Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday – another day at sea relaxing and playing cards, computer, reading etc. Tuesday 5th April – We had a late arrival into the port of Saipan in the Mariana Islands. Not much here unless you are interested in the activities of the US during the 2nd WW. We chose not to do a tour but if it wasn’t so hot it would have been nice to go to one of the little beaches – no part of the tours. Instead we just took the shuttle into the town and were dropped off at an expensive shopping complex. No bargains to be found. Electrical/electronics outlets seem to be non-existent in this part of the world. We were interested in buying a small digital clock running on 60 megahertz (American) rather than 50megahertz (Australian) to use in our cabin when we go cruising. Maybe we’ll find one in Guam tomorrow. We like to know what time it is in the middle of the night when we need to take a little walk or if we are restless without putting a light on. We haven’t any tours planned for tomorrow either but I hope our docking port is more interesting than most of them have been on this cruise. We have booked a tour for Rabaul in New Guinea which should be interesting. Well we are about to go off for Sundowners and then dinner. Tuesday 5th – We had an interesting send of when we left Saipan. The Police vehicle was on the wharf sounding every siren available to him and driving up and down and playing loud music as well. The local customs were shouting Ozi Ozi Ozi to the usual response from the people on ship of Oi Oi Oi, over and over again till the ship was just about out of hearing range. One of the most tumultuous send offs we’ve experienced in all of our cruising. Wednesday 6th April – We docked in Guam about 7.30 then it was go slow till the US had checked us through thoroughly – getting sick of filling out forms for the paranoid US authorities. We weren’t able to do a tour in Guam as they were all booked out before we came ashore. They would only let 4 shuttle busses on the dock at any one time and no cabs. So you can imagine how long it took to process about 2000 passengers and get them to where they were going. We finally took the shuttle into town. Seems that it’s expected that passengers have plenty of money to burn because the shuttles always take us to the “Galleria” which only seems to sell upmarket clothes, handbags and jewellery. Well after we have been through our umpteenth “Galleria” (no bargains) we then took the shuttle to Kmart – yes you read right – to Kmart. We found the clock we have been looking for and had a tasty junk food lunch and the GD bought a couple of pairs of shorts and I bought some pants. We are finding that all of our clothes have shrunk – Ha Ha – must be the water we’ve been washing them in. We then made our way back they way we came. It appears from the bus window that Guam has a number of pretty beaches but nothing has been set up with the shuttles that allows for us to enjoy them at all. Seems this tour is geared to spending upmarket and war memorials. Posted 7th, 8th, 9th April – all sea days. Apart from eating, sleeping reading and being entertained, all we have done in the past few days is to attend a lecture on Volcanos. It was presented by a US vulcanologist. It’s rather surprising how many around the world have gone off in the past 10 years or so with some still spewing out lava. That said, we have booked a tour to go to a Volcano in Rabaul and to the beach where it’s bubbling and steaming out of the sand. It should be interesting. It also includes a visit to the volcano observatory. I don’t even have to worry about doing the laundry since we acquired Elite status on the ship. We’re enjoying our trivia and finding out how much we don’t know. Looking forward to that tour tomorrow and will post details in the next few days. Sunday 10th April. Last night was party night (Island theme) up on top deck. The music was good – we even got up and did a bit of a shuffle along with all the other old rockers. The tour in Rabaul was great. The buses however were just 12 seaters with only natural air conditioning, which worked well when we were moving. Otherwise, the temperature was a still 30 degrees plus with high humidity. We firstly went to a villages school where the children’s choir was out on the lawn singing Hymns while some of the locals accompanies them with guitars. We then drove through what once was part of Rabaul, now covered with a very thick layer of ash. Here and there was a barley visable rain water tank. A few brick posts once part of houses were sticking out of the ground. A lot of the vast area of ash was once the Rabaul air port though there is no evidence of it ever being so. Even where there was wash outs from the rain over the years there is no evidence of the runways or what lies under the meters of ash. Tuvurvur Volcano was puffing out smoke continuously. We then drove on to the beach where there were hot springs of sulphuric water running into the ocean. The palm trees are still all beheaded, just tall sticks standing up, from the eruption which occurred in 1994. The natives are making good use of the dead palm trees as firewood. Evidence of natures regrowth is just visible with some grasses and other plants starting to pollinate in the barren ash. I’d say it’s a place that would be unrecognisable to anyone who may have visited before that eruption. Our guide was very courteous and very quietly spoken. Seems that’s is typical of the locals. We then drove across the ashen desert to where there was a wreck of a Japanese war plane. It’s in a hole about 3 meters deep where they keep digging the ash away from the wreck. There is evidence everywhere of tar sealed roads going nowhere except to a mountain of ash and a dead end. Then it was off to the Earthquake observatory high up on a peak near Tovanumdatir Volcano. On the way up the very steep narrow road we passed holes in the mountainside where the Japanese had dug in during WW2 using local manual labour. We thought at one stage that we might have to get out and push the bus in front of us as it kept stopping and blowing out heaps of smoke. Fortunately it made it up the steep slope. This observatory monitors any movement around the Pacific rim and is linked up to Canberra monitoring station. One of the monitors was still indicating movement at Christchurch. There were 8 monitors in all. Back to the ship to shower and cool down before lunch. We then took a stroll along the street near the dock where the locals were out selling their wares. Like most ports we have visited, they too are aware of the value of their labours and bargains are not easy to come by. Nothing that could be taken back into Australia took our fancy anyway, though there were quite a lot of the carvings etc. which showed a lot of skill. We both enjoyed this port of call better than any of the others on the cruise. Monday 11th April. For the next three days we will be at sea before arriving in Brisbane on Thursday. By tonight we should be should be around the same latitude as the tip of Cape York. Activities should be much the same as previous sea days so unless there is something out of the ordinary to report this will be our last post till we meet again back on good old OZ soil.

What left of the Air port Building