Broome, WA

Tuesday, Nov 29:   This morning we arrived in the very remote town of Broome – home to the pearl farming industry.  Weather was hot and humid.  Like most parts of Australia’s tropics, Broome has two seasons, a dry season that runs from April through November and a wet season starting about now. 

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There is no actual cruise terminal, so everyone was taken from the ship via free bus shuttles to the town which was located a few kilometres away.

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It is a compact little town, discovered in 1688, with a lot of history going back to 1861 with the discovery of pearl oysters.  Chinatown is the name of the main shopping area.  Once it was noodle houses, opium dens and boarding houses.  These days, food, fashion and expensive jewellery shops.  The Sun Pictures – the oldest operating outdoor picture theatre gardens in the world.  Quirky buildings and story boards giving the history of the town and the many nationalities who came here in search of the pearl.

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The local people were very friendly and welcoming and we learnt all about how pearls are formed and the sad history of the hundreds of Japanese divers who drowned and the aboriginal women who were captured and sold and forced into diving, some even when pregnant.   This town has quite a history!

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Kimberley Coast, WA

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Monday, Nov 28:   In the early hours of this morning we arrived in Prince Frederick Harbour and the shipped stopped so that we could hopefully capture the sunrise against the ruggedly beautiful Kimberley Coast in Western Australia.

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We set a wakeup call for 5.00am and it was nice to be up early.  We have been very lazy up to this point.  With a coffee in hand we waited in the dark with a warm breeze blowing as the sky slowly became lighter and the ship pulled in quite close to the land.  Because of the cloud cover we couldn’t see the sun’s rays but nevertheless the sky looked very pretty and the sun reflected off the cliffs.

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Darwin, NT

Saturday, Nov 26:  Darwin Is one of Australia’s northernmost cities, the capital of the Northern Territory – and very humid today, as we made our way into town.  Last time we were here we did a lot of walking, but the heat hit us as we left the air con behind and we decided to get on the shuttle bus instead.

We have both been to Darwin numerous times, so we just had a stroll around the shopping mall and had our usual glass of Top End beer.

After we purchased our shuttle bus tickets, we discovered a “hop on hop off” bus which would have taken us to two museums and an art gallery that we haven’t seen yet.

We will no doubt be back in the future, so that will be something new to do next time!

Alotau, Papua New Guinea

Wednesday, Nov 23:  This morning we awoke to find ourselves in Alotau, Capital of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay Province. 

It seems that every new place we come to becomes our new favourite!  PNG to our surprise was no exception.  Not on our bucket list, but hey – we are always open to new experiences.  Some people didn’t leave the ship (I think there were a few concerns about the Zika Virus). 

Alex (being ex-army) went off on the Battle of Milne Bay tour, to see various memorials and find out how the Japanese naval forces were ultimately defeated in 1942.

 

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Japanese landing site at Milne Bay

 

Meanwhile I joined the tour for the Ahioma Cultural Experience and we were taken by mini buses along rough dirt roads to a typical Milne Bay village and were welcomed by the chief.  Very interesting morning and we learnt so much.

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Amazingly, 48 different languages are spoken here of which our guide spoke two, including excellent English.  We were invited to see how the people live, and what a relaxed way of life it is.  Even though the ground looked stony, crops seem to grow well.  Each person has a garden with a few crops such as sugarcane, taro, yams and coconuts, which they share among families.

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Food is cooked in clay pots wrapped in leaves.  The uses for a coconut alone, apart from eating, were amazing – from a body loofah, making string or cleaning their cooking implements, to name just a few!  They eat pork and when we went to the seaside village, we saw how they make nets to catch fish to add to their diet.

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Occasionally, they barter their produce for imported goods but mostly “go to the environment” as we heard so many times.  There are not many jobs to be had, out of a population of approximately 74,000 (16,00 in the town) only a few people own motor vehicles and they don’t have much need for money.  What a stress-free way life!

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Cairns, Qld

Monday, Nov 21:  Today we arrived in Cairns, working our way up the east coast of Queensland.  Cairns is a major tourist destination because of its proximity to two World Heritage sites – the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park.

We have both visited Cairns at different times in the past, and travelled on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. I had fond memories of travelling in a steam train up the mountain past gushing waterfalls on a railway which dates to 1891. 

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This time we discovered that the steam engine had long gone, now replaced by a diesel.  All the windows were small and barred which made taking photos difficult, especially as we were sitting in the middle.  However, it was still a nice trip through the rainforest, crossing 40 bridges and travelling through 15 tunnels.  Unfortunately the dry weather meant that the waterfalls were not as spectacular as we remembered them. 

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When we arrived at Kuranda, we had time to explore the local market and shops where we hoped to find some local crafts;  unfortunately all we found were cheap imports for the most part.   So, our souvenir consisted of a couple of postcards showing the scenery that we saw on the way but could not photograph very well.  All in all, a bit of disappointing.

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