue, Marj, Margaret, Deb and Bill did the shopping. The latter group also split in two, but I will let Barbara tell that part of the story.

It was a long, hard walk up to Vascalo (?), through terraces, vineyards, lemon orchards and olive groves, all very picturesque, but somewhat less so when viewed through sweat-dripped spectacles. I don't think anyone was counting steps, but we did climb to about 240m before reaching the little town of Valasco (?), where we stopped to buy an icecream before continuing. From there on, the going was easier, because we followed the terraces around on the countours, and no more climbing! A point of interest were the several monorails used to cart grapes and produce up the steep terraces, often with people aboard as well. Not sure I would want to chance it myself. The vehicles had two toothed-gears that meshed with a rack on the monorail - one was the drive wheel, and the other was the brake wheel. See picture at monorail in action for an idea, and a close-up of the rack-toothed rail.

Eventually, the pleasant horizontal walking came to an end, and we started our descent into Corniglia. Wonderful views, but my knees did complain about the plonk, plonk, plonk as each step jarred. I did not have a pole for the first part, but David lent me one of his for the second half, and boy! did it make a difference. So much so that I will get a set of poles for us before we do this again!

We met up with the more adventuresome half of the others at Corniglia, where we bought lunch and enjoyed it before descending further to the train. The very adventuresome walkers (DavidM, Brian, Ken, and DavidB) then headed off on the rest of the walk to Vernazzo, while we others caught the train to Vernazza, where we did a bit of pier sitting and falling off.

Let me explain the latter. The pier was very much in the style of the St Andrews pier, a wide lower level, and a narrower upper level, about seat height or a wee bit more. I stepped up (literally) to the upper level to take a photo of the harbour, and then thought it rather too far to just step down. So I jumped. But I didn't tell me knees about that. When my feet hit the ground, my knees were nowhere to be seen, and I fell in a heap on the ground. I will say this in the women's defence (I was accompanied at this stage by only the women in the party), that there was a brief, ever so brief, moment of sympathy for me. But when they saw that it was only my pride that had been damaged, it became a cause celebre, and there was much giggling and jocularity.

When spirits, energy and pride were recovered, we decided to walk to the lookout opposite to see if we could take the same photo that was in the guide book. We could and did! Very picturesque. Then back to the town for a beer, and waited for the walking party.

At the appropriate hour, we caught the train back to Monterola for dinner at Marina Piccolo, recommended and organized for us by our walking party guide, Francesca. It was delightful, and we thought a fitting end to a hard but rewarding day.

Then the train to Levanto and bed!

21 Sep 2013 - Sabato Visit today's track

Today we split into two distinct parties - those that wanted to get up early and walk, and those that opted for a late start and travel by boat. Barb and I chose the latter, along with the Robinsons, MacAmoses, and Marj Snare, and Jim and I set off at 9am to beat the crowds and buy tickets. There was no need really, and the waiting crowd gradually swelled until at about 10 to 10, everyone decided to cram onto the very small wharf in order to be first on the boat! I have to say that Italian crowds are no respecters of queues, and simply push and shove to get in/on.

We found seats (no thanks to pushing crowds) near the back of the boat on the top deck, and it turned out to as good as it got. At the first stop, Monterosso, even more people got on until it was standing room only on the top deck. But we still could see things, and were able to take photos, so we no complain.

We chugged along the 5 terres, with lots of people alighting and boarding, and at each stop the bun rush continued. Past Riomaggiore, we motored on to Portovenere, an ancient Roman city, just around the corner from La Specia (to which other ferry boats took off). It is quite an attractive port, and we changed boats to go on a "Three Islands" cruise, round the islands of Torrentino, Tino and Palmaria. This was quite interesting, especially as the boat nosed into several large caves, enought to have us all wondering how good his seamanship was!

Back to Portovenere, where we found a cafe with a nice view over the harbour, and decided to have lunch there. The Robinsons, MacAmoses, and Marj Snare joined us. Barb and I co-shared two foccacio, one tomato and cheese, the other ham and cheese - or, to give them their Italian names, pommadori e mozzarella, and proscuito e pomadore. Those, together with a huge bowl of salad, came to E18, and a lunch that was very satisfying. A beer each topped off the view.

The MacAmoses then caught an early ferry back to Levanto. We meanwhile took a short walk out to St Peter's church, which was all set up for a wedding, and admired the view over the Portovenere harbour. Back to the wharf, where we boarded the ferry to Riomaggiore.

At Riomaggiore, we had a cafe with the Robinsons and Marj Snare (John was off walking around Palmaria). Then walked up looking for a blue jug and a church, both of which Sue had recommended to us. We found the jug, but not the church (which I will admit, dear reader, was rather the wrong way round!) Back to the wharf, where we killed time waiting for the next ferry with a beer in the nearby cafe.

The ferry from Riomaggiore to Levanto was rather full. There was little queue disciple at the wharf. We arrived early, and queued on the right side of the in-out stairway and passageway, but thos who came late saw litte need for this, and queued on the wrong side (disembarking) side, so that when the boat did arrive, there was nowhere for the disembarking passengers to go! Shades of Indian railway level crossings!!

Back to Levanto (another stunning sunset), and after a happy hour, we all had dinner in Levanto at the Cafe del Mar, where John had Zuppa di Pesca, and Barb had Rissoto di Mare - both declared wonderful by their respective imbibers. It was the last night together as the full "Italian" group. 6 of us move on to other pastures tomorrow - the Robinson, MacAmoses, and Baileys.

22 Sep 2013 - Domenico Visit today's track

My father would have been 90 today. Funny how these anniversaries become more poignant as time moves on.

We moved on from Levanto. 6 people were left behind, as I said yesterday, and the Hursts, Morgans, Frasers, Snares, Ken and Brian caught the 8:26 train to Sestri Levanti. Our day's trip was actually in two halves. At S.L, we detrained, and walked up to Punta Manara, from whence we had some fantastic views back over Sestri Levanti.

Then back down again, wandered around the town, then caught the 3:05 train to Santa Marguerita to complete the second half of our transfer of hotels.

We enjoyed a beer at local cafe before walking to our hotel, the Hotel Tigullio de Milan, for thankful feet up and a short rest to recover in time for Happy Hour at 6pm. As usual we sought out a local Restaurant for dinner (Barb had Fillet Steak and Porcini, John had Tagliatelle e Porcini). Then back to the hotel and bed. A good day, energetic but not overwhelming so, and sufficient to give us all a feeling of having "done the right thing".

23 Sep 2013 - Lunedi Visit today's track

After breakfast (with thousands of German tourists who all seemed to arrive at breakfast just before we did), we caught the 9:01 Train to Rapallo - we had a frustrating moment when the ticket woman did not show at the window, and consequently we were getting anxious about missing the train! JohnS had just started wrestling with the Italian "fast ticket" machine (NOT!) when the ticket woman turned up, so we had one half of the party on a machine ticket, one half on a manual ticket. John could not get an 10-person ticket out the machine, only 6, so the woman arrived just in time to save the second half of the wrestle.

At Rapallo, we walked to the Funicular Railway, and caught it to the top. The funicular railway was actually what I would call a cable car, since it was suspended from a cable, not on rails. However, as the Italians claim to have invented it (this one dates from 1934 and is claimed to be the first one in Europe), I suppose they do have naming rights. But then again, being Italian, they are not exactly logical about such things.

At the top was a small village called Santa Montallegro, with a very imposing church - very ornate catholic, and actually a basilica. It seemed to have an impressive visitor list, and quite a few famous heads adorn its elaborate front. Sue and I thought we saw Mussolini amongst them.

We walked out along a shortish pleasantly wooded path to a restaurant, where we had excellent coffees. The (2) cappucinos came as a jug of coffee, sufficient for 4 cups, together with a separate jug of frothed milk, while John's long black came with an additional jug of water. So we were able to stretch the coffees out quite well. It was all good, since the view from the terrace was worth lingering over.

After coffee, we split up, with most deciding to walk back down the hill, and the Hursts and the Snares deciding to continue on walk. We did get lost, but thanks to John's GPS realized before we had gone too far, and retraced our steps sufficiently to find the basilica again.

Then back to funicula, only to just miss the 12:30 departure, and so we thought we would have lunch while waiting. That we bought at the local panineria, and we were just sitting down to eat when the funicular man asked if we were catching the next car, going 10 minutes after the last! We were about to say no, when he pointed out that the next trip was at 2pm, so we jumped on it!

A 10 minute ride to the bttom, where we walked to the beach front and ate our late lunches, and then had a gelati at a nearby cafe. The walkers down the hill, Ken, Brian and Morgans, had meanwhile rejoined us. Barb and I walked along the foreshore, then returned to the ferry terminal and caught the 3pm ferry to Santa Margeurita, where we split up again (!)

Beer (Johns) and coffee (Marj, Barb) at the same place we went to yesterday, then walked the back streets of S.Marguerita looking for luggage tags. We eventually found some in a tobacconist's shop! Back to hotel to refresh, then dinner.

24 Sep 2013 - Martedi Visit today's track

Caught the 8:26 train to Camogli, where we wandered around another cute little fishing village - Barb and I pausing to have a cup of coffee, while the others explored further afield. We all bought various "panificio" (bakery) goods for lunch. At 10 o'clock, we all boarded a ferry boat to travel to San Fruttuoso, a tiny tiny village around a very old monastery (earliest recorded reference to it was 984). Frutuoso was a bishop who died in 279 in Spain, and somehow his bones found their way back to San Fruttuoso, where they are stored as relics.

Barb and I paid E7.50 each to visit the abbey, which was old and fascinating, but not 7.50 old and fascinating. The others caught up on their cups of coffee at a cafe on the beach. Well, I say "beach", but it was really a pile of stones washed down in some significant floods in 1915 - previously the abbey was right on the water line.

Once all reassembled, we set off for the walk to Portofino, although the Snares elected to catch a ferry back to Portofino. It was not very hard climbing, although we were glad when we reached the top (249m). At 12:30 we had lunch at "Base 0", although we could not understand why it was thus named. From there it was largely on the level, although not easy walking.

We reached the heights above Portofino around 1:30, and the descent was a little hard on those with tender loins. Lots of long tread steps, which sloped downwards, and small, but significant risers. They went on and on!

We reached Portofino a bit after 2, and had a gelato to recover. John went and sat in the shade for a while, while Barb tried to visit the church and castle, but gave up after visiting the church, which she said was "very boring", and the climb to the castle did not seem worth the pain. Others dispersed - Ken, David and Sue decided to walk back to Santa Marguerita, while the rest of us caught the 4pm ferry back.

Time for a nanonap back at San.Marg., then we all assembled in the Fraser's room for drinks and cake, to celebrate David F's birthday. Then to a restaurant for dinner - Barb had lasagne, and John had spaghetti al fruitti di mare. Then, completely knackered, we returned to the hotel and bed - but not before we packed everything up ready for our early morning start. John Snare very kindly offered us his walking poles, since he had no further need of them on his travels, and felt that Barb and I did! We took up his kind offer, and were subsequently very glad of it.

