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Welcome to John's blog of our cruise across the Pacific Ocean in MS Noordam to Vancouver and Seattle, and return via air, stopping over in Kauai/Hawaii.
Navigating these pages: In the following itinerary, there are several columns describing the day. Clicking on a link in a column (where it exists) ...
Within the diary entries, the date heading is a link to the photo page (as for the itinerary). The day of the week/ordinal number is a link back to the itinerary, and the day's title is a link to the track (as for the itinerary).
All dates and times are local times. This can give anomalous timings when travel across time zones is involved. (See 21 Apr!) Where a change of time zone is involved, offsets from UTC are given in parentheses. A single UTC offset indicates the local time for the day, and if multiple UTC offsets are given, these indicate the UTC zones travelled.
Note that the pages will change over time as I edit in travel progress. Note also that when the document refers to 'John', the author is assumed, unless stated otherwise.
|Time||Activity (Blog)||Locations (Track)||Track No.|
|0||12 Apr||0630 (+10)||all aboard!||train Melbourne to Sydney||NA|
|1(0)||13 Apr||1230; 1830||embark; depart on MS Noordam||Sydney||NA|
|2(1)||14 Apr||all day (+11)||rocking and rolling||at sea||NA|
|3(2)||15 Apr||all day||An Overflowing Church and other Distractions||at sea||NA|
|4(3)||16 Apr||1000-1800||Pining on the Isle of homophonic Pines||Kuto, Ile des Pins, New Caledonia (TRNW)||332|
|5(4)||17 Apr||0800-1700||A Tale of Two Churches||Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia (TRDHNW)||333|
|6(5)||18 Apr||0800-1700||Zip on de Doo-Dah||Port Vila, Vanuatu||334|
|7(6)||19 Apr||all day (+12)||Bread and Circuses||at sea||NA|
|8(7)||20 Apr||0800-1700||As I walked out on the streets of Lautoka||Lautoka, Fiji||335|
|9(8)||21a Apr||0800-1600||High on a Hill TRNW||Dravuni Island, Fiji TRNW||TBA|
|10(9)||21b Apr||0200 (-11)||Cross International Dateline CO||at sea||NA|
|11(10)||22 Apr||1000-1800||Tango tango on Pango Pango||Pago Pago, Tutuila, American Samoa||336|
|12(11)||23 Apr||all day||at sea - but not metaphorically||at sea||NA|
|13(12)||24 Apr||2210||Crossing the Equator CO||Crossing the Equator CO||NA|
|14(13)||25 Apr||all day||Lest We Forget||at sea||NA|
|15(14)||26 Apr||all day (-10)||Machines, Mutinies and Movies||at sea||NA|
|16(15)||27 Apr||all day||Orange Country||at sea||NA|
|17(16)||28 Apr||0700-2300||Diamond Jack and Jill||Honolulu, Hawaii, US||NA|
|18(17)||29 Apr||0800-1800||Segue to Segway TRNW||Lahaina, Hawaii, US TRNW||337|
|19(18)||30 Apr||0700-1400||The Shopping Climax||Nawiliwili, Kauai, Hawaii, US||338|
|20(19)||01 May||all day (-9)||The First Day of the Last Leg||at sea||NA|
|21(20)/-40||02 May||all day||Marinating Ourselves||at sea||NA|
|22(21)/-39||03 May||all day (-8)||When's the next Happy Hour?||at sea||NA|
|23(22)/-38||04 May||all day||John complains - a rare event!||at sea||NA|
|24(23)/-37||05 May||all day (-7)||Winding down||at sea||NA|
|25(24)/-36||06 May||0700 (-7)||disembark Vancouver||Vancouver: Gastown||NA|
|26/-35||07 May||1100-1500||The Bears were Grouse, and the Grouse was Bare||Vancouver: Grouse Mountain||339|
|27/-34||08 May||1030-1500||High Suspense in Capilano||Vancouver: Capilano||340|
|28/-33||09 May||1100-1535||Stanley Park on Foot||Vancouver: Stanley Park||341|
|29/-32||10 May||0635-1100||Training for Seattle Weather||Vancouver to Seattle||342|
|30/-31||11 May||various||Rest and Recover||Seattle: Ballard||NA|
|31/-30||12 May||0935-1535||A Star Pupil on the Laser Cutter||Seattle: Ballard||NA|
|32/-29||13 May||various||Carmel-lite Nothings||Seattle: Ballard||NA|
|33/-28||14 May||1100-1830||Three Goodtimes||Seattle||NA|
|34/-27||15 May||1014-1935||Leavenworth for Lunch||Leavenworth||343|
|35/-26||16 May||various||Swan Song at Swanson's||Seattle: Ballard||NA|
|36/-25||17 May||1030-1645||If it's not Boeing, we're not going!||Seattle||344|
|37/-24||18 May||all day||John makes/breaks spectacles of himself||Seattle||NA|
|38/-23||19 May||1100-1300||Birthday Blast||Seattle, Snoqualmie, Yakima||345|
|39/-22||20 May||1030-1730||On an Adrenalin High||Yakima to Pendleton||346|
|40/-21||21 May||1030-2030||Pendleton, Painted Hills, and Prineville||Pendleton to Prineville||347|
|41/-20||22 May||0930-1900||On the Ale Trail||Prineville to Bend||348|
|42/-19||23 May||0930-1900||Love that Lava!||Bend to Union Creek||349|
|43/-18||24 May||1100-0830||Grater Lake hath no man than this||Crater Lake||350|
|44/-17||25 May||1000-1920||It rained on our picnic!||Union Creek to The Dalles||352|
|45/-16||26 May||1000-1930||Respect is as respect does||The Dalles to Portland||353|
|46/-15||27 May||1125-2045||Gazing Homeward||Portland to Seattle||354|
|47/-14||28 May||all day||Rest and Recover (again)||Ballard||NA|
|48/-13||29 May||various||Retrousered||Green Lake and Northgate||355|
|49/-12||30 May||various||Discovery or Not||Ballard||356|
|50/-11||31 May||various||Ply-Tie-Dye||Union Lake and CBD||357|
|51/-10||01 Jun||various||Two coffees for the price of One||Ballard||NA|
|52/-9||02 Jun||various||Last Day in Seattle||Ballard||NA|
|53/-9||03 Jun||0930(-7)-1740(-10)||Not quite Halfway Home||Seattle to Kaua'i||358|
|54/-7||04 Jun||all day||Join the Pool of Bums||Kaua'i||359|
|55/-6||05 Jun||all day||Market Day at Kailua and not much else||Wailua||360|
|56/-5||06 Jun||1030-1530||Playing at Cane Trains||Bike Ride||361|
|57/-4||07 Jun||0810-1445||Can yon Spouting make a Movie?||Waimea Canyon||362|
(Sigh. Off to a bad start. I typed all of today's happenings in, only to have some glitch happen, I have no idea what, but it wiped out all of my typing. Here I am, an hour and a half later, starting again.)
We did not get much sleep last night, somewhat to be expected, because of the stress and excitement over the last few days (weeks) (months). At least we can relax, knowing that all of our stuff has been moved out of number 7, since that is to be handed back to the landlord while we are away. Number 5 is now full of boxes, but they can wait until our return.
So we were awake and had time for our usual cup of tea before getting dressed and packing the last few essential items, like tootbrushes, etc.. David was sufficiently awake to drive us to the station, so we said our goodbyes to Beth and the girls and bundled ourselves and luggage into the car. Tabitha did her usual "bye-bye", but would have been quite oblivious to the length of time before we would see her again.
A quick hug from David at the station, and we caught the 0655 train into Flinders Street, where we crossed the platform to catch the next loop train on to Spencer Street. We were in plenty of time for the "egg-spitty" on platform 1, so Barb went to buy some coffee while John took a few photos of Y class shunting carriages. Indeed, the carriages were not ready to board, so there was no hurry. Barb found seats B15 and B16 in the first class car 'B', while John took a photo of the "engine". Then we were off, pretty well on the dot of 0830.
The pace of the train was fairly slow until we were well out of the inners suburbs, and we slowly picked up speed as the landscape broadened out into grasslands. The morning passed fairly quickly, aided by first the coffee, the two "breakky pies" from the buffet car. The passing landscape brought back many memories of past train trips, of steam trains, photo stops, and all the sundry happenings that go to make such trips memorable.
The Victorian North East standard gauge is notoriously unstable, and we had lost 10 minutes by the time we arrived in Albury, just on midday. The buffet car closed for a crew change, and a half hour out from Albury, a waiter came through our car, asking for hot lunch orders. We ordered a Vegetarian Curry (Barb) and a Morrocan Lamb (John), and then had to wait another hour for them to be "cooked", before we were called to the buffet car to collect our orders. Not exactly the same level of service that you get in first class on European trains, I must say. But the fare was significantly cheaper, so I guess we cannot complain too much!
The afternoon was a little more tedious than the morning, but John was sufficiently alert to know when we were approaching Bethungra Spiral, and managed to take a video of our trip around that interesting engineering feat. No Academy Awards for this one, mind, but for afficionados it is interesting enough.
Quite a few passengers alighted at Yass Junction, presumably bound for Canberra. This was the scene for sister Elinor's unfortunate missing of the old Intercapital Daylight, when she put one of her bags down at the door to the carriage, went back to get her other one, and meanwhile was dismayed to see the train pull out without her or her bags. Poor management on the part of the railway staff, in my view, but perhaps they have not learnt from that experience, as our train also started to pull out while the guard was still on the platform! Fortunately he had the powers that Elinor did not, and flagged for the train to stop, to allow him to reboard! I guess there would have been a few more questions asked if that mishap had come to pass.
We arrived on time in Sydney, having made up the missing 10 minutes, and found our way to the Mercure Hotel without any drama. Having checked in, we ate at the in-house restaurant "Four Elements", which I remembered from a previous accreditation visit to UTS in 2009 (?). John had duck confit, Barb had grilled salmon. John celebrated the first day out with a raspberry creme brulee as well. Then exhausted, we collapsed into bed, after a very not-doing-much but sitting sort of a day.
Here follows my original version, which was not lost. See day 2 for an explanation.
Of course, we did not sleep much last night - too much excitement and stress over the last few days, but we have at least finished our part of the moving, and can relax (we think) on that front.
So we had time to get up and make our usual cup of tea before getting dressed and organizing the last few things into the suitcases. David was awake enough to drive us to the station, so we said our goodbyes to the children - Tabitha knew enough about saying "bye-bye", but she would not yet understand how much longer this absence was to be. A quick hug from David at the station, and then we caught the 6:55 train into Flinders Street, where we walked across the platform to catch the next loop train on to Spencer Street, and found the "egg-spitty" in platform 1, not quite ready for us to board car B, first class.
So Barb had time to find some coffee from the "in a Rush" coffee shop, while John took a few photos of Y class shunting. The train left promptly at 0830, but of course it barely gets above a crawl until well out in the suburbs, when it picked up a bit. Lots of memories were triggered as we made our way northward, past scenes of old railway journeys, steam trains, and photo stops.
We had a "breaky pie" for breakfast, a variant on the usual egg and bacon pie. It was not bad for railway fare. The morning passed otherwise uneventfully, and we were at Albury right on 12 noon, where there was a change of crew. After Albury, a waiter came around taking orders for lunch, so we ordered a vegetarian curry (Barb) and Moroccan lamb (John). Then we had to wait an hour while they were "cooked", i.e., reheated in the microwave, before being called to collect them from the buffet car. Hmmm, not quite the same level of service that you get in first class on European trains!
The afternoon section of the journey was a little more tedious. Again, there were the memories to be invoked, and John remembered enough to be ready to take a movie as we travelled around the Bethungra Spiral. I doubt that it will win any Academy Awards, though.
Quite a few passengers alighted at Yass Junction, scene of Elinor's unfortunate missing of the train. It must be the place, because the conductor chappie was still standing on the platform as the train started to move off, but fortunately, he had the power (and the flag) to stop the train and let him (re)join.
We arrived in Sydney via the East Hills line, a line not built when we lived in Sydney, so that was a first. We had made up some 10 minutes of lateness incurred over the substandard Victorian track, so we were right on time at 2000, and detrained quickly enough to find our way to the Mercure, where we ate dinner (John a nice confit of duck, Barb a grilled salmon; John also had dessert of a raspberry brulee). Then we retired, quite exhausted after a not-doing-much day!
A somewhat more restful night, only to be blinded by the morning sun as it arose at 0630! John thought our room faced north, so we did not draw the blinds, but it was more north-east than north, and the morning sun came in with a vengeance!
Once dressed, we wandered (south!) down George St to find the new Central Mall, opposite UTS, as we needed a) breakfast, b) power adapters, and c) a pharmacy. Not much was open in Central Mall, but there was a small coffee bar, so we had a "combo" coffee and ham and cheese croissant each. Coffee was good, croissant a bit tired. We then checked out the mall, but there was nothing remotely approaching a pharmacy, and the one place that looked like it maight have power adapters (since they had some suitcases on display) was not open.
So back up to Railway Square, where we did find shops to meet both needs. Barb had a small cold sore developing, and the discount chemist had the medicine she wanted, and a small 7x11 sort of shop had the requisite power adapters. So we were all set. Back to the hotel to repack the bags, which we left with the concierge while we had some more coffees, then collected the bags, and caught a taxi to White Bay Cruise Terminal.
We thought we might be a little early, as the ticket said 1230 embarkation, but boarding procedures were well in place when we arrived at about noon, so we prioritised our check-in (thanks to being 4-star Mariners!) and were on board by 1230, where we made ourselves familiar with the ship, and known to our cabin steward, Sahal and Jojo. We had an invitation to a 4+-star Mariners Lunch, so down to the Dining Room for that, and sat at a table with Carl and Sherry from Calgary, Canada - with whom we swapped stories over lunch and kicked off our cruising with a very positive note.
At 2 we wandered into the showroom for a "welcome reception", which was basically a few free drinks and nibbles. I was expecting some sort of talking, but when it became obvious that there was none, we left. The showroom was not really the ideal place for a "reception", since everyone was sitting in rows, and it was very hard to mingle, let alone talk to anyone else around you.
We had not caught up with the MacMillans or Porters, so John rang the front desk and asked that a message be sent to the Porters (it was easier to spell their name!). Rachel replied very promptly, puzzled by the fact that an "Mr Angas" was trying to contact her! so after allaying her fears that she was not being accosted by a stranger, we arranged to meet at the wine tasting later.
At 1630 there was the mandatory muster and roll call, and after that, the wine tasting in the Pinnacle Bar, where we caught up with the Porters and MacMillans, and two of their friends, Caroline and Marcia. We had a great time catching up, with lots of laughter and wine tasting, so much so that we were the last ones to leave. We suspected that all the others had been driven away by the noise we were making.
There was a slightly sour note - literally. One of the wines we tasted was off, and we complained, particularly as it was one of the more expensive wines. A replacement glass confirmed our suspicions, as it was clearly not flawed, and tasted so much better. It went by the unfortunate name of "Boom Boom Shiraz", so there was much joking about the name, focussing on the choice between "boom boom" or "bust" - clearly in this case, the latter! We also heard a bit about the wine packages on offer, but that got a bit lost in the noise.
Barb managed to change our dinner booking, which had been open sitting, to sit at the same table with the others, and at 1930, we returned to the dining room and table 50 to continue the fun. John had Burrata Salad, French Onion Soup, Prawn Diablo (only they called it "Shrimp Diablo"), and Creme Brulee, while Barb had Burrata Salad, Salad Nicoise, and a cheese plate. We elected to go with the Cellar 1 package (renamed from the old Navigator package), and chose not to pursue options with Cellar 2 (the old Admiral package) or Cellar 3 (a new package). Many of the wines were South America, and we recognized them from our South America cruise in 2015.
We skipped the show, and headed back to our cabin for an "early" night. But it wasn't really, as the clocks go forward one hour, and it was well after (new) 11 by the time we nodded off.
We started with our usual morning cup of tea, courtesy of the in-room service, BUT! there was a difference from all the other times. No bread. We had to settle for the continental breakfast, which was pastries, yoghurt and fruit. Not my ideal, but it was the closest thing to a slice of bread.
The day was a pretty windy one, with lots of rocking and rolling, so it was a good day to do very little. I took the opportunity to start this blog, but that turned out to be a bit of a disaster. I gaily typed the first day's events (on the train, Thursday) and got to the end happily enough. But when I went to view what I had typed on the web page, it was nowhere to be seen! Much frantic investigation, which was compounded by the fact that the XSLT translator did not seem to be functioning correctly. By 1230 I had had enough, and gave it all away as a bad deal, and just started again. It was though I had been working on two separate files, one editable but not visible, the other visible, but not editable. I saved the file and reloaded it, and low and behold, I could now see and edit the file - BUT! all my edits had gone . I even checked the i-node numbers but that was now inconclusive, as I realized that saving the file had ensured that the files were now the same. Rats! So I just started again, and retyped the whole morning's effort.
(Postscript: I did later discover what had happened. I had changed the name of a higher level directory from Cruises to travels, and then at some point resynchronized from the server - which still had the original Cruises directory. So I did have two copies, one which I mistakenly started editing (the Cruises one, the other which was visible on the web page (the travels one)!! So lucky you, dear reader, you now have the joy of reading two versions of the same day - see above )
Lunch was by the Lido Pool at the Dive In hamburger bar, John with his usual "Dog Paddle" (frankfurt and mustard) and Barb with her "Freestyle" hanburger (mushroom). Barb went to the talk on the next three stops at 1400, about what to expect at each place. She made notes for future reference. John on the other hand tried to salvage things from the morning's disaster, and was only partly successful (but see Postscript above). Then "Sip and Savour" at 1700 with a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Beaujolais Village (not the Nouvelle), both quite pleasant.
We went to the Captain's Welcome Toast at 1915, but apart from the free champagne (which was crummy), it was a bit of a waste of time. The Captain did not say much, and he mumbled anyway in a Dutch accent, so we didn't really listen. But then it was dinner soon enough.
Dinner with the Porters, McMillans, Caroline and Marcia, and John had Seared Ahi Tuna Carpaccio, French Onion Soup, Roast Prime Rib, and then Creme Brulee, while Barb had the tuna carpaccio, Pork Medallions and Mango Blueberry Crisp.
John decided to check out the "non-denominal church service led by the congregation" at 0900 this morning. Unfortunately, by delaying over breakfast, he was a little late to the Stuyvesant Room, which was packed to overflowing! But a little bit of reorganizing found him a seat in the front row. The service was led by a lay person (he never did say his name, at least in the time that I was there), and he called upon varius (pre-arranged) people to do readings, prayers and reflections. The music started off unaccompanied, using hymns from the supplied hymn books - although in inadequate numbers.
But then a pianist appeared, who rather took over the music, launching into an upbeat version of Amazing Grace, much to the delight of the majority of the congregation. The service went a bit downhill towards the fundamentalist end of the spectrum from there, finishing up with The Old Rugged Cross, which much standing up of the congregation, and waving hands in the air. I'm afraid I was rather "lost" at this stage, and the end could not come soon enough!
Barb was waiting in the Explorers' Cafe when the end did come, and so we joined in a cup of coffee, before heading to the Vista Showroom to hear Bill Crews talk about the history of New Caledonia - all very interesting. Then a walk around the deck (3 times, equal to one mile) before lunch in the Lido. Barb went to the cooking class, while John checked out the first half of a talk by Phil Creaser (of UNSW) about World Heritage sites at 1400. Unfortunately, he had to leave at 1430 to go to another activity, "Learn Samoan" - which was quite interesting, and he learnt to say "hello" in Samoan: "Tofalu lava", as well as learn the Samoan alphabet.
