Sydney to Port Angeles
|Dravuni Island, Fiji
I have always had a soft spot for the South Pacific. Over
the years, I've made several trips to Tahiti and surrounding
islands and got as far as the Cook Islands and The Marquesas in
previous excursions. I've never been to the SW Pacific and
it always fascinated me since we hear so little about the area in
our northern hemisphere news coverage. I'm talking about New
Caledonia and Vanuatu in particular. Besides Marsha had
never been to the South Seas and this was a good opportunity to
take her along.
I found this trip via Holland America which services this part of
the world and have traveled with them before. They were
relocating the MV Oosterdam from the Southern Hemisphere
serving Australia to the Northern covering Alaska for its summer
season. We embarked on the ship at Circular Quay, Sydney,
Australia. It was headed for Seattle and Vancouver B.C. but
made a stop at a relatively unknown place, Port Angeles, WA which
is our home. About 4 miles from our front door, no
less. We just couldn't pass up the opportunity to travel on
this ship and disembark there. It was 28 days in length and
snaked its way through south sea islands on its way to the U.S.
west coast. See map.
Follows a sampling of our visits to many ports of
call. The video, at the end, is streamed via youtube
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To reach Australia, we flew from the West coast of the US to
Sydney on a non-stop from San Francisco. Taking over 15
hours on a Boeing 777 which only has two engines, the same model
as the Malaysian Air flight MH370 which, to date, has never been
found. It certainly crossed my mind that if something
mechanical was wrong with this model, could that also be true for
our specific airplane? I'm happy to say that we made it in
fine shape and other than a bumpy ride much of the way, we arrived
Sydney is a modern city and progressive. We had a very
pleasant, 3 1/2 day stay there but didn't leave the local area as
there was so much to see and do. We particularly enjoyed
meeting the many "Aussies" on the cruise, (estimated 35% of
passengers). They have many unique phrases they use for
eveyday activities, foods, and life in general. I didn't
know what vegemite was
until they told us. We even tried it... not bad but don't use too
|Close up of a section of the famous Sydney Opera House
||Opera House washroom sink, drains towards the rear wall,
||Harborview Bridge. If you look close you can see
people nearing the top on the bridge climb. For $200
you too can do it too! Also known as the "coathanger"
|Moss and Ivy apartment building
||Taronga Zoo art, Darling Harbor
||Modern Art, Darling Harbor
|Waterside walk, Darling Harbor
||Harry de Wheels, famous curbside eatery that was founded
during WW2. Specialty is "Aussie Pies" and "Mushy
||Wild Kookaburra at Taronga Zoo. Its loud call sounds like echoing human laughter. Australian nursery rhymes include this bird.|
|Kangaroo, Taronga Zoo
||Wallaby, Taronga Zoo
||Circular Quay. Cruise ship terminal
Whenever I visit the Southern Hemisphere, I try to enjoy viewing
the deep sky objects that are not visible in our Northern
latitudes. The nearest star to our sun is in the Alpha
Centauri system which is 4.2 light years distant. It's often
suggested that if we ever attempt to travel to a distant star
system, it would probably be one of the first on the list of
candidates. It's actually a triple system with the nearest
being a brown drawf, Proxima Centauri. We have determined
that it has exo-planets but they don't appear to be in the
Goldilocks zone. Also visible was "Crux" or better known as
the Southern Cross. It was very important for celestial
navigation in the south and is found on the Australian Flag.
We had three evenings where we enjoyed viewing these objects but
most nights were cloudy. None were clear enough for deep sky
This collection of islands Northeast of
Australia are under the control of France. We don't hear
much about them in the Northern Hemisphere because of their great
distance from us and limited trade. It's a popular vacation
spot for Aussie's, Kiwi's and SE Asians. New Caledonia
has been a major source of nickel mining for years and is their
chief export. It has healthy commerce for its population of
250,000; better than most nations of the South Pacific. The
main town, Noumea, is well kept with clean, desirable
neighborhoods. Its sometimes called the "Paris of the South
Pacific" with fashion playing a role for the ex-pats from
Europe. The currency is the French Pacific Franc.
Their are 100's of islands but three main ones, we visited
New Caledonia is home to the New
Caledonian crow, a bird noted for its tool-making abilities
which rival primates. Several university's, such as the
University of Auckland have been studying them. Marsha had
taken an interest in this bird with her Girl Scouts and they
researched them before we left on this trip. While in
Noumea, we took a taxi to the local wildlife park which had
information and the birds on display These crows are renowned for
their extraordinary intelligence and ability to fashion tools,
including bending a wire to solve problems and make the most
complex tools of any animal yet studied apart from humans.
In this way, they're superior to other primates.