25 Sep 2013 - Mercoledi - (No track today)

We woke up at 5:15 to give us time to get dressed and zoom out to catch the 6:07 train to Milan. The Frasers came with us (Morgans and Hursts), but said goodbye on the platform, as they were in a different carriage, and getting off at a different station. The train was dead on time, and we had an uneventful trip, largely in the dark, to Milan Rogoredo, where we alighted, and started looking for coffee.

Some helpful advice from the Italo ticket office saw us wander 200m up the street to a nice semi art deco shop, where we had coffee and sat and worked our way through Sue's backlog of Advertiser general quizzes. We didn't do that well, but hey! it helped to pass the time, since we had nearly three hours to kill before our next train, at 10:54.

The Italo train was very comfortable and very fast, regularly clocking 300kph. It took us 4 hr to reach Salerno, arriving just after 4.

Tried to catch ferry in S. but last ferry had left (at 3:30pm), so had to rush back to station and catch the bus.

Bus was amazing ride! Very narrow winding road, along cliff edge, oncoming traffic.

Reached Amalfi just after 6, ride in electric car to hotel.

Gelati to refresh, looked around.

Chose to eat in "Il Tari", had to wait 30m in queue. Morgans piked out. John's choice: Zucchini fritters (very good), Pork escalope with Porcini mushrooms (very good); Barb's choice: (not so good), spaghetti carbonara (OK, but not very carbonara)

26 Sep 2013 - Giovedi - Visit today's track

Breakfast on the roof terrace

Set off up valley. Walk steady uphill, but managble. Passed several old mills along the creek. Reached Pontone in time for an early lunch at Bar Blu. Beer and panini and salad. After lunch headed to Ravello, after a short downhill, walked up many many stairs. After a gelato, up further to Villa Cimbrone to see the beautiful gardens and spectacular views. Afternoon tea was had on the lawn, served by immaculate waiters. Caught the bus down the hill, not quite as scary as yesterday! Dinner at El Teatro as recommended by Ferdinando. Scialatiere(?) with tomato and eggplant and a local white wine.

27 Sep 2013 - Venerdi - Visit today's track

Breakfast on the roof terrace at 8am again with the Morgans. Very pleasant. Set off to catch the 10am bus to Scala, and arrived there about 10:30. Had a look around (not that much to see), and bought some panini rolls and fruit (peaches), while John had an espresso while waiting for them to be made. Then off we went, first leg a flight of over 500 steps, which near knackered three of us before we had started!

Fortunately, the rest of the walk was more or less level, with occasional ups and downs. We walked right around the cliff tops above the valley of Amalfi, some 500m above sea level, at least 100m above yesterday's walk. Lots of lovely views and panoramas. Had lunch in a little shaded glen, sitting on an aqueduct manhole. John ate yesterday's panini, while the others shared today's panins from Scala. We all enjoyed the most delicious peaches that David had bought in Scala, which gave us a boost to face the afternoon's section of the walk.

Which also was full of oohs and ahhs. A particular point of interest was a yellow water cistern sitting on a point, which was visible from most of the track as we walked around the valley, and provided a ready point of reference as we progressed. One notable point was described in the walking notes as a "vertigo" point, which was pretty accurate, as there was no railing to a 100m+ cliff, from which we could take in the whole panorama, water tank and all!

Eventually, after a few downhill stretches, we reached the little village of Pogerola, which we had little time to explore, since the bus left at 4:30 and it had just gone 4:25! So some hasty ticket buying, and we boarded the bus for another hair-raising ride down the mountain. Barb videoed it, so we can enjoy it again in the future!

A welcome beer on the roof terrace, a shower, and then dinner at Il Teatro restaurant again. Barb had Buffalo Boconcino and Prosciutto Crudo, followed by Scialatielli with Vongola (clams), while John had Lemon Mussels (which were not very meaty) followed by Sea Bass with Prawn.

28 Sep 2013 - Sabato - Visit today's track


Breakfast on the roof terrace, chatting with some people from Canada that we met yesterday, and someone from Torquay, who was barracking for Hawthorn in spite of them defeating Geelong last week, simply because she didn't like Freemantle more! Such is the way of Grand Finals!

We checked out of the hotel at 9, and wanted to visit the local church, but it was not open "for visiting", but only "for praying". In respect of that, we did not take lots of photos, but just sat and took in the ambience. There was a priest wandering round, that Barbara insisted was watching us to make sure we did not misbehave (Headline! protestant ex-church chair thrown out of basilica!) I did sneak one in as we were leaving, however.

Down to the waterfront to buy bus tickets and wander around. Boarded an already crowded bus at 10, and left Amalfi at 10:15 for another of those rather hair raising rides around cliff-hanger roads. But we did not go tumbling down any cliffs, and arrived safely, but shaken, at the little village of Bomerano, from whence we started our walk. But not before checking the score, and buying a coffee. The locals would doubtless have been very surprised to hear a lone voice yell out "Carn the Mighty Hawks", but if they were, they didn't show it. But there is a little spot in Bomerano that will forever have the echoes of a retributional victory. Rather than name the street after some little popgun fight ending in 1945, they should call that street "28 Settembre 2013".

The walk along the "Path of the Gods" was pleasant enough, until we started going downhill! And there was lots of downhill - about 500m of it. When we arrived in Praiano, we were pretty knackered! Thank heavens for John Snare's walking poles, or we would still not be here yet :-) But the walk was pleasant, although we didn't take as many photos as we might have, since there was a lot of cloud on the mountain (the path starting at 650m high).

Just been chatting with a scottish walking chappie whom we have bumped into several times in Amalfi, who did the same walk as us, but turned right instead of left, and walked down to Positano, then caught the bus back to here. As we are planning on doing that part of the walk later on Monday, we thought he had a point when he said that by doing this, he would "have a day off on Monday". Canny Scots!

Anyway, we have had a pleasant hour or two drinking beer on the terrace overlooking the Praiano Bay, and luxury French yachts ("Le Ponant", look it up) sail by. Just having another beer and catching up on this blog while waiting for dinner. Life is so tough!

Dinner was at the hotel, on the same terrace, and very pleasant. John had bow-tie pasta with zucchini, followed by "sea hound with prawn". No idea what sea hound was (a suggestion was that it was a mistranslation of "dog fish"), but it was very nice, and rather similar to swordfish, a local catch, so maybe that was it. Barb had spaghetti with clams, and escalope of pork. It was a delightful meal with the Morgans, and we also had a chat with the same Scotsman chappie I mentioned above about all the walks we both had done.

29 Sep 2013 - Domenico - Visit today's track

Off to Pompeii! It is some 52 and a half years since I last (first) visited the place, and I set off with all sorts of wonderings about what I would remember, and whether I would find the graphic picture that had thrusted itself on my memory. Back in Feb 1961, my family visited Pompeii on our way to Edinburgh (the ship called at Naples), and I vividly recall being ushered into a small ante room where the guide rather lecherously opened a small wooden cabinet on the wall to reveal a huge priapus! My eyes must have been popping out of my head, because he suddendly exclaimed "Oh! No bambino, no bambino", and ushered me away again. To this day I remember what bambino means :-).

The bus ride there was also rather memorable, but for different reasons. Dear reader, have you ever been to the Amalfi coast? If you haven't, think James Bond, and hair-raising chases around cliff hanging roads, and the baddies Ferraris suddenly smashing through a low brick wall to go hurtling hundreds of metres into the sea. That's what is is like - at least the scenery, if not the action. But the action does come close, in one sense. When the road is clear, the driver puts his foot down, and hurtles along, so much so that shutting the eyes is very much the better option. Fortunately, there is other traffic on the road, including slow tourist drivers with their eyes shut too, wandering all over the road, swerving at the last minute to avoid the bus. All this is bad enough, except add motorcyclists: to whom no road rules apply, to whom driving on the wrong side on blind corners is nothing, and to whom traffic lights to control one-way sections is simply a challenge to beat the run of cars (and buses!) Not that buses chug along like cars - many times they (or more rather, the smaller of the two opposing vehicles) must back up, simply because there is no passing space. Oh, and did I mention that cars overtaking buses have right of way over oncoming traffic? Yes, that is apparently the law!!!

Once off the bus - we were almost kicked off by the bus driver, since we stopped at a place called Meta, rather than Sorrento, and thought it not right, although it turned out to save us at least a half hour in further travel and possible missed connexion - we caught the "circumvesuviano" train, a small metre-gauge train that was really an overblown multiple unit tram running in a dedicated right-of-way. We had to stand all the way, and the train virtually emptied at Pompeii, there being so many tourists.

We eventually found our way through all the touts, being very conscious of pick-pockets. David found that the zip of his back pack had been tampered with, but nothing was missing, and was not even sure if it had been him or Sue that had done it. Sue got three audio guides for us. I was the odd one out, since I prefer to wander around and take photos without the extra baggage. But Barb did relay some of the more interesting facts to me as we went. We (Morgans v Hursts) agreed to split up and meet at the cafeteria at 1pm, so it was easier to explore what we each wanted to see.

What to say about Pompeii? Well, to come back to my opening remarks, I remembered very little. There was one corner that I came around, and had a distinct, reflexive feeling that I had walked down this street before, but that was the only moment. I thought I would recall the "no bambino" moment when we went into the brothel, but none of the artwork there matched my 13-year old arrangement of neurons. Nor did the forum, a major location in the city, and full of iconic columns and arches. So it was very much all new stuff, and quite fascinating. Photos will not do it justice, and you, dear reader, will doubtless be bored by dry recountings of ruins, albeit with such history. But if you do get the chance, visit. It brings all those dry history lessons very much to life! Interestingly, that is the slant that the Pompeii authorities seem to be taking, too. Their motto is "Pompeiviva!", or "Pompeii lives!", and they use the death of a city as a snapshot of life in the first century AD, and it brings to lfe the workings of the people at that time. Puts you in their shoes, almost.

We had lunch in the cafeteria, with a welcome beer. 3:30 was the point at which we felt Pompeii-ied out, and caught the train into Sorrento, where we found a VERY full bus, so full that John had to stand in the stairwell all the way to the first stop (well out of Sorrento), when someone got off, and a young woman tapped me on the shoulder and offered the seat to me. Age occasionally has some advantages!

The bus trip back didn't fare well for the Morgans, and David complained of not feeling up to dinner. So David and Sue skipped dinner, and Barb and I walked down to the beach (such as it was) to a ristorante called "Il Pirata", and had a somewhat up-market dinner. We had a delightful bottle of wine called Falanghina, from the local region, and Barb had caprisiosa salad and stuffed squid, while John had vegetable fritters and risotta di mare. The risotta, caprisiosa and fritters were excellent, but Barb was disappointed in the stuffed squid, and said it was a bit chewy.

After dinner, we walked along the "romantic walk" round the base of the tower, but it was a dead end, and we had to walk back to the restaurant, where we climbed many steps and ramps to get back to the hotel, about 100m above the sea. So we collapsed into bed.

