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26 Feb 2018

Alotau, Papua New Guinea Part 1 of 2

 

Some ports seem like it is not even worth getting off the ship and then about once a cruise one of those ends up being among the best of the trip. That describes our day today in Alotau, Papua New Guinea.

After considerable Internet research I hired Shanniah Loihai, a 20 year old girl who started Reeftours Milne Bay about six years ago. Boy is she a diamond in the rough.

 

 

Papua New Guinea is a true third word country and we saw it from the inside today unlike other excursions. Most of the tourists just see superficial examples of what locals think the tourists want to see (like above). It is kind of fun though.

 

 

First off was a visit to their world famous yacht marina. (That is a joke.)

 

 

 

Then it was a walk around the open air Transit Hotel. Here people stay in carport type areas that are separated by tribe.

 

 

Notice the red teeth. This is from chewing betel nut. People get high on it  but it causes significant oral cancer. Besides the buzz it supposedly suppresses hunger and these folks barely eat one meal a day. Sad. All over town people are just sitting or standing with no place to go and nothing to do.

 

 

If they have a courthouse available, we visit it.

 

 

The main street in town is one block long with a few stores on each side.

 

 

During WW II Alotau was made famous because here, Milne Bay, is where the Japan forces had their very first land defeat. It was a turning point in the War in these parts.The Australian Army gets the credit. There is not much to see unfortunately. Many of our friends really only experienced this stop by visiting a plaque.

 

 

 

Now it really got special. We visited a local school. They have no power, water, or plumbing. All the kids walk and many 5 miles each way. Yet they were so sweet and immaculate.  

Stay tuned for part II tomorrow where we will visit Shanniah's actual home and small village. They also have no water, power or plumbing and mostly dirt floors. Plus I will have some interesting Papua New Guinea facts.









24 Feb 2018

Cooktown, Australia 2018

 

 

We are in far Northwest Australia in Cooktown, founded by (you guessed it) James Cook. For those of us geographically impaired Americans that means we are far east and very far north, almost a vertical line from Melbourne in the South. It is hot and humid (96%) and tropical here as we move north towards the equator.

 

 

Not every day needs to be heavy duty sightseeing. Today we opted just to visit two locations in the same vicinity. First we want to Black Mountain. Formed 240,000,000 years ago it is way older than yesterday's rainforest. It is a collection of immense black granite boulders.

That is a big deal in itself. However they hiss, people disappear, cattle herds have disappeared, other weird things happen here and the natives just stay away.

We were driving there in a coach while it was raining so hard out that we had no visibility. Right as we stopped, the rain stopped for our 10 minute stop. As soon as we rebounded, it started pouring again. Strange!

 

 

Then for lots of fun we stopped at the world famous (at least Queensland famous) 100 year old Lions Den for some much needed refreshing beer. 

 

 

I really like their gutter/downspout system.

 








23 Feb 2018

Cairns and Daintree Rainforest, Australia 2018

 

We overnighted at Cairns last night. It is the main jumping off point for The Great Barrier Reef. Having visited here twice before, we decided to see the Daintree Rainforest up close and personal. 

I’m not a great rainforest guy, but this one has some impressive facts:
Along with its neighbor, Cape Tribulation, it is home to the highest number of plant and animal species that are rare, or threatened with near extinction, anywhere in the world. 
It is the oldest rainforest on earth (180,000,000 years) making in considerably older than the Amazon.
There are 19 primitive flowering plant species on earth and 12 of them are here which is the highest concentration anywhere.
 
 
 
 
We traveled from Cairns to Kuranda for an hour to the top of the rainforest by The Kuranda Scenic Railway which took 1,500 men 5 years to build the in the late 1800s. Besides the beauty, the rail itself is awesome with 15 hand carved tunnels. 
 

 
I thought it was quite hilarious when we stopped for a 10-minute photo stop and it seemed like it took the folks 15 minutes just to get off the train.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
At Kuranda we hopped on an old amphibious Army DUKW (aka Duck) to really get deep in the forest. They were built by GM during WWII and there are still 1,100 around.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Finally, we visited the Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary. It is always fun to feed a kangaroo, observe a koala bear and see some of the local residents.








21 Feb 2018

Hamilton Island, Australia 2018

Today was our third time visiting Hamilton Island, the largest inhabited island of the 74 Whitsunday Islands, in Eastern Australia at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. 

 
 
 
 
Even though it has become a world class tourist destination, It maintains its quaintness by being automobile free. This photo from 2007 shows us when we toured the entire island by golf cart.
 
 
 
 
Next door Whitehaven Beach is a pristine, award winning beach on Whitsunday Island, the largest of the 74 Whitsundays islands. We visited there last time by seaplane after viewing the beautiful area.
 
It is constantly rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Its sand is 98% pure silica, which gives it the special characteristics including its unique whiteness. It is so fine it squeaks when walked upon. It never gets hot. It is so fine it can ruin cameras and other electronic devises. It can even be used to polish jewelry.








16 Feb 2018

Sydney, Australia 2018

 
 
We have been ducking a cyclone for a week avoiding high seas. The downside is we missed a couple minor stops. Much more importantly we arrived Sydney in the morning instead of evening which gives us three full days in one of our favorite cities.
 
First thing we did was check into the Four Seasons for two nights. We have a very nice view of the Harbor with the opera house and our ship in the background. Unfortunately, the ship can only be tied up for a few hours and will be tendering which is why we split to stay in town.
 
 
 
After checking in we hopped on a ferry (which here is sightseeing on its own as well as transportation) and went to the world famous Doyles for an outstanding seafood lunch.
 
 
 
One of the great things about cruising is we get to meet so many wonderful people. Former travel companions and now good friends the Baers, picked us and took us to their wonderful home for a Shabbat dinner. Nice.