We had afternoon tea in the dining room, and then to Sip and Savour with Margaret and Brian (from Queensland), and Christine (a bridge instructor). Incidentally, there are many bridge players on board, all travelling to Hawaii where apparently there is a big bridge tournament. There are several bridge sessions a day, and even a private bridge player meeting every day! We both enjoyed a riesling, with a tuna savoury.
Before dinner, Ian and Anne had invited us to their room for pre-dinner champagne to celebrate their wedding anniversary. We took along our free bottle of champers, and joined with Bruce and Rachel, Caroline and Marcia in toasting to Ian and Anne's marriage. We had a few laughs along the way too (surprise, surprise).
Then to dinner, a gala night, with a special 5-course menu. John had Orange-Jumbo Prawn Cocktail, Creamed Artichoke and Heritage Carrot Soup, Maple-Lacquered Duck Breast, and Balsamic Strawberries. Barb had Salad of Arugula and Frisee, Maple-Lacquered Duck Breast, and Balsamic Strawberries. Again, pleanty of banter around the table.
After dinner, we all trooped off to the showroom to hear Sara Moir, a violinist, who entertained us with a very varied programme (including dancing on a floor piano while playing her violin). Barb and I both thought that getting a floor piano for the grand daughters might be a good idea?
Awake at 0635 and had some minutes to fully wake up before the 0700 knock on the door. Actually, he was a bit late this morning, and did not turn up until 4 minutes past. Meanwhile, we were entertained by the southern tip of the Grande Terre island of New Caledonia sliding past on our port side.
Showered and dressed by 0830, we headed to the Lido for breakfast, and dined with a couple from Port Stephens, Margie and Steve, who were heading off on a round the world trip using as many cruises as they could string together. Steve had a rather severe case of Parkinson's, and we were impressed by Margie's determination to do the trip, given that she was going to be effectively caring for Steve on the way, and that she confessed to not being a good sailor herself!
Explorer's Cafe coffee afterwards, and then we collected our belongings to head off on one of the tenders to Ile des Pins. As 4 star mariners, we now get priority for the tenders, which means we do not have to queue for tender tickets, but just go straight to join the tender line.
Once ashore, we bumped into the MacMillans and Porters who just happened to be on the tender behind us, and we all set off walking for the beach. The Ms and Ps had been here before, and knew where things were, so we were happy to just follow them. The water was initially cold, but we quickly adapted, and spent about 40 minutes just relaxing in the water, floating about, and just chatting. Then we got out, dried ourselves, and headed along the beach to a resort, where we bought ice creams. Unfortunately, neither of us had brought money, so Bruce shouted us our ice creams.
Then back along the beach to the tender wharf, caught the tender back, and reassembled at the Dive In hamburger stall for lunch. The was some glitch in the delivery of our hamburgers, as the MacMillans who ordered after us got theirs first, but apart from a bit of banter, all was OK in the end. John queued up to get Barb, rachel and himself a serve of bread and butter pudding, which all three participants rated very highly.
The others the elected to go to afternoon tea (it was by then just on 1500), but John elected to go and do some work. (He didn't - he fell asleep while reading Sally's thesis!) The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully and sleepily, until it was time for dinner.
Dinner was somewhat faster than usual, whether this was because we ate faster because we were hungry, or whether it was because there were fewer people in the dining room, I don't know, but we were finished before 2100. John had Green Chile (sic) and Corn chowder, followed by Coq au Vin, then Coconut Panna Cotta with one scoop of Rocky Road Ice Cream, while Barb had Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad (but it was not Quinoa, it was Cous Cous!), then Coq au Vin, then Peach Crisp with two ice cream scoops.
Then everyone bar John went to the show to hear Catherine Alcorn, a cabaret singer, while John retired to write blog and read thesis. John's misgivings proved well founded when Barb returned with a brief report: "a bit screechy", which confirmed John's foreboding. You, dear reader, get the benefit of that foreboding - you are reading it right now.
We took morning tea at 0630 because of the planned stretch class at 0730, but we elected to have tea only, and no breakfast, continental or otherwise. It just was not the same. Then we went to the "stretch and release" class, and stretched and released our bodies. We were invited to have our feet profiled, and a rather handsome negro chappie gave us a little talk on how those profiles revealed our body postures. He even did a couple of exercises to show how some orthopaedic gadgets improved those postures. Before too long, we had signed up for these gadgets - $200 each! Barb said that regular orthotics were a lot more expensive, but I could not help the feeling that it was much a "stretch and release" of our wallets as of our bodies!! But the PS is that they are comfortable, and they do seem to effectively "take a weight off your feet".
Then to breakfast at 0830, followed by the tender ashore at 0930. We went separate ways to the McMillans and Porters, and headed off to find the cute little church on the headland that we had seen as we came into the bay. But we did not get far. A cahin across the path, with a sign "No Church. Private" gave a clear message that we were not on the right path. So we headed down to the beach.
But that was not entirely successful either. This beach was full of broken coral, very unpleasant to walk on in bare feet, and not much better with our Tevas on, either. Add to that the fact that it was all very shallow, and certainly not suitable for swimming. So we did not stay long in the water.
We headed back to the tender, returned to the ship, where we showered and changed to walking clothes, and then returned to the island, headed up the "main" road, where we found a fork in the road, one way which went to the church we wanted to see, the other way which went to the other church we had also seen from the ship. So we walked to the headland church first.
It did involve a bit of climbing - it was on a headland, after all - but it did not take too long. A couple we taking of photo of themselves on the headland, and I stopped to offer to take the photo of them both. The woman was quite grateful, and got quite chatty. Their names were Mary and Joseph - "How appropriate!" I exclaimed, as we were right outside the Church of Saint Mary of Lourdes. But they were not from Nazareth, but rather Slovakia, and were doing a round the world trip, not for any census purposes.
The church itself was quite small and plain, but with a distinct sense of reverence. We spent a few minutes there, before heading down the hill again, and towards the other church. There were a lot of people doing the same thing, and it was a pleasant walking day.
But when we got to the Francis Xavier church, it was locked! So I am unable to comment on its frigality, sparseness, or otherwise. We walked a little further to the cemetery, where there was a recent burial of a child, to judge from the collection of toys placed on the grave. Few of the tombs had any personal identification, and I wondered whether the New Caledonian (i.e., Kanak) customs were similar to the Australian Aborigines - once dead, all traces of the person should be removed or hidden?
Then back to the ship, where we had lunch in the Lido around 1300. Some spare time, then Barb went off for afternoon tea at 1500, while John stayed in the cabin catching up on his blog. Then 1700 rolled around, and we went off to Sip and Savour, with a pumpkin pannacotta accompanied by a Barossa Pinot Grigio (Barb) and a Chilean (Decero) 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon for John. We chatted with Leslie, with whom we have struck up a regular sip and savour dalliance. At 1745 She said she wanted to go and hear the piano quintet in the Lincoln Centre, so we trotted along too. That was very pleasant - they played hits from the movies, like the Forest Gump theme, the Psycho screech music, and others.
Then dinner at 1930 with the gng: John had Baba Ganoush, Bourbon Street Chicken Gumbo Soup, Yankee Beef Pot Roast, and Creme Brulee; while Barb had Baba Ganoush, Cobb Salad, and Mango Mousse. After dinner, we retired, but the others went to the show (which did not sound attractive to us).
Up bright and early to have a quick cup of tea, then off to 0700 total body conditioning, a set of stretches and exercises that Barb said was a cross between Yoga and Pilates. Suitably conditioned, we then zoomed off for a quick breakfast, before heading to the showroom to await our tour call. Today we were going zip-lining!
At 0830 we were off. As we left the showroom, the tour organiser said what the tour was, and commented that it was a small tour (only 9 of us), and perhaps the reason for this was the adventuresome nature of the tour. There were a few gasps from the remaining audience!
A small bus fitted us all, and we spent about 45 minutes getting out of Port Vila and into the countryside. We turned off up a dirt road, where we were met by a 4WD troop carrier, the reason for which soon became obvious, as the road started going straight up! (Well, it felt like it ...) We soon reached the summit, where we were given a quick safety drill, and then started kitting up with full safety harnesses, and lots of carabeenas, not to mention the leather gloves which we all had to wear. Rather trepidaciously, we then followed our guides (there were at least 3) into the forest.
Rather too quickly for some of us, we were at the first stage. Somehow or other, Barb got to be first in line, and her zip cradle was the first to be attached to the wire. As the guide said "Once you are attached, there is no turning back", because everyone was attached, in order, with no shunting possible. Up the 10 flights of steps or so, and there we were, high above the jungle, with bugger-all but a wire, two roller wheels, and a string attached to our harnesses to stop us plunging to the forest floor below.
Two of the guides then showed us how to do it - one the right way, the other the wrong way! If you did it the wrong way, you got stranded half way, and had to hand-over-hand pull yourself along the wire to reach the other side. The other tricky thing to master was the braking. We were told that to brake, you kept one hand just behind the roller wheels, and pulled down on it to brake, NOT to grab the wire itself. Grabbing the wire, as some discovered, simply jerked your hand and arm backwards, and gave your shoulder a painful wrench, whereas pulling down on the wire transferred some of your weight to the leather, and increased its friction, thereby achieving the desired braking effect.
Just before 1000, Barb was the first away, and I have to say, she handled it with aplomb, the only thing that she got wrong was to grab the wire instead of pulling down, as discussed. Then it was my turn. Fortunately, there was not much time to think about it, and I did NOT look down, so stepping off was an effort, but not a delaying one, and before I knew it, I was across the other side with Barb. It was only about 20m long, but the sheer euphoria of having done it changed our whole approach, and we became quite keen to tackle the next one - but had to wait for the other 7 zippers to cross the first one.
By the third one, slightly longer, about 40m, we had become quite adept at stepping off, zipping across, and braking at the right time. Which was just as well, as the 4th one was much longer, about 100m, and this time, the braking was done for us by the guides, so we could wave our arms and legs, take photos, twirl around, and just generally enjoy the whole experience. This one too, being across a much wider and deeper valley, really started the adrenalin pumping (as if it wasn't already), and I think everyone was really into the sheer exhuberation of it all. 1045 last zip 1200 back on board, lunch with Porters and McMillans 1245 card games and snooze 1500 afternoon tea Paul and Jenny from Brisbane 1700 S and S with Leslie, Chateau Michelle Riesling 1930 dinner: John: Chilled Sour Cherry Soup, Mustard Crusted Tuna with Onion Ring, Rhubarb Crisp; Barb: Smoked Trout with Lentils and Apple-Horseradish, Curry Coconut Chicken, Rhubarb Crisp. nicked some bread for tomorrow, with Mafud's help. 2130 Patrick Murray and Matilda
Our tea arrived at 0700, and at last we had some bread to eat with it, thanks to last night's abstractions from the dining room. Even though the clocks went forward, it was A relative slow start to the day, thanks to it being a sea day. Found our way to the Lido for breakfast, but Barb did not hang around long, as she wanted to go to the stretch and release session at 0930. John shared his breakfast session with Caroline and Marcia.
Then our usual coffee in the Explorations Cafe, and a bit of photo downloading and catch up. At 1100 we trooped off to the showroom to hear Bill Crews talk about the turbulent political scene in Fiji over the last 50 years, which was interesting, although hard to keep track of all the key players in the drama. He ended on a fairly positive note, and said that he believed that the worst was behind them. His talk was entitled "Fiji on the Rollercoaster: The Best Days are Yet to Come", after all.
Then lunch in the Lido, just a bowl of soup and a sandwich for John, salad for Barb - which was good, but then we did drop our guard a bit with bread and butter pudding to follow. Naughty!
Then We went straight back to the showroom for a double session: firstly, Phil Creaser on the Geology of the Pacific Ocean, then and EXC talk on the next three ports of call: Lautoka, Dravuni Island (Fiji), then Pago Pago (American Samoa). Barb took copious notes.
That took us almost up to 1500 and afternoon tea time in the dining room. John said that he was just going to have tea, and no food, but when the savouries waiter came past, he saw food and ate it. Just like the diet.
A bit of blogging and snoozing afterwards saw 1700 lob up very quickly, when Barb exclaimed that it was Sip and Savour time, so we dutifully headed down to the Pinnacle Bar, only to find that it was not on today! So we meandered back to the Ocean Bar, where we found the others, and joined them for a not-quite-so-happy-hour (translation: we were 10 minutes late!) Never mind, we had an enjoyable chat until 1800, then back to cabin until 1900.
A special invitation to the Officers' reception at 1900 saw us mingling with other guests in the Ocean Bar. We met Mike and Angela, from near Toronto, and Katarine and Beart (as in "beatus vir") and had pleasant chatting with them until it was time for dinner with the mob. John had Soft Shell Crab, Pork Buco and Butterscotch Panna Cotta, while Barb had Grilled Asparagus and Artichoke, Three Cheese Enchilada, and Mango Sorbet.
Then to the showroom to see/hear a reprise of Patrick Murray and Matilda, Catharine Alcorn, and Sara Moya. Alcorn was not to my taste, but the other two were good. Then to bed, and lots of coughing. This blessed cough does not seem to be improving, darn it!
Ahhh! tea with a slice of bread again! Well, no, actually, it was a bread roll this time but still very welcome. Docked in Lautoka as we were enjoying the tea, but still settled for a leisurely morning, and did not strike out for the Lido until after 0900. We each had an "egg Oscar" (eggs benedict, but with asparagus and crab meat instead of ham), then got ourselves equipped before departing via the gangway.
We had to run the gauntlet of taxi drivers and tour spruikers before emerging on the right side of the port, and we started walking into the town centre. There was an interesting annotated pictorial history of Lautoka at the entrance to the port, and I thought as we strolled along reading each one that we would not have had the opportunity to read that had we caught any motorised transport.
The walk into town took us 26 minutes, including the time to read the history, and our first stop was the Chillie Tree Cafe. We were debating as to whether to go in, since it did look, in the words of the ship guide book, to have "a homely atmosphere", but some other passengers coming out said there was free wifi inside, so we went in and ordered two iced coffees - which were very pleasant, in between the map downloads.
Then we headed south towards the Botantical Gardens, which we found without too much difficulty. They were a little sparse, but there was a delightful little pond, teeming with fish, and a slightly ricketty bridge over it, called "The Lovers Bridge". There was an rock arrangement by the entrance which I can only describe as an encouragement to lovers, and then leave the rest to your imagination, dear readers! (But you can cheat and look at the photos for the day.)
We spent a few minutes reflecting by the cool of the pool, then wandered around the gardens briefly, before heading back to the Lautoka Market. That was bustling! Although limited in its diversity, it certainly had quantity, as befitted the huge sprawling canopy, and the stalls even spilled onto the streets outside. There was a craft market, with similar lack of diversity, but very little quantity, and certainly nothing much that we could take back into Australia, so we did not spend much time there.
Then back along the shopping stretch of the main drag, where we looked in a couple of shops, but saw nothing much to excite us (certainly not Barb, for whom we were really looking), and so at the end of the drag, we just kept walking back to the ship.
Back to the ship by 1300, so we had lunch on the Lido deck at the "Dive-In" hamburger bar, and washed that down with a well-earnt beer. Then Barb retired to the cabin, while John took a lemonade out onto the rear Lido deck to relax in the open air and enjoy (?) the views of Lautoka. Then he joined Barb in the cabin for a quiet afternoon.
Sip and Savour at 1700, where we were joined by Colin and Joan, then later Paul and Jenny (whom we met at afternoon tea two days ago). Barb had a natural champagne method fizzy white, while John had a SteepleJack Merlot. The savour part was a fried prawn with a corn and mango sauce, but unfortunately, the sauce was at the bottom of the shot glass in which it was served, so those who didn't think ahead, and ate the prawn first, did not have anything to fish (sorry!) out the sauce once the prawn was eaten. It went well with the white, but not so much with the red!
Back to the room for an hour or so, then to the Pinnacle Bar for drinks with the officers before going into dinner. We met the chief security officer, chief hospitality manager, chief shop operations, and finally, at our table, one of the shop staff, Rosemary (called Rose). We had a great time, with lots of banter and repartee. Rose is starting a B and B house in Columbia, where she lives, and invited us all to come and stay with her! Bruce was very keen on this idea, and I suspect we might hear more of it at some stage.
John had DAM Bacon and Cabbage Soup, Flat Iron Steak, and Banana Crisp, while Barb had Pancetta and Capronata, Rigatoni, then Raspberry Sundae. The wine of course was on the house, and it was two Footprint wines, a red merlot nd a white chardonnay. Barb had special dispensation to have a glass of sav blanc, because she doesn't like chardonnay.
Rachel had a surprise - she said she wanted "nothing", so when Mafud brought out all the desserts, there was a covered plate for Rachel. When she lifted the lid, it was an empty plate with just the word "nothing" stencilled in yellow piping! We were all very impressed with Mafud's little joke!
Then to the showroom to see and hear "This Frozen Planet", a BBC documentary comissioned by HAL, with live accompaniment. It was most impressive and moving, with beautiful photography, and mood music to match. Best show to date, IMHO!
ON the dot of 0700 our morning tea arrived, and again, thanks to Mafud in the dining room we were able to have some bread with our tea. A leisurely breakfast at 0900, and then an equally leisurely stroll to the tender at 1000 saw us landing on the island at 1015.
A quick survey of our options saw us deciding to pay $10 Fiji dollars each to take a small boat trip around the island. That was a good way of appreciating the size of the island (not very big!), and understanding how the locals, all 150 of them manage to live there. The land was very fertile and green, and we saw a number of vegie gardens and taro fields.
We checked the local map at the tender landing site, and noted a path that we thought would take us around the island. We then set off to walk around the island, but just as on Easo when looking for the churches, we found that the putative "path round the island" was a bit of a furphy. The track that we followed went first to the cemetery, then petered out to a dead end. The next track that we followed went to the beach on the other side of the island, but nothing else. The beach was a bit of a fizzer anyway, as it was the windward side of the island, and the beach was littered with plastic bottles and the like. Talk about plastic rubbish taking over the world! Here was a very graphic illustration of that problem. I went to take a photo of said rubbish, and had the plastic bottle all nicely composed in the frame, when a wave came up, and washed it clean away!
So we headed back to the tender landing site, where we struggled to find any further pathways, round the island or up the hill. At this point we met Caroline and Marcia, who told us that the way to the hill was between the row of houses and the beach, which was not at all obvious, so it was no wonder that we were having such trouble. We followed her advice.
The path rapidly became quite steep, and a few of the people walking with us decided to turn back. We pressed on, with one or two stops to catch our breath, particularly on the last really steep bit to the summit. But it was all worth it. From the summit one could see the whole island, which together with a welcome sea breeze, allowed for us to have a 20 minute soak in the atmosphere and recover our energy, even though, as one of our fellow climbers put it "it's midday - only mad dogs and Englishmen would go out in this!"
So at 1220, appropriately refreshed, we started the descent, which, in spite of the steep grade, was easier to descend than ascend. At the bottom, we found a convenient sheltered spot on the beach where we could change and go in for a very welcome swim.
Then, even further refreshed, we returned to the tender and the Noordam, where we had lunch, a little late, at 1400, at the Lido Dive-In. A beer each saw us further appropriately refreshed. From 1500 to 1745 we just had a snooze. Then there was just no excuse for not feeling refreshed.
We had booked into the Pinnacle Grill for the Cellar Master's Dinner, and at 1800 wandered down to the Pinnacle Bar for a pre-dinner drink - The Dreaming Dutch Duke, which was a gin and tonic with a dash of curacao to give it a bit of colour. It was an acquired taste, and by the end of it, we were just starting to acquire that taste.