30 Sep 2013 - Lunedi Visit today's track

We were woken during the night by lots of thunder and lightning, and the dawn revealing lots of rain. So it was plan B, no climbing to the Path of the Gods and walking through to Positano - for which we were somewhat relieved all round! The girls decided to do some shopping, so after breakfast they went to catch a bus to Positano, while the boys stayed behind. David read a thesis for a student, while John worked on this blog. We left the hotel at around 12, and walked along the road to the Tobacconists (to buy bus tickets), then along the walking path to the tunnel that divides Praiano. We were 20 minutes early for the bus, and it was 10 minutes late, so we had a bit of a wait. Even more so when the bus sailed straight past us, in spite of us waving well in advance of it arriving! Whether it was full, or the driver was cranky, or what we did not know at the time - but later found out the the girls had had the same problem, and in spite of there being a bus stop sign (stop 9) on the other side of the road, there was no stop on the side we were going! How's that for Italian logic?

So we had no choice but to walk on, buying some lunch at a small shop on the way. We came to stop 7, having passed no stop 8 either, where there was a bus shelter, and people waiting, so we took our chances there. The next bus (50min after the previous one was due) did arrive on time, and we did get on, and we did get a seat each, so we relaxed somewhat. Turns out that the girls had done a similar thing, only the first stop 7 bus went past as well! That apparently was obviously full, but the next bus, also full, did stop, and they had a strap-hanging ride around those hairpin bends at break-neck speed that I have described previously. Folks, if you are going to visit the Amalfi Coast, bring strong stomachs with you!

When we boys arrived in Positano and found the hotel Villa Rosa, the girls had already checked in - but not by much! They eventually came back from their shopping, and all four of us walked down to the beach to buy gelati and check out the restaurant scene for tonight, with mixed success. Positano seems a little more upmarket than Praiano or Amalfi, and prices of meals reflected that.

Both Praiano and Positano suffer from being built around natural formations - in the case of Praiano, a precipitous ridge bisects the village, with only a tunnel (aforementioned) joining the two halves, while Positano is divided by an equally precipitous gorge, which, while separating the two halves, does have a few more crossing points.

We were therefore setting off with no specific plan in mind for dinner, when Barbara casually asked the girl at reception as she handed over our key, "do you have any recommendations for restaurants?", to which the girl replied that there was a nice restaurant on the other side, and, real bonus here, there was a free taxi service to take us there. So she rang to organize that, and it came to pass! We were gobsmacked. I won't say the taxi ride was as hair raising as the bus, but it did wind all around the narrow streets.

Dinner at the Cafe Positano was a bit upmarket - E190 for the four of us. Barb had stuffed zucchini flowers followed by local fish with potato and white wine, John had spaghetti e zucchine followed by fruttoria di mare. We shared a bottle of Falanghina, which was rather different from the one we had last night. Then a taxi ride back to the Villa Rosa and bed.

01 Oct 2013 - Martedi - Visit today's track

Off to Capri today! We had intended to catch the 9:10 ferry, but it was not running, due to the heavy seas (so called). I thought they were pretty light. We had to buy slightly more expensive tickets for the jet boat (E34 each), a somewhat larger boat, and there was only the one trip - 10:25 over and 3:10 back. So we didn't want to miss the return trip! It was a pleasant ride across, although once out in the strait it was a bit more choppy. Perhaps the smaller boat would not have been a good idea?

We caught the funicular railway at Capri up to the town of Capri, and wandered around, looking to orient ourselves to the map, which wasn't all that accurate. Found our way out of Capri along the track that, while not going around the whole island, does cross to the other side and back. There was a lovely view at Punta Tragara, and further views along the south side of the island. Stopped at the "natural arch" for a rest, but then nature called, and Barb and I set off at a great rate (or at least as fast a rate as legs going up long flights of steps would allow! :-) in search of a loo. Not until we got back to the funicular did we find such a thing, and it was a pay one, E0.50 each. Never had an 80c pee felt like good value!

Once relieved, we waited for the Morgans to catch up, then wound our way down a long flight of steps, stairs, ramps and slopes to reach the harbour (Grande Marina), where John had a beer, and the others had a gelati. Also deemed very much worth the money. As I said to Barb, the beer costs E5, and there's a 10% beer draining tax imposed on every beer bought on the island. Mr Abbot, suck on that great big tax!

Caught the ferry/jet boat back to Positano, bought some supplies for the evening, and staggered back up to the Villa Rosa. Puff, puff, all in all a good last day on the Amalfi coast.

The girls put together a local produce scratch dinner (cheese, proscuitoo e melone, insalate misto, vegatoria misto (eggplant, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, cheese) - OK, so the last wasn't vegetable, but you get the idea. Birra e vino to complete the meal, and we were happy chappies, ready for bed, and whatever tomorrow brings.

02 Oct 2013 - Wednesday - (No track today - Positano to Jersey)

Up at 6 to get ready for early breakfast at 6:30, say goodbye to the Morgans, and be ready for the taxi at 7. The driver thought our train was at 9, and when we said, no 8:40, he got a little anxious. With good reason. There was a traffic jam coming out of Positano (two buses trying to pass a camion (truck) on a blind corner - phew! Then followed lots of winding roads until we reached the autostrada about 10kms out of Naples, zoomed along, only to reach a massive traffic jam when the 4 lanes merged to 2! I take back everythin I have ever said about Victorian drivers not knowing how to merge. Napolitan drivers don't either! We arrived at Napoli Centrale in time to see our train pull out of the station. After all that, we missed it by 30 seconds!!!

Queued up to get new tickets. I have to say that while the Italian queuing system is good (take a tick and wait for your number to be called), getting things done in a hurry is not in their vocabulary. It took another 20 minutes to get new tickets, at substantially greater cost (E140 v E40). At least the old tickets got stamped "unused", so we can claim a refund. This, the ticket seller said, was "very important". Not sure why, and we don't know how, but I suppose we can try when we get home. Along with the Rome-Levanto tickets! It seems the best advice is not to buy tickets in advance, but buy them when you arrive. More expensive, but you end up paying that anyway!

Caught the 9:40 train after a calming cup of coffee, and a smooth 2hr trip to Rome, with free wifi. Well, almost free. We had to give a credit card number and pay E0.01 to get access. I wondered whether it was some form of scam, but it was Trenitalia Frecciarossa, so I suppose they have some sort of reputation to uphold. An italian sort of reputation, at least.

Just missed the 10:52 train to Fuimicino, and had to wait another 30 minutes. That train got us to the airport in time, but it was probably just as well that we didn't know that the time in the ticket was wrong - by 25 minutes! Yes, the plane was due at 13:05, and our ticket clearly said 13:30. It was only when they called our name out over the tannoy (we had already booked our bag in, so they knew we were in the airport) that we had to dash to the gate. Bit of a mix-up with the seats. Barb had a window seat, and I had a window seat, both in the same row, but on opposite sides of the plane! But I no complain, in spite of wearing my "grumpy old man" t-shirt.

Now we are sitting at Gatwick Airport, with a 4.30 hour wait for our connection to Jersey. Time for a beer or two. Then a wonder around the terminal clockwise, then a wander anti-clockwise. Then have some dinner. Not quite the same as we have been used to, mind. John had an "American Classic" hamburger, and Barb had a "Vegetarian Breakfast Frittata", which was in fact an omelette. More wandering. Bought some XXX Grouse whisky samplers (where XXX element of the set {Black, Snow, Famous}). More blogging. You know, the sort of stuff to fill in 4 hours.

Well, 5 hours actually. The plane was an hour late taking off (due to late arrival, etc., etc. - why couldn't that happen to the train?) So it was rather late when we got to Jersey, even though it was only a 40 minute flight. We collected our bag, and caught a bus, which turned up right as we walked out the door of the airport at 9:40. Some confusion over where to get off followed (we were trying to follow where we were on a map, but it was hard in the dark), but with some help from a friendly Englishman, we got off in St Aubin.

But then followed further confusion with the map. The instructions we had from the apartment were designed for car drivers, not bus drivers, and went a different route. So we walked along the esplanade, stopping every 100m or so to read the map. There was extra confusion, since we had gone to the trouble of driving around in Google Earth, and thought we had a clear vision of what we were looking for. Nothing matched. Vision, map, instructions, John, Barb. As we stopped by the light of a car park to read the map once more, a police car emerged from the shadows of the park. "Can we help you?" was a welcome message from the driver of the car. There were three of them in the car, two blokes and a woman, and each of them racked their brains over where the place was. Together they came up with the answer, but not content with explaining how to get there, they said, "jump in, we'll take you there!" 5 adults, 2 carry-ons and a large suitcase into one small Corolla-sized car doesn't fit well, especially when the boot was already full of some police equipment stuff! The non-driver bloke sat in the front seat with his feet on the dash board above the large suitcase which he had managed to squeeze into the foot well!! It was just amazing, and I would not believe it if anyone else had recounted this story. So, dear reader, feel free to be discredulous.

But it didn't end there. When we found the Sail Loft, there was no one there (as expected), so we almost had to break in :-) Fortunately, I remembered that there were instructions about the key in the ream of papers we had received, and we poured over the 20 pages or so by the light of two police torches, trying to find the relevant paragraph. There was a key safe, and there was the number! The non-driver bloke keyed in the number, and to the great relief of all 5 present, the safe opened. We were in! With much profusion of thanks, we bade farewll to the most friendly, helpful police I have ever ever met. I did explain to them that the only reason we were in Jersey was because of one of their number, Sergeant Bergerac, whom we had watched on TV, and were so struck by the beauty of the island that we decided to visit. They all laughed! "Oh yes, we know about him. One of my mates was actually in an episode" said the driver chappie. "They did take some liberties with the script", he added. I have to say that the investment we have made in British Cops and Robbers TV shows has finally given us a wonderful return on investment.

03 Oct 2013 - Thursday - Visit today's track

There was nothing in the apartment for breakfast, so at 8:30 or so we wandered off down the street to see what we could find. There was a small mini-mart on the corner, which we noted for future reference, but not many cafes open. But we did find one, the Fort View Cafe, which was open, but "not yet". We were told to come back in 15 minutes (i.e., at 9am), so we wandered around the harbour, noting that it was half empty and that most of the boats were sitting in the mud.

At 5 to 9, it started to rain, so we repaired quickly to the cafe, and they let us in to shelter. They started serving at 9, so we ordered two coffees and two lots of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast, meantime making the acquaintance of the owners, Jill and Andy, who were quite chatty and friendly, and had rellies in Perth (Oz, not Scotland). While we were eating breakkie, another friendly person, Emily came in, who clearly was prepared to do some work (on her Spanish lessons, as it turned out), but was more interested in being distracted from that, and also chatted away to us. So it was quite a friendly breakfast!

Unfortunately, while we were having breakfast, it started to rain. Heavily. There was no way we were going out in it. It was another topic of conversation for a while, but in chatting away, the time passed, and the rain eased sufficiently to leave, so with a promise of being back, we returned to the mini-mart, bought some supplies for the morrow, and went back to our apartment.

Collecting our raincoats and cameras, we set off walking to St Helier. Opinions seem to differ on exactly how far it is, but my calculations (which I shall reconcile with the GPS track on my return home) suggest that it is about 7kms. It felt like 10, because there was a fierce headwind blowing in our faces the whole way! It took us an hour and 20 minutes, but we did stop for photos along the way. It was a great day for watching the windsurfers in St Aubin's Bay!