Another bird is the endemic, Kagu, agile and able to run fast, is flightless but able to use its wings to climb branches or glide.
||French language signage at wildlife center
||Flightless Kagu found only in New Caledonia
|New Caledonian Crow
||Lovely tree native to Southern Hemisphere
||A small tree fern
Moving on to our next stop in New Caledonia, Easo, Lifou. This was clearly the most beautiful shallow water lagoon I've ever visited. It took my breath away to look over this magnificent water. It really does look like this, no photoshop work has been done on this picture. This island only has a population of 10,500 with 96% being Kanak
|Easo, Lifou, New Caledonia. This is about as
close to "heaven" as you can get:
||Rural countryside on Lifou
Moving on to the Northeast we travel to the island republic of Vanuatu. It was formerly called the New Hebrides with the name being changed in 1980. The region is rich in sea life, with more than 4,000 species of marine molluscs with large diversity including Sea Snakes, Coneshells, and Stonefish which all carry poison fatal to humans. There are three or possibly four adult saltwater crocodiles living in Vanuatu's mangroves but no current breeding population. It's said the crocodiles reached the northern islands after cyclones, given the their proximity to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea where crocodiles are common.
In 2006 the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth environmentalist group published the "Happy Planet Index" which analysed data on levels of reported happiness, life expectancy and Ecological Footprint and estimated Vanuatu to be the most ecologically efficient country in the world in achieving high well-being.
Pentecost Island is famous for being the spiritual birthplace of the extreme sport of bungee jumping, originating from an age old ritual called Gol or land diving. Between April and June every year, men in the southern part of the island jump from tall towers (around 20 to 30 meters) with a vine tied to their feet in a ritual believed to ensure a good yam harvest. The ritual is also used to show acceptance into manhood. Land diving was first given international exposure when footage was brought back of the ritual during the 1950s. Queen Elizabeth II visited Pentecost in 1974 and witnessed a land diving ceremony, during which one unfortunate islander died because the jump was performed too early in the year, when the vines were much less elastic than usual. Nowadays, tourists pay large sums of money to witness the ceremony, often during day trips from Port Vila.
The ninth season of the reality TV series Survivor was filmed on Vanuatu, entitled Survivor: Vanuatu—Islands of Fire.
The main port is Port Vila but a fun and interesting day stop was Mystery Island. No one lives here but its a great place for an afternoon snorkel or just enjoying the tropical beauty. Its popular with the cruise ships and when one is at anchor nearby, it becomes crowded and the locals from adjacent islands come over to sell their wares and entertain.
|Ship's photo, Neil & Marsha
||Afternoon on Mystery Island
||Making cannibal soup
||Showing how to construct a jungle food trap, Ekasup
Village, Port Vila
||Unknown tree species, Mystery Isl.
|Our guide at Ekasup Village, Port Vila
||Home made musical instrument as seen in
video, Ekasup Village
||Demonstrations by village people
We made three stops in Fiji, on two
islands; Viti Levu and Dravuni.
Marsha and I had never tried a ZIP line before and what better
place than flying over the canopy of a tropical rain forest.
|Getting ready for "Fiji Zip line" Great
experience through primal jungle
|Lunch at the Uprising resort, Viti Levu||Playing with the kids on Dravuni.
Population is only 150 on less than 1/2 mile2
||Arrival in Lautoka, Viti Levu
We visited Pago Pago for a day and unfortunately is was rainy as
you will see in the video.
|"Chief" at entertainment center
||Graves typically placed along seacoast
Both Marsha and I visited old friends while in the islands.
One side trip was the submarine, "Atlantis" which operates off the
coast of Maui.
operates out of Lahaina and is an impressive tour to the bottom of
the sea. It typically operates in 135 feet of water and
visits a replica of the sailing vessel "Carthaginian" of the 19th
century. This ship sat for many years in Lahaina harbor
before they decided to use it as an artificial reef to attract
fish. The sub can turn on outside lights which the fish have
learned to come in close where customers can see them in natural
color. I'm guessing that a little chum also encourages them
|Neil & Eran, WH6R, Honolulu. Known each other from
||Submarine surfacing off Maui
||Whitetip shark near wreck
|Wreck in 135 feet of water
|"Walk for a cure"
||800 foot corridor
|Cruising on a relaxing day at sea
our way to the US West coast, from Hawaii, we passed 35º 30' N,
143º 06' W late one morning and it was time to leave my calling
card. Sea travelers are often fascinated by the notion of
throwing a sealed bottle in the sea with a note inside, see sea
travelers. It goes something like this, "return the
note as evidence you found it, record location, and you'll be sent
a reward". Rewards are typically a few dollars to several
hundred. I have done this on many sea going trips with most
placed in the South Pacific. None have ever been returned
and I'm beginning to doubt that they will in my lifetime.
The question is, will anyone recover this one or any of the
previous ones? This last location is roughly half way between
Hawaii and the US West Coast. Currents tend to stagnate
there. By the way, by International Law, its illegal to
throw objects in the sea.
Rather then include video segments of each port, I decided to
bundle them into one longer one. Click the "run" button
below to play an 7 minute summary. Older operating
systems and browsers may have difficulty playing correctly.
If you have questions about particular ports, I would be happy to answer emails: email@example.com