The actual dinner was quite enjoyable, but we had been sat at table 21, which was in a little alcove that was quite protected from the general ambience of the room. This was a mistake, as not only could we not see or hear the general discussion by the Sommelier Saskia very well, but we kept being overlooked by the waiters, and several times John had to attract their attention if we were not to miss out. That aspect of the dinner was a little disappointing, and John wrote a little critique of this on the "Share your thoughts" card in the cabin on return.
We did strike up a conversation with a couple at the next table, who were slightly better placed than we, and it was interesting to compare notes on what they thought of the wine and food pairings. We both agreed (as I think did the rest-of-the-raunt) that the last wine, a very dry sherry, was not the best pairing with the cheese plate. But that was a minor point compared to the shoddy service, which our friendly couple (names?) agreed was not good.
After the dinner finished, we headed back to the dining room to catch up with our friends and share dining experiences. Then to the showroom at 2130 to hear/see Martin Ralph, billed as an Australian comedian, go through an entertaining routine of yoyos, tops and other spinning things, livening them up with a patter of jokes. He was good dinkum value!
Another sea day, which seemed to go faster than the previous sea days. We went to hear Bill Crews talk (The Pacific Islands: Tropical Paradise with more than a Few Challenges) at 1100, and Phil Creaser on Wind, Water and Wings: Carrying Animals and Plants across the South Pacific Islands at 1400, with lunch squeezed in between them at the Lido Dive-In. They had Fat Yak for sale, which made for a welcome change from the usual tasteless American pop beers.
We did the Sip and Savour at 1700, then followed that up with the Lincoln Centre piano quintet at 1830 before a Gala Dinner at 1930. John had Jumbo Prawn Cocktail, Roasted Parsnip Soup, Surf and Turf, and Tiramisu, while Barb had Foie Gras, Roasted Parsnip Soup, Surf and Turf, and Flourless Chocolate Cake. We were joined at the table by one of the ship's staff, Rose, from the on-board shops, who joined in the frivolities at our table, and by all accounts had a great time. Which rather miffed Ghengis, another of the shop staff, who was rostered to our table, but got moved by his superiors at the last minute to an adjoining table, and subsequently complained (light heartedly) that Rose had joined a much livelier table!
We skipped the show, which was the Noordam singers and dancers in a show called Playback.
We cruised into Pago Pago harbour slightly ahead of schedule around 0830, but we had a slow start ourselves. John had explicitly ruled out going to the church service when they changed its time to 0800, and that was probably just as well, as when we bumped into Caroline and Marcia later in the morning, Marcia, who had gone to the service, said it was full of arm waving and PTLs.
We breakfasted in the Lido, and readied ourselves to go ashore. We had little of a prelaid plan, and made several on-the-spot decisions about where to go. Well, not so much about where to go, as to how far to go, since there were only two directions to go: left or right. We went left.
As we walked, we kept seeing spots that we thought would be a good point for turning back, but upon reaching that point, saw another option further in the distance. Either it was a small village, or a rocky promontory promising new vistas beyond.
And so it was that we ended up walking 4 kilometers out to the "Flower Pot", which was an interesting rock formation covered with trees, palms and ferns (including a bat colony in the high trees). It was very photogenic, and we sat in a small bus shelter, sheltering from the rather hot sun, admiring the sand, palms and Flower Pot, and taking quite a few photos.
After 20 minutes of such idleness, we set off back towards the ship. It was hot work, and I think we were quite dripping from the heat and humidity when about 1km out from the ship, a bus pulled up alongside us, and offered us a lift. There was a moment's hesitation, but the temptation was too great, and we piled in for the last 5 minutes back to the ship, and a very welcome beer (Fat Yak again!) and lunch in the Lido, for it was now after 1300.
Gluttons for punishment, we set off again after lunch, this time turning right. Not far down the road was a bit of a market, clearly established just for the ship's visit, with lots of local crafts and clothing. We looked at the clothing, but either we didn't like the colours or patterns of those that fitted, or they did not have our sizes in the colours and patterns that we did like. So we went away empty-handed.
Again, we followed the same algorithm of decision-making that we used in the morning. This time there was not quite the same excitement about turning the corners, because it became quite clear that there were no great vistas, or interesting shopping sites. Mind you, it was Sunday, and the Samoans being quite devout Christians, shut all their shops, so there was nothing to see.
We made it to the small village that is actually Pago Pago, took no more than a couple of looks at the two super (?) markets that were open, and turned back. No bus stopped to pick us up this time!
By the time we reached the ship, we were quite exhausted. We decided to not even return to our cabin, but instead stopped climbing stairs at Deck 3 and repaired to the Ocean Bar for a cold drink. Barb ordered a Mohita, John a Grolsch, when the waitress suggested would could have an early happy hour, and get one more each for only an extra $2 (Note: on previous cruises, the happy hour had the second one free!) While slowly drinking our second drink (due to exhaustion and the effort in picking up the drink!), the Porters and Caroline and Marcia arrived, so we stretched out our recovery well into the next hour.
We had a couple of hours before dinner, so a bit of a snooze in our cabin seemed like a very good idea, and that is precisely what we did. Then dinner with the usual suspects. John had Chilled Pina Colada Soup (very refreshing after an exhausting day!), Carne Asada, and Pineapple Crisp (with two scoops of ice cream); while Barb had Cream of Four Mushrooms, Parmesan-Crusted Turkey Tenderloin, and Mango Sundae. Then we retired - the show was featuring an electric guitar, which was not our scene!
Today was one of those sea days where you say at the end of the day "where did it all go?" Somehow or other we contrived to spend almost the whole day on decks 2 and 3, so much so that our log of stair flights climbed shrank to only 14, compared to our average of about 40.
We did go up to the Lido Deck 9 for breakfast, but then down to Deck 3 and the Explorations Cafe for coffee, kicked on to hear Phil Creaser in the showroom talking on People in the Pacific: Pygmies, Polynesians, Preachers, then EXC guide Heather on Pacific Wayfinding (how the Polynesians navigated the Pacific), then lunch in the dining room, where we met Dean and Gail from Seattle (actually Bainbridge Island). We had a good time comparing cruise notes with them, as they seemed to have done most of the cruises we had done, including things like the European River Cruises. They had not been to the Kimberley, but they had done Uluru (which we have not). Then Dean and John went back to the showroom to hear Bill Crews talk on For Trade, Influence, Religion or Conquest: European Adventurism in the Pacific; while Barb and Gail went to the American Test Kitchen to learn how to make dim sims.
After Bill, we checked out Martin Ralph and his workshop on juggling (we are not jugglers), then John went to hear a talk on timepieces, which was little more than a sales pitch on buying a watch from the onboard shops. We both then checked out the shops and said hello to Rose (from the dinner with staff the other night). Then moved back to the Ocean Bar at 1530 for an early happy hour, where we knocked back 2 mohitios (Barb) and 2 Grolsches (John) before being joined by the rest of the mob and kicking on yet again. Then to the Lincoln Centre to hear some classics from the piano quintet.
At dinner we were missing Rachel (who said she had "eaten enough"), but we kicked on without her. For some reason I did not take a photo of the menu, but I do remember that I had Banana Crisp for dessert! Then to the showroom to hear Lorenzo Rositano sing some classic arias from the movies along with a few operatic arias such as La Donna e Mobile and Nessun Dorma. He was better with the opera than the pops!
Morning tea at 0700 as usual, and made it to breakfast before 0900 for a somewhat lighter breakfast of All Bran followed by some herring and cold meats. Then coffee in the Explorations Cafe, where John (re)started work on his essay on Life, Death, and the Resurrection. He even managed to finish (the first draft) by lunch time, after a short interlude at 1100 to hear Bill Crews talk about Captain James Cook and his discoveries.
We did try to have lunch in the Pinnacle Grill, but it was doing a Cellar Master's Lunch, and was not available, so we went up to the Lido instead (John did the Dive-In). Once the bread and butter pudding was disposed of, John went back to his photos, while Barb walked around the deck. At 1530 we repaired to the cabin for a little nano-nap, then to sip and savour at 1700, where we chatted with Lesley. Between 1800 and 1715 we did a bit more relaxing, then to dinner. John had French Onion Soup with Spare Rib, Prime Rib Au Jus, then Fudge Sundae, while Barb had Philo Parcels, Rigotoni, and Lamington.
After dinner, we all went to the show. It was a reprise of Martin Ralph and some more magic tricks, then Louis Shelton and his electric guitar. Yes, that's right, the one we skipped the other night. He was OK, but it was mainly a demo of American pop music through the second half of the 20th C, much of which I only vaguely know. OK if you like that sort of thing. Before we retired, we agreed that we would all try and get to the Anzac Day service in the morning. Then bed.
Oh yes, crossing the equator. I almost forgot. There was a ceremony at 1300 around the Lido Pool of "kissing the fish" and similar frolics, but as we had done this a couple of times already, we didn't go to it - in any case, the whole area was packed out with people at 1200 when we walked through to the Lido. We actually did the crossing at about 2200 when we were in the showroom, and that event passed without note.
Awoke very early at 0515, partly as an expectation of our early start for 0600 morning tea, and 0630 Anzac Day service. Such services are not normally part of my repetoire, but it seemed like an appropriate thing to do, and as it was being led by Bill Crews (who happens to be a retired Major General, whether mordern or not I am not sure), we felt confident that the nature of the service would not be too maudlin.
Indeed it was not. A few hymns, The Lord's Prayer, a brief reflection, some poetry readings and the Last Post and it was all over in half an hour. All agreed that it had the right balance of reflection and celebration.
Back to finish our tea, then breakfast, and we were in the Explorations Cafe by 0830, way too early for our normal routine! Maybe we should try to keep it up? We were joined by Caroline, then the McMillans, then Marcia over the next hour, when Barb left to give up her seat, and subsequently John moved to another table to continue this blog.
At 1100 John returned to the cabin, collected Barb, and together we went down to the Showroom to celebrate the Mariners' Reception and awarding of loyalty medals. A little bit like graduations with lots of names being read out, and poilite applause for each one, but a big difference was that waiters kept coming around to refill our wine glasses. So it was all quite pleasant, and then, at the conclusion of the ceremony, we trooped off to the dining room for a Mariners' Lunch, where the wine kept flowing. We sat next to Fred and Janis from Vancouver, and had a pleasant chat with them over lunch. After lunch, we caught the tail end of Bill Crews talking about the effect of Pearl Harbour on Australian-USA relations, and the gradual loosening of ties with the UK.
Then a bit of quiet cabin activity, more blogging, and more reading. Barb kept that up while John went off to the movie at 1600 to see Downsizing, which had as its basic plot that some Norwegian scientists discovered a way to make people 12cm tall. and this had the side effect that a) one's carbon footprint was therefore far less, and that b) one's relative wealth increased in inverse proportion to the downsizing. a) I can sort of believe, but b)? Anyway, the plot line got far worse and although I kept looking at my watch think "how long is this rubbish going to continue?", I could not bring myself to walk out, because I just could not see how they were going to end it. Suffice to say the ending was as lame as the plot, if not more so. Don't watch this movie. David and Margaret would have both given it zero (well, maybe Margaret might have given it half a star?)!
I returned to the cabin and blogged for a bit, until Barb returned, asking where had I been. She had gone to the Lincoln Centre to hear the quintet, and had indeed sat through two sessions and enjoyed them both. Then we readied for dinner.
Dinner was the usual fun. John had Steak and Beet Tartare, Malaysian Laksa Soup with Qual Egg, Broiled New York Strip Loin, and Warm Espresso Date Pudding, while Barb had Smoled Salmon Pear and Fennel Salad, Five Spiced Pork Belly with Plum Sauce (and a bit of Vegetarian Jambalaya on the side, thanks to Mafud!)
Then to the show, which was Jane Rutter playing a vast array of flutes (not all at the same time)! She had a varied mixture of metrial from folk to ballad to Anzac (Last Post) to classical, and it was all spellbinding. Probably the best concert so far on this voyage.
Tea, breakfast and coffee in that order. Then John went to hear the Chief Engineer in a Question and Answer sessio, while Barb heard the EXC talk on what's on in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Chief Engineer's talk was very interesting, with lots of interesting facts about the ship. Did you know that at full speed (24 knots), the ship get 64 feet to the gallon? We generally cruise slighly slower than that (about 17 knots), but he didn't say what the mileage (footage?) was at that speed. I asked a question about how IT had changed the ships logistics, and in particular, his career. The most interesting thing about his answer to that was that 20 years ago a ship the size of the Noordam would have 6 electrical engineers on board to look after all the power requirements, but now, with automation, they only needed 3. He also explained how all the engineers have to keep up with technology, and each year, they have to undergo various training exercises, including simulation drills with virtual reality tools (just like airlines do).
After that, straight into a talk on the Mutiny on the Bounty, by Bill Crews - also very interesting. We followed that with our free lunch at the Pinnacle Grill - although the bottle of wine we had with lunch was not free ($75 Ferrari Carano 2014 Chardonnay)! But it did have the big advntage that it was a chardonnay that Barb liked, so we had no trouble in polishing it off. Did I say $75? Yes, well that was the list price in US dollars, but to that you have to add 15% service charge ($11.25), then convert that to Australian dollars ($115), and it starts to look like a very expensive wine! But the food was very good. We had Crab Cakes (both of us), Chicken and Bibb Lettuce Salad (Barb), Steak Sandwich with Caramelized Onions (John), Mixed Berry Sabayon (Barb), and Strawberry Pavlova (John). And the service was excellent, making up for the Cellar Master's Dinner night.
We talked to Nathan in the afternoon - he was travelling around the Bay Area on work, so could not talk long, but we then rang David (who was walking from one meeting to another, but spoke long enough to hear how things were going at 5 Fran Ct).
Then we went to the afternoon movie (1430) to see The Post, which was all about the precursor to the Watergate scandal, where the Washington Post got hold of a damming report by the US Department of Defence (?) that told how the Vietnam War was unwinnable, yet the US administration kept sending troops to their deaths. The authorities of course tried everything they could to stop it, but were ultimately unsuccesfull, and the spillage from that story led to the Watergate burglary that was the downfall of Richard Nixon. A very powerful movie.
Then Happy Hour at the Ocean Bar, with Mojitos and beer, followed by Sip and Savour at 1700. After that we rang Beth, and talked with her and the girls. Tabitha was a little slow off the mark, and did not recognize us at first, but eventually chimed in with a "Poppa!", closely followed by a "Nanma!"
Dinner was a Gala Night, with the usual fun and frolics. We skipped the show, which featured the Noordam Singers and Dancers. Probably was good, but we are not into those sorts of variety shows, preferring the opportunity for an early night after last night's hour forward adjustment.
Today was King's Day, a public holiday in the Netherlands to celebrate the King's birthday. So we were all encouraged to wear orange, and many people did so. I wore one of my tie-dye shirts, Barb wore her orange shirt.
Otherwise another lazy start to the day, with morning tea at 0700, but did not get to breakfast until nearly 0900. The big bonus at breakfast time was that they had plenty of herrings on the menu, so of course, we had a herring breakfast. Yum, yum. The woman sitting next to me at the breakfast table was Doris, from Seattle, and she asked if we were scandanavian, eating all those herrings! She was not US-born, but didn't say where - we thought Germany, judging from her accent. But she was, as we have found so far with all our casual aquaintances, most pleasant, together with her friend Kristina (also German?). They live near Lake Washington, but were familiar enough with Ballard, so of course, we talked about Nathan.
Then at 0940 to the Explorations Cafe for coffee. Barb went to hear Bill Crews talk about the politics of Hawaii, but she said she fell asleep, so did not hear much! Then lunch in the Lido, and after lunch to the Vista Showroom to hear and see Caroline and Marcia do their "Hawaiian Graduation", first Caroline on the ukulele (along with 20 others), then both Caroline and Marcia doing a Hawaiian dance routine (along with 30 others). They did well, and we both took movies of the whole performance.
Then all of us (McMillans, Porters, C & M) to the dining room for afternoon tea. Just about everyone on the ship must have gone too, because the dining room was pretty well full, and the waiters were run off their feet keeping the tea and yummies flowing.
Then at 1600 to Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar with the full company, and again, Mojitos and beer (Anchor Steam). We had time for a short rest from 1730 until 1830, when we went down to the Lincoln Centre Stage and a full house to hear the quintet play Schumann's (1st) piano quintet - absolutely excellent!
Dinner at 1930 for the last time with C & M, and boy! did we splurge! At the end of the meal, we all ordered dessert in the usual way. While we were waiting for that to arrive, somehow (I suspect Bruce) we had the birthday song from the waiters ("panjang umurnya, ..."), followed by "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!". Then, with a flourish, two big slices of birthday cake were plonked in front of C & M, then whisked away, cut up, and we all shared in the cake. But that was not dessert. Most of us had ordered apple pie, and while we were waiting for that to arrive, the Maitre d' came up, and apologised for the delay, and said that there was a problem with the apple pie. Would we like to order something else instead? So we did.
Then, as the replacement desserts were arrived, up popped Evan with a whole collection of apple pies! So we all ended up with 3 desserts: birthday cake, Warm Dutch Apple Pie and Yoghurt Wildberry Mousse!!!
So we staggered after dinner to the showroom to hear a very entertaining reprise of Jane Rutter and Lorenzo Rositano. After that, we said goodbye to Caroline and Marcia, and retired (rolled?) to bed.
No bread with tea this morning, due to the schemozzle with desserts last night, and having to race off to the showroom. But we survived, and then headed to breakfast, to await our call to due the US Immigration thing. We were supposed to be called at 0845, but were not called until 0915. We went to join the queue, but it extended the length of the ship, and was growing faster than we could walk to the end of the queue! So we said "bugger this" and went and had a coffee. We had just finished the cup of coffee when the announcement came "Would all those passengers who have not yet seen the Immigration officials please go to deck 2 immediately"!
So we did as we were told, and found that the queue had reduced to only about 12 people. We were through that fairly quickly, but by now it was 1025, and we had missed meeting Carl and Sherry in the Ocean Bar. We had arranged to meet them and journey together to Diamond Head, but they obviously got sick of waiting for us, and in any case, they had other people they were meeting with anyway.
So we set off for Diamond Head. But we only got as far as the outside of the terminal when we bumped into Bergfreda sitting on a concrete bollard, with crutches and a leg in plaster. She told us all about her exploits in Fiji and attempting a skydive, only to break her leg on landing!! She had to go to hospital in Nadi, and then spend 8 days catching up with us in Honolulu. She is confined to a wheelchair for now, so no more zip-lining or sky-diving for her!
We caught a number 19 bus on a $2 all-day seniors pass, which took us to the Ala Moana shopping centre, where we had a stroll around, and a cup of coffee (which was scored 7/10, in comparison to the Explorations coffee, 6/10 - slightly better). Then a bit of a wait at the bus interchange for a number 23, which took a while to arrive. That took us (with kind assistance from a local man who told us where to get off) to the base of the Diamond Head State Monument, where we commenced our climb.
A short uphill section took us to a lookout and the entrance to the tunnel through the east (?) side of the crater. The traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, was quite heavy, and made more difficult by the fact that the pedestrian path was an afterthought, and really only one person wide. John had one altercation with a rude american who insisted he had right of way, but generally people would move aside as needs be to allow passing, without one or the other being forced onto the roadway. Once through the tunnel, we arrived at the gatehouse, where we had to pay the princely sum of $US1.00 each to enter the park. Then we hit the trail proper.