At St Helier, we made a bee-line for the visitor centre, where we encountered a very helpful woman at the desk who worked through what we wanted to see, explained the options to us, and allowed us to make our own deciaions about the various choices. We elected to get a 7-day bus pass called an Avanchi card ("avanchi" is Jervais for "advance" or "go forward", a corruption of the french "avant", or even the italian "avanti"), and a 6-day Jersey Pass, which will let us into various attractions. It worked out that if we saw 8 attractions in 6 days, we were ahead. It would have been only 6 attactions in 6 days, but she (quite rightly) used the Seniors admission prices to compute what we would pay without the pass. (The pass itself did not come at a seniors price!) Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

After all that, we spotted that one of the attractions, the Steam Museum, had operating steam train rides on Thursdays only. It was Thursday, so what do you think we did? Yes, dear reader, we shot around to the bus terminal to catch the number 25 which went past the aforesaid S.M., with 2 minutes to spare!

The Steam Museum was more than just that. It had the obvious small 0-4-0 Pecketts and Hunsletts, along with traction engines, stationary boilers, and argicultural machinery. But it also had lots of cars, trucks, fire engines, and military vehicles. Including! a 1964 Anglia, just like the one I had, in very good condition (one owner, on Jersey all its life). Add to that bicycles, sewing machines, tractors, butter churns, church and theatre organs, and including, just for IT people, an old teletype machine. Quite a place!

We caught the steam train at 2:15, did our two laps of the small oval track (just like the model railways!), took lots of photos, and by 2:30 decided we had "done the place". Besides which, we hadn't had lunch, and the next bus left at 2:45, some distance down the road. So we legged it in time to catch the bus back to St Helier, where we had a most delicious traditional pastie (or pasty, if you prefer - they did) for lunch. Then we walked the shopping precinct, but did not buy anything.

Home on the number 15 bus, using our new Avanchi cards, in time for a brief rest and catch up on things electronic. We booked into the restaurant down the road "Pedro's", and got the last free table for 7:45, on the dot of which we returned and had a very good meal using the local food fest menu called "Tennerfest" (meals starting from GBP10). Barb and I had exactly the same choices: a roasted goat's cheese for entree, and a fish pie for main. Brilliant! Then collapsed. (But we did get back to the apartment first.)

04 Oct 2013 - Friday - Visit today's track

We had breakfast "chez nous" this morning, while pouring over the timetables, maps, and Jesrsey Pass information, trying to decide in which order to do things. Eventually took the easy option, and go to one of the main attractions first - Mont Orgueil Castle, at Gorey on the east coast. From there you can see the French coast.

Getting there was easy enough. We caught the 15 bus into St Helier (one every 20 mins), where we swapped to a number 1 (also 20 min intervals, but this one was late!), and wound our way around the coast to Gorey Blimey. If you have seen Bergerac, or the Time Team where they dug this castle, you will know what an imposing feature it is on the landscape - which is one of the many reasons why it has such a history. Space will preclude me from going into much of that history, but suffice it to say that it played a key role in the French-English 100 years war in the 12/13 century. It's ownership did change hands twice, but once the English realized its importance, they expanded and developed its fortifications to the point where it was deemed impregnable, at least in the days of bows and arrows. Cannon made that impregnability less secure, so various people (Walter Raleigh was Governor of Jersey at one stage, from 1600 onwards) extended it upwards and outward. To top it all off, the Germans also made some modifications to it during the war!

We left the castle, and repaired to The Feast, a restaurant recommended to us by one of Barb's choir friends. It was indeed a feast - a two course meal for GBP15 each. John had fried squid and tempura plaice, while Barb had fried brie followed by pork ribs (without the ribs!). Good stuff, and we decided we didn't need tea after that! Then headed back to St Helier via the Sameres Manor Gardens, which was included on our Jersey Pass, but which was one of the things we might not otherwise have bothered to see. It was worth a look, with some very fine gardens (although past their peak in terms of flower displays), and one of the largest herb gardens in the UK, almost rivaling those of Vilandry and the like in France.

Then back on the bus to St Aubin and a scratch meal of bread and cheese (nice British cheddars this time), and a half bottle of Australian chardonnay, part of the gratis supplies left for us in the apartment. Also good stuff!

Watched an episode of Bergerac before retiring for the night.

05 Oct 2013 - Saturday - Visit today's track

Breakfast chez nous also, but we did adjourn to the Fort View Cafe for coffee, before walking to St Matthew's church to see the glass. Alas, it was closed on Saturdays! So we caught the bus into St Helier's, where we were to visit all the "walking distance attactions". But it was such a nice sunny day, that we decided instead to do tomorrow's plan, which was to go to the Durrell Zoo. So we downed our cups of coffee, bought under the more leisurely plan, and rushed to catch the 10:50 number 3 bus to Durrell.

We arrived there about 11:30, and were just in time to hear an introductory talk all about the Durrell Foundation. Then off to see various things, including Sth American birds, an andean bear, coatis, orang-utans, gorillas, tamarins, then lunch (which was quite nice, considering it was a zoo cafe!)

After lunch, quite a few other animals, of which the most note worthy were the lemurs and the aye-ayes, which are a kind of lemur, but nocturnal, and very shy, so not much is known about these. And they are very difficult to photograph, when you are not allowed to use a flash!

By then it was time to catch the bus to go and visit the next place, La Hougue Bie (pronounced "hoog bee"), which is a very ancient covered dolmen, older than the pyramids. We could go into it, and the entrance is like many other such - aligned so that the rising solstice sun comes straight in to hit the altar at the deepest part of the dolmen. You had to be keen to go in and see it, since the first few metres were only about 1.2m high, and required a stooped sideways shuffle if you were to get in without resorting to crawling!

We had an hour there before the next bus arrived, and could have spent longer, but we would have had to wait another hour for that next bus, so we left at that point. Probably not the right thing to do, but it did mean we got home during daylight.

Dinner was another home-built affair, with the addition of a few yummy antipasto thingies from the local gourmet shop: saucisson sec, beef bresaola, green olives stuffed with black olives, goats cheese, cherry truss tomatoes, rocket and fresh figs. Top all that off with yoghurt with prune layer (from the mini-mart), and you have a two-course menu fit for any restaurant!

06 Oct 2013 - Sunday - Visit today's track

Today's plan was yesterday's plan before we had a change of mind due to the weather. As it happened, it didn't matter, because today, although starting less auspiciously, turned into a similar nice day. We had breakfast in, then down to the Fort View Cafe for coffee, then caught the bus into St Helier. There were a few detours owing to a marathon being run, which meant police and volunteers in hi-vis vests were everywhere. But that didn't affect us much, and we got to the Steam Clock, our first attraction at a bit affter 10.

Now I can't tell you much about the steam clock, since there was no information about it, apart from a few signs which said, "Danger, live steam". As far as I could tell, they lied. There was a vertical steam marine engine and a boiler, but it was patently obvious to a steam-trained eye that it had been a long time since either saw any "live steam". The clock did have the right time, however. It looked to me like an artist's impression of the inner workings of a steam paddle wheeler, named "Ariadne" - a real version of which did indeed ply the ferry trade to Jersey pre-war.

Well, I just checked it out on Google. I was right. It was, and I quote: "commissioned by the Jersey Waterfront Board in 1996, and built by Smith of Derby Group. Although once powered by steam, according to a Jersey government document "the steam workings have been replaced with electrical fittings designed to provide the same functionality including the blowing of 'steam' at the appropriate times of the day." ... It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World's largest steam clock." So there.

Then on to the Maritime Museum. This was fascinating. It was full of "boys' toys", gadgets with press buttons to make them work. Sand blowing wind tunnels, wave making wind tunnels, tide machines, ships' horns (of which a young Downs Syndrome girl found the operating button, abd nearly drove us all insane with her constant blowing of it. "Boys' toys" indeed!) There was a "make your own boat" display, in which budding Ben Lexens could add different ballast and sails to make a sailable yacht. Barb's versions kept capsizing.

We were in there for about 2 hours. Oh, and I forgot to mention the Occupation Tapestry, which was in a separate section. The O.T. was a project inspired by the 50th anniversary of liberation, and was completed in 1995. It is twelve panels of tapestry, each woven by women from each of the twelve "parishes", or "states" of Jersey. Interestingly, all the names start with "Saint" except one, which sounds quite unsaintly: "Grouville" - oh, and "Trinity", which is on the other hand, more saintly than "saint". But I digress. The tapestry depicts various scenes of life in Jersey during the war years, when it was occupied by German forces. There are lots of personal stories behind the scenes, which make for fascinating viewing. The tapestries have a collective total of over 7 million stiches!

By then, it was 1230, and the tide was out sufficiently that we could walk across the causeway to Elizabeth Castle, about a kilometre across. It adds a certain frisson knowing that you have to leave before the tide comes in again, or else you are stuck there for several hours more!

There is a lot to see at E.C. in its own right, but we were there just in time to see a master gunner from the Royal Artillery fire one of the 16th century cannons. He was a good raconteur, and built the suspense up to the point of firing very well, including forgetting the key to the powder safe and having to walk back to the castle to get it, having to warn people off who were walking unknowing under the muzzle of the gun, and then counting down with three cheers for the king to lighting the fuse, only to have it not take, and a recount to actually get it to fire! It was a big bang, and I recorded it as a movie. The most impressive part was not so much the bang (although it was very LOUD), but the amount of smoke it generated. A bit of wind soon blew it away, but it did give me an appreciation of the confusion that must have surrounded any real deloyment of multiple cannon, either in castle or on ship.

Lunch at the castle cafe was followed by an extensive walk around the environs, and a climb to the top for the view. We did indeed get away before the tide came in (about 4), and then made a last minute to our plan. Instead of just catching the first bus back to St Aubin, we decided to wait for a 12A bus, which took us all the way out to L'Etacq on the north-west coast of the island, but we stayed on the bus (because it was the last one for the day!), and retraced our steps (or rather, tire treads) back to St Aubin by 1815, where we booked into Murray's for an 2015 dinner.

Dinner was again pleasant: Barb had basil and walnut goats cheese followed by asparagus, salmon and pea risooto, while John had french onion soup, followed by pork spare ribs. Yum! Late to bed.

07 Oct 2013 - Monday - Visit today's track

Breakfast self-catered again today, before coffee at Murrays (dinner last night). Caught bus to St Matthews (aka The Glass Church), which we tried to visit on Saturday. The reason for the name became obvious once we did get inside, since all the internal decor was based on glass. The most striking feature were what might be called in much larger churches "choir screens", but served a more humble purpose here - one was used to create a small chapel for private prayer, the other to create a sort of vestry, or minister's ante-room. The visual effect was very impressive, and I have seen none other quite like it. It was harvest time, and the churchg was also filled with apples, pumpkins, and other assorted (green)groceries, sufficient to cause John to burst into harvest hymns ("We plough the fields and scatter"), until he noticed someone just outside the door.

