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.

06 Feb 2018

Pago Pago, American Samoa


I got off the ship to walk around today with no intention of writing a blog as this place is tiny and we are way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere. But it is so peaceful here and I kept picking up so many interesting facts That I would like to share.

Pago Pago - It is pronounced Pango Pango.

Population - American Samoa a total population of 55,519 people.

Size - Slightly larger Washington D.C.

Location - American Samoa is the southernmost territory of the United States and one of two U.S. territories south of the Equator. We are roughly 2,500 miles Southwest of Hawaii (about the distance from Las Vegas to New York) and still 1,500 miles from Auckland, NZ.

Citizenship - American Samoa is the only major territory of the United States in which citizenship is not granted at birth, and people born there are considered "non-citizen nationals”.

Apollo Programs - American Samoa was the closest landing and rescue point for five Apollo program flights. Three moon rocks and with a flag carried to the moon are on display here. 

Flu pandemic - During the 1918 flu pandemic, America Samoa was quarantined by its governor and therefore was one of the few places in the world where no flu-related deaths occurred.

Language - Most American Samoans are bilingual and can speak English and Samoan fluently. Samoan is the same language spoken in neighboring independent Samoa. (I didn’t even know Samoa was different than American Samoa.)

Margaret Mead - Margaret Mead did her fieldwork here for her doctoral dissertation in anthropology at Columbia University, where she wrote her book Coming of Age in Samoa which was published in 1928, and at the time became the most widely read book in the field of anthropology.

Tuna - Starkist is by far the largest employer on the island with their tuna cannery that annually ships back hundreds of millions of dollars of canned tuna to the USA.




Pan Am – It probably is a statistical aberration. But Pan American Air had two deadly crashes here; 1938 and 1974.