It was a long way up (700m or so) to the summit, and the trail was on a fairly continuous slope of about 10-15%. It started out for the first 400m or so as a smooth concrete path, but then turned into the original path hewn from the vlcanic rock itself. The path was made in 1908 in order to build and man a "Fire Control Station", which I at first thought was to deal with bushfires. But it becme obvious, particularly once we reached the top, that it was for artillery fire, not bush fire, that it was controlling. The artillery itself had long gone - having never being fired in anger - but the pillboxes and observation dugouts were all still there.
At the top of the trail, there was a tunnel, then a long straight flight of steps (99 in total) that led to a dingy spiral staircase of 54 steps, all inside another (vertical) tunnel that led to the summit - then a final squeeze through a low opening to get to the open air and the fabulous views of Honolulu from the top.
We spent perhaps 20-30 minutes at the top, partly to enjoy the views, but also to catch our breath. There were quite a few (young) idiots clambering over fences to stand on the edge of the cliff, or on top of the concrete structures, and I took a few photos of said idiots just to illustrate how noong-like they were, since you, gentle reader, might not appreciate how stupid some people can be. I think their behaviour was as much attention-seeking adolescent "look at moi, look at moi" behaviour as stupidity, but one cannot be sure.
Then a more gentle downhill stroll back to the visitor centre. Again the pedestrian traffic was quite heavy, but this time the path was wider and in single file (which nearly all observed) there was no conflict. We bought a bag and a postcard at the visitor centre, then back out through the crater tunnel (traffic had now dropped away, as it was lunch time) and down to the bus stop. A number 2 bus came almost immediately, and we decided to hop off in Waikiki to refresh our memories of 12 years ago when we stayed here for 4 days on our first round-the-world trip.
We headed for a beachside cafe where we both remembered eating 12 years ago. John had fond memories of a large Reuben sandwich, but alas, it was no longer on the menu, and indeed, the menu had changed quite dramatically. We settled for a hamburger of sorts, and a large pineapple drink, which came in a scooped-out pineapple. John ate most of the hamburger, we shared the chips, and Barb drank most of the pineapple.
We wandered around the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with the specific purpose of checking out a (mobile) coffee van that we had patronised 12 years ago. We only had vague memories of where it was, but we eventually found what we thought was the spot, where the van had disappeared, but a permanent shop had appeared in its place!
A slightly more exciting discovery was a bar (and I forget the name, something like "Downtown Inn") which advertised 350 beers on tap! So we had to try it. The process of actually ordering a beer was a little confusing, but we eventually manage to order a honey beer (Barb) and an IPA (John) which were welcome refreshments in the afternoon.
Then we walked along the main street, and quickly discovered that it was being turned into a major fete, celebrating "Spam Jam", which literally was about the role of Spam in Hawaiians' lives. All the tents had a spam theme, including things like spam burgers (??) and spam goyaki (???). We did not buy. But we did take pictures, in case you, dear reader, might doubt our grasp of reality, or wonder what was in that pineapple drink.
All a bit of fun, you might say, but it had a more serious effect, as the road was closed off, and the bus that we wanted to catch came along that road. We found a bus stop outside the disruption that was labelled with the right bus numbers, and sat and waited.
And waited. A number 8 bus came along, but it was only going to the Ala Moana Centre. I vaguely thought of catching it, and then re-evaluating our options once at the centre, but I was too slow. It was the last bus for another 50 minutes! Plenty of buses went past in the opposite direction, but our direction buses were clearly having a hard time negotiating the city.
Eventually, a number 19 bus did come along, but of course, it being the first bus for 50 minutes, it was fairly full, particularly by the time we did get to Ala Moana. We elected to stay on board at this juncture, and continued on to the port where the Noordam was moored. So did many other people!
Back on board was very quiet. So many people were obviously taking advantage of the extended stay (the ship was not due to leave until 2300), and at dinner, we were the only two at our table, as the McMillans and Porters had elected to have dinner ashore with Caroline and Marcia, and Caroline's husband, Malcolm, whom we did not meet. There were lots of other busy tables, but they all seemed to be tables with newbies on board, and our regular neighbours were just not there.
There was a show at 2100, but it was an Hawaiian affair, and we were just about Hawaiianed out, so we went to bed.
We had booked to take the Segway tour of Lahaina this morning, which meant an early start in order to be in the showroom by 0745. A 15 minute tender ride ashore saw the 10 of us being met by Darin, a very effervescent Hawaiian, who drove us in a 10-seat van to the Segway headquarters.
The process of setting us up to drive the Segways took a bit of doing. First there were all the waivers that we had to sign. Then the 10 minute safety video. Then the kitting-out with helmets and hi-vis vests, then the actual demo of driving one of the things. I spoke to one of our party who had ridden one of the things, as he said, "many years ago", and asked him about this experience. His significant comment was that his ankles were sore the next day, which was to prove prophetic about our experience too.
Barb was first cab off the rank (again!) and went through the training procedure, which including learning to balance and wobble on the machine. "Hang loose!" was Darin's instruction - "Toes and heels" was another. But it was not until I got to do the practice run that I realized just what these meant. Although there is a handle bar, the real control comes through the foot plates, which are prssure sensitive, and you only need to wiggle your toes or lean back on your heels to control the finer points of the machine.
The training course consisted over a number of yellow paint splots on the ground, and we had to do particular manoeuvres on each one: turn around on the spot, balance on a hill, run a slalom course without running over any of the so-called "yellow puppies", zoom up to a stop line, stop, restart and then back to the start. By the time we had ten or so laps of this practice course, we were pretty "good to go", and so it was that a few minutes after 10, we set off on our tour, in 2 groups, the first with Tom, the other trainer, and secondly, ours, with Darin in the lead..
Once on the road, confidence quickly built (I do speak for myself!), and we were zooming about maybe not quite with the same nonchalance as Darin, but certainly way better than we first mounted the things. Barb says that she never did quite get over the "hang on for grim death" feeling, but she looked pretty OK from my position immediately behind her.
We did a big circuit of the town, including the main street (turning lots of heads) where we saw Carl and Sherry, the wharf area, the big banyan tree, and an old sugar cane steam locomotive (the cane factory closed in 1999). All gret fun, and it was all over too quickly. Darin did stop us to take photos at a few strategic locations, and on our return to the depot, we were able to purchase a USB stick with all these photos (and some more of various Maui sights) to take with us. We also bought a couple of T-shirts, a blue one for Barb, and an orange one for Nathan. Tom then drove us back to the wharf, and we were free to roam by 1200.
Barb and I decided to have lunch at Bubba Gump's, but the map we had from the ship showed it in the wrong location, so we had to do a little scouting about to find the place. Fortunately we had passed it on our Segway tour, so we were not searching completely blindly. We had a few minutes wait to get in, and once seated ordered a beer and a maitai, together with Forrest Gump's Feast (John) and a Grilled Flounder and Shrimp (Barb). Very pleasant. The beer and maitai both came with a "keep your glasses" deal, so we collected those as we left. Not sure what we might do with them as yet.
On the way back from Bubba Gump's, we went looking for the Methodist Church, which John thought he had seen on our Segway tour. We didn't find it, but we did see lots of others: Catholic, Anglican, Seventh-Day Adventist, Church of God, ... Visited the old Court House next to the wharf area, where Barb checked out the historical display, while John just rested his feet. Interestingly, the feeling of pressing down on your toes to go forward, and on your heels to stop, did not go away all tht quickly, and it was an eerie feeling as we did walk around the town!
Then back to the ship about 1430, where we had a little rest. Barb fell asleep, so John tip-toed off to Happy Hour at 1600 and (eventually) met up with the McMillans. Then we went to see the future cruise person at 1820, thanks to the Porters surrendering one of their time slots to us (which caused a bit of confusion to the future cruise person). We signed up for a 12-day cruise from Rome to London on the Prinsendam next April, which happens to be the reverse trip of the one we had planned for this year, but postponed in the light of house renovations. We will work out how to pay for it later.
Then to the Lincoln Centre for a concert of American music (Copland, Bernstein, Brubeck, Gershwin) before dinner at 1930 with the usual crowd. John had Confit Duck, Rosemary Roasted Chicken, and Creme Brulee, while Barb had Crab and Asparagus Quiche, Vegetable Korma, and Pssion Fruit Panna Cotta. Rachel caused a great deal of merriment by presenting John with a packet of "Doney Balls", with the comment that when they saw them in the shop, they immediately thought of John. I asked whether it was the donkey or the balls that reminded them of me, but they tactfully did not answer. They were macadamia nuts covered in chocolate and coloured blue, so there were several opportunities for joke making. They got shared around so that the pain was shared by all.
Morning tea as we were docking at Nawiliwili, slightly late at 0730. Whether this was due to the moderate swell we experienced last night was not clear, but Cruise Director Jan apologised for the lateness, but explained that we still needed to leave on time at 1400.
Breakfast with the Porters, then wandered ashore and walked to the local shopping mall. We did not see any immediate signs of coffee, so we walked on, past the immense Marriott Hotel/Resort and the large collection of banana lounges on the immaculately kept lawns. There was a security guy wandering around telling any ship people that the chairs were reserved for hotel guests only, which seemed a rather petty thing to be doing, given the large number of chairs, and the few "guests" occupying them!
We did not go into the Marriott, but walked on, up a hill to a small lookout overlooking the Nawiliwili Beach (very picturesque), and then through some immense car parks (I guess necessary to match the immense number of rooms at the Marriott) to the main road and some more shops. We detoured looking for coffee, but found instead aToy Shop which John rather enjoyed. The shop had some lovely HO and O models, including a Climax, a Shay, and a cab forward. I took pictures of the three (I thought), but on looking at the files, find that I had somehow overlooked the Climax, which was the cutest model of them all - but a little expensive at $US550! Barb was happy - the toy shop also sold stamps, so she was able to put a stamp on her postcard to Pam, and post it - in a cardboard box in the toy shop! Here's hoping it gets through.
We hung around hoping that so more shops would open at 1100, but when they did, none of them had coffee either. So we started back to the ship, detouring via the mall we first saw, thinking that there may be a shop now open that had coffee. But no. We did stop to buy a cute little dress for Henley, I hope it fits her.
Back on the ship, we solved the lack of coffee problem in the usual way, then went for lunch in the dining room. A bit of rest and relaxation, then Happy Hour, then Sip and Savour where we met Jack and Leslie, and chatted with them.
Barb bought a handbag and a Noordam T-shirt for me before dinner, where, with the usual mob, we dined on Cream of Cauliflower Soup, Yankee Pot Roast (John), Baked Stuffed Eggplant (Barb), and Mango Blueberry Crisp (John) and Apple Pie Sundae (Barb). We also each had a scoop of Red Cactus Pear ice cream, which was rather interesting. Then bed.
Well, not quite. We had to put the clocks forward tonight by an hour, but this proved impossible with the Fitbit. I eventually gave up after about 6 attempts, and decided that the reason must have been because there was no recognized time zone for GMT-9. Hawaii GMT-10 is OK, and Alaska GMT-8 is OK, but GMT-9, bugger off. So with much swearing at how technology dominates our lives to the total detriment of a relaxed life style, we did go to bed. John without his watch, as an expression of his displeasure.
Very quiet day, with a lot of passengers recovering from their Hawaiian experiences, I think. When we went up for breakfast, fairly late in the piece (after 0900 - all times are approximate, as I was not wearing my watch in protest at its stupid behaviour, see last night), there were very few people sitting around the Lido Pool. We did not do much either.
John did some blogging, while Barb walked around the deck 6 times (2 miles, 3 kilometres). Lunch at the Lido Dive In. Afternoon tea at 1500. Happy Hour at 1600. Sip and Savour at 1700. Piano recital by Timor at 1830 (Schubert Improptu, Beethoven Sonata 21). As you can see, not much to do at all.
Dinner at 1930 with the usual suspects at table 50. Our last bottle of wine from the package of 8. Barb complained a lot about things that were not in her meals. Usually it is the other way around, complaining about things that are in your meals that shouldn't be, but Barb took this to a new art form of complaining about things that were not in her meals that should be. The irony of all this is that she complains about me complaining!
Morning tea, breakfast then coffee and a bit og blogging. The usual routine for a sea day. But what was not usual was that at 1130 there was another Mariner Reception, this time with fewer medals to award, so it was quieter than the last. But Carl and Sherry caused a little excitement when their names were called, because, while Carl was there, Sherry was nowhere to be seen! We discovered later that she went to the Vista Dining Room, not the Vista Showroom, and appeared just in time to join Carl as they received their medals!
Then to the Dining Room for the Mariners' Lunch, where we joined Ray and Barbara from San Francisco, and John and Sheila from Goolwa. They were good company, and we had a very pleasant time chatting. The food was good, too.
We finished lunch at 1330, and it was clear that the stewards were eager to clean up in time for the wine tasting to follow at 1400. So we had 30 minutes to kill, and returned to our cabin for the interim. On returning to the Dining Room for the Somelier's Wine Tasting, we discovered that they had moved the tasting to Deck 3, because of the tardiness of some lunch guests in leaving the dining room. When we found our table, who should be there but John and Sheila from lunch! We were joined by another John (from Toronto), and a Harry from Chicago (?). The wines we tasted were several tht we had previously tasted: Courtage from Burgundy (sparkling), Torrontes from Chile, Remole (Sangiovese and Cabernet) from Italy, and a Zinfandel (Sextant) from California. All very pleasant, particularly the last.
Some cabin time from 1500 to 1645, when John went down to Happy Hour, where he did not buy any happy drinks, but just chatted to Ian and Anne who were there, and then he joined Barb, Leslie and Jack in the Pinnacle Bar for Sip and Savour. This time we both had the white (a chardonnay), and agreed that it went well (for a change) with the savour (I forget exactly what it was).
Then to the Lincoln Centre Stage for a concert with three of the quintet (2 violins and piano), playing firstly a Mozart Sonata, then a Bach (JS) violin concerto. It was great music!
Back to the Pinnacle Bar, where Leslie and Jack were still chatting, and we continued our conversation, this time with Ian and Anne as well, until the Porters turned up and it was time to go into the Pinnacle Grill for dinner.
The menu offered several options, suggesting that we "take indulgence to a new level". In our defence, I could argue that we did not go as far as they were suggesting, but if you were taking a more litigious line, one could argue that we over-indulged. John had Lobster Bisque, Steak Tartare (brilliant!), Filet Mignon and Chocolate Volcano. Barb was slightly more restrained, with only one entree: Crab Cakes, Halibut, and Mixed Berries and Sabayon. John ordered a bottle of the Sextant Zinfandel that we tasted at lunchtime, which created a little confusion with the wine waiter, as we had suggested that we would take our wine from the dining room. I had changed my mind, but clearly did not make my intentions entirely clear! But the Sextant was every bit as enjoyable as it was at the wine tasting.
Went to bed feeling very full !
It is probably time this cruise came to an end, since this sequence of sea days has become a little repetitive. We had no bread for morning tea, so that was different at least, but otherwise, tea, breakfast, coffee, and catching up on my blog. I am now up-to-date, at least, I have completed yesterday and all days prior.
Went to lunch at 1245, which was a little late as I wanted to hear Phil Creaser's talk on "A Day in the Life of Phil Creaser". It seemed that as he was not the world's most exciting speaker, such a day would not be that exciting, and what would he talk about? As it was, I was 15 minutes late (it started at 1300), but I rapidly realised that it was not that boring after all. He spoke mainly about the animal fossils that he had found on his travels throughout Australia, and as Barb and I had done some of that ourselves, I did relate to his excitement about discovering new fossils and new evidence. So it was not a waste of time after all.
I stayed on in the showroom after his talk, because the movie that was being shown was The Commuter, which Barb had seen a couple of months ago, and came home and told me all about it. It has lots of railways in it, including a spectacular train crash as part of the denoument, although the plot was a little far-fetched. But it whiled away the time, and took me almost up to Happy Hour, where we met the MCmillans, and chatted through until 1730 (no Sip and Savour today). The Porters joined us just before 1700, in time to catch the last HH drinks!
A short rest before the recital concert which was Dvorak's American Sonata, which was most enjoyable. That finished a few minutes before dinner, when we wandered down to the dining room and another enjoyable time with McMillans and Porters. John had Roasted Sweet Potato Soup (OK, but a little bland), Boston Lettuce with Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese (not good - not Boston Lettuce, and very little cheese!), Three Peppercord Crusted NY Striploin Steak (good) and Chocolate Panna Cotta (yummy). Barb had Arancini Bolognese, Boston Lettuce (not), Indian Red Lentil Dahl, and Caramelized Pineapple (which she said was horrible: "the pineapple was bitter"). We finished the Sextant from last night, and the Lapostolle from the night before. Then bed, no show.
Bread with tea again, but it was nearly no tea at all, since John filled the form in last night, and forgot to fill in the required time. At 0700 there was a phone call from in-room dining to ask what time we wanted the tea for! John quickly said "0730" and it duly arrived just after that time. Phew! Barb would never have let me forget it if it hadn't turned up.
Breakfast with the McMillans in the Lido, then a long coffee interval in Explorations while John fixed a few bugs with his photo program, and tried to get an interim back photo list working so that we could track how many photos are still to be captioned. Only partly successful. Barb meantime went for a walk 6 times around the deck (= 2 miles)
Then lunch in the Lido before Barb went off to hear Heather EXC talk about humpback whale migration, while John continued photos. At 1550 he went to Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar, to be joined shortly after by Barb, then a longer after by the McMillans, and an even longer after by the Porters. At 1720 we went down to the Lincoln Centre to hear Eric Eaton on cello and Isabela Quines on viola play some Bach, then some modern stuff (Shay, Nashville), before finishing with Beethoven's duet for viola and cello called "For those with eyeglasses". Delightful listening.
Time to change for dinner, which was a gala night, so we all dressed up like galahs. Again, plenty of frivolity, and added to that, some photographic evidence of the funny things we got up to: Johnny Howard and the mad Rachel, Mahfud putting John in a headlock, and Bruce smoking a cigar. John had Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (the shrimps might have been jumbo, but the prawns were rather scrawny), Roasted Parsnip Soup, Surf and Turf (but I got Bruce's steak and he got mine, which led to him saying how rare and juicy his was, and me saying how dry and overcooked mine was), and Pina Colada Cream Brulee (different!). Barb had the same, except for dessert, when she had Mohr Im Hemd, a very rich chocolate cake. John complained about his piece of steak, and did get a replacement piece, which was a) much more tender, b) juicer, and c) rare.
We were the last diners to leave the dining room!
Last day! It has been a good trip, with lots of fun and laughter. only a slight tint of sadness, as our travels now unfurl to the next stage. I think we'd do it all again, but perhaps in the reverse direction? We shall see.
Breakfasted with Ian and Anne, and the Porters arrived a little later. Chatted for quite a while, and at 1000 went down to Explorations for coffee, where John computed and Barb read. Then back to the Lido for lunch, where we found the Macs and Porters, and lunched with them, again lingering over lunch (although none of us ate much).
Then we both read for a bit, and went through our ship bill. All good except for a few items that seemed to be underquoted. I put this down to some loyalty scheme of which we were unaware? Then John went to Happy Hour with his spare bottle of beer. But there was nowhere to sit! Everyone seemed to want to make the most of the last HH, and I ended up at the far end of the bar by myself. Bruce and Rachel did come in shortly, and we were saved from having to stand around for too long when the two blokes at the next table got up and left us their seats. Then Ian and Ann joined us, but the corner in which we were tucked was a bit hot, so we found another table around the other side, since by then people had started to leave. Chatted on until 1730, when I left to return to the cabin.