Then bus back the other (diverging) way on a number 28 to the Jersey War Tunnels, which were so fascinating that we spent nearly two hours there. These were tunnels built by the Germans (or rather, slave labour commanded by the Germans) to provide an air-raid secure storage site, which towards the end of the war was converted into a hospital. It has been converted into a museum of occupation, with lots of stories about the trials and trbulations of living under occupation. Like the Titantic Exhibition, you get given an identity card of one of the islanders, and the challenge is to find out what happened to them. Mine, one Albert Bedane, hid Jews from persecution, and was rewarded posthumously by Israel with the "Righteous among Nations" award, the highest civil honour of Israel.

Caught the 28 bus onwards to La Mare winery, where we arrived at 1245, just in time for a winery tour and tasting. The tour was interesting enough, given that it is the third largest winery in the UK (which is not really saying that much1) Neither Barb nor John were that impressed by the wines we tasted - white (sav blanc), rose (pinot) and red (pinot noir) - they were OK in terms of qulaity, but their intensity just did not come up to French or Italian standards, let alone Australian ones. But we chose the rose to have with lunch, which was a well-presented ploughman's lunch - pork pie, terrine, cheddar and blue cheese, chutney and salad (but no pickled onions :-(.

We then walked on to Devil's Hole, a small village on the coast, and famous (notorious?) for a very large blowhole. UNfortunately or otherwise the tide was well out and the sea was nowehere near blowing anything into the blowhole. But it was quite a deal bigger than others we have seen, such as at Nowra, and more recently, in Tahiti (which did have the distinction of working when we saw them).

Back in a number 27 (not the subtle route number change, we walked between the two route terminii) to St Helier, where we wandered along the foreshore, stopping at the Radisson Hotel for a visit to its Martello Bar and 1.5 beers (pint for John, half' for Barb). Then a number 12 back to Bel Royal (next stop after the Glass Church), where we got off and walked the rest of the way back to St Aubin, because today had been a not-very-far walking day. Dinner was again a slighlty scratch affair, boosted by the purchase of a jar of olives and a (nother) pork pie for the day. Watched Bergerac (series 8, episode 4), then zonked out.

08 Oct 2013 - Tuesday - Visit today's track

Really slow start today because we had a choice of an 0830 bus or a 1030 bus - which one do you think we'd catch? It was the 12a out to La Poulente, and we had a helpful, chatty and funny Scotsman driver, who pointed out all sorts of features to us as we trundled along. He dropped us at the La Poulente pub (with some hints about how we could start our walk), and we set off walking.

First point of interest (well, first, second, third and almost any ordinality you care to name) was an old German military bunker. One thing you can say about the siting of these bunkers is that, like the Catholic Church, they chose all the good vantage points. At least the poor sods who had to man them (who never saw action, since neither the British nor the Americans thought Jersey was worth attacking, and the poor Jersians had to wait until the war was over before Churchill suddenly remembered to go back and liberate the Channel Islands) could sun themselves and look at the views to while away the boring hours of observation.

Second point of interest was not actually a German bunker, but rather the reverse, a nice little smugglers cove sort of place called Le Petit Port (the French-speaking Jersians are pretty unimaginative with their names, like every second road is called "La Neuve Route" - duh, very helpful, NOT!)

The third point of interest had both, bunkers and coves, with a lighthouse to boot - La Corbiere Phare. It is a reknown landmark, and there were busloads and carloads of tourists when we arrived. It has the attraction (?) of a causeway across to the lighthouse, which one can cross at low tide, rather like Elizabeth Castle. It was ankle deep when we arrived, and nobody was game to cross it. There were still waves washing over the far end when we started to cross, but the tide fell so rapidly that by the time we reached the far end, it was all dry. (We were in fact the first people to cross during that low tide, and once we made it, everyone seemed to want to cross. I guess they were all thinking, "let's watch these silly Australians get wet ... Oh, they didn't ... OK then, let's go ourselves!")

From Corbiere we followed the route of the old railway line, closed in the 1920s, but reopened by the Germans during the Occupation (since the west coast was the most heavily fortified area, it was an important piece of transport infrastructure. Maybe that's the solution to Australia's transport woes?). Very pleasant walking since it is all on a very gentle grade, and through a wooded avenue set amongst mixed farming land.

About a third of the way along, we detoured via a walking path down to St Brelade, or Brelade Bay, as the locals call it. We stopped in the little park overlooking the beach and had our lunch there - a cheese and salad sandwich using the last few slices of the loaf we bought for the week, along with the last apple that came with the gratis fruit supplied with the flat. Frugal, but welcome!

Getting out of Brelade was not as easy as coming in. For a start, only one road went in the direction we wanted, and it was hard to find. Secondly, it was very steep uphill! We struggled up that against the vagiaries of John's knee, through all these rich houses with fabulous views. Once we got to the top and the main road, we then had to find the road/path down again! Fortunately a woman picking up her child from the local school (it was about 3 by this time) stopped and gave us directions, so we headed off down another "Green Lane". These are roads where pedestrians and cyclists are supposed to have priority, and motor traffic is restricted to 15mph (24kph) - ha! Nobody seems to take much notice of that, and there were cars zipping back and forth as we wound our way to the bottom of the hill to pick up the slowly descending railway line formation.

At that point the railway line leaves the farmland, and enters a lovely wooded valley, so deep end dense that the GPS had trouble finding its satellites. We were by then quite tired, and taking photos seemed low on the priority list, but we did remember to take a couple of the rather nice setting. The line suddenly pops out in St Aubin as it leaves the valley, and becomes redeveloped to the point of not being able to follow it clearly. But we were by then right next to our apartment - which for the moment, we shunned, preferring to make for the nearest watering hole and a well-deserved beer! And they had Guiness on tap! So smooth, mmmmmm.

After re-beering, back to the flat to start thinking about packing, and then to the little restaurant, litterally across the road, "Bracewell's", where Barb had roasted goats' cheese (again), and sea bass, while John had a delightful fish rissotto followed by mixed satay skewers (chicken, beef, prawn). We shared a side plate of zucchini fritti, which came just like the one we had in Italy, very soft zucchini with a light crispy tempura batter - melt in the mouth jobs!

Then to bed, to await tomorrow's new adventures.

09 Oct 2013 - Wednesday - Visit today's track

Since check-out time was 1000 and the ferry did not leave until 1330, we had plenty of time to pack our bags, place them under the stairs as instructed, and then wander down to Murray's for breakfast, where Barb had poached eggs on toast, and John had the "veggie breakfast" (years of training by David and Beth paid off at last :-). We even had time for two cups of coffee each, before returning to the sail loft where we met Alan, the owner, and collected our bags. We had a bit of a wait at the bus stop, and when the bus arrived, it came double! Unfortunately, the first bus sailed past, which turned out to be the wrong thing for it to do, since the second bus, which did stop, had its ticket machine breakdown just as the people in front were paying. So the driver had to "shut down" the bus, sit in the stop for 5 minutes, then restart everything, when the ticket machine "rebooted". While all this was happening, a third bus came past, and some disgruntled or in a hurry passengers transferred to it. We were not in a hurry, but it did take time out of our plan for the morning.

We got to Liberation Station at about 1130, and walked over to the ferry terminal and checked two of the three bags in. Then we walked back to the Jersey Museum in time to spend 45 minutes there looking at the history of Jersey. It was very interesting, and 45 minutes did not do it justice. As the man on the desk said "you'll just have to come back soon!".

A brisk walk back to the ferry, and we walked straight on, finding our seats OK, and then decided to upgrade to "Club Class" for an extra GBP23 each, which will pretty well flush out our old travel money card :-)

Lots of photos as we left Jersey, and before we knew it, we were tied up at Guernsey - it takes approximately 1 hour for the crossing. More photos of Guernsey (we will have to come back here sometime, too!), and then left at 1500.

A somewhat rocking and rolling crossing to the mainland, although the sea was no more than a 3 (scattered whitecaps), and we berthed in Weymouth at around 1730, a bit ahead of time. We made our way to the railway station, where converting our booking into tickets proved to be a challenge, but we managed to do so with the help of a BR man. Then tried to buy a beer, since we had an hour before the train left.

But the first pub we tried, the Railway Tavern, which did seem to be a promising sign, was useless. The staff and management refused to take Jersey money!! Now call me a grumpy old man if you like, but the fact that the French, German and Italian peoples have seen fit to accept a single unified currency, and remain different countries, would imply that Jersey and England, which purport to be the same country, should be able to accept a single currency - or, at least each other's banknotes. Nup. Strikes me that after 1000 years of sovereignty, they still haven't quite grown up. That's Poms for you! And they have the cheek to suggest that Australians are below par in intelligence. Well, we might be below par in cricket at the moment, but when it comes to finance, we can show you primitive Poms a thing or two! Global Financial Crisis anyone? Getting their currency organized would be a millenium leap forward for the Poms!

We walked down the road a bit (trundling three suitcases!) and found the Moby Dick, who would take Jersey currency, so we had a beer or two (1.5 again actually). A leisurely quaff, then back to the railway station in time to board the 1906 train to London, on which we are now relaxing as the sole occupants of first class, and giving me an opportunity to catch up on typing this blog. Dinner tonight was cancelled, due to breakfast. Next installment - who knows?

On arrival at Waterloo, we went looking for the underground station. It was down a set of escalators, but I could not find a map anywhere. So we went down the escalators, and found a map, but Wimbledon was not on any of the lines that passed through Waterloo, and we knew that Erika had said there was a direct connection. Then the penny dropped. It was not an underground train at all, but a South Western "overground" line, and back up the escalators! Frantic scurring and searching the (huge) destination board found a train passing through Wimbledon in 3 minutes! Fortunately the British Rail ticket machines work faster than the Italian ones do, even to the extent of giving you 4 tickets for 2 people in less time than 1 ticket for 10 people! (I do not profess to understand why 4 pieces of paper are required for 2 tickets?) We made it, with 30 seconds to spare, the complement of the Naples train, where we had -30 seconds to spare. A short ride, ironically back along the same line we had just come in on, and we were on Wimbledon platform to see Andrew's welcoming smiling face.

A short 10 minute walk to Erika and Andrew's house, and a welcome cup of tea and much chatting, before we retired to bed out of respect for Andrew's work hours in the morning.

10 Oct 2013 - Thursday - Visit today's track

We woke up at our usual time of 0650 (without an alarm!) and joined Andrew, Erika, and young Marshall downstairs. Marshall is just so cute. He wa suffering from some sort of virus, but he was coping with it very stoically, and did not complain. I took lots of photos (you can see them by clicking on today's date in the heading above).

Andrew left for work, and we busied ourselves talking with Erika, playing with Marshall, and generally preparing ourselves for the flight later today. Erika and Marshall walked to the railway station with us, and we bought tickets, this time for the underground District Line, first to Earl's Court, where we changed to the Picadilly Line, and Heathrow Terminal 5.

On check-in at the airport, we discovered we were about the last two passengers to check in (and we were there 3 hours before departure), and consequently got two seats in the middle, 2 rows apart! Enough to make anyone grumpy, let alone those with a head start. We had a pleasant enough lunch at a pseudo Mexican restaurant called Giraffe's, then went to board. While stting at the boarding gate, Barb realised she had left her hoodie jacket at the restaurant. Some thoughts about dashing back to retrieve it, but given that by then it was only 20 minutes to baording, and no guarantee that she would find it anyway, we declared it lost. It was a free giveaway anyway, so Barb wasn't too upset.

Then we boarded. Barb asked at the gate if there was any possibility of finding seats together, and the woman said "wait a minute, I'll check", and then blow me down with a grumpy feather, there were! Two at the galley end of the cabin, with the bassinette fold downs, and plenty of leg space! The only slight hiccough was that what we gained in leg room, we lost in overhead locker space, and John had a monumental battle getting the two carry-on bags to fit. It was such a protracted battle that, when he succeeded, he got a spontaneous round of applause from interested watchers in the cabin who had been following this battle!

The flight was relieved by watching two films with the aid of my new noise cancelling headphones: Man of Steel (don't bother, just lots of gratuitous violence), and The Lone Ranger (quite funny, with Captain Jack (aka Johnny Depp) playing the part of Tonto. We had an interminable wait at US Immigration. One clerk to deal with each of 4 long queues, and our queue clerk just packed up and walked off in the middle of things, without any explanation! We had to wait 5 minutes before he was replaced, and I suspect that only because the young kids behind us started crying and yelling! Why is US Immigration the worst in the world? Because the US is arrogant enough to believe that everyone in the world wants to go and live there! Not without a decent health service, mate!

We found Lynne on exit from the third degree, and she drove us to their home, stopping at Amazon to pick up Nathan. We had dinner at home, and an opportunity to catch up on news.

11 Oct 2013 - Friday - Visit today's track

Nathan had to go to work today, so we had a fairly lazy start. Lynne, Barb and I caught the bus into Seattle CBD (Barb and I count as "seniors", so we get a 75c fare, as opposed to $2.25, which is a REALLY good discount!) We went shopping at Macy's to buy Barb a new jacket to replace the one she left behind at Heathrow. A nice red one, and quite cheap too, since there was a 20% off sale on an item that was already marked down to half price.

We had lunch in Macy's, then wandered down to the Pike St Market. Barb bought a tie dye T-shirt to match the one I have, and a similar patterned "onesie" for Nathan, as a birthday present for the birthday just gone. Lynne bought a smock sort of thing in similar style. We also bought a few paintings and photos to take home.

From the market, we wandered further down to the sea front to find the Seattle Acquarium. It being right on the sea front, it does lots of fresh seawater things, like sea stars, anenomes, sea otters, and seals. Oh, and octopuses, big 90lb ones! The sea stars and anenomes were in touch pools, so you could feel them. Lynne got carried away, and thought she must have touched too many, because she said that her fingers went numb, but Barb and I didn't notice that effect. But we only touched one or two. The tentacles do stick to you, a slightly erie feeling, but it is easy to pull away.

They fed the octopuses while we were there, and that was a great hit. One octopus only disturbed her sleep to eat the fish, and then when back to sleeping. But the other, a male, was constantly on the move, so you could see all the tentacles and suckers at work on the glass walls of the tank.

The star of the show were the sea otters, however. They are just so cute. Well, almost. One was grooming himself, or rather, his bottom. He was curled in a ball with his nose and bottom above water, do a bit of licking, then somersault in the water, back to the original position, and start licking again. I suppose he was doing it because he could, but even if I could, I don't think I'd want to.

Others were a bit more couth. Swimming around on their backs, grooming their faces, holding balls, playing (not fighting) with each other, it was just mesmerizing to watch. I took lots of photos!

Then home on the bus, which, although it was peak hour, was not too crowded. At about 6, we got in the car and drove across town to an Indian restaurant called The Tandoori Inn, where we met Nathan and a bunch of his colleagues just as we were going in. Apparently, they have a regular Friday night dinner together to celebrate the end of the week, which from our own experience, is a good way to wind down for the weekend. A very pleasant meal followed - we each ordered what we personally liked, and then shared them around to have a taste of all the varieties. John ordered Chicken Tikki, and Barb ordered Lamb Saag, and both agreed that those two were the best of all the varieties! Not biassed at all.

12 Oct 2013 - Saturday - Visit today's track

Down to the Porterage Cafe for breakfast, in the American style. John had buckwheat pancakes with two poached eggs, Barb had oven baked french toast. Both of these come with an option of the "breakfast bar", which is a buffet of mainly fruits, and the fruits and mainly berries: strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blue berries, ... for those that love berries, it was berry nice! Fortunately, the yanks are quite relaxed about doggy bags, so we did not have to make complete pigs of ourselves in public, we could go home and do it in private.

But that had to wait. On walking home, we re-organized ourselves into the car, and headed off to look at houses. Nathan and Lynne have recently had their rent put up, so they are thinking of buying. We saw a nice little bungalow, with upstairs living area about the size of Lawn Rd, but it had the advantage of almost the same floor space again in the huge basement. It was a bit out of their price range, but not impossibly so, and Nathan is keen to make an offer.

We saw lots of other houses too, but none open for inspection, and quite a few out of budget, so the first one remained the best goer at the end of the day. We did have a good time looking at all the autumn trees too.

Home for a small bit of late lunch (a big breakfast meant it could be late, and a big breakfast meant it would be small), and then out again walking, ostensibly to the Crittenden Locks, but unfortunately, although the locks are still working, the park through which you access them was closed, due to the blocking of supply by the Republicans (why do conservatives think they are born to rule?) So we contented ourselves with just walking along the road, until bladders won out, and we had to return home. Then down to the Ballard shopping precinct, where we partook of the offerings of the local Gelateria.

Home again, where we watched some TV (or rather, some downloaded programmes that Nathan had grabbed from the BBC iView equivalent) called Great British Railway Journeys, a tour of railways in Britain as chronicled by George Bradshaw in his 1863 book "Bradshaw's Handbook" on British Railways. Apparently the book has been reprinted as a result of this TV programme, and has become a bestseller! Then dinner, some more Bradshaw, then bed.

13 Oct 2013 - Sunday - Visit today's track

Breakfast at home, partly of yesterday's leftovers, then Lynne drove Nathan, Barb and John to church at the First Free Methodist Church, Seattle. Nathan has joined the choir, and press-ganged Barb and John to join him - since the anthem they were singing was one we had done at GWUC a few months back, we agreed. It was "Blessed be the Man", by Jane Marshall, an otherwise challenging piece if you haven't seen it before, but with Elwyn Pederson's diligent coaching, it held no terrors for either of us, and we quickly picked up the subtleties required by the FFMC music director, Ron Haight. The choir sang three pieces, Taste and See (composer unknown, but not the John Goss piece) - neither of us had seen it before, but it was easy sight reading - an Antiphon based on Psalm 1, and the "Blessed is the Man" piece (also Psalm 1). If you haven't picked up the theme here, it was an introduction to the Psalms, and the church plans to work its way through 150 psalms over the next 50 days, reading 3 psalms a day. Next week is Psalm 23, but we will not be here!

We walked to the bus stop, and caught the bus back to Ballard to have coffee and a wander around the Sunday market. We bought a few things like apples (Washington is reknown for its apples and they are in season), sausages (for tea), and cheese. Took those goodies back to home, collect Lynne, then set off (on a different route) via bus to the University District, to have a wander around the University of Washington. We were expecting to see lots of autumn colours, but the trees there had not quite turned, so we had to content ourselves with looking at the buildings instead. It is obviously a wealthy university, with broad pedestrian avenues, tree-lined vistas (including one that points at Mt Rainier, only just visible through the haze), and grandiose buildings. Quite seminal, I'm sure. Then back to Ballard by bus, dinner, TV (more Bradshaw) and bed.

14 Oct 2013 - Monday - Visit today's track

Big Day today. After a very slow start, which included Nathan going to the doctor and getting an injection which he didn't like, we left Ballard at 1100, and headed north along the I5, turning east at a place called Arlington (but no cemetery!) From there we headed up into the Rockies (known locally as the Cascades), eventually joining up with a state highway called the Scenic Highway, and for good reason!

But before we got to the Scenic Highway (but not missing any scenery), we stopped for lunch in a very backwoods sort of place called Darrington. It did not seem to have any cafes, let alone ones that were open, so we bought some lunch makings in the local IGA (which was open), and ate them in the Old School Park. Barb and I had a burrito each, along with what we would call wedges, but the locals called Jo-Jos. Very healthy.

Then along the Skagit River valley to Newhalem, a town created to build the local hydro-electric power station (175MW for those that want to know), and which now is really just a maintenance town. On display there was a 2-6-2 steam loco (a "Prairie" type, for those that want to know) used to transport (or "transportate" if you want to speak Yankee) materials and supplies for the construction of the hydro scheme. Took a photo or two of that, especially as the Prairie type is rare in Australia.

On up the valley to take in some impressive views over the Diablo Dam (hydro) and Thunder and Ruby Arms of the dam. Climbing right up the valley of the Ruby Arm (presumably so named because an eponymous river flows down it), we reached Washington Pass, at 5500 feet altitude. (Bear in mind that the top of Kosciusko is only 7200 feet or so.) Very impressive views all round, and that contributed significantly to the day's tally of 360 photos, let alone those that Nathan and Lynne took.

Then we trundled down the other side of Washington Pass to Winthrop. The scenery slowly evolved from huge jagged peaks with snow tops, to huge jagged peaks with no snow, to big rocky peaks, to big rounded peaks, to smaller rounded peaks, and then merged down into foothills and meadows. We went through (town name ?), but it was little more than a few houses, and no sensible accommodation to speak of. Then we came to Winthrop!

How shall I describe Winthrop? My first reaction (and of the others, too) was that it was just plain kitsch. All the shops in the main street were made to look like old wild west places, and we thought it a bit of a gimmick. But after a while, we realised that it had been done very tastefully. There were no street wires, no TV aerials, nothing out of place with a town from the late 19th century. Turns out that this was no accident. Some wealthy philanthropist saw this as a vision for the town, and ploughed a lot of money into the place to reshape the face of it, and it pretty well worked! After a couple of circuits around the streets, our jaws gradually resumed their more natural horizontal positions, and we resumed looking for accommodation.

We spotted a "River's Edge Resort", which looked possible. On inquiring whether there were any rooms vacant, we were told there was one three bedroom "apartment" available, for $210. Despite being inclined to dismiss this as too expensive, we agreed to look inside, and were quite taken with it. It had an upstairs and downstairs, with two bedrooms and bathroom upstairs, and one bedroom downstairs, along with a kitchen lounge and bathroom. But the clincher was a hot tub on the verandah outside, overlooking the river!

We signed up for it, and then went walking the town to see what the dining facilities were like. Eventually, we split along sexist lines: John and Nathan repairing to the local beer and brewery, while Lynne and Barb went to the supermarket to buy supplies for dinner and breakfast.

Dinner was thus a simple affair - a nice piece of steak with microwaved vegetables, followed by two tubs of ice cream shared around for dessert. Then the hot tub, and bed!