Then we did some packing, and by dinner time we were in control of things. Dinner the usual stuff, except that we had not prepared ourselves for tipping the wait staff, and we had little loose change. Slightly awkward. John had Confit Duck and Lentils, Spice Crusted Prime Rib Steak, and Chocolate Mousse Cake. Barb had Salmon Tartare, Duck Confit as a main, and Pear Crepes. We finished the bottle of Penfolds Kununga Hill from last night. We were joined at coffee by two friends that the Porters had met at lunch, Rose and Tony from Toronto, and we chatted with them, while the wait and chef staff all did a big farewell parade. Then to bed, not forgetting to put our cases outside our room to be picked up for disembarking. Tomorrow.
Did not sleep well last night - again it was the excitement thing. Woke up at 0100 and thought "we must be meeting the pilot", so I went to look out the window, and there was the pilot boat, just pulling away from the ship. Whether I had some magic internal clock, or whether my subconscious just heard the sound of the pilot boat, I will never be sure.
Woke again at 0500, and decided at 0515 to get up to see us steam under the Lion's Gate Bridge, ostensibly at 0545. Discovered in the process of looking for the best camera angle that there was an observation deck in the front of the gym, on Deck 9, so I took up a position there, and videoed our passage under the bridge itself. I think I now have two of the same.
Stayed in that spot until we were almost docked around 0630, and returned to the cabin to find Barb, looking at proceedings from the port side (we were docked on the starboard side, having swung around just when we were almost on top of the dock). Then to the Lido for a cup of tea, as we had missed our regular one, due to room service being suspended for the night due to docking. Sat at a table for 6, to be joined first of all by Ian, fetching a cup of tea for Anne still in their cabin, then by a couple looking for somewhere to sit, then Ian and Anne together, then Bruce and Rachel (after the other couple had left). So we happily filled in the time waiting.
Had breakfast, then collected our few things in the cabin, and coffeed in the Explorations for the last time. Our coloured ticket got called at about 0915 (only 15mins late), and we all dutifully filed off the ship, found our big bags, through customs, and out onto Canada Place with a minimum of hassle. Once there we found a guide person who was able to give us directions to the Metropolitan Hotel, a few blocks away. So each with bags in tow, we trundled up two and a half blocks along Howe St to find the Met. Once checked in (about 0945), we all collectively collapsed on our beds for R&R, agreeing to meet at 1100 for a reconnaisance walking tour.
Our walking tour took us to Gastown, and we walked the length of Water St to the Gassy Jack statue. We timed the walk very well, passing the steam clock just on 12 noon (toot, toot), and on the return at 1230 (toot). We detoured into Steam Works for lunch, and very glad we did, since we had Yam Fries (sweet potato chips) drizzled with balsamic, Gorgonzola Pizza, and Flagship IPA (John) and Gastown Summer Ale (Barb). The Porters and McMillans had similar fare, and all agreed that John's recommendation to detour was pretty spot on.
Then back to the Met via the Granville Station where we bought tickets for tonight. We rested and zzeded until 1600, when it was time to catch the train to Rayne and Tristan's place at Metrotown. Alighting at the station a few minutes before 1700, we found a seat and waited. We had followed most of the passengers off the train to what we thought must be the only exit, but at 1705 John started to think that maybe there was another entrance and set off to find it. But just as he did, who should appear but Rayne, Tristan and Henley coming round the corner! After our hellos, we walked back to their place, about 500m from the station, swapping stories about our respective exploits since they were over in Melbourne.
Rayne had cooked us a pork roast with vegetables, and found a bottle of Mateus Rose, so we dined as elegantly as we had on board ship while we furhter compared notes. Henley was an absolute angel, laughing and smiling with us, and going to bed at the appointed hour with nary a murmur (are you listening, Jemima and Tabitha?)
By about 2030, we were starting to flag a little from lack of sleep last night, and Rayne kindly offered to guide us back to the station, where we caught a train, no dramas, and were back in Vancouver at Granville Station just after 0910. We were so tired we just fell into bed.
We met in the lobby at 0830 for breakfast in Diva's, the restaurant attached to the hotel. We all had the continental breakfast, which was quite filling, especially as Barb and I both had a whole bagel each! Although it is listed as $C16 each, the actual cost is about $19, due to the taxes and charges added on after the event. All very American, and quite annoying to us Australians. I wonder if Yanks and Maple Suckers get pleasantly surprised by the apparent lack of additional charges in Oz?
We collectively decided to go up Grouse Mountain today, so we walked down to Canada Place, where we bought tickets for the mountain, and then hopped on the free shuttle bus. The bus took about 25 minutes to get to GM, crossing over the Lion's Gate Bridge in the process. As Barb said "we went under it yesterday, and today we are going over it".
Once off the bus, we queued up for the cable car ride to the top of the mountain, and took a few photos - until we entered the cloud. The gondola guide said not to worry, it would be clear at the top, which it was - and created the delightful effect of us (and a few surrounding mountains) floating on top of the clouds! Our first stop was for coffee, and a shared biscuit each, while enjoying the view of the clouds. Then we set off to see the grizzly bears, who apparently had just awoken from their winter hibernation.
There was a fair amount of snow around, but it was not too cold. We each had taken a warm jacket, and that kept the coolness at bay. Most of the attractions at the top of the mountain, like chairlifts, zip lines, trails, etc., were closed, so everyone was converging on the grizzlies.
And indeed Grinder and Coola were awake, and wandering around their relatively small enclosure prior to being released into their much larger summer enclosure. This was a win for us, as they were quite close, separated only by an (electric) fence. I was not sure whether the electrification was to keep the bears in, or the small boys out, but no one seemed too keen to get to close to the bears anyway.
We wandered around taking a few photos (OK, lots) from different angles and with different poses. Thanks to my motor drive, I got a quick series of still of one of the bears yawning, so it was a good shot of all those teeth! There were a few school excursions there as well, and we overheard the guide/teacher telling her children about the bears hibernation. "Now, children", she said, "over winter the bears metabolism shuts right down and they don't eat or drink during the winter". "Crikey" said one boy, "and we can't even last until recess" - which remark caused great merriment to all in earshot!
We watched the bears for about 30 minutes, then headed back to the top of the cable car, and lunch at the restaurant there. By this stage the clouds had pretty well dispersed, and it was nice and sunny, with good views down to Vancouver. We started with a beer each (Laguina IPA: John, and Granville Island Lager: Barb), then John ordered Poutine (chips and gravy) while Barb had Grouse Grind Salad (mainly arugula). But Ian upstaged us all with his serve of Nachos - which was a huge plate of corn chips, olives, cheese, jalapenos, along with three dips of tomato, avocado and sour cream. He needed some assistance to finish them!
After lunch we headed back to the gondola and back down the mountain to catch a waiting bus, which took us back to Canada Place, whence we walked back to the hotel via our separate ways, after agreeing to meet at 1830 in the hotel lobby for dinner. Barb and John got back about 1530, and spent the rest of the afternoon "resting up".
At 1830 in the lobby, we (minus Anne, who was not feeling well) decided to go to the Cactus Club Cafe, where the Porters and McMillans had dined the night before. It was a short walk, and we had an enjoyable hassle free dinner there. John had Red Thai Curry Prawns with Udder IPA and Epic IPA, and Barb had Hunter Chicken (chicken and mushrooms) with a Bellini. Finished by about 2030 and walked back to the hotel, agreeing to meet for breakfast at Diva's on the morrow.
Breakfasted together at 0830, but then went our separate ways today. We (Barb and John) left The Metropolitan at 1020, and walked down to Canada Place, where we caught the Capilano free shuttle bus at 1040, and were in Capilano by 1105.
Our first stop was for coffee, and then, suitably fortified, we tackled the cliffwalk, which was scary for some, but not us. Although it was quite narrow, and very high up (70m or so), it was quite solid, and we were able to stroll around quite happily, with good views over the Capilano Gorge. Then we went across the suspension bridge, which was a bit more traumatic for Barbara. When asked why the suspension bridge was scary, but the cliff walk wasn't, Barb's comment was that the suspension bridge "wobbled'. It was quite safe, with netting all around it, and absolutely no way to fall off. But it did take a little concentration to walk across without hanging on to the handrail!
At the other end, we had another coffee, this time with "beaver balls" (aka pofferjes), and chatted to a couple from Oaklahoma. Then we did the Tree Walk, followed by the Cliff Walk, before returning across the bridge and up to the CliffHouse restaurant for lunch. Barb had Western Seafood Chowder and a Bourbon Blood Orange Wheat Ale, while John had a Pulled Pork Pretzel Bun and Hopilano beer. All very pleasant sitting in the sun with its rays upon our backs.
Then back on the bus just before 1500 for a trip back to the city and walk back to the hotel via Christ Church and HSBC pendulum. in time for afternoon tea at 1615. Then resting and computing, before meeting the others at 1845 to walk down to SteamWorks for dinner. We got Rob, the concierge at the Metropolitan, to book us a table, and he did very well. We had a great time, helped along by more Flagship Ale. John had mussels, and Barb had chile mince, both well enjoyed, followed by a Peanut Ice Cream Chocolate Sundae (or some such name). It was huge, and we copped lots of flack from the others for even embarking upon such a grand (but not futile) gesture. Everyone else even had a taste, except Bruce, who wanted to keep his moral high ground pure.
However, all good things must come to an end, and as a special gesture to our epic voyage together, the Vancouver City Council put on some firewaorks at the end of our meal! Thus we made our way back to the hotel, wished each other safe travelling, and then retired.
The Porters and McMillans parted company with us this morning. John went down to the lobby at 0655 to see if he could catch them leaving, but they did not appear by 0710, so he went back to his room. Maybe they had already left? Maybe they were not leaving until 0730? Whatever, they left. They are off to Winnipeg to visit some friends they made on a previous cruise.
We wandered up around the corner to the BelCafe for breakfast. it was slightly busier thhan the last time we were there, and we had to queue up at the counter to order. Besides coffee, we ordered two interesting looking buns (they were called "croissants"), one a cheese and rhubarb, the other an egg and bacon. We shared these half annd half, partly to see what they were like, and partly to avoid one of us having to eat a whole cruddy one!
Back at the hotel, we asked the concierge the best way to get to Stanley Park, and he suggested a #19 bus that went down West Georgia St. So we walked dow to WGS, stopping at Granville Station on the way to buy some tickets, to avoid having to find exact money on the bus itself. We just managed to catch the number 19, but we got off at the wrong stop, which threw our navigation plans a little awry. But we eventually found our way to Coal Harbour, and started on the 10kms walk almost on the dot of 1100.
Our plan was to walk the seawall al the way around to Prospect Point, climb up the short but very steep track to PP itself, and have lunch at the restaurant there. We had a very atmospheric table out on the balcony, overlooking the Lion's Gate Bridge, and John had a Stanley Park Trail Hopper IPA, while Barb had a ? Golden Ale. Then each of us had the fish and chips from the menu, which was very filling, but we felt this meal was one we had earnt (unlike many over the past 3 weeks!)
Then off down the trail on the west side of the park to Siwash Rock Lookout, and then, instead of following the seawall, we turned inland along the Tatlow trail, past some "big trees" (specifically marked on our map), and on to the Lost Lagoon, which we followed around to find some much needed facilities (:-) Then we caught a bus back to the CBD, and walked back to our hotel in time to meet up with Pat Price, a friend from one of our previous cruises. We had a pleasant drink and chat with her (she had just come from Canada Place, looking after passengers arriving on the Island Princess. Then we walked with her down to Waterfron Station, said goodby to her, and then walked on a little further to SteamWorks, where we bought a growler and 2 litres of Flagship IPA to take to Nathan. Then back to the hotel.
For dinner, we walked around the corner to The Keg Steakhouse, where we both had Iceberg Lettuce with Blue Cheese, followed by Filet in Bacon with Blue Cheese! All this washed down with an Okinagan bottle of 2015 Blasted Church Syrah, very soft and palatable. Then back to the hotel to pack!
We had the alarm set for 0440, but Barb was up and showering well before then. Indeed, we were so well organized that we were out of our room by 0500, and catching a taxi ($10) to the Canadian Pacific Railway Station to catch Amtrak 517 to Portland, alighting at Seattle. Just like international travel, there was lots of waiting, firstly for customs, then to check our luggage, then just waiting for the train to go.
We were seated in seats 2A and 2B of car 2, near the front of the train by 0550, but nothing much happened until 0635 when the train was actually due to depart. But the seats were quite comfortable (although upholstered in vinyl, hardly in keeping with Business Class!) and we read, and took in our surrounds. Once nice thing (two nice things!) is that there are power points for each seat (hence me having this laptop plugged in as I write), and wifi (hence me reading my email at the same time).
We proceeded very slowly out of Vancouver, with a few stops in the middle of woop-woop. I suspect that Canadian Pacific gives low priority to Amtrak trains. I know that Via Rail gives way to freight, so I think Amtrak trains must be the lowest of the low. But once out of the built-up area, we started to rattle along. My GPS recorded a top speed of 152kph (nearly 100mph), so that is probably the limit. (Pause here to take a photo of the northbound Cascades)
We had a cup of coffee and an egg and patty bagel for breakfast after we had the mandatory customs inspections at the Canada-US border. That was rather peremptory, and all they seemed to do was collect the forms that we had to fill in before we boarded the train. A little like the customs check on the wharf when we disembarked the Noordam!
The time passed quickly enough, and Barb had to have another cup of coffee as she kept falling asleep! That used up nearly all the US currency that John had, so we arrived in Seattle with only $US2.50. Arrival was on time at 1100, and while Barb was waiting for the checked luggage to appear, John went looking for Nathan and Lynne, to find them just arriving as he walked out the station door.
Hugs all round, and we piled into the FIT (yes, we did!) and headed for NW 28 St. Unloaded the luggage, and then walked down to the 8oz Burger cafe for lunch. Nathan had to be at work by 1300, so he and Lynne disappeared, and Barb and I walked down Market St to find a bank and collect more cash, which we did at the Chase Bank. Then back to NW 28.
At 1630 we decided to go for a walk down to the Crittenden Locks. We spent some time walking around the English Gardens before repairing to the locks. An Amtrak train crossed the Ballard Bridge, and two lots of boats locked through, so there was plenty happening. We even saw a water rat swimming around just outside the lower lock gate.
Dinner was back at NW28, with a nice curry that Lynne had made. Barb and Lynne went looking at sunsets, while Nathan and John fossicked in the shed, checking out all the new stuff, including the laser cutter. Then we setup the blowup bed and crashed for the night, exhausted.
Nathan and Lynne go to the gym every Monday/Wednesday/Friday, so we tagged along, and joined up for a month. They still had our names on file from last time, which was impressive. We did a few stretches, and that was all we had time for, as N & L only go for a half hour. Next time we shall go for longer!
We did little else all day: filing photos, writing diary, debugging programs, reading, and generally just recovering from the last 4 weeks!
In the evening, N&L had an invite from Kit to come for dinner to celebrate Kit's girlfriend Jacquie's birthday. Her father had cooked up a swag of Indian dishes, and there was about 2 dozen people there, some of whom we knew. We sat and chatted with Jacquie's father, Erwan (who was about the only other person of our age), and he was very chatty! Also met her mother, Melanie, who was very taken with our visit all the way from Australia. We left about 1000'ish, and again crashed rather quickly when we got home.
Nathan was home from work today, so he and I did shed stuff all day. We started on building a star model railway reversing loop (like a triangle/wye/delta, but with 5 points instead of 3). It is a fairly complicated piece of trackwork, so before long we were building tools to help with its construction. We managed to build half of a small diamond saw table before it was dinner time.
Barb and Lynne meantime had been to Fred Myers and had bought a BBQ (which only just fitted in the FIT!) Only problem was that we had to assemble it before we could eat dinner! We did manage it, but not without a bit of f'ing and blinding due to the Chinglish instructions that actually had no text but only pictures, with cryptic part numbers scattered all over the page. Arrrrrggghh!
But we did get it going, and the sausage got cooked, very nicely, thank you. I think it will get a lot more usage while we are here. While eating said dinner, we watched an old episode of "Sea Change" (back from 1999), which brought back some memories. Then bed.
Nathan has given me some "snore pads" which open up one's nose while sleeping, and according to Barb, they work quite well. I must admit, last night was the first night I have slept right through the night for some time. I might have to find a supplier in Oz.
It was Market Day in Ballard, so we wandered down to Ballard Ave where the market was (actually the corner of Ballard and Market!). Had an entertaining time just wandering round looking at things, but of course, one cannot go to a market without buying something, so we bought a bottle of wine (rose), some cans of beer (Lower Case, or, as they put it, lOWER cASE), and some liquorice caramels (or, as the locals say, "carmels"). We followed all that with coffee at the Ballard Coffee Works.
In the afternoon Nathan and John worked on the various stages of the railway project (John finished his points, and then we made a prototype 2-aspect signal), while Barb and Lynne did some shopping.
Dinner was roast pork and chicken, together with roast vegetables, cooked in the new barbeque. Quite yummy!
Off to the gym again this morning, but this time, by arrangement, we stayed on to finish our routines while Nathan and Lynne went home for breakfast. We concluded (continued?) our routine by finding a coffee shop "Sugar and Salt" that did breakfasts. We had an interesting "sandwich" and coffee package - I say "sandwich", because it was really a large savoury scone cut in half and filled with ham and cheese. Very nice, but tricky to eat, and certainly not easily handled as a sndwich. Barb had the vegetarian version, and said that was nice, too. Coffee was good.
Then at 1100 we set off in Lynne's car to Facebook offices, to check out Nathan's work scene. Of course, we could not actually go into Nathan's work scene, because then he "would have to kill us", due to all the commercial in confidence stuff, blah, blah. Funny that Facebook is so fussy about their data!
Nathan showed us around all the public areas, and we had a nice (free!) lunch in the cafeteria, and took in the views of Lake Union from the balcony gardens. We then left Nathan to his work, and drove up to Capitol Hill, aka Volunteers Park. (The "Volunteers" refers to US volunteers in the Spanish-American War - ever heard of that? 1898 if you haven't.)
Anyway, we walked around Volunteers Park, which includes the water reservoir, and climbed the water tower. One might have been able to obtain good views from the tower a hundred years ago, but all the trees in the park had grown to such an extent that only the occasional glimpse of distant landscapes (such as Mt. Rainier) could be seen. But there was an interesting display of the contribution of John and Frederick Olmsted, the US equivalents of Walter Burley Griffin, judging from their contribution to city landscaping.
Then at 1500 we set off again to the Seattle waterfront, to find Pier 55. We had to pay $30 for a car park, but it did have the advantage of being just over the road from the pier. We were early enough that we had time to buy ice creams and eat them before boarding a bus at 1545 to take us to Lake Union, where we boarded the Goodtimes III for a cruise down the lake, through the Fremont Cut, into Salmon Bay, through the Hiram M Chittenden Locks, and out into Shilshole Bay, before rounding West Point and its lighthouse (notable for being a very low tower, since it only has to shine across Puget Sound, 5 miles wide at its widest). Then a straightforward run south east to Elliott Bay and Pier 55, where we disembarked. All very interesting, and the weather was kind to us, as well.
We were pretty tired when we got home. We had leftovers for dinner, and then nodded off.
A slow start this morning, but all four of us headed off at 1014, firstly to drop Nathan at work, then to head up the I5 towards Everett, but turned off just after Lynnwood to cut down to Woodinville (where Beth's cousin lives), and then north east towards Monroe on Highway 2, which we started following east, up along the Snohomish River and then the Tumwater Canyon. The river was quite full, and once we were into the more mountainous sections, there were many raging rapids, so we had to stop frequently for photos.