15 Oct 2013 - Tuesday - Visit today's track

Breakfast was complementary to last night's dinner, that is to say, it was prepared from ingredients bought last night, namely, eggs, bread, mushrooms to make variations on french toast and scrambled eggs and toast - with the slight departure from normal breakfast fare being the remains of the two icecream cartons. I must say, chocolate ice cream goes nicely with french toast!

We packed up and checked out (rather reluctantly), and found a coffee shop to start the day. Then a walk around Winthrop to look around. We saw jugs (Barb bought another milk jug!), glassware (very nice, and rivalling the stuff we saw in Murano, but again, we couldn't see how to get it home in one piece), photos (easier to ship, so we did buy some of these) and paintings (yes, again the credit card came out ...) So we had some good retail therapy!

Then on to Chelan for lunch, where we found a very Lynne friendly organic cafe, called the Bear Food Cafe, which was gluten and dairy free, no problems! So we had some delightful crepes for lunch, John had something of which he forgets the name (but it did have jalapena peppers!), while Barb had a goat's cheese crepe, followed by an apple, marron and brie crepe which we shared for dessert. Yum!

After lunch, we walked around Chelan, which was a typical US western style town - broad streets, with plenty of diners, bars, lawyers' offices, and several gas stations. I always get the feeling that I'm watching a movie, or a "Leave it to Beaver" episode in places like this. Strange!

Then on to Wenatchee and a place that Barbara had sussed out previously, called Ohme Gardens (pronounced "Oh-me"). It happened to be the last day of the year that it was open, and we got there with only a few hours before it closed, so we had no time to linger. It reminded me of Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC, but not quite as intensively cared for. It would have had very nice views when first established, but the sprawl of Wenatchee below it, with factories, freeways and fruit processing depots in the immediate perspective rather dented the aesthetic qualities of the many outlook points in the garden.

We then toured Wenatchee looking for accomodation, but while there was quantity of places, there was not much quality, and we all came to the conclusion that Wenatchee was a bit of a dump. So we moved on, expecting the next town Cashmere to live up to its name and have some softer style accomodation. But - no joy there either, and we just about got lost trying to find joy.

So on to Leavenworth. If our first thoughts of Winthrop were that it was a kitsch winner, that was because we had not yet seen Leavenworth. Not only were our first thoughts of Leavenworth that it was not worth even leavening, but our second, third and all subsequent thoughts were of the same ilk. Had they elected to go wild west, I venture to say that they would have it in spades over Winthrop. But they (rather inexplicably) decided to model the town ob Bavaria. Now, along with the Two Ronnies, I am inclined to say that "Bavaria, that's my favourite area", but I would definitely revise that catch phrase in the light of our time in Leavenworth. You will just have to look at the photos to see what I mean, since words fail me when trying to describe Leavenworth.

We elected to stay at the Bavarian Inn - well, if you cannot beat them, join them! It seemed almost reasonable in the light of eveerything else, but it was certainly no River's Edge apartment. We had dinner at Visconti - an Italian restaurant seemed a better option than the many Bavaria Brathausen. Barb had green salad and spaghetti "alle vongole" (clams), John had antipasto salad and puttanesca with prawns. Both declared them up to scratch.

Back to Bavaria, my favourite area, for bed.

16 Oct 2013 - Wednesday - Visit today's track

We had breakfast at the Bavaria, that's my favourite area, where, to do the proper Bavarian thing (NOT), John and Nathan had self-made waffles.

Then explored the town for coffee, which turned out to be a long search, since not many places seemed to do the early morning thing. We eventually settled on the Gingerbread House, which had been rejected the first time around, but then, beggars cannot be choosers. It was OK in an American sort of way.

We had time to spare, so we decided to go for a walk along the river, and around the island in the river. This was interesting in its own right, since the island was formed when the river was dammed downstream in the days of logging (early 20th century), and the river silted up. When the dam was demolished in the early 30s, the island appeared, and has since been naturally revegetated. There were well-defined footpaths, with footbridges to and from the mainland, so it was easy walking, and we saw a few fish jumping in the river, as well as a few dead fish lying around in the water. The dead fish were easy to photograph, the live ones less so.

And so back to town for lunch at the German Sausage Garten, where John had bratwurst with jalapenos, both as peppers in the filling as well as sauce in the topping! Firey stuff, quenched (of course) with a (US) pint of beer. Did I mention beer before? Well, I should have, since the US actually has a huge range of beers. A lot of it is made in microbreweries, and tends to be fairly local, but given the range they have, it is perhaps not that surprising that a few of them are quite drinkable. If you want my advice (and I know a lot of you would not), steer clear of the universally distributed brands (Coors, Miller, Budweiser, etc.), and always go the path less well trod. You will be pleasantly surprised.

It was time to head for home, so we set off via highway 2, with frequent stops for photos, of course. We travelled via Stevens Pass, which was apparently a kew development in opening up this part of Washington, since access through the Rockies around the turn of the 20th century was very difficult. Opening up Stevens Pass transformed Leavenworth from a logging town into a tourist resort, way back in the 1930s. It is now a key ski resort area, a bit like Thredo in the Australian Alps.

We got home about 5ish to find that the new computer hadn't been delivered (because we were not home and it had to be signed for), and that we had to drive to South Seattle (to an area that neither Lynne nor Nathan had previously visited) to pick it up from FedEx. Lynne and Nathan kindly did all this, so that I could get the new computer before having to pack, which did make organizing ourselves much easier. Once we were home again, Nathan found that installing Ubuntu was a piece of cake, to the point of claiming that this version was so much better than his that he will upgrade too!

Out for (lateish) dinner at the Matador, a Mexican-Spanish restaurant which offered huge servings (Nathan did warn us!), with more than we can eat in one go, so we all got doggy boxes to take our respective left-overs home for lunch tomorrow.

A bit more fiddling with computers, made a start on packing up, before bed.

17 Oct 2013 - Thursday - Visit today's track

We had breakfast at home, in the midst of packing. We set off at 0920 for an appointment with a real estate agent at 0930 at a house in Ballard that Lynne had identified as a potential interest for them. We met Paul the agent, who showed us around. It was small, but made possible for N and L by the large basement, which, to quote Barbara, was a "renovator's delight"! It was priced at $425,000, which we thought was a good price, but the agent said that that was a marketing ploy, designed to secure rising bids! Hmmmm, the funny games people play. Nathan decided to make a bid at that price, but didn't feel confident in the light of that information. We told him there would be more fish in the sea.

Then to a small coffee shop nearby, which seemed to be quite fledgling, but eager to please, so we ordered the usuals, which were good. Lynne had a soy hot chocolate, commenting that it was good, but since it was the first one she had ever tried, she wasn't sure. (I think she was thinking of possible side effects, rather than the immediate taste.) Back to 2616 to finish packing, and have lunch, which was the leftovers from last night.

Then Lynne drove the four of us to SEATAC airport. On the way, Nathan commented on driving past Amazon that he thought he would get Lynne to drop him off there, so it was obvious that he was missing work - he did have the whole day off! They dropped as at the door, and we said our farewells there, before diving into the terminal to do the usual stuff. The checkin machine refused to acknowledge that we had a booking, but that was the only hiccup. We even sailed straight through security, doing the new "Pre TSA" process, where everything went in the carry-on (wallets, computers, iPhones, etc.) and we did not have to take anything off. Whoopee! Little did we know that it was just to lull us into a false sense of security (pun intended), in preparation for LAX.

A pleasant enough flight on Alaska Airlines to LAX, where we trundled our carry-ons across to terminal B (we knew where it was this time round), and then through the nonsense there.

Now many of you will know that I have lost weight, and I have commented to some of you that this makes clothes' fittings different. In particular, belts become very important, even to the point of having them retro-fitted with extra holes. So when they told us to take shoes and belts off, and everything out of our pockets (even handkerchiefs!), I feared the worst. Barb went through the body scanner with no problems, but the zippers in my trouser legs (so you can remove the bottom halves and make them into shorts) caused a blip. The TSA bloke asked to pat me down, told me to put my hands in the air (I tried not to hold my breath), felt down my legs - and that was all that was needed to trigger the waiting disaster. The trousers came down as he felt down the leggings. So there I was, in the middle of a crowd of people, standing in my underpants, trousers around my ankles! The bloke was more embarrassed than I was at first, but then tried to shift the blame on to me, claiming that I had let them fall down. I protested, saying that I could not hold them up, since I had my hands in the air, holding my handkerchief. Then he called me a "joker", and said I was "pulling a stunt". (I felt like responding "it takes a runt to known a stunt" (or similar plesiophones), but thought better of it.) Well, of course I had to pull them up, I couldn't walk anywhere the way they were, so I kept shtum, and moved along to gather my belt and replace it, while he went on muttering about "jokers" and "stunts". To an open mouthed american woman standing nearby, I did comment that "maybe I should sue", just so that she had something to bite on ... (perhaps that is not the best metaphor).

The rest of the time in LAX was an anti-climax after that little episode. We repaired to the Qantas lounge, had a beer/champagne or two, then dinner there. Boarded the plane on time at 2145, and took off for Oz!

18 Oct 2013 - Friday - Visit today's track

Nothing happened today, because today didn't exist. We crossed the date line in a westerly direction, thus losing a day - today. So no blog for today. (That was easy!)

19 Oct 2013 - Saturday - Visit today's track

The flight was long, but actually quite comfortable. Both of us got a bit of sleep, which helps. We watched several movies: John saw Master and Commander (good), Argo (very good), and Lincoln (a bit US-centric, and little continuity), while Barb saw The Rocket, Argo, and Julia and Julie.

We landed in Sydney at 7am, and I felt a great sense of relief, even though we were only half way through our tour. It was the sense of being back in Oz, I think. We were met by Ann and John Colville, friends of ours from Sydney days, and with whom we have kept in touch, off and on, over the years. We had plenty to chat about. John was a colleague of Barb's and NSWIT (now UTS), and Ann worked there too. They both still do a bit of work there, although notionally retired. They took us to their home first, where we had a welcome cup of tea, then we went out shopping and a tour of Parramatta, followed by lunch at the Parramatta Lake. We did a bit of walking around the lake, partly to stretch the legs, but also to drink in all the Australian bush (lots of gum trees, and a few she-oaks). A quite tea at the Colvilles followed, and since we both were heavy lidded, an early night.

20 Oct 2013 - Sunday - Visit today's track

As expected, an early rise and slow start to the day. We had a home-cooked breakfast, thanks to Ann, then to Leichardt for coffee and more shopping. John drove us into town to look at the changes to UTS, and how the whole Ultimo area has changed since the 70s. Then back to Haberfield to sample the atmosphere at the local "Primavera", an Italian spring carnival, with food stalls, music, and various other entertainments all swinging in the local shopping precinct, since the roads had been closed off. We had whitebait fritters, pasta, and oysters (John) and pasticceri (Barb), all very pleasant, provided we did not linger too long in the sun, since it was a high 20s day, and we had not seen much sun since Italy.

We all then caught the bus into the CBD, and walked down Loftus St to Circular Quay, trundling our luggage, and enjoying the carnival atmosphere that was in swing there as well. We said our goodbyes to John and Ann at the International Sea Terminal, where the Volendam was berthed, and made our way through the various queues (none of which were in airport proportions, I'm pleased to say) to finally board, and find our cabin - which we had selected over two years ago, on our Artic/Baltic cruise (see here).

Departure from Circular Quay was quite spectacular, as the sun set over the city skyline, sent blood red by the smoke from the Sydney bushfires. It was quite sui generic (which means "unique", "of its own kind" - to save you rushing for your dictionaries).

We had dinner at 8pm - the late sitting we had asked for - and met Bob and Margaret, the only two other people at our table of six. It turned out that Bob is an engineer, and has developed some new generation loudspeakers, of which he was quite proud, so he was quite garrulous in describing them to someone who had some idea what he was talking about (I'm not sure that Barb was so engrossed in that conversation, though!) It was absorbing enough that we were the last people out of the dining room, so we did have a bit in common! The food was good (as expected): John had tartar of tuna, gaspacho soup, pork chop followed by ??; while Barb had cold meats (terrine, bresiola, prosciutto) eggplant canneloni, and creme brulee

And so to bed.

21 Oct 2013 - Monday - Visit today's track At Sea

spent day relaxing, recovering from past 35 days on the go

John wrestled with computers mosst of day, trying to get new Linux to talk to Barb's Mac OSX machine, largely frustrating!

dinner was John moules mariniere, beef wellington, creme brulee; Barb moules, salad, beef wellington, ricotta cheesecake

22 Oct 2013 - Tuesday - Visit today's track Brisbane

early morning 0530, coming into Brisbane up the river


0845 set off walking

met US couple from Seattle, Jack and Susan, whose daughter lives in Ballard!

parted company at cafe

arrived at Southbank about 1145

met David Abramson at 1230, lunch at Ahmets

caught City Cat at 1411, back to ship by 1500

depart Brisbane at 1700, watched sunset

snoozed, nearly missed dinner: John and Barb both had clam chowder, followed by grilled halibut, then Grand Marnier cherry mille-feuille. Been married too long!

23 Oct 2013 - Wednesday - (tracking turned off, due to erratic GPS signal) At Sea

We are not yet aclimatised to the local time! Still struggling with the adjustment to Australian time, we are finding the extra hour of Queensland time causes us to wake up even earlier! So this morning, again a 0530 awakening.


1100 Info about next 3 ports

1230 lunch by Lido pool. bought beverage card

1400 pilot stuff

1600 happy hour

2000 dinner: John pistou soup, beef wellington, chocolate bomb; Barb: cauliflower soup, beef wellington, chocolate bomb

24 Oct 2013 - Thursday - Visit today's track Hamilton Island

Bright and early rising again, so we were able to watch the arrival into Hamilton Island. There is no docking facility, so we anchored in the bay between Hamilton and Witsunday islands, and then tendered people to shore. Our plan was to find a coffee shop, have coffee, then walk to the lookout on One Tree Hill. But all the coffee shops we came to were shut, so we just pressed on to the lookout, up some very steep roads, but fortunately not too far - and the view was worth it!

dinner John: salmon tartare, duck breast, upside down peach and walnut torte; Barb: prosciutto and melon, tuna steak nicoise, blueberries and ice cream

25 Oct 2013 - Friday - Visit today's track Townsville

Today we slept in! Well, that is to say, we were woken by the morning tea tray arriving at 6am, and we were still asleep. That was a first.

Berthed at the new! wharf 10 at Townsville. Apparently we were the first cruise ship to use the new terminal, and the first Holland America ship to visit Townsville, so there was a bunch of firsts. There were lots of townsfolk out on the breakwater to watch us come in, too, which was a fair effort, given that we berthed around 7am.

After breakfast, we went ashore and started walking into town. From our reading of the map, it was only about 2.5km into the city centre, but HAL wanted $US8 one-way for a bus ticket. That did annoy a few people, and Barb overheard one couple hand their tickets back. It was a half-hour walk, and quite pleasant through the old parts of Townsville, especially as there were several information bords along the way to read about the history of the place.

Our first task was to find an open coffee shop, which we did once we started walking along the Strand - the Tobruk Kiosk. It had a free wifi, and since we brought the laptop along with us (the price to pay was that John had to carry the back-pack!), we checked our emails while waiting and drinking coffee. Then back to the Acquarium, which was by now open (a bit after 10am), and we paid our "concession" tickets to get in.

I must say, I love acquariums. Even having done the Seattle one only a bit over a week ago, there was so much to see, simply because the Australian Reef waters are quite different from the US Pacific coastal waters. We saw lots of sharks, including the Black-Tipped Reef Shark, the Leopard Shark, the Tawny Nurse (quite unlike the Grey Nurse, and quite docile), and several large Sawfish. But it was the turtles that we really liked. They have a "Turtle Hospital" there, and we were lucky enough to get a tour through the hospital to see various turtles in various stages of recovery. The main problem with turtles is that anything that upsets their digestion or lungs affects how much gas is in their bodies, and they end up having flotation problems, i.e., they are unable to dive for food, and since they are close to the surface, suffer from boat strikes (and nasty propellor wounds). So the hospital takes them in (if they are found) and nurses them back to health before releasing them back into the wild.

After a couple of hours in the acquarium, we decided it was time for lunch, so we walked back along the Strand to the Longboard Cafe, which was in a prime position out over the water, looking at the beautiful Townsville beach. Unfortunately, while the beach is beautiful, it is unsafe to swim in, because of the Irukanji Jellyfish, or "stingers", which inhabit the area during the spring-summer months (Oct-Mar). But we were not interested in swimming, because beer was calling, so we stopped at the Longboard and took our lunch. John had an Outback Burger, Barb had a Mediterraneum Panini. To recheck on his long-ago assessment of the yukkiness of 4X, John did order a schooner of banana-benders' favourite poison, and grudgingly admitted that maybe his tastes had changed, since XXXX no longer seemed so high on his yukkiness scale. Or maybe his palate is just buggered with old age?

We walked on from the Longboard to the end of the Strand, because the map told us that there was a lookout there. Unfortunately, it was closed for repairs, and we could not visit it. So back we went, with a slight sense of urgency, since time was running out before we had to be back on board. But we made it with almost an hour to spare, particularly as they did not remove the gangway until about 5pm.

A beer on the Lido Deck, and a dabble of the feet in the pool, brought some life back to our legs and their 20,000+ steps! Wooeee! We had walked as far as we had in Hong Kong, and at the time of writing this (the day is not yet over), have now set a new record for steps in a day.

26 Oct 2013 - Saturday - Visit today's track Cairns

The usual awakening process of rising at 6am to find that we were just collecting the pilot, and were steaming into the port of Cairns. So we watched a bit of that from the front deck on deck 6, and once we had supervised the safe tying up of the ship, made our way to the Lido for breakfast.

We had booked ourselves onto the 9:15 shore excursion to do the Kuranda Railway, so we made sure we were nice and early for the call to go ashore, and board the buses on time. The bus took us out to Freshwater, a reasonabe way out from Cairns, and I was puzzled that we had to travel so far, since the railway is called the Cairns-Kuranda, and the railway line does go all the way into Cairns. Anyway, board at Freshwater we did, and we were soon lumbering up the 1 in 50 grades, with lots of photos being taken, in the first instance by Barbara, since she was in the window seat, and in the second instance by John, after we swapped at the famous Stony Creek Viaduct. Again, I must express some puzzlement, since a lot of the people sitting at window seats did not take photos, and one wonders why they would do that. Maybe there is a life that does not involve taking photos from a moving train, but I find it hard to envisage!

At Kuranda we rejoined the bus for a short ride into the township of Kuranda.. Barb did ask the tour guide Rita if we could walk, and while she did not exactly say no, it was clear that she was not about to encourage such intransigent tour behaviour, so we stayed with the bus. It wasn't rocket science to find our way, and as it turned out, we had an hour in Kuranda to wander around, so there really was no danger of missing the bus.

During that hour, we had an ice-cream, bought Barbara a nice greeny-blue necklace, had a beer, bought John a new leather belt, and generally checked out the place. It's not very big.

Back on the bus for the short ride back to the railway station (!), but in this instance, not to catch the train, but the "sky rail" (cable car to give it its proper name) back to Cairns. This was in three sections, and you can get off at the two junction points to take a short walk, at the first station to view Barron Falls, and at the second to view the rainforest at close quarters. The first station had a serious design flaw in its passenger handling algorithm. The cable car did slow down for people to get off, but you could also elect to continue on, when the car would accelerate again to rejoin the cable. This meant that if nobody elected to get off, the passengers waiting to get on would suffer starvation - a technical term, meaning that there was an unbounded wait for service. Since there were a number of people electing to stay on (mainly young families with pushers on board), who were clearly not of the ship excursion, a slight feeling of panic was creeping over both of us, who could see the flaw in the algorithm. And, I think, even the non-computer literate were getting restless as the queue made very little progress for a while.

We did eventually get service (or I would not be here writing this blog), and discovered that they had in fact got it right at the next station. Everyone had to detrain, whether they wanted to or not, and had to join the back of the queue of passengers waiting to get on. A much fairer algorithm!

At the end of the third section - oops, I haven't told you what we saw from the cable car. It travelled above the rain forest, at times only a meter or two, and at other times, up to 20 metres or so. So you got a varied view, at times intimate with the topmost branches, at other times, getting the general geshtalt. It was always hard to see the ground through the canopy, indicating how dense the rainforest was. One also had a good view of the railway line snaking up the side of Barron Gorge, and how precariously it hung to the cliff face.

Back to the end. We went through the shop at the end of the cable car, succoumbing to the "buy a picture of yourselves in the cable car" lurk, and Barb also finding a nice Australian bush hat - with strings to keep it on! - to rejoin the bus right at the appointed hour (1445). However, two people were late, and didn't arrive until 1500, claiming they "got stuck in the queue". Whether it was the aforementioned egregious algorithm or not I am not sure, but they did get an ironic cheer when they got on the bus!

We were two of a small group of people that asked to be dropped off in town, where we wandered around looking at the town centre, buying a new memory card for Barb's camera - she was down to her last 20 photos! - and pausing for a beer, in the, wait for it! - Bavarian Beer House! Then walked the short distance back to the ship, where we repaired to the Lido Grill to have a somewhat delayed lunch - at 5pm!

Dinner again with Bob and Margaret, who had had an interesting day going out to the reef and viewing the coral from a glass bottomed boat. This was not a Holland America shore exclusion, but one they had organized themselves, so they were a little concerned about the timings. HAL guarantees that anyone on its shore excursions will not get left behind (hence the wait at the sky rail terminal), but they don't make the same guarantee if you do your own thing! But they made it so all was well, and we had another pleasant dinner - John and Barb both had scallops cerviche, asparagus soup, and lamb and lentils in a yummy red wine and olive sauce. In dessert we differed: John had creme caramel, Barb a strawberry romanoff.

After dinner, instead of retiring, we went to hear Krzysztof Malek, a concert pianist, play Chopin and Liszt. Very good. Then to bed.

27 Oct 2013 - Sunday - Visit today's track At Sea

28 Oct 2013 - Monday - Visit today's track

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