Over Stephens Pass, and down the Tye/Wenatchee River valley to Leavenworth, which we reached at about 1400. Time for lunch! So we headed for the obvious place, the Leavenworth Sausage Garden, where John had a bratwurst sausage with the works, and Barb had a chicken apple sage sausage, not quite so working. Washed down with a pint of IPA, and a pint of cider (guess who had what). Then to the ice cream shop next door, with very nice pomegranate icecream.
Back along Highway 2, turning off for Lake Wenatchee, a very popular camping ground. But it was before Memorial Day (May 28), the traditional start of the US holiday season, so there were few campers around. We walked about, took a few photos, and went exploring out on a small jetty. Problem was, the approach to the jetty was underwater! Barb and Lynne both got their shoes wet, but John took his shoes and socks off first. The main difficulty with all this was that the water was freezing cold, and for John, the jetty was an open grid mesh, which is not compatible with bare feet, and leaves lots of criss-cross marks on one's soles. But the view was worth it.
Then on to Deception Falls, on Deception Creek, which feeds into the Tye River (mentioned above). It was really raging! One had trouble crossing the bridge because of the spray from the crashing waters below. We followed the Loop Trail, taking us through the forest and across several side streams of the river, all very full. So much so that one part of the path was underwater, and the water made for an interesting waterfull down the steps that we had to climb! John found an alternative pathway (straight up the hill), and when we got to the top we could see that the other end of the path was even more underwater. But lots of interesting things to look at, including a tree stump with a springboard hole, a hole cut by the lumberjacks to insert their springboards on which they stood, while cutting down the tree. I'm sure you have seen pictures of them in the past. If not, there's one on this information board.
From there, we drove back to Ballard, again along the I5, returning home at about 1935, when Lynne cooked up some salmon fillets for us. Seemed quite appropriate, given all the water we had seen!
Off to gym this morning, and a slightly improved set of performances. Maybe by the time we get back to Oz we will have offset all the cruise dining? Maybe!
Gym was followed by breakfast (just the two of us) at Java Bean, where the coffee was good. We each had a salmon bagel with "laks" on them (cream cheese). I was a bit taken aback when paying for it up front, as the credit card reader asked how much of a tip was wanted. This seemed quite arse-about, since usually the tip is for services rendered, not "about to be rendered". It was all the more ironic, as one had to collect the oder from the counter - there was no table service! I did make a comment to the waitress, pointing out that in Australia we do things better. "Perhaps you have better wages there" was her reply, to which I subsequently thought I should have responded "yes, and a better business model!". I do get quite unimpressed by the US hype that suggests that one's destiny is in one's own hands, all you have to do is work harder. Not if you are in the employ of a capitalist, it seems.
For lunch we drove over to a nursery, Swanson's, since Lynne wanted some potting mix. We had a couple of sandwiches, John a "reubens" which was picked cabbage and cooked beef brisket, rather than pastrami, although the sandwich itself was called a Reubens. Ah well.
While taking a few photos of the many flowers there, there was a bit of a clunk from the camera (just like the flash used to do before it was fixed), and the camera then ceased to function. Arrrrggggh! I changed the battery, but to no avail.
So after returning from the nursery, we walked down to the local camera repair shop to see what they could do. The attendant's comment was that he could open it up, but if it was under warranty, we should take it back to get it fixed, as that would be a lot cheaper. That did not solve the immediate problem of not having a working camera, so we looked at a few camera backs that we could buy to get a working system. There were two, an old Rebel T3, and a newer Rebel T6i, which was much closer to the EOS 600D that I have - but at $395 about $100 more expensive than the T3. I got them to hold the T6i for 24 hours while we thought about it. Sigh.
We went to Matador for dinner, with their huge great servings. I had Carne Asada, to compare it with the same dish I had on the ship. (22 Apr). Matador's tasted more authentic, I have to say. As usual, we all took doggy boxes to take home half of the servings, since they are so huge! We will have them for breakky or dinner tomorrow.
For the rest of the evening, I helped Nathan trying to build a key-cutting style machine to cut notches in rail. This is all part of the great 5-point wye reversing loop project. Each new phase seems to bring more new problems, and this was no exception. To bed at a pretty late hour.
Four of us bundled into the car and headed off at 1030, dropping Nathan off at Facebook as per two days ago. Up the I5 as before, this time heading for Paine Field and the Boeing Factory for a tour starting at 1200. We were in plenty of time, arriving at 1124. That was just as well, as we had to put all bags and electronic devices in a locker - which was free, but did not seem to work. Or rather, it worked too well. One could lock it, but on entering the key we had coded it with, it refused to unlock again! We were not the only ones having this problem - others seemed to be suffering from the same gremlins!
We saw a brief video of Boeing's operations, and their current fleet of aircraft, before boarding buses which took us across the the huge great hangars used to build the aircraft. Our guide, Kyle, took us through the vast array of tunnels under the hangars, popping up via "elevators" to viewing platforms overlooking the works.
How to describe these "works"? Not having any photos forces me to paint a word picture. Imagine three 747s nose to tail. That is the size of one bay of the factory, and there were six bays in the complex. Usually one bay was dedicated to one type of aircraft, but that was not a hard rule. We saw 747s, 767s, 777s and 787s (the "Dreamliner") under various stages of construction. One thing I did not know was that the new Dreamliners use carbon fibre instead of aluminium as their basic construction material, with a consequence that it can have a higher pressurization, bigger windows, and higher humidity - all things which improve passenger comfort. Kyle did fire information at us at a rate of 600 words a minute, so it was hard to store all this information.
The tour was over very quickly (90 minutes goes quickly when your attention is totally engaged!) and on our way back to the reception we saw a 747 on its delivery run to UPS, which was an uncommon event. We had a cup of coffee in the recption centre before setting off for Snohomish, up the eponymous river valley. The town is quite wild western in style, rather 1920s, and with lots of art deco buildings.
Lynne had to drop off her sewing machine at a repair shop there, and we took the opportunity to have lunch at a little cafe called "Gorilla Bites", which seemed to be run and staffed by women (John was one of only two men in the cafe). John had a Reuben sandwich, Barb a portobello hamburger, and Lynne a bowl of soup. All agreed they were very tasty. Then back to the I5, and NW58 street by 1645.
At 1800 we walked up to 24th Ave to watch "the parade". This is in honour of the Norwegian Constitution Day ("Syttende Mai"), held every year on 17 May. It was an excuse for every community organization and institution to turn out a group and march down the streets waving Norwegian flags. Very popular were the various high school marching bands, the school cheer squads, and the "sons" and "daughters" of Norway from various entities such as the Everett Elks (I gather a Rotary/Lions-like community organization). I say "sons" and "daughters", because the sex of the people in the group did not seem to matter all that much. There were women in the "sons" groups, and men in the "daughters" groups. Go figure. At least "figure", not "letter", I don't think they were LGTBI inclined. I enjoyed the school bands that also had bagpipes.
Back home for a very nice curry whizzed up by Lynne, then bed.
I woke up early to the sound of something falling of the bed. When I investigated, it was Oh No! my spectacles in three pieces - the glasses and two arms. I don't know how or when I did it, but I must have sat on them at some stage, because each arm had broken off in a way that would not have happened just by falling on the floor. Bummer!
But we were off to the gym first thing, so they had to wait. I could do the gym (and usually do) without my specs, so Barb put them in her jacket pocket and we went to the gym. Afterwards, we walked down to an optician that Lynne had told us about to see what they could do. "Nothing" was the answer. They did tell us about a company that could solder them together, but it was on the other side of the city, and not really that much use to us. So we just had breakfast, returning to the Java Bean because we could not find any sensible breakfast cafe on Market St. We had bagels again, but I had a ham and cheese one, while Barb went for the salmon laks again.
After breakfast, I set about using Nathan's new soldering iron to see if I could fix the specs. I managed to do a reasonable job of the soldering, but the angles of the arms were not quite right! Still, they sort of stayed on my face, enough for me to do other things, like get this diary and some more photos up-to-date (and fix the software so that it could cope with the new camera body).
After lunch, I felt that I should try again, and get the angles right. In this I succeeded, but I was less happy with the soldering. Still, they seemed to work, so I left it at that, with a mental note to treat them gently!
In the evening, Kit came around for the usual (for Nathan and Lynne) Friday night "TGIF", and we walked down to downtown Ballard and the High Life restaurant (apparently one of their favourites). I forget what we had to eat, but I did have a nice IPA beer. Then walked back to 2819 NW 58, and bed.
We managed to get ourselves packed and organized in time for a 0930 departure, and were soon heading south! on the I5. But not for long, turning east on the I90 and heading across Lake Washington towards Snoqualmie, where we had once journey before to see the famous Snoqualmie Falls. The Falls were not our objective, however, this time we went to the "railroad depot" to catch the Northwesten Railroad Museum's train to North Bend and return.
We were early, so we had time to look around and take photos, and check out the bookshop, where Barb bought me a very interesting book of railway (sorry, railroad) maps of Washington. Very useful as we were to follow various railway lines around the state!
The train left at 1100, and was interesting as the loco (a Bo-Bo diesel) was at the rear of the train, and it was driven from a makeshift driver's position in the end corridor gangway of the last car. I don't have a photo from the inside of the train (my failing), but there is one from the outside, where you can see the temporary horn and light, both required as part of the licence to run the train this way. It was not obvious, but the driver (I believe) uses a walkie-talkie to communicate to the real driver of the train in the loco at the back!
From Snoqualmie to North Bend is only about 15km, but it took us 25 minutes, since a) the train did not go very fast (are you surprised?), and b) we had several slow crossings of bridges, as, in the words of the conductor, "the slower we go, the longer the bridge lasts". They did have a quite extensive workshop that we passed (also at a very slow pace), with a promise to stop there on the way back.
Those of you who are keen TV watchers may know North Bend from its role in the soap "Twin Peaks", and there was evidence of that connection about, with several murals advertising the fact, and the twin peaks themselves hanging over the town. But we did not have time to alight there, and the train turned around fairly quickly (thanks to there being drivers at both ends)
As promised, we had a half-hour stop at the workshops, where we were shown around the museum section by an archetypal US railway enthusiast who was full of useful facts and information. I must say, the restoration work that they had done was quite first class, and a particularly nice car was the "chapel car", a passenger carriage built to host church services for remote townships without a church. It was quite beautiful, but because of its value (the guide said over $1m!), we could not go inside it. I did get a photo of the interior, however.
Back on the train, we trundled back to Snoqualmie for a brief stop. There was a birthday party on board, and they all alighted to continue their celebrations, while the rest of the train then pulled on to Snoqualmie Falls- which we couldn't quite see, but there were spectacular views down the valley. Then back to Snoqualmie, where we alighted, and started looking for lunch, which proved harder than we first thought, partly because none of the places we looked at could do gluten free meals for Lynne. But we eventually found the Snoqualmie Brewery, which suited us fine.
Or so we thought. They were very busy, and lunch took a long time to order, and then come. Fortunately, we were not in a hurry, and anyway, it started raining, so we were happy to stay put while the rain lasted. John had nachos, which was shades of Ian Mac's efforts on Grouse Mountain. Not quite so comprehensive a serve, but still requiring a little help from my friends. Nathan had a beer sampler, but John went for a porter - just to be different. The porter was nice, but due to confusion and delay in the ordering process we acquired a Mount Si IPA pint as well, so he was happy to help out by drinking that after the porter. The restaurant didn't charge us for it because of the mixup, and anyway, they went on to deduct 60% from the bill because of the delays! We did not complain, and indeed, were quite happy to leave a significant tip partly to offset their generosity, and partly because the waiter was very obliging about it all.
Then we headed off, again along the I90, then down through the Yakima River Canyon, which was picturesque. At one stop, John's glasses dropped an arm (poor soldering joint!), so we had to effect a repair with some sticky tape. Fingers crossed! Then when we got to Pendleton, we did have a little trouble finding accommodation, not helped by the fact that when we pulled into the information centre just on 1709, we found that it had closed at 1700! So a bit of cruising around, before we settled on the Holiday Inn, since that was the chain we staying in in Fiji, and it was OK. We booked two rooms, but since we only just got the booking, we had to settle for one room with a double bed, and the other with two singles. Since Barb was paying, we got the double!
We ate dinner in the hotel, with some variable results. We all had rib eye steak, but Nathan and Lynne got the better half of the meat selection on offer. The ones that Barb and John had were somewhat gristlely, and although the taste was OK, they did take a bit of chewing. A quite night drinking wise, and then bed.
Slow start, with breakfast at 0830. Barb and I had time to finish our breakfast before Nathan and Lynne arrived at 0930! They had slept in. Meanwhile, John had eggs benedict, which he even ranked higher than the Noordam's equivalent effort. On the other hand, Barb had what she called a "tasteless omelette", so it was a mixed rating.
So it was that we left Yakima at 1030, and headed south. There was not much of note, except that we passed a refuged BNSF freight with two locos on the front, so there is a nice string of photos of that. Then on to the Palouse Falls.
Palouse Falls! What to say? They are they most impressive falls in the most impressive canyon. The canyon is not as deep as the Grand Canyon, but the falls somewhat make up for that. Add to that the adrenalin thrill of walking along the cliff edge to various viewing points. The one thing that did spook me was the illuminated sign at the entrance that said "Stay Clear of Cliff Edges", and "4 Recent Deaths". Arrrk! The last person to die there was as recent as 21 Apr, drowned while swimming under the waterfall. Before that last October, a young man fell to his death from the canyon wall while taking a selfie!! Duh! Stupid maybe, but it did not lessen the trepidation with which we walked along the cliff edge.
We explored the area from all directions for an hour or so, before piling back into the car and heading on to Pendleton. We had scarcely gone 30 minutes along the road when we came to the Snake River. This is a humunguous river, almost as big as the Columbia, and there was a very substantial railway bridge across it, for which we stopped three times to take photos (before we got to it, immediately under it, and after we had crossed the river ourselves. So there are a few photos of it!
We got to Pendleton about 1730 and looked around for a hotel, settling on the Holiday Inn again, just outside town. It was quite comfortable, and again we booked ourselves into two rooms, this time both with double beds.
Then to dinner at a large brewery outlet that we had spotted in our search for a hotel, called The Prodigal Son. Nathan and I had a tasting sampler, and I had a Reuben sandwich with sweet potato chips/fries, while Barb had a salad. Here's my tasting sampler selection (in order of preference):
Then back to the hotel, first catching up on some downloading of photos, and then bed.
After breakfast, Barb and Lynne went off to the local Knitting Mill (for which Pendleton has a reputation) to do a tour at 0900, while Nathan and John did "other stuff". So it was a very late start to the day before we got rolling at 1030.
Most of the morning was just spent driving, but we did stop to take the occasional view, or flowers. At one such stop we spotted a green frog, which I later discovered was a smaller version of the Green Tree Frog that we have in Australia.
We stopped in a little place called Ukiah for morning coffee. It really was a one horse town, having just one petro station and one cafe. But the coffee was fine.
More travelling, and lunch was delayed simply because there was nowhere along our route that offered reasonable lunch facilities, partly given Lynne's needs. Eventually at 1349 we reached Long Creek, which had a cafe (but that had closed down) and a "Chuckwagon", a mobile (well, once upon a time) fast food thing that offered burgers of various descriptions. That was still not up to Lynne standards, but there was a grocery store opposite, where she could buy some gluten free things, so the rest of us had burgers from the Chuckwagon (and a rootbeer). They were quite good, actually.
A few miles further on, we reached the first of the John Day National Monuments. John Day was a slighly mystical figure in history, being a Virginian hunter who was travelling in Oregon along the Columbia River, when, with a friend, Donald Mackenzie, he was attacked near the mouth of the Mau-Mau River. Apparently friendly Indians then looked after him, until he died (there are various different stories of how and where he died!), but his friend told the story of their attack, and so the river's name got changed to the John Day River. But he never visited the area that now bears his name because of the river flowing through it.
The area is important because of the humungous number of fossils found in and around it. The fossils cover the Age of Mammals, and just about everything that is now about the evolution of mammals can be supported by fossils from the John Day National Monument. We stopped at a spot known as Foree, which we found interesting not so much for the fossils, but for the wierd coloured earth shapes that are found there.
More of that shortly, but 7 miles down the road we stopped at the Thomas Condon Paleological Centre to see and hear more about fossils. We watched a 20 minute video, and then wandered around looking at the very informative exhibits.
Now Thomas Condon was a much more valuable person that John Day. A Congregational minister (! bonus points to start with !), he became very interested in fossils, and started collecting and documenting them. His work became known to noted scientists, and eventually was appointed as the first state geologist of Oregon, and then the first professor of geology at the University of Oregon. But it was his words about the debate on fossils, evolution, and the origin of species that was raging at the time that most caught my eye. "The hills from which these evidences [fossils] were taken were made by the same God who made the hills of Judea, and the evidences are as authoratative. The Church has nothing to fear from the uncovering of truth". Profound words indeed.
Then on to the Painted Hills, a place that none of us had known about until reading a tourist brochure in Pendleton! We got there rather late, about 1815, and because of the impressiveness of the site, spent an hour or so wandering around, taking LOTS of photos. Words cannot quite convey the sense of wonder looking at these hills, but it is as though some almight being has just thrown a huge bucket of paint across the landscape. You have to see it to believe it. A really amazing place.
And wait, there's more! We drove on to a smaller site, Painted Cove, with more "painted" formations, and then to a small hill, called Leaf Hill - so called because over 20,000 fossilized leaf specimens were remove in one dig! Talk about an information bonanza! But it was now really late! It was nearly 1930 as we left the Painted Hills and Coves, and headed for Prineville, or Pruneville, as John wanted to call it. Arrived there at 2030, and had a little difficulty finding a place to eat and accomodation.
We eventually went to the local brewery place for dinner, but they had no gluten free stuff for lynne, so we switched to the nearby Dillon's Grill, which did. It was quite OK: Barb had baby ribs, and John had fish and (sweet potato) chips (Lynne had the ribs too). While there, we jointly organized a hotel, using Lynne's phone, Nathan's email, and Barb's negotiating skills. It probably should have gone on my credit card, but Barb used hers.
It was a nice hotel, the Country Inn. Somehow Barb managed to wangle a double room (bedroom and sitting room) for the two of us, while N&L had a room with two queen-size beds. It was clearly overkill, as either suite could have accomodated the four of us. Our room had a spa bath, so Nathan came an had a bath in that before retiring , and then then we had one. Very relaxing!
Had breakfast in the hotel this morning - very much the usual boring US hotel style, with waffles rather than pancakes today (I did not have any!) Left Prineville about 0930, and headed to Smith Rock, an interesting rock formation that looks like the end of the mountain ranges was just torn off, leaving a very jagged end, in spite of the rest of the ranges have a smooth, rolling look.
Nathan and Barb decided to climb to the top of the escarpment, but John and Lynne decided to do other things. John was a little equivocal about this, but as he was not feeling that energetic, decided to reserve his options. But he did walk back to the car to get the walking poles and change his shoes to walking boots, just so he could take the climbing option if it looked OK. At the point where our ways were to part, Nathan and Barb shot off ahead, so John elected to walk downstream along the sunny side of the gorge instead, while Lynne walked on the shady side.
John did climb up to a saddle at the end of the bight to take a nice photo looking back along the valley with reflections of the mountains in the river. FIL would have been pleased! Then he decided to go back to the meeting point, and start on the climb to the top of the escarpment, and wait for N and B to come down. The view was nice, because I was there for an hour!
A phone call from Nathan to say "where are you?" prompted me out of my reverie, and I set off down the hill, back across the river, and up the other side (puff, puff). Nathan and Barb had decided to do the loop trail, which although further (or rather, because it was further), was less steep and slippery. Hence my long fruitless wait. But I either had to wait down at the car park, or at my vantage point, so it was deemed a reasonable outcome.
On to Redmond, Oregon (not Washington!) We found another brewery, called The Vault, so we elected for a late lunch (1440) there. It didn't serve food directly, but there was a Taco van in the beer garden, and Nathan ordered some very nice fried onion rings, fried zucchini sticks, and a mixture of tacos, which did us all nicely. Nathan and I again went for a beer sampler, and enjoyed them all. My favourite was not actually an IPA, but a red beer, called Cred Red.
Our final leg of the day was a short run down to Bend, where we booked into a Hilton suite (two interconnected rooms sharing a single bathroom) using Nathan's Hilton loyalty membership, and then went to another (!) brewery for dinner which had been recommended to us by the people at The Vault. It was also well liked by many others as there was no room at the outside tables, and we had to squeeze into a little corner inside. But the food and beer were good. Again, John and Nathan had a sampler, and again, John had fish and chips with sweet potato fries. It is a good combination! Barb had a hamburger and a Moscow Mule.
We went for a short walk along the Deschutes River in the evening twilight before wandering back into town to find an icecream shop to buy icecreams each (I had strawberry and rhubarb, yum, yum). Then back to the hotel and bed.
We had decided to eat breakfast in one of the local cafes, rather than the hotel, just to give us a change from the standard hotel breakfast fare. As Nathan pointed out, there is a whole industry dedicated to supplying hotel breakfasts, which manifests itself in automatic waffle and pancake makers, juice dispensing machines, coffee thermoses, and so on. Very boring after a few days, and none of them are to write home about (except that's what I am doing, right now?).
We rejected a couple that we first looked at, and then settled on one called Sintra. (I'd make a pun about FranK ourt and Sinatra Cafe, but I cannot think of one right now.) Barb and John had omelettes (or omelets as the Yanks would spell), while Lynne had fried eggs and bacon, Nathan a sausage and egg combo. They were sufficiently different (and tastier) than the aforementioned hotel fare. We had a cup of coffee, and decided that a second cup would be good, but rather than stay at Sintra, we thought we should try somewhere else. So we went back to one of the cafes we had previously rejected for breakfast, and bought take-away coffees to go with us. They were even better!
Back to the hotel to pack and get under way, which we managed to do by 1045 (after Barb just remembered to go back and collect her shoes which she had forgotten). We did not have far to travel today, and since the place we are staying at tonight (for 2 nights) has a kitchen, we needed to buy some groceries. Add to that the fact that we did not think there would be a good choice of supermarkets along the way, we did an out-and-back trip to the Newberry Lava Fields, return to Bend, do some grocery shopping, and then set off for Union Creek where we were to spend the next 2 nights.
Newberry was about 30kms away, so it was not an onerous choice. We stopped first at the Lava Lands site - but the Visitor Office was closed for the winter, opening tomorrow! No matter, we could still walk around the well set-out trail and view the extensive lava flow - from 7000 years ago, so it was quite cooled.
One interesting fact that we learnt (inter alia) was that the trees that we saw all had twisted trunks. This is because they have such a hard time finding moisture that they send down very long, large roots, and once one root finds water, the tree puts little energy into growing the others. The trunk then grows in a twisted fashion, so that all sides of the tree get enough moisture. Smart, eh?
Then on to the Big Obsidian Flow, another lava field that had the right conditions for creating obsidian (a very black shiny rock) as it was created. Obsidian was highly prized by the native americans, who used it for all sorts of purposes, particularly as when shattered, it breaks into pieces with extremely fine, hard edges, great for cutting, and making things like arrow heads. Its modern usage is mainly restricted to jewellery, but it has been used to make things like surgical scapels, as the edge can be cut down to a single molecule thick!
Then back to Bend to do our grocery shopping. The place we went to, Market of Choice, was very large, and had just about everything except the kitchen sink. We bought lots of stuff, including lunches for ourselves (it was by now close on 1500!) Then a quick detour to fill up the car with petrol, and by agreement, John and Nathan were dropped off to inspect an interesting railway yard layout while Lynne and Barb did the petrol/gas run. Then the drive to Union Creek.
Union Creek is a small community at the jucntion of the main road and the road into Crater Lake. We have a small cabin booked here - Cabin 23, which turns out to be the old Fire Prevention Assistant's house, built in 1935 as part of Roosevelt's "New Deal".
Tea was whizzed up by Barb using the ingredients we had purchased earlier in Bend, and the rather limited set of kitchen utensils that came with the place. We had sausages and vegies, with NO beer! Quite a change from previous nights. Washing the dishes was a challenge, as the plug for the sink did not hold water. John managed to get a sort of a seal by wrapping the plug with a plastic bag, which seemed to slow the leakage to the point where a small load of dishes (which was all we did have) could be washed before the water all ebbed away. Nathan lit the fire, and John managed to keep it going, but it was like much of the rest of the house - it had seen better days, and did not want to cooperate! After dinner, a bit of computing (no internet!) and then bed.
A cooked breakfast, again care of Barb who managed to poach eggs, cook bacon, and fry mushrooms all with the limited set of utensils I mentioned yesterday. Then we set off for Crater Lake at about 1100.
Crater Lake is most impressive - it is the cleanest body of fresh water in the US (if not the world), and the deepest crater lake in the world. Roughly 10kms by 6kms, it holds 4.9 trillion (US) gallons, that's about 18.5 teralitres. (18.5 x 10^12 l) Sydney Harbour holds about 500 gigalitres, so that's about 37 SydArbs! The sun was out, there were nice fluffy clouds around, so it was very photogenic. We had trouble holding ourselves back!
After the first flush of photos, we walked across to the cafe and the "Rim Village", and on the way, Nathan suddenly became very short! He had put his foot through a thin bit of snow, and went right down upto his thigh. He did look funny! John helped him out, and apart from a few minor grazes, only his pride was hurt. And some coffee at the cafe helped fix that. We sat at a table with a couple of young Polish chaps, who were very friendly, and we swapped stories about what to see and do in Seattle, where they were heading next.
Barb bought a new T-shirt and wind cheater at the shop, and then we headed off around the rim of the crater. One could only drive as far as Discovery Point (3 kms along from the Rim Village), where the road was blocked, and a big collection of cars at the lookout point. More photos. Then we decided to walk further along the rim road (it was open to pedestrians) to find yet more lookouts. We walked about 2.5kms along the road, before it turned away from the lake, where we decided to stop and turn back. The 5kms took us a bit over an hour to walk, including time for photos. It was an easy walk, as the road was never more than a gentle incline, and it was very nice walking on a wide, smooth surface!
Then back to our cabin for lunch - a ploughman's lunch of bread, cheese, salami and pickle. Then Barb, Nathan and Lynne decided to go for a walk along Rogue Creek, while John stayed and did some computing (the internet was working!) After an hour or so, John went for a walk himself, but only to the shop to have a look around, and when he came back, Nathan was waiting. Nathan was feeling tired, and went and had a nap, while John listened to Kelly Skilton talking on Triple J about christianity, faith and sex. I didn't disagree with anything she said.
Barb and Lynne returned, and there was just time to have a beer before it was time to head off to the Crater Lake Lodge for dinner. We did try to book in there, but it was no vacancy, which is why we had to settle for Union Creek at the bottom of the mountain. But we did get a booking for dinner at 1900, and duly turned up at the appointed hour.
I have to say that I was a little disappointed in the place. It was reputed to be "fine dining", but the food and the service were not quite there. First problem was that they brought the wrong wine, then they did not pour it correctly, then brought the bread too late, etc., ... Add to that the fact that John's steak was again a little too gristley, and you can see why I was disappointed.
A quiet trip back down the mountain, with a few interruptions to try and take pictures of the sunset (nehh!), and then back to Union Creek cabin.Nathan lit the fire again, this time with a little more success, and we sat around the fire for an hour or so, doing our own things (like this blog).
And so to bed.
Barbara cooked up a pot of porridge for breakfast, which we all enjoyed. It was a bit of a miserable day (really, the first solid rain we have had all trip, so I no complain). Most of the morning was therefore confined to the car, although we did stop at Elk Lake for a toilet break and photograph. (Let me be clear - the photos were of the lake, not the toilet.) There were some majestic snow-capped mountains around (Mt Bachelor), but they were hiding in the fog.
We had a slight change of plan because of the rain. We had planned to have our picnic lunch en route, at somewhere like Elk Lake, but as it was too wet to sit around, we decided instead to head into Bend and have lunch there, so we went back to Sintra for lunch, and then back to Bonta for ice cream.
Leaving Bend at 1430, we headed north on the 97 up to Madras, passing Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington (all snow-capped ex volcanos) and as the rained had stopped, we turned off onto the 26 to go through Warm Springs and a more scenic route. We then turned east on the 35, which led us to the base of Mount Hood, where we stopped at the (closed) ski resort to take some close-ups of Mount Hood.
Continuing north on the 35 towards Hood River, we passed an interesting railway feature just after Pine Grove, where the railway line has a single switchback to get down the valley side. Unfortunately, due to some navigating misunderstandings, we did not make it to the said interesting feature, so I cannot tell you more about it.
We did not stop at Hood River. "Too touristy" said Nathan, so we pressed on to The Dalles. Don't ask me how that is pronounced, since I never heard a local say it. I would have said "dul-les" or "dal-les", but Lynne said the locals call it "dawls", so I am not sure. (I just checked Wikipedia, it says "daelz") We found an excellent motel at the Celilo ("Sel-lee-low") Motel, which offered us a glass of wine to taste on arrival. While drinking that, we struck up a conversation with a friendly couple who were from Seattle also, and were in the area to go wind surfing on the Columbia.
After the wine, we ate our picnic lunch, and enjoyed the view across the Columbia, with a dual cantilever through truss road bridge in the foreground, a huge great dam next to it, and railway tracks and trains both immediately below the motel (it was on a hill), and on the far side of the river. Bliss!
While snacking on our picnic lunch, we video called David and Jemima, and had a quick video tour of 5 Fran Ct. David says they are doing a big tidy-up this weekend so that they can then unpack more stuff! We watched the sunset until dark, and then retired to our separate rooms for the night.
The Celilio Hotel turned out to be a good place to stay: comfortable beds, good wifi, reasonable breakfast (coffee was a bit weak), and a great view. We got going on the dot of 1000, and headed in the first instance downriver to a place called Rowena Crest.
Rowena Crest was interesting because it was on the old highway, which had been deliberately engineered to be "a scenic route". So it went up and over the crest rather than (as the modern highway does) around the base of the rocky outcrop that is Rowena Crest. But the engineer, one ???? (check name), did stick to some standard. Despite have to have some zig-zags to get over the crest, he stuck to a minimum 100ft radius curve, with the consequence that the road has lots of sweeping S-bends. From the top of the crest you get a great view of these sweeping curves, almost in plan view. Also of course, a great view of the Columbia River, and of the town of Lyle, on the other side. And of the occasional train chugging along the tracks on either side of the river (BNSF in Washington, UP in Oregon).
Then we headed back to The Dalles, crossing the river at the double cantilever through truss that we had admired from the motel, and continued on upstream to firstly, a little town called Wishram where there was a large railway yard and preserved steam locomotive, and secondly, to Mary's Hill Winery, where we stopped with thousands of other people, to taste the wines. Because it was Memorial Day Weekend, their tastings were free, which may have explained the numbers. Barb and John tasted 6 wines, which were nice (but not as good as Australian wines!), while Nathan and Lynne had lunch.
This was not a good plan, as when we surfaced for lunch, the queue was quite lengthy, and we thought it would take too long. Besides which, none of the offerings appealed to us, so we decided to move along and check the next place we came to. That happened to be Lyle, and we had a choice of a grill or a cafe. We chose the cafe, because it seemed a little more our style, and it had a good crowd in there, always a good sign. And no queue.
Or so we thought. We placed our order for two daily specials: ham and cheese sandwich, and a cup of soup. Pretty straightforward, we thought. But we had not reckoned on all the crowds already seated not having been served. And they were all in front of us, and only one bloke in the kitchen choofing out lots of hamburgers with the works, before getting to our orders! It took over half an hour before our sandwiches and soup appeared, and then another twn minutes to eat them, during which time Lynne (who had been sitting in the car all this time) came in to see why we were taking so long!
We finished our food, and went to pay the bill. "Oh, but there's a scoop of ice cream included with the special, don't you want that?" So we ordered two ice creams (it was more than one scoop!), and downed them as quickly as possible. So all in all, it took us 50 minutes to get through lunch, which I am sure we could have beaten had we stayed at Mary's Hill for lunch!
Then continuing on downstream, we reached Bonneville, a place a little like Tallangatta in the NE of Victoria. It was in the wrong place when they decided to extend the hydro power station that was already there, so they moved the town, the railway, the highway, the river, and built a new power station right where the old town used to be. 1.5GW from 6 turbines in the new station, and they were all humming away. We went on a guided tour of the PS, led by Angela, a very friendly and patient guide, who took us through the machine hall up close and personal with two of the turbines and gnerators. All very interesting, even to the less technically minded among our party.
We stopped to admire briefly the fish ladders, then back into the car for the next leg, to Beacon Rock. This is an old basalt volcanic plug which had its surrounding cone washed away by the Missoula floods (see the 2016 story), leaving just a bare rock monolith some 258m above the surrounding river level. A bloke called Harry Biddle bought the rock in 1915 for $1, and proceeded to build a walkable trail up the side of the rock. This trail is not for the faint hearted, either in physique or phobia, as it has a continous steep track with lots of narrow ledges that zig-zag back and forth up the rock face. Fortunately, these trails all have handrails, but it is still quite scary, especially when you look down at the zigs and zags below. I counted 54 switchbacks, but that does depend on your definition. The sign at the start of the trail said 53, and the wikipedia article quotes 51. There are 2 at the start of the trail that are a little ambiguous, which may account for some of the discrepancy.
At the top, there is a commensurate view up and down the river valley. As I was gazing at the view, some twit (literally) shouted at me "Don't jump!", causing me to start, and at which point I remonstarted with him "Don't even joke about that, it just isn't funny", whereupon he got all shitty and accused me of not showing him respect! Respect!?? If he had had any respect for me (a grey haired 71-year old), he would have thought better than to startle me like that. But the problem is that people like that, once they know they are in the wrong, bluster and shout down any explanations of why their behaviour is unacceptable - which is just what he proceed to do. I just had to turn my back on him, he was as thick as two fat canada geese, and only half as intelligent. His stupidty is now recorded for all to read. Unfortunately, I doubt if he will (or can)!
Back down the trail, we reversed our tracks back to the Bridge of the Gods, so named because a landslide in the dim distant past created a natural bridge over the Columbia River, which the local indians took to be a sign from the gods. As quickly as it was formed, it disappeared again as the river banked up behind it, and washed it away. Fortunately, this bridge did not get washed away as we crossed it, and we went back to the Oregon side, to follow the I84 all the way into Portland.
We found a place to eat at the Imperial Hotel, and while we were waiting for the food to arrive (John had Portland Poke, blue cheese gnocchi and cheese plate, Barb had a burger and coconut rice pudding), we each decided to see which of the surrounding 4 hotels might have a room. John struck lucky, with a family suite (2 double beds) at the neighbouring Kimpton Hotel Vintage, and so we snapped that up. It came with a free drink at the bar, so guess what? I had another IPA ). We then had a comfortable last night before the final homeward leg of our roadtrip.
Since the hotel did not include breakfast in our tariff, we went walkabout to find a breakfast restaurant. Lynne thought that the "Mothers Cafe" would be good, but when we got there, there was a huge queue and an hour's wait just to get a table!! "You've got to be joking!", I said, "No restaurant is worth an hour's wait!". So we wandered off, looking for somewhere else. Fairly quickly we found "Alto Pajo", a Mexican restaurant offering breakfast, which even included Lynne-friendly fare. So we had breakky there.
John and Barb both had the 12" burrito, stuffed with scrambled egg, refried beans, chicken, mushrooms, etc.. They were very nice, but too much for each of us. Sharing would have been a better option. Then we went back to the hotel, finished packing, and set off.
We crossed the Columbia to the Washington side, and headed northwards, spotting a few trains along the way. At Longview, we crossed the Columbia back to the Oregon side, and headed west to the mouth of the river, and Astoria.
Astoria is a place that has seen better days, but is trying to (re)establish itself in the tourist market. It used to be a thriving port, as it is on the edge of a wide sheltered harbour formed by the flooded river mouth of the Columbia. But with river dredging, Longview and then Portland itself took over a lot of the shipping traffic, and Astoria declined. The railway was abandoned at the end of the '90s, but fortunately has been bought by another private company, using a slightly truncated section, but making money from the logging and farm supplies along the valley. The end section (the last 6 miles) was bought by the Astoria City Council, who also bought a tram and run that along the foreshore, and do quite well from it. (Apart from having to deal with idiot motorists who park on the right of way, and have to be towed, as we saw one huge 4w drive ute being done.)
We walked a fair way along the foreshore, and stopped for an ice cream at one shop - but we didn't have lunch, because of the huge breakfast. Then back in the car to drive across the giganormous bridge that spans the river mouth - 6.5 kms long it is! The central span is 376m long, and 60m clear of the water - that is quite impressive, the more so because of the length of the rest of the bridge. (For comparison, the Sydney Harbour Bridge has a main span of 503m and clearance of 49m, and Westgate Bridge is 336m long and 58m above the water. The Westgate Brdge is only 2.6km long.)
Then a slight detour to Long Beach (which, in spite of the local claim is not the world's longest beach, as it is only 28 miles (45km) long, which pales into insignificance against Victoria's 90 Mile Beach. We gazed out across the Pacific Ocean in the tion of Australia, but we could not see it.
Then north to Raymond, Montesano, Elma, and Olympia, where we stopped for dinner. Olympia is the capital of Washington, and is quite a bit smaller than Canberra (~55,000), but with the same feel. We ate at a brewery (the "Well 80"), where John had an 80lbs of hops (a beer!) with an Oly Style Drive-In hamburger, and Barb had a Whitewood Cider with a Well 80 BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado), and were back on the road by 1920. We headed straight for the I5, which got us back into Seattle and Ballard by 2045 without incident. Roadtrip over.
Unpack the car, shove washing in the machine, plug in all the things that needed charging, and then to bed to recharge ourselves. Zonk.
Gym this morning, although because it was a public holiday, Nathan did not have a scheduled PT session, and we went rather later than usual. Still had breakfast afterwards at Java Bean, with the "Salmon Laks" bagels, very nice. Coffee good, too.
Quiet morning, and some tinkering in the garage. Lynne had a chiropractor's appointment over in Green Lake, so we tailed along for the ride. We first had a coffee at a local cafe, along with an interesting cheese bread. They gave us a couple of small "bite-sized" ones to try, which we liked, so we bought two normal sized rolls. These were not quite so exciting, as they had not been so completelly cooked, and the middle of them was a bit gluggy. Even so, they were very interesting flavours.
After that, we went for a walk around Green Lake. Well, not quite "around" in the sense of "circumnavigate", but more in the sense of "about". We walked for 15 minutes up one way, then turned around and came back. One thing that did intrigue us was that the path was clearly marked with a line down the middle, with bicycles on the outer side (marked travelling in an anti-clockwise sense around the lake), and walkers on the inner side. The walking side was marked for bi-directional travel, but with travel on the left hand side! Nobody seemed to take any notice of this and walked on every whichway, except tourists like us, who did try to follow the instructions, but soon gave up and followed the rest.
In the afternoon we drove across to Northgate to go to Macy's, where we bought John some new trousers and shorts, together with a pair of red socks! Watched another episode of Sea Change in the evening, fun and with some memories of watching it 20 years ago!
Off to Gym this morning at 0820, and did the full hour. Then breakfast at Java Bean before a quiet morning at 2819NW58 catching up on email, reading, and photos. Barb and Lynne went off to Discovery Point in the afternoon, while John tinkered in the garage again. He did succeed in tidying up Nathan's workbench (or at least, one of them), but was a bit constrained in what he could build because he could not find the relevant tools! Oops. We did make a bit more progress once Nathan came home, and worked on making a triangle/wye using one of Nathan's laser-cut templates.
In the evening, we went to Matador, as part of the usual N&L routine. John had enchiladas and ate the lot, in spite of the usual routine of taking some home in a doggy box. Perhaps Trent would not approve. Barb ate all her fish dish of Mahi Mahi, too.
Nathan decided that the reason we had had some much trouble cutting plywood on his laser cutter was that the glue used was an exterior grade and very resistant to laser cutting. Interior grade ply with appropriate glue would be much easier to cut, and so he wanted to test this out. Accordingly, Nathan, Lynne and John headed over to Union Lake to Dunn Lumber, who stocked this sort of ply (the local Limback Lumber shop does not), to buy some interior grade ply. Having bought it, we then dropped Nathan off at work, and headed home, where Barb was beginning to wonder what had happened to us.
We the headed off around lunch time to catch the number 40 bus into the city. We used our Seniors Cards, which apparently are no longer recognized here, but the driver let us on for the local seniors price, which is a dollar. Once in the city, we headed to Pike Place Market. First up we bought a few dolmades to tyde us over the hunger pangs. The real purpose was to buy some more tie-dye shirts for various people, but we also took the opportunity to look around and experience the atmosphere.
We made our tye-dye purchases, and then hunted around for some TSA locks, to lock Barb's bag which up until now had not really needed a lock. We found some at a most unlikely place - a grocery store! Having fulfilled our purchasing intents, we then caught the 40 bus back to Ballard, using the same ticket we bought for the way in, as it was within the 3 hour window of ticket validity.
Once Nathan came home, we did a few test runs of the laser cutter and it seemed to work much better. Only problem was, Nathan had mis-ordered the plywood size, and it would not quite fit in the cutter bed. So what did he do? Cut out the offending piece, which was the cowling over the fume extraction pipe, and this entailed attacking it with tin shears and grinding wheel. Nathan was happy with the result, but I must admit, I would not have been quite so enthusiastic in attacking it the way he did! But it does now take the bigger bits of wood.
Off to the gym this morning for the last time, and did our usual stuff. Also in the usual way, we headed over to Java Bean for coffee and bagel. There was no one in the queue when we arrived, so we placed our order, sat down, and waited. And waited. It was pretty clear the staff were not coping, and we noticed that the usual barista woman was not there. After 25 minutes our food arrived - as take-away, not the eat-in that we had ordered. But of coffee there was no sign. After 30 minutes, I went and asked. The stand-in barista woman had no record of our order - it appear to have just got lost! So she said, "I'll make it straight away". Another 5 minute wait before the coffee arrived, by which time we had eaten the bagels. They did offer us a voucher for 2 free coffees at a later date, but as we pointed out, we were leaving on Sunday, and that was not much use. So we left with a bad taste, and it was not the coffee!
As we were walking down 24th Ave, we heard footsteps behind us and a woman caught up with us. She explained that she was the owner of Java Bean, and that she had been called in to help with the staffing, as they had two people off sick for the day. She was most apologetic, and offered us two free coffees again. When we prevaricated a little, she upped the ante and offered two free slices of cake as well, so we walked back with her, and waited (yet again) for the two coffees to be made. But she did repeat her apologies, and as she had made the effort, we did restore the standing Java Bean had had in our estimation.
The rest of the day was spent mainly in building a new drawer for Nathan's NatCave, in a long slot in his shelves that he had previously set aside for the purpose. He was helped in this by both John and Bob. Now I had heard of Bob, one of Nathan's neighbours, who is very engaged in neighbourly activities, and joins in projects with Nathan from time to time, and for Nathan reciprocates by giving Bob access to his well-resourced workshop (NatCave). Bob was very personable, and we had lots of fun, first cutting the parts for the drawer on the table saw, then assembling it, and then (the hardest bit), getting it to slide into the hole in the shelves. We did make a few boo-boos (cutting the base one inch short was the worst), but by and large, in the end, all things considered, we got it working.
Then for dinner we had a BBQ, and a number of Nathan's other mates came round (Bob had to go). There was Kit, Jacqui, Miles, Rachel and Atria, as well as the four of us. We congregated in the garage, which was a bit of a squeeze, and talked mainly electronics and computing all evening.
The party broke up a little after 2230, whence we all headed home and to bed.
A rather quiet day today, as Nathan and John spent most of the day working on the final finishing touches to the new drawer. We fitted the front panel, but had a few issues as it scraped on the floor when the drawer was pulled out. More sawing and sanding fixed that. It also involved a walk down to Limback Lumber (love the name!) to buy some handles for the front of the drawer (well, you wouldn't put them on the back of the drawer, would you?) I was very taken with the fact that Nathan was on first name terms with most of the staff, and even showed the cashier bloke photos of the drawer itself for which we were buying the handles.
Barb and Lynne meanwhile went for a drive to the Arboretum (see her photos here). We had leftovers for dinner, and then packed for the morrow.
Although we both woke up much earlier, we did not get up until 0730, since we had most things packed, and it was only the last minute stuff that needed to be done. That was all done by 0830, so we had time up our sleeve before having to leave at 0930. Lynne took us all across to the niversity of Washington to catch the metro. This is a relatively new line which we caught last time we were here, but just into the CBD. This time we went all the way to the second last stop, the SeaTac airport. We said our good byes to Nathan and Lynne, and 40 minutes later alighted at SeaTac. It was an easy trip (admittedly it was Sunday), and we made a mental note to catch the train next time we come in by air.
It is a bit of a walk from the train station to the terminal proper, and it was helped by a free beep-beep type shuttle for most of the way. Our check in was greatly assisted by get a pre-TSA clearance, which meant that we did not have to line up for the full security check, a move that we did not understand, but did greatly appreciate. So we were through all the pre-flight checking by 1100, which left us a couple of hours to kill before boarding at 1305. So we adjourned to a Coffee Tean and Bean Leaf cafe for coffee and a scone (or "biscuit" as they Yanks call them). It had free wifi, so we were able to clear some emails and social pages while waiting. We shared a salad before departing at 1305 for the gate, where unfortunately, we found that there had been some technical problem, and we were not leaving until 1500!
The problem was actually cleared before then, and they did start boarding before 1500, but as they had publically announced a revised departure time, they could not actually leave until they were satisfied that all passengers were on board. So we sat in the aircraft for a bit longer than usual, and did not push back from the terminal until after 1500 anyway!
The 5hr45min flight was alleviated by watching 2 movies: first, The Darkest Hour, then Dunkirk, which seemed an appropriate segue. I enjoyed the first, but found the second very bitty and confusing (a common criticism). Still, it whiled away 4 hours of the flight, and I filled in the gaps with two episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Barb watched The Darkest Hour, but not Dunkirk (perhaps a good choise) and listened to Jesse Norman and Luciano Pavarotti instead.
We landed at 1740 local time, having made up a few minutes, and collected our luggage without any trauma. We did have trouble finding our shuttle, as he was displaying a sign saying "Pono Express", but we were looking for "Aston Islander". After a few minutes we put two and two together (he was the only one with a sign), and we were soon in the car heading northwards from the airport to the Aston Islander - which was only a 10 minute ride away anyway.
We checked in, and explored options to eat. We did try the Hukilau Laneii restaurant, but the earliest we could get in there was 2045, which was effectively 2345 (a quarter to midnight) according to our hunger clocks, so we turned that down, and went instead (on the receptionist's advice) to the Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant next door. It was booked out for table reservations too, but there was bar space at which we could sit and order from the same menu, so we did that. At the bar, a very friendly chap from Detroit welcomed us, and chatted with us while we waited for our food to arrive.
We ordered a combo dish: fritto misto, deep fried prawns, and ahi poke (raw fish), and shared that. Very nice it was too, but John still felt slightly hungry afterwards, and so ordered some clam chowder - which was brilliant! Along with the two pints of IPA (John) and two pints of pineapple cider (Barb) it was an excellent meal, all enjoyed while watching the Pacific Ocean wash over the reef, and chatting with the friendly people who joined us at the bar. The last group was a bunch of students from South Carolina University, who were out here on field trips. They were a great bunch of kids.
It then being well past our normal bedtime, we retired back to the Aston, and retired.
Sigh. Today was a hard day! We had breakfast at the local cafe, Trees, with a very friendly and helpful waitress, Jesse (?IIRC). We shared a tortilla wrap and a macadamia nut pancakes dish, which worked well. The macadamia nut pancakes had crushed macadamias throughout the batter which worked well, and were served with very fresh pineapple and pawpaw/papaya, which really was the icing on the cake.
Then. Well, nothing. We sat by the pool for most of the day. Barb read, John caught up with his blog. We even went for a swim. Nothing much else, except to watch the parade of young girls with very scanty bikini briefs! Lots of bums around the pool, you might say.
We did wander down to the local shops to see what was for lunch. We settled on the Passion Bakery Cafe, and order a grilled cheese sandwich (Barb) and a pastrami sandwich (John). They were a bit disappointing, and the service was very lakadasical. We won't be going back there again.
We did somewhat better for dinner by going back to the Lava Lava Beach Club again, this time booking so that we had a table outside in the sand. That is meant literally - the chairs had narrow legs, which sank into the sand, leaving one a little lower at the table than was comfortable, and unable to pull one's chair in. We managed. We both had the chowder, as it was so nice last night, and followed that with Seared Opah and a huge serve of sweet potato waffle fries, which were very nice and crunchy. That was an effort, and we did not quite do it justice (but did spare our stomachs somewhat). Then retired to bed, after an exhausting day.
We headed to the Trees cafe again this morning, but did not have as good an experience as yesterday. There was a differet waiter, and he seemed quite uninterested in serving. His first faux pas was to come and ask us what we wanted, before he had even given us a menu! That, together with lots of little things like not asking us if we wanted more coffee, meant that he barely even got a tip at all when the time came to pay. I really struggle with this (American) notion of tipping. I am told that it is important because wait staff don't get paid enough. Excuse me, but whose fault is that? Certainly not the customers. I am comfortable with paying a little extra (10%, for example) for really good service, but when you get desultory service, and are asked for an 18/20% tip, I really think it is a con.
This morning was market day at the Coconut Market, just across the road. So we went looking. Most of the market place seemed just as quiet as usual, but we found a few stalls tucked away in the front corner of the market area, selling mainly fresh fruit, but one or two other things. We bought two containers of diced fruit: pineapple and mango, and pineapple and pawpaw/papaya. They were $3 each, and while discussing which one to buy, the stall owner said "two for $5", so we bought two. We had one container (pineapple and pawpaw) for lunch, and it was really fresh, although the pawpaw was not quite as fresh as yesterday's breakfast.
For the afternoon - more poolside bumming around, reading and not reading, swimming and not swimming. Helped along by a beer/cocktail or two. "Sic vita est" as Ned Kelly would not say.
In the evening, we had booked into the Hukilau Lanai restaurant, which is a rather upmarket affair attached to the Kaua'i Coast Resort at the Beachboy (whatever that means). We had 4 courses, and a bottle of Christopher Michael 2016 cabernet sauvignon from Washington. Well, the bottle said Washington and so did the waitress, but on reading the fine print, the grapes were grown in Washington, but the wine was made in Oregon! The first course was a charcuterie, one of the specials of the day (John), and goat cheese and obster wontons (Barb). Got your appetite whetted?
The second course was effectively thrown in with the third. Every "entree" came with either a salad, or a bowl of soup. Barb had the salad, John had the soup, which was an atlantic style chowder (tomato, rather than cream based). Then two steak dishes, Barb had Filet Mignon, and John had "Wally's Steak" (Wally is the chef), which was three medallions of prime rib in a wonderful rich red wine sauce. All blue rare of course!
The dessert course was a chocolate lava cake (Barb) and a coconut cheese cake (John). Both declared very yummy by their respective devourers. John had coffee, and finished the last of the wine, then we returned to the Aston and retired after another "heavy" day.
We had muesli for breakfast this morning, thanks to Barbara's shopping yesterday at the Coconut Market. Then, coffee at Imua Coffee Shop where we get $2 off each coffee, thanks to the vouchers we got from the Aton when we checked in. Over coffee, we discussed what we might do, conscious that we had been bumming around a bit over the last two days. Next door was a bike rental shop, so we decided to hire two bikes for the day and go cycling. $20 for 2 bikes for 24 hours seemed like a good deal, but the bikes were a little basic. No gears, backpedal brakes, and seats that were a little tricky to adjust. We managed. With advice from the shop keeper, we set off north at 1030 to find the Ke Ala Hele Makalae bike path. The path proper did not start until a kilometre or so down the road, but with due care and following instructions, we did find it, and it eventually improved from lanes marked on the road to a full off-road cycle path, that went for (so we were told) 8 miles north.
Most of the path runs along the shoreline, and we discovered later that it was the formation of an old cane sugar railway, pulled up in the 1960's, and slowly being re-done as a "rail trail". This had the added advantage that the gradients (such as they were) were very gentle, and well suited to a bike with no gears. With a few photo stops along the way, and to read the occasional info board about the history and interests of the region, we reached the current end of path at about 1215, and then turned around to retrace our steps (? pedals ?cycles) back to Wailua.
At Wailua, we made a 1325 beeline for the Street Burger, which purported to have lots of beers on tap. It did. It also had hamburgers, and big ones. We each had a bacon burger, which came with blue cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, a big beef pattie, and LOTS of chips on the side. Woopeedo! We struggle through all that, not quite reaching the end of the chips, but polishing off the burger OK.
At 1416 we set off south on our cycles, crossing the Wailua River and heading into a nice park just the other side of the river. The Lydgate Beach Park was quite expansive, and we circumnavigated it, taking in various features such as the old Hawaiian Heiau (temple), which still carries some spiritual significance for the modern Hawaiian peoples (and hence was surrounded by lots of signs, urging users to "show respect").
Then back to Wailua, and te bike shop, where, according to instructions, we chained the bikes to a pole outside the shop, as we were past closing time for the shop. It was now 1530. We then went back to the hotel, plonked on the bed, and promptly fell asleep! Too much hard work!
John awoke at 1800 to find that Barb had beaten him, and had already been to the Sleeping Giant Cafe to buy some takeaway dinner. We had that, washed down by a couple of bottles of beer from Barb's shopping expedition, and then fell asleep again. Pooped and slightly sunburnt.
Up bright and early as we were to be picked up at 0800. We had our light breakfast of muesli, and were ready in plenty of time. The bus was only a few minutes late arriving, and we were away by 0810. The driver, Michelle, explained that as she had three passengers to pick up at the airport, and their plane was delayed, we would make a detour via the Opaekaa Falls, which were quite spectacular. Not only that, but crossing the ridge on which the road ran (gee, US drivers are very polite to pedestrians, they stop as soon as you even think of crossing the road!), there was a wonderful view of the Wailua River gorge, along with several kayakers paddling along it. Two spectacular views for the price of one photo stop!
Then to the airport to pick up the delayed passengers, which took Michelle a few minutes of searching, but successful in the end. With out full complement, we then did a brief tour of Lihu'e, including the little town and big port of Nawiliwili ("na" means "many", and a "wiliwili" is a tree of some type), where we stopped for a day in the Noordam (see 30 Apr). Docked in the port was The Pride of America (cough, cough), which had the depressing thought that we would be chasing tour busses all day (sigh).
Then we headed south to Koloa, and the Spouting Horn. This is a doule blowhole, caused by a lava tube reaching the sea, and then getting eroded by the sea to the point where the roof collapses. Waves travel up the tube, and on reaching the end, "spout" forth out the collapsed hole in the tunnel roof, sending spray high into the air. The two holes were of different lengths, so that one spouted (usually) just after the other, helping those trying to get a good photo of the spout high in the sky. We had a half hour there, watching the spouts, quite mesmerising. Lots of photos, and even more movies!
On the way back from the Spouting Horn, Michelle pointed out the desirable properties along the way. Land is at a premium, particularly with sea views, and the cheapest plot of land sold for $1.8m! And that was land alone, the houses were not that large simply because the plots were so small. She pointed out tat the owners were not Hawaiians, but foreigners, as the locals just could not afford to buy such properties. Sound familiar?
Back to the main highway (there is only one on Kaua', and it does not go all the way around the island), and through the little (historic) town of Hanapepe, used in many Hollywood movies because of its very 50s look. Incidentally, Kaua'i is a majr destination for Hollywood, as it offers lots of easily accessible jungle. It was used in Pirates of the Carribean, for example, where Johnny Dep is running through coconut groves trying to escape the cannibals. An Elvis Presley movie (Blue Hawaii) was also shot here. And Jurassic Park. There was a statue of Captain Cook in the Hanapepe town square, but I guess they were careful to avoid including that in shot.
We got to Waimea (once the main city in Kauai, but taken over by Lihu'e when the Nawiliwili port was built) about 1030, and headed up the scenic route. Michelle was pleased to point out that because her bus was small, we could go up the scenic route, but it was too narrow and windy for the big tour busses. We stopped halfway up for a photo stop looking over the lower reaches of the Waimea Canyon, and that prepared us a bit for what was in store, as the view there was impressive enough!
At the summit, we walked the few remaining metres to the lookout, and it was very much the tropical version of the Grand Canyon, although only half the depth and a fraction of the length. So tropical that it was shrouded in mist! We had been a bit prepared for this, as it had been raining off and on on our way there. I guess that is not surprising, as the central peak of the island, Mount Wai'ale'ale, is reputed to be the wettest place on earth! (400 to 600 inches of rain a year). You get a clue from the name itself. "Waimea" is two Hawaiian words, "wai" meaning river, and "mea" meaning red, together describing the effect of lots of erosion of the red-coloured soil that abounds.
Back to the township of Waimea for lunch, which was at the Plantation Cottages resort, at the Grove Cafe. Michelle recommended the sampler plate as being very generous, so that is what we ordered, to share. It included "chicken in a barrel" (smoked chicken), a pork rib, pulled pork, pulled beef, and a chile con carne. All very yummy, washed down with a beer.
Then we headed back to Wailua, this time stopping only at the Kaua'i Coffee plantation, where we were able to sample several different types of coffee roast, and see some of the coffee roasting equipment. The only other stop was to drop off a few passengers at the Oceanfront Resort, before returning us to the Aston Islander on the Beach by 1445. A pretty impressive outing!
The rest of the afternoon we just bummed around. By 1800 John was feeling peckish, but Barb was not up to making any decisions. So John decided we should go back to the Lava Lava Beach Club, which we did, and enjoyed Hakilula (?) Chowder each, and Ahi Poke (John) and Spinagula Salad (Barb). (Ahi is what the Hawaiians call tuna, and "poke" means raw fish, or sashimi-style.) That was all followed by two serves of Koo Koo Coconuts, a coconut sorbet served in a coconut shell, and VERY nice!
Then back to the Aston and bed. Good